Your Guide to Staying Sober in Addiction Recovery
Abstaining from drugs and alcohol is the cornerstone of addiction recovery, but without making other positive lifestyle changes and following a relapse prevention plan your chances of staying sober in the long-term are slim. The following guide will help you keep on track with your recovery and give you an overview of the things you must do in order to stay sober.
Addiction Recovery Survival Guide
1. Find healthy ways to relieve stress.
Many people begin using drugs and alcohol to wind down after a long day, let loose, and forget about daily stressors. Once you are addicted, drug and alcohol abuse becomes your one and only coping strategy for managing stress. Developing new healthier ways to deal with stress is one of the first things you will need to master within your recovery.
The following are several ways you can reduce stress without using drugs and alcohol. The key here is to try several strategies until you find the stress relief techniques that work best for you.
- Exercise. Over and over, exercise has been shown to reduce stress, and improve mood. Exercise therapy is making its way into addiction recovery programmes, such as at The Cabin drug and alcohol rehab Thailand, and can be a key aspect to living a sober life.
- Eat healthy. Did you know that healthy eating habits will help reduce stress? Diet plays an important role in our overall physical and mental well-being. Eating well will help proactively keep stress out of your life.
- Take a time out Practise taking frequent breaks to avoid getting stressed in the first place. If you feel your anxiety and stress levels rising, take a few minutes away from what you are doing to simply breathe deeply or practise any other stress reducing technique that you prefer.
- Practise yoga and/or meditation. Yoga, stretching, and mindfulness meditation are all practices that have been shown to effectively help keep stress levels low.
- Talk with a friend. Speak out! Do not let stress build up to the point that you feel overwhelmed. Call on friends, family, and people in your addiction recovery circles to support you.
- Find something that relaxes you. Hot tea, scented candles, calming music, or a hot bath can lower your stress levels very quickly. Take time to relax each and every day (no matter how busy you might be) to keep your stress down.
- Learn to say no. One of the major causes of stress is taking on too much. Especially in early addiction recovery it is important to find a balance between having too much down time and overloading yourself with responsibility. Saying no to things you honestly do not have time or energy for is not wrong or selfish, it is a practice of appropriate boundary setting and self-care.
- Keep a stress diary. Keeping a stress journal will help you recognise more clearly when and how you become stressed so that you can work to prevent stress from developing in the future.
2. Manage Triggers and Cravings.
One of the key aspects of relapse prevention is knowing what your triggers are and avoiding the people, places, and things that could trigger use. Strong cravings may arise without notice and you will also have to learn how to manage and ride out these cravings without giving in.
To manage triggers, first make a comprehensive list of all the possible triggers you can imagine — and do not forget to think outside the box. Sometimes triggers are less obvious and can be tied to positive life events such as getting a raise.
Once you have your list, decide what you need to do to avoid or manage these triggers. Some examples are:
- Take a new route to work to avoid driving past old hangouts or bars. Just the sight or smell of old hangouts can trigger intense cravings. Do what you can to avoid these places.
- Do not make the mistake of hanging out with old friends who are still using. It will be difficult, but to stay sober you will need to avoid old friends and make new ones who support your addiction recovery.
- Avoid becoming tired, angry, or hungry. Becoming tired, angry, and hungry are common relapse triggers. Work to structure your schedule so you can avoid these states.
- Practise healthy distraction. Running, reading, or engaging in hobbies are all examples of healthy distractions that can help you ride out drug cravings. Want to pick up a drink? Go for a run. Feel like using? Pick up the guitar. Keep your mind focused on something more productive.
- Keep the phone number of a sponsor or supportive friend or family member handy. When you experience strong cravings to use it is important to talk to someone — either a friend, loved one, or sponsor. This will help you pinpoint where the craving came from as well as talk through the urge to use.
- Challenge and change your thoughts. When cravings arise, remind yourself of why addiction recovery is the best choice. Challenge thoughts about how great it would be to use with the reality of the despair that alcoholism or drug addiction has caused you.
3. Build a meaningful life.
When your life has meaning and purpose, returning to old patterns of addiction will become less appealing. Addiction recovery is all about creating healthy lifestyle habits that will in turn increase your confidence, self-esteem, and quality of life.
- Volunteer. Volunteering in your community will give you a sense of purpose and help you meet like-minded people.
- Discover your interests and pick up a new hobby. Addiction recovery requires finding out who you really are without drugs and alcohol. Try new things, take a class, and re-discover what you are interested in.
- Set goals. Working towards meaningful and realistic goals will give you a sense of direction. It does not matter if they are related to your career, lifestyle, or health, as long as they are meaningful to you.
- Adopt a pet. Pets are great companions, and if you are sure you can take on the responsibility of having one, a pet will help you feel loved and needed.
- Help others in recovery. Many people find that helping others in recovery helps create a strong sense of community and purpose in their life. Once you are ready, become a sponsor or even help set up local recovery meetings in your area.
4. Take care of yourself.
Practising self-care is one of the most important ways to prevent relapse. While setting goals and working towards building a meaningful life for yourself is important, you do not have to make drastic changes all at once — nor should you. Taking care of yourself means not taking on so much that you become overwhelmed, keeping your physical and mental health a priority, and always keeping your addiction recovery at the very top of your priority list.
Practising gratitude is another self-care strategy that many people find helpful in their recovery.
5. Form a support network.
Lastly, but possibly most importantly, surround yourself with supportive people and attend recovery groups. You cannot do it alone; addiction recovery requires making healthy connections with others who have been down a similar path and will help you create a meaningful sober future.