So you’ve gone to addiction treatment and freed yourself from the chains of addiction. Maybe you even spent some time in sober living housing and are now ready to live sober for a lifetime, without anyone holding your hand.
Do not be fooled: Living a sober life after having used substance for a quick fix for years, or perhaps even decades, is not easy. No matter how strong your convictions might be, triggers and temptation lurk around every corner, not to mention the fact that boredom is practically public enemy number one for any recovering alcoholic or addict.
Every addict who has been in recovery for a period of time will have picked up some tricks of the trade, so to speak. In fact, the best people to ask for recovery tips are these individuals who have years of proven success in maintaining their sobriety. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for how to successfully live a sober lifestyle.
1. Create new habits and traditions.
This could be something as simple as heading to your local multiplex to catch a movie in place of happy hour at your favorite bar. But you can also tie these habits and traditions to important occasions. For instance, it’s always a good idea to celebrate your recovery milestones, so you could make it a tradition to go out for dinner or ice cream on your sober anniversary each year. Or if you’re ambitious, you might plan a nice vacation each time you’ve stayed sober for another five years.
Not only are these kinds of things emotionally healthy, but they also give you something to look forward to. Additionally, these sorts of things help to keep you busy, which is good because a bored mind is more prone to falling back into old habits.
2. Start (and stick to) an exercise plan.
When you exercise, your brain produces chemicals called endorphins, which trigger a euphoria that’s similar to drugs and alcohol. For this reason, many people have found exercise to be an effective yet healthy substitution for substance abuse.
However, exercise also is plain healthy. Even just being outdoors in the sunshine is uplifting. Some experts have even connected doing outdoor activities to elevated mood and improvement in symptoms of emotional disorders. According to a study of 49 veterans, cortisol levels are higher after gardening, leading to reduced depressive symptoms and certain biomarkers of PTSD (which is often comorbid with substance use disorder).
3. Learn to appreciate healthy foods.
Just as people can develop an interest in adding different liquors to mixed drinks, many people living in sobriety find themselves discovering (or rediscovering) an interest in healthy foods.
Of course, nutritious foods can soothe some of the cravings that we may have, but there are other benefits to maintaining a healthy diet. As you put more healthy foods into your body, you’ll that you have more energy, that your skin is brighter and more clear, and even your overall moods are better.
4. Avoid harmful people and places.
If you turned to alcohol or drugs as a means of coping with a bad relationship, then it’s crucial that you get out of that relationship. Sober people have no time for negativity in their lives.
People in recovery should make every effort to minimize the amount of negativity in their lives. This also means not hanging around people whom you don’t feel you can be honest with, and vice versa. Trust is a big issue in sobriety, and leaving behind an old life — and for many people, an entire existence as an alcoholic — is a big leap of faith.
5. Find a sober buddy or sponsor.
The benefits here are twofold: First, the companionship will give you some semblance of a normal social life as you get sober. Because many people get sober after years of neglecting their relationships. As a result, recovery often coincides with a new social group and support network. With a sponsor or sober companion, it ensures that you don’t become isolated in recovery.
Additionally, your companion will be someone to call on when things become difficult. This is particularly true of sponsors, which are a staple of twelve-step programs and support groups for a reason.
6. Take up a new hobby.
It may sound like a cliché, but hobbies are a great distraction and can take our attention away from the stresses of everyday life.
The sky’s the limit when it comes to new hobbies. Many people enjoy creative and productive hobbies where they make something tangible, but it could even be something as simple as blogging about your recovery. Alternatively, you could start a collection, volunteer, take up photography, start gardening, or do any number of other things. The key is to stay busy because boredom can be dangerous for those in recovery.
7. Keep a journal.
Chronicle your journey to sobriety, even when that entails documenting your slips and relapses. For one thing, writing things out, even to yourself, makes them seem more binding and official. But more importantly, you can look back on these events and learn a lot from them, particularly your moods, emotions, and state-of-mind when these things happened.
8. Do not beat yourself up if you relapse.
This can turn into a terrible, vicious cycle and is a dangerous and unhealthy way to deal with relapse. Many alcoholics try to get sober and fail, so then they feel worse and they drink even more. Don’t fall into that trap.
9. Avoid triggers.
Most people in the throes of active addiction lose years, or sometimes even decades, to substance abuse. During that time, they often come to make certain associations between alcohol or drugs and certain people, places, and things.
For example, maybe there’s a certain song or musical you enjoyed listening to while drinking alcohol. When you experience these stimuli again in recovery, it’s likely that you’ll begin to have cravings for alcohol or drugs; in this kind of situation, the stimuli are called triggers. Although not all triggers can be avoided, you should make every effort to avoid them when you can because they put undue strain on your recovery.
10. Give Alcoholics Anonymous a try.
Whether or not you’re receptive to recovery fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous, there’s no getting around the fact that twelve-step programs have given millions and millions of people the tools to achieve stable, lasting recovery.
However, there are different ways to benefit from these programs. For someone who’s completed a program at a drug rehab, recovery fellowships are an opportunity to network with other recovering addicts and to begin getting acclimated to the local recovery community. It can also be a chance to find a sober buddy or a sponsor (see tip no. 5). But no matter what you hope to get from a twelve-step program, the reality is your chances of sustaining your sobriety long-term is higher when you’re part of a recovery fellowship.
Check out our other blog posts to learn more about substance abuse, the road to recovery, and other pertinent information. Or if you’re ready to take the first steps in your own journey of recovery, contact Silicon Beach Treatment Center today.