Recognizing that you have a substance use disorder and deciding to seek help can be a very difficult but life-changing decision. It requires more than just detoxing from the substance; you must also commit to a long-term recovery process.
It is important not to be too hard on yourself as you begin your recovery journey. Relapsing can feel like the worst possible thing, but do not feel discouraged if this happens. About 80% of people who are long-term sober have experienced at least one relapse.
The most important thing is to recognize your relapse triggers, create a healthy lifestyle, and deal with the underlying reasons for your substance abuse. Getting professional help will give you the best chance of getting and remaining sober.
What is Sobriety?
Living a sober life is generally considered to be living a life where you are not under the influence of a substance such as alcohol or drugs. However, some people prefer to define it more fluidly.
Another definition is that it is a process of recovery, of developing a lifestyle with healthy habits and coping mechanisms. This definition of sober life might be more helpful for some as it puts less pressure on relapse. Adding guilt and shame about relapse is not conducive to long-term sobriety.
How to Get Sober
The first step of getting sober is detoxing. This is when you stop taking the substance so that the toxins can leave your body. During detox, you will experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms which can put you at risk of self-harm or relapse.
It is recommended that you seek treatment at an addiction treatment center for the detox process. There you will be able to get twenty-four-hour support in order to reduce the effects of withdrawal symptoms and provide you with a safe environment to prevent relapse.
Tips for Staying Sober
Addiction is often seen as a lack of willpower. However, it takes more than willpower to stay sober. To remain sober you need to break out of old patterns of behavior, come to terms with the past, understand what your triggers are for substance abuse, and potentially end close relationships which are drawing you into substance abuse.
Triggers and the Past
Relapse begins long before you take the substance. You will emotionally and mentally relapse before you physically do. It is possible to learn how to recognize your relapse triggers so that you reduce your chances of relapsing. Signs to look out for include:
- Compulsive or self-defeating behavior
- Returning to addictive thinking patterns
- Wanting to spend time with people who use drugs or alcohol
- Thinking less rationally and behaving less responsibly
- Getting into situations where drug or alcohol use is the logical escape from pain
It is important to learn about your personal relapse triggers. They could include people, places, things, situations, or stress. We will discuss a few common triggers and how you can deal with them as well as discussing general coping mechanisms.
Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms
As you recover from alcohol or drug addiction, you should prepare for post-acute withdrawal symptoms. These will vary depending upon which substance you were taking, how heavily you took it, and whether you have underlying physical or mental health problems. Common post-acute withdrawal symptoms include anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and drug cravings.
These can last from six months to as long as two years. If they last for a long time, you may need to seek help from a medical professional. They could assist you in dealing with psychological symptoms either through therapy or medication.
Taking care of your mental health is vital when you want to stay sober. It is very common to have co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorders. About 7.7 million people in the US have co-occurring disorders.
Having an underlying mental health condition is a risk factor for developing a substance abuse problem because you may use substances to self-medicate. While this causes short-term relief, it can actually worsen the condition with time. It can also be more likely to develop a mental health problem from substance abuse.
It is therefore important that you treat any underlying mental health problems while you recover. Many treatment centers including ours at Cirque Lodge offer dual diagnosis and treatment for people with co-occurring disorders.
Stress is a normal and natural emotion experienced by us all. However, for those recovering from addictions, it can be a relapse trigger. Make sure that you reduce stresses in your life as much as possible.
Some ways you can do this include:
- Setting boundaries so that you do not take on more than you can handle at work or in your personal life
- Practicing stress-relieving activities such as yoga, meditation, or physical exercise
For people with a drug or alcohol addiction, it can be very difficult to maintain employment. This means that when you start your recovery process you might already have some financial troubles.
Financial problems can be a trigger for relapse so it is important to focus on creating a stable financial situation. You might consider getting in touch with a career coach, creating a budget, and putting boundaries in place to prevent work stress.
In order to move forward with your life, you must deal with past mistakes. You may experience guilt and shame when you think of past behavior. While it is important to learn from your mistakes, you should not dwell on them.
One way to help you work through the past is therapy. This can help you to identify events you regret in a safe and supported environment. With time, this will allow you to forgive yourself so that you can move on from the past.
If you return to the routine you had before, once you are sober, it will be very difficult to stay sober. There may be people in your life with whom you were using substances who are still using.
Old drinking buddies or people you took drugs with may try to convince you to have just one drink or one line. This is not necessarily malicious, but it will make staying sober very difficult. Even people with whom you did not take substances can enable your drug use including family members and friends. It is important to recognize toxic past relationships, learn from them, and let them go.
This can understandably be very hard as they may be close relationships, but you must make new friends and develop healthy relationships. Sober friends can help you to find joy in activities that do not involve substances.
Creating Healthy Habits
Staying sober is easier when you create a routine, keeping things organized and balanced. Having a daily and weekly schedule can be part of this. This might include recreational activities, therapy, and outings with friends.
When recovering from an addiction, people often substitute new compulsive behaviors for old ones. It is important to avoid creating a new addiction and keep things in your life balanced. Structure helps with this; you can fill your time with healthy activities which prevent you from creating addictive behavior with any one of them. It can also help you achieve goals outside of your recovery which will make you feel more fulfilled. Feeling fulfilled and good about yourself will help to prevent you from relapsing.
Healthy living is a good way of increasing your chances of staying sober. Replacing your old habits with new healthy ones can help reduce triggers as you are not following the same routine. It also helps to increase endorphin release and reduce stress.
Healthy things to consider include:
- Healthy eating
- Starting a new hobby or joining a club
- Regular exercise
- Sleeping well
- Relaxation practices like yoga and mindfulness
Addiction support groups can be useful for staying sober. They allow you to connect with people who are going through the same thing so that you do not feel like you are doing it alone.
There are different types of support groups. The best known are Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. With these groups, you admit that you are powerless to your addiction and surrender to a higher power, using the 12-step recovery program. This is a proven, effective method, though if you do not stick with it long-term, the effectiveness reduces.
Another option is SMART recovery. This method focuses on coping skills such as coping with urges, building and maintaining motivation, managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and living a balanced life.
You might also consider sober living houses. These provide a safe environment for you after you have detoxed. You have your own independence and can see family and friends but live in a drug-free environment with people going through the same experience.
Alcohol and Drug Recovery
At Cirque Lodge, we offer an enriching rehabilitation experience in the relaxing environment of the Rocky Mountains of Utah. We use a holistic approach to make sure that you achieve long-term recovery.
At our private and exclusive treatment center, you will be able to have access to:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Experiential therapy
- Equine therapy
- Art therapy
- Outdoor activities
- 12-step recovery program
- Family healing program
You will also get ongoing support after your leave.
While friends and family can help you on your recovery journey, you must want to become sober for yourself as it is a lifelong process. If you are ready to start your new sober life, please visit our website or call us at (385) 220-8887.