If you’re recovering from substance use, you’re already halfway to getting better. There are two goals at this point: to remain sober and avoid relapse. You’ve already put too much work into your sobriety to revisit your past mistakes. There’s nothing that can stop you now.

What is the secret? It’s self-love and thinking about your loved ones.

Long-term sobriety is easy to achieve with the proper knowledge, support from family members, the right tips for staying sober, and the most effective treatment programs. It takes willpower, commitment, and dedication to stay sober.

If you’re recovering from alcohol or substance abuse, or have a loved one struggling to live a sober life, here are some tips that can help.

1. Identify Your Stressors or Triggers

People in recovery from substance use may give in to cravings for drug and alcohol use when at high stress levels. The best thing to do is identify what causes your stress or triggers. This way, you know what to avoid or are able to see if you’re in a vulnerable situation.

These triggers may be places that you need to avoid, like clubs, bars, or parties. They can also be people who aren’t a positive influence in your life, like a colleague who drinks too much or a friend who tempts you to use drugs. Avoid people or places where drugs or alcohol are involved.

Identify your stressors and learn how to use healthy coping mechanisms. These stressors can be in the form of financial struggles, relationship issues, family problems, or work pressure. If you feel that you’re under a lot of stress, reach out for help from your friends and family.

Recognizing triggers or stressors is the biggest step to maintaining a sober life. The second step is to find ways to avoid these triggers and develop healthy ways to cope.

A therapist or counselor can provide suggestions on how you can avoid or fight your triggers. So before you take another drink or drug, think first if you really want to mess up your sobriety.

2. Recognize Signs of Substance Abuse Relapse

Relapse happens when a recovering person from drug or alcohol addiction returns to their old behavior. Relapse can sneak up even without you recognizing the warning signs.

It is important to recognize relapse so you won’t be stuck in a pattern of spiraling down to rock bottom. Relapse has three phases: emotional, mental, and physical relapse. Here are the warning signs:

  • Returning to addictive drinking or drug use patterns, or having thoughts like It would be nice to have a drink” or “I want to go to a bar to unwind”
  • Compulsive or self-defeating behaviors like procrastination, not taking responsibility, not being accountable for one’s actions, or refusing to ask for help from friends or family members
  • Looking for people or places involving alcohol or drugs
  • Not thinking rationally or behaving responsibly
  • Being stuck in a situation where using drugs or drinking alcohol seems like a reasonable escape from pain

3. Prepare for Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS)

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome is a cluster of symptoms experienced by a person with substance addiction who stops abruptly. The symptoms may last from a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the type of dependency. The symptoms include irritability, trouble sleeping, anxiety, panic attacks, and prolonged depression.

As for those who want to start their journey to sobriety, prepare yourself to experience PAWS as your body goes through a detox process. Learn to seek help from health care professionals—both a doctor and a mental health professional—to know which treatment you can follow to overcome PAWS.

4. Staying Sober by Avoiding Old Habits

Your old habits may be the reason why you resort to drug or alcohol use in the first place. If you’re trying to stay sober, avoid your old habits.

Do you drink or become dependent on sleeping pills because you can’t fall asleep? Try to tire out yourself the natural way through exercise or meditation.

Do you drink too much because of financial problems or bottled-up emotions? Talk to friends and family members, and seek professional help for better results.

Whatever hardship you’re going through, deal with it healthily. Drinking or resorting to drugs is never the answer that will make you feel better.

5. Rectify Your Past Mistakes

During your addiction phase, you are not yourself, and you may commit mistakes that hurt your family and loved ones. As you become sober, you may feel shameful or guilty about your past actions, which is common. Your mistakes are your life’s best teachers so you can live a more responsible life.

Part of your recovery process is to deal with your mistakes from the past. These emotions may be too much, so it may be hard to face your mistakes, but not dealing with these feelings can circle you back to your old habits and may lead to relapse. This is where a mental health counselor can help you.

6. Take Care of Your Physical Health

Your physical health was greatly affected during your addiction phase, and your normal eating and sleeping patterns were all disrupted. At this point, it is essential to follow a healthy lifestyle. Following a healthy diet can improve your overall mood and help prevent ups and downs from destabilizing your improved behavior.

Don’t forget to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, whether walking around the block, biking outdoors, or doing yoga. Exercising regularly can help with stress reduction, the release of happy hormones, and a positive body image perception.

Also, return to your normal sleeping patterns so your body can be well-rested. Sleep 8 hours a day, as oversleeping or lack of sleep can affect your health negatively.

7. Follow a Routine or Schedule

Having a disorganized or chaotic schedule can set back your recovery. It is important to follow a routine or schedule to stay on track and keep yourself busy. At times when boredom strikes, you may have cravings to drink or do drugs. This is why you need a schedule to ward off temptations.

Have a structured schedule daily and weekly and stick to it. This will not only keep you from having cravings, but you can also set short-term and long-term goals you want to achieve.

If it helps, write down the tasks or activities in your journal or planner for the day or week. Schedule family bondings, outdoor trips, and counseling to keep yourself preoccupied.

8. Develop Healthy Relationships

Now that you’re sober, it’s time for you to build healthy relationships with your family and friends. You may have hurt them in the past, but as you rectify your mistakes, you now have the opportunity to gain their trust again.

If you’ve been in a toxic relationship, which was the reason why you drank alcohol or used drugs, deal with it healthily. Sign up for couple’s counseling if you think you need it.

At this point, you only need to develop harmonious relationships to avoid relapse. If your existing circle of friends drinks or uses drugs, avoid them and try to make new friends.

Surround yourself only with sober friends and cut off people who may negatively influence your life. You can join support groups or a club to meet new people.

9. Join Support Groups

One of the effective ways to maintain sobriety is to join support groups. Get to meet new people who understand what you’re going through and share your experiences to hear insightful advice.

You can join Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholic Anonymous groups. Some support groups are led by peers or professionals. Both are helpful in sobriety recovery.

It is easier to stay sober if you’re not alone, so a support group can play a big role in your sobriety. A support group can help you find a sense of belongingness in a community and communicate your fears with people who also battled addiction.

10. Take Care of Your Mental Health

An essential step to fighting addiction is to take care of your mental health. After all the addiction treatment and recovery programs you joined, it’s time to take control of your life and care for your mental health.

Finding the balance between recovery, staying sober, and taking care of your mental health takes a lot of work, but it is achievable. Set new goals every day, learn something new, read a book, meditate, join a gym, spend time with your family, and love yourself.

Learn how to deal with stress and never go back to the life of addiction. You have worked so hard on your recovery to give up now.

Book an Appointment with Kentucky Counseling Center

The first step in taking care of your mental health is to book an appointment with a counselor or therapist. If you’re from Kentucky or Ohio, you can book an appointment online with Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) through the KCC Direct Services. Let our counselors help you stay sober by discussing your struggles and how to overcome them. Whatever emotions you’re going through, sort them out with a counselor. If you’re trying to mend fences with your family, you can sign up for family therapy. If you have a toxic relationship with your spouse, which is the reason why you started drinking or using drugs, you can also book an appointment with a marriage counselor at KCC.

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