Staying sober can be a challenge and is often not straightforward. There is no golden rule to sobriety that works for everyone. The more strategies you learn to identify personal triggers, deal with stress, and manage your new sober life, the easier it will become to prevent relapse.
It is estimated that around 80% of people who find long-term sobriety experienced at least one relapse on their journey. It is essential to believe in your ability and not see relapse as a complete failure. There is always the chance to learn from your setbacks and continue your recovery process.
What Is Sobriety?
In 2019, 25.8 percent of individuals over age 17 reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the past month. Binge drinking and heavy alcohol use do not always indicate a substance use disorder. These forms of substance abuse increase the risk of alcohol and drug addiction. In 2019, almost 15 million people over twelve had an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
How To Get Sober and Stay Sober Longer
It is often said that the only thing more difficult than getting sober is staying sober. There is a lot of support available for those struggling with substance abuse, but creating your coping skills and building healthy habits is essential.
Take It Step by Step
Starting alcohol and drug recovery may seem daunting, but long-term sobriety is often more manageable when broken into stages or smaller parts.
Take one step at a time and break everything into shorter goals. Look at sobriety in stages, from detox to addiction treatment to sober living to everyday life.
Each stage of recovery brings you closer to your goal of long-term sobriety. Celebrate each of these wins and successes. When you advance to a new phase, tell your loved ones and share your success with them.
Building and maintaining a sober lifestyle often means assessing your relationships and whether they help your alcohol or drug recovery. Making new friends that understand your situation and distancing yourself from friends that may encourage you to drink is a complex but essential step in the lifelong process of recovery.
Know Your Triggers
A significant part of preventing relapse is knowing your external triggers, people, places, things, and situations that elicit thoughts or cravings associated with substance use and your internal triggers like feelings, thoughts, or emotions related to drugs or alcohol.
Once you identify your most significant risks, you can create a plan to prepare for or avoid them. Some common triggers may include:
Learning to deal with stress is vital for recovering addicts. Stress is a common trigger for relapse, whether major or minor. Practicing grounding techniques, such as deep breathing and reaching out for support, can help you maintain control over the stress present in everyday life.
Much like stress, emotional distress is something most people experience throughout their lives, and in most cases, it doesn't cause great harm. However, avoiding and managing emotional distress is essential for those trying to maintain lasting sobriety. If emotional distress triggers you, try to avoid taking on other people's negative emotions or trauma. Setting boundaries and seeking professional support can help you gain control of your triggers.
People Who Are Still Using Drugs or Drinking
Sometimes those who were or still are close and critical to you can contribute to a relapse. Your past relationships with drinking buddies, drug dealers, or people you obtained drugs or alcohol from may have played an essential role in your life, but maintaining sobriety often means distancing yourself from people who may encourage you to have 'just one drink.' Sober living can be difficult when regularly around people with substance abuse problems who may remind you of your past behavior and trigger relapse.
Maintaining employment can be difficult for individuals struggling with drug or alcohol abuse, and many have developed financial problems. Financial problems and problems finding and keeping a job can be primary triggers for relapse. It's essential to take steps to organize your finances and seek help or advice with this if necessary.
Recognize Relapse Warning Signs
A relapse can sneak up on you if you don't recognize the warning signs. Relapse begins long before you consume alcohol or drugs, and there are generally three phases to be aware of. These are:
- Emotional relapse
- Mental relapse
- Physical relapse.
The warning signs of deterioration include:
- Returning to addictive thinking patterns or leaning towards addictive behavior.
- Engaging in compulsive, self-defeating behaviors
- Seeking out situations that involve people who use alcohol and drugs
- Not reasoning or behaving less responsibly
- Seeing drugs or alcohol use as a logical escape from negative feelings or pain
Learn To Manage Stress
Any stress can be a relapse trigger for those who struggle with drug abuse or alcohol addiction, whether it is something minor like breaking your phone or missing the bus or something much more significant and impactful like losing your job or not having money to pay rent. Avoiding stress altogether is impossible, and it is inevitable that at some point during your recovery journey, you will experience some form of stress, but learning to manage stressful situations is something you have control over.
Develop a Structured Schedule
Having a chaotic or disorganized lifestyle can impede your recovery. It's essential to develop a structured daily and weekly schedule and stick to it. This structured schedule may include going to support groups, family therapy, and other activities that maintain a healthy balance of fun activities and practices that help kick addiction habits.
Sticking to the same routine is essential during addiction recovery, as a chaotic or disorganized life can encourage you to turn to old habits.
Taking Care of Your Physical and Mental Health
Healthy living is an essential part of early recovery in particular. Building a healthy lifestyle with a range of solo and group recreational activities, an exercise program, a healthy diet, and mental health support can significantly decrease the chances of relapse.
Join a Support Group
Having a solid support system is particularly important when you begin to recognize relapse warning signs and struggle with negative beliefs of feeling alone. Groups such as alcoholics anonymous (AA) or narcotics unknown (NA) are great places to meet people that understand what you are going with. These mutual support groups can be spaces to talk about past mistakes without judgment, find sober friends and build supportive relationships with people that want to help you remain sober.
How To Stay Sober From Alcohol Without AA
Alcoholics Anonymous is not the only way to stay sober. It is one method that works for some people, but there are other approaches to staying sober. Many substance abuse treatment providers offer suggestions to help you find the best fit for your recovery, such as other addiction support groups.
An alternative to AA is SMART Recovery, which does not use the 12-Step model. SMART is an acronym for “Self-Management and Recovery Training.” SMART focuses more on building skills to cope with stress in everyday life and, unlike the 12-step process, does not focus on a higher power.
Cornerstone’s goal is to help individuals maintain abstinence by building a solid foundation for lasting recovery through self-help groups, support systems, mental health support, the development of relapse prevention strategies, and the re-establishment of positive relationships with friends and family members.
Contact us today for a private consultation to ask any questions you may have.