You’ve been through some tough times, hit rock bottom, and clawed your way back up. You’ve alienated loved ones and had to beg for forgiveness and redeeming grace. You’ve been sick and desperate and had to decide when you’d had enough. You’ve been through addiction and you’ve been through recovery.
So, now what?
There are vital changes that have to be made in order to effect lasting change as your previous lifestyle was conducive to your addiction, not to your recovery. You can’t go on a diet, lose weight, then go right back to your old eating habits and expect to maintain, right? Nope. It has to be a complete lifestyle change if you want it to work. Here are 8 tips for staying sober you can use to help create the best-case scenario for yourself in your recovery:
Get new friends. You can’t hang around the same people as when you were actively living in your addiction but need to really focus your attention on developing a new network. Surround yourself with positive people who influence your recovery and help you live your best life. You’ve been through something very difficult and now you need people who will uplift you and encourage you. It is hard to succeed when you see someone who is trying to bring you down at every turn!
Go new places. You need new hangouts! Can you spend time at the local bar and not drink? Maybe. Is it much harder to resist when everyone around you is drinking? Yep. As well as drinking and driving. A sober person doesn’t usually have a whole lot to do in a place that is made solely for drinking. This is just one example but can be generalized to other places and other substances.
Form new habits. You know how they say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Well, you can and you should. When you are initiating a major lifestyle change, part of that has to be that you learn new ways of doing things. It is important to have healthy, positive, structured leisure skills and ways to spend your free time because boredom leads to bad decisions. One more saying for you…have you ever heard them say idol hands are the devil’s playground? Truth. It is likely that if you look back over your time as an addict, you will be able to identify many times when being bored triggered your use. Well, I have nothing better to do so I may as well light it up. Sound familiar?
Learn new coping skills. We talked about being bored but what about other emotions? In your previous life, what did you do when you were feeling sad? Self-medicate. Angry? Self-destruct. Happy? Celebrate! Who was always there for you? Your old friend, your drug of choice. So, what does this new life bring? A new way to deal. Coping skills are the methods that you use to deal with emotions and stressful situations, so it could be a large variety of things as it is unique to each person. Some examples could be journaling, taking a walk, talking to a supportive friend or family member, listening to music, deep breathing, or doing meditation. To learn more about coping skills and other mental techniques you can learn to effectively cope with difficult situations, speak to a therapist!
Develop a new attitude. This is my favorite point and maybe one of the most important ones we have discussed because attitude is everything. It is all about perspective. Since we have been using sayings today, I’m going to throw in one more. You know how they say life is 10% what happens to you and 90% what you do with it? I have never believed one of those cliché sayings more in my life than I do this one. A simple shift in your thinking, a decision to look for the positive, a grateful heart, can make you or break you. Here’s how the algorithm works: better attitude = happier = less desire to use. Simple, right?
A couple of other things I encourage you to do to give you the best chance at recovery are:
Create a recovery plan that outlines how you will deal with things as they arise. This plan should include your goals for your healthy life, positive activities that will help you maintain sobriety, relapse triggers, warning signs, and a crisis plan for when things go wrong. This would be a good place to note all of these vital changes we discussed and how you are going to implement them into your life. Remember that recovery is not linear so you will have ups and downs. Success is measured by the obstacles becoming less often and less severe.
Connect negative consequences with addiction so that you recognize what it did to wreck your life…and so you don’t forget that it would only take a few bad decisions to get you right back there again. Making this connection is vital to successful recovery and motivation to remain healthy.
Consider attending support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Don’t like that one? There are lots of other, non-12-step models out there. Surround yourself with the support of those who have been there and really get what you’re going through. Rely on them to lift you up and talk you down. This is a valuable resource that you should take advantage of for optimal success.
I hope that this information is helpful to you and speaks to you at just the perfect time so you can answer the question…now what?
For greater insight into interacting with those suffering from the issues mentioned in the article or if you would like to chat with others affected, try the app, Reachout.
Kayce Bragg, a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor Candidate in the state of South Carolina, has been practicing in mental health since 2011, working with adults with severe and persistent mental illness. She started her private practice, Synergy eTherapy, earlier this year. She provides online therapeutic sessions via phone calls and video chats, specializing in (but not limited to) issues surrounding anxiety and depression.