Learning to lead a sober life requires a lifetime commitment to a journey that occurs one day at a time. Once you complete addiction treatment, the next step toward recovery is to implement daily the coping strategies you learned in rehab. This task will be easier if you become more and more aware of relapse triggers, or the problems that cause an overwhelming urge to use drugs or alcohol again[i]. Triggers can remain the same throughout recovery, but they can also evolve into new reasons. The important thought here is to know how you feel at any given moment. If you diligently protect your thoughts and surround yourself with people who support your recovery, then your sober lifestyle can adapt to any unique situation.
One of the most important parts of the recovery journey is to pace yourself. It may take you time to readjust to your home life, job and relationships after treatment ends. This process may take time not only of you, but also of your loved ones, who may need time to get used to your new normal. Recognizing this view as positive rather than negative can help you, your friends and family feel comfortable being together. In short, see your journey of sobriety as a marathon rather than a sprint: choose a pace that is right for you and those around you to keep stress under control and to prevent relapse. Indeed, in his article, “Maintaining Sobriety and Avoiding Relapse,” Dr. Phil McGraw recommends recovering addicts to pace themselves and to begin a new history without the influence of drugs or alcohol[ii]. Write a new life story for yourself and your family one day at a time.
Another important part of your guide to a sober life is to keep learning about addiction, relapse and recovery. While you were in rehab, therapists, counselors and other rehab professionals taught you to recognize what problems trigger your cravings and what coping strategies can address these problems; to succeed for the long haul, the learning cannot stop there. Learn more each day about your addiction and how you got where you are, because more knowledge will help you avoid going back to those places and situations that contributed to your addiction in the first place. Learn new ways to stay clean from people in your support group and from others who have been where you are, because their help and words can be lifelines in your recovery.
Your recovery community can and should include anyone who understands and supports your sobriety. Extended family members, friends, co-workers and your support group can play a vital role in your sober lifestyle. However, building a recovery community also means ending toxic relationships that contributed to your addiction. It may seem harsh, but recognizing the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships is an important part of staying sober.
Ongoing support after rehab ends (aftercare) is one of the most important parts of leading a sober life. Ongoing support groups become places to share feelings, struggles and success in a safe environment, because support group members have been where you are, which means they can offer valuable insights into lives of sobriety. Everyone represents a different point on the road to recovery, so you or your loved one can learn much from others who have taken the first steps before you. Support groups also provide a much-needed social outlet during the holidays or other times when you need to be with people who understand your unique problems. Lastly, support groups are also natural places to find sobriety partners. You and your sobriety partner are there for each other 24 hours a day to talk about problems. You can trust that this person will tell you the truth and help you through the rough patches whenever you need assistance.
Along with support groups, regular meetings with your counselor or therapist are also important. When you need them, keep scheduled appointments or make extra ones, and be sure to complete any assigned homework during your recovery plan.
Along with developing a healthy mind and body during and after rehab, you should also connect or reconnect with your spirit to stay sober after treatment ends. Many programs refer to a “higher power” to help recovering addicts see that something exists that is bigger than themselves and addiction. Getting involved in religious groups, practicing yoga and meditation and communing with nature are all ways to nurture a life of peace.
A sober life begins by admitting you have a problem and then reaching out for help. If you or a loved one struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, then know that we are here to help. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.
[i] Adi Jaffe, Ph.D. “Triggers and Relapse, A Craving Connection for Addicts.” Psychology Today, March 2010. Accessed November 13, 2015. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-addiction/201003/triggers-and-relapse-craving-connection-addicts