One thing I get asked, pretty much more than anything else, is “how did I get sober and how do I stay sober?” I have put some of the major ways I stayed sober below. But, be aware that what may work for me, may not work for you. So take all of the tips with a grain of salt. You don’t have to do the below things to get/stay sober. You can do less, more, or somewhere in between. You have to pick what works best for you.
One of the easiest things to do is to avoid old hangouts. When I stopped drinking, I stumbled a little with this one by visiting bars and clubs I used to frequent, and couldn’t hold on to my sobriety because of it. I stopped going, and have been sober ever since. Find new places to hang out, that don’t serve alcohol. When you discover new places to hang out that don’t serve alcohol, you open your horizons and can continue creating a new life for yourself.
Humility is one of the things I struggled with when I first went sober. Overestimating your sobriety is a very dangerous game. Staying humble and always being aware that you don’t have control over alcohol is one of the most important frames of mind that you must keep through your sobriety, no matter how many days, months, or years you have under your belt. As alcoholics we are powerless over our ability to only have one drink. Stay humble and know that you are not perfect. None of us are.
What works for me, may not work for you. And the other way around. Not everyone’s path is unique, but it may take a different combination of practices for you to stay sober. For me I use a mix of faith, some of the teachings of AA, some of the teachings of Rational Recovery, a mix of Smart Recovery, and various other things sprinkled throughout. It’s important to have a plan of action and a path you want to follow in your journey through sobriety. Keep in mind, it doesn’t always have to be solely that path. I started down one path, and found out pretty quickly in my recovery that I wanted to take a different route. Whatever works, as long as it isn’t harmful to you or anyone else.
Complacency kills! Getting to comfortable in your sobriety is similar to not being humble about your sobriety. When you get comfortable and don’t keep your sobriety as a forefront, you are susceptible to missteps. The scary part is that you might not even be aware of your misstep until after the fact. It’s a balancing act of humility and awareness of your disease.
My faith has been a cornerstone in my recovery. I owe my life to my God and the many chances I have been afforded by Him. I have found much strength throughout my sobriety in the Bible. The Word has been a big help. I am Christian, but that doesn’t mean Christianity is the only faith. I am not one of those who think it’s Christianity or nothing. I realize people find strength in many different forms of faith. Pick what works for you.
Finding new friends is a big one. Associating with the same people who either enabled your drinking, or triggered it, are the same ones who can, and more often times than not will, trigger a relapse. It’s important to find a circle of like-minded, or appreciative, friends who can support your sobriety, not risk it.
Holding onto the feelings others made you feel and allowing them to control your mind is a very bad idea. Forgiving others isn’t for them, it’s for you. You are allowed to move on from that and put it behind you. It releases any attachment to that pain and grief associated with that person and event.
Above all other grievances, you need to forgive yourself. We all hold ourselves responsible for our own downfalls. More often than not, we are victims of circumstance and of our genetics. Although we chose to pick up a bottle, we were not genetically capable of stopping because we are addicts. We had no control over that, and when we stop blaming ourselves and forgive ourselves, we are able to move on from that and really start to work on our recovery.
Finding a new outlet for this newfound energy and clarity is a great way to stay sober. Dive into something new and exciting to keep your mind busy on healthy tasks that are not only fun, but also really good for staying sober. When I went sober I went straight into web design and playing video games. It was very therapeutic to zone out in a healthy way. Find something that interests you and see how far it can take you. You will be surprised.
This one can be a difficult one. We have only known how to have fun while intoxicated for so long that we forget how to have fun without it. The great thing is, we are still capable of reaching this place in our lives again. All we have to do is look for things that don’t involve alcohol. Dry parties set up purposely for recovering alcoholics, movies, reading, exercise, journaling, etc. It’s key to not get bored during recovery. Your mind can wander.
When you are feeling tempted, reach out! Talk to someone who is willing to be an ear for you. One thing I was always fearful of was people being judgmental about my sobriety and choices. I was very wrong. When someone offers to be an ear for you, take them up on it. Being able to vent is a very big part of sobriety.
Reading is a way to escape, in a healthy way. You can disappear into so many worlds and live so many lives and really enjoy a different point of view. I personally try and stay away from books that get too dark about recovery, because they have the chance at triggering me, so I tend to read auto-biographies about someone who is recovering. I also like to read dystopian novels as well. It’s a great escape for me. Pick what you like best.
Toxic. It doesn’t just apply to chemicals. It can be a descriptor for certain events, people’s personalities, environments, and more. Removing things that psychologically poison you can be detrimental to your recovery. Having things in your life that make you depressed, sad, unhappy, angry, etc, can lead you to want to drink. Remove those chances at relapse.
Taking responsibility is a difficult thing to do. We have to admit we were wrong and our actions put us where we are today. But, as cliche as it is, admitting you have a problem is important to realize. Once we can successfully realize our problem, we can then begin to correct it and live a life in recovery.
It’s not always 100% sunshine and rainbows in recovery. But as long as you can try to see the positive in situations, you will be fine. It’s OK to break down from time to time. To be unhappy sometimes. To just want to be left alone. Those are normal. But always look for the silver lining. You are sober, so think of the good times in your sobriety.
This one can be a double edged sword. Stay too busy and you could crash when you get tired. This is called a dry drunk. You replace the alcohol with something else time consuming that keeps your mind off of the alcohol all the time. You still need to work through your recovery and be aware of your past. Don’t stay so busy that you forget why you are sober. The crash from being a dry drunk could easily lead into relapse to cope with the fallout. Staying busy in healthy ways and knowing when to rest are very important.
Treatment isn’t always an option or attainable for some. For me it wasn’t. But, if it is an option for you, I say go for it. Get that extra support and guidance during your first steps of recovery. Professional assistance works for some. Do your due diligence picking a recovery center though. Find one that suits your needs.