Tips to Help You Stay Sober

You’ve taken the big steps to get sober. Now the support of family and friends, and a good plan for managing urges and stress, can make staying there easier.

Stay Out of Risky Situations

This may mean that you don’t spend time with someone you used to use drugs with or go somewhere you used to drink. You might take a new way home from work, for example, to keep from going past your favorite old hangout.

Build a Support Network

Lean on close friends and family for support, even if your relationships aren’t what they used to be. Think about going to counseling or family therapy to help with that and to deal with other personal issues.

Have some sober friends you can invite as your plus-one to a social event like a party or wedding. And stay in touch with your sponsor and call him if you’re feeling anxious or uncomfortable.

Find a Peer Support Group

Organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are other ways to build a support network. You can try different meetings for the different groups to find one that’s right for you.

Several smartphone apps offer ways to connect with others who are going through the same things you are. In addition to guidance and support, some of the apps also can help you get immediate help from your network or find a ride to a support group meeting.

Manage Your Urges

While most last only 15 to 30 minutes, it can be hard to fight them off. You might try a substitute, like chewing gum or a personal mantra: “I am stronger than this, and it will pass.”

Staying busy is also a great way to distract yourself. And some people find it helpful to keep a journal. Write down the things that bring you joy and things you’re grateful for, then go back and read it during tough times.

Find an Activity That Means Something to You

You may want to start an exercise routine -- exercise releases brain chemicals called endorphins, which can make you feel good. Or you might rather spend time volunteering for a good cause, like an animal shelter or children’s hospital. Whatever it is, new activities can lead to new friends with interests like yours.

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Learn to Manage Stress

At some point in your recovery, you’ll feel stressed out, whether it’s major stress (like losing a job) or minor stress (like running late for an appointment). When things like this happen, find a sober friend or loved one you can talk to for support. And keep your schedule loose enough that you have time for group meetings and other things that can help you through rough stretches.

Keeping your body healthy will help your mind stay healthy and positive during recovery. So make time for exercise, eat a balanced diet, and get a healthy amount of sleep.

Learn to Relax

When you’re tense, you tend to do what’s familiar. When you’re relaxed, you’re more open to new things. Different strategies work for different people. You might try:

Manage Physical Pain

If you recently had surgery or an injury, your doctor will be careful with the pain medication she gives you, because some of those drugs can make you more likely to relapse. Ask your doctor about nonmedical ways to manage your pain, like massage or acupuncture.

Prepare Your Story

Decide what you’ll say if someone asks why you’re sober. You can try to avoid the conversation, but it’s good to have a response ready in case that’s not possible. If the question comes from someone you know well, you may want to say that drugs or alcohol became a problem for you, so you’re staying away from them. If you don’t know the person well, simply saying you have to get up early the next morning or you quit for health reasons should be enough.

Be the Designated Driver

This gives you a quick and easy explanation for why you aren’t drinking. It also gives you a sense of purpose that can help you stay focused.

Try a Mocktail

In social situations where people are drinking, you might feel more comfortable with a drink in your hand. And it can keep people from asking questions. A mocktail looks like a cocktail but doesn’t have any alcohol in it. Other people won’t be able to tell the difference just by looking at your glass.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar, MD on August 6, 2017

Sources

SOURCES:

Promises Treatment Centers: “Avoid Situations Likely to Trigger Alcohol or Drug Use.”

Bridgeway Behavioral Health: “A Guide to Recovering from Addiction and Staying Sober.”

Gooden Center Treatment Services: “TIPS FOR STAYING SOBER IN SOCIAL SITUATIONS.”

Hazelden Publishing Behavioral Health Evolution: “Nine Strategies for Families Helping a Loved One in Recovery.”

Recovery.org: “Common High Risk Situations in Recovery and How to Manage Them.”

The Recovery Village: “How to relax without alcohol.”

Intervention Services: “10 Things to Do Everyday to Stay Sober.”

Maryland Addiction Recovery Center: “Addiction: Underlying Causes and Conditions.”

The Palm Beach Institute: “How to Deal With Stress in Recovery.”

The Lakehouse Recovery Center: “TIPS FOR STAYING SOBER AFTER REHAB.”

Melemis, Steven M. I Want to Change My Life: How to Overcome Anxiety, Depression and Addiction, Modern Therapies, 2010.

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