Going through treatment is a huge step. It takes several weeks to detox, go through recovery, and enter a rehabilitation period. Once you’re through with your inpatient or outpatient care, then what? What will help you from experiencing a relapse? What will help you transition back to the “real world,” a world that has challenged you and your addiction? How will you stay sober?
You are strong for going through treatment, and your strength will be tested when your treatment is through because getting sober and staying sober are two different things. Many people have gone through rehab only to relapse and start using again. We want to help prevent that for you, though. We want you to have the tools you need to feel healthy and confident in your sobriety despite any temptations or challenges that come your way.
If you are working on staying sober, make sure you lean on the support you received in treatment as much as possible. Be focused on your future and keep track of these tips to help you embrace your sobriety and move forward with all the progress you’ve made and hard work you’ve put in. You deserve it.
#1: Take Care of Yourself
This may seem obvious, but it’s one of the things that you may have let slip to the wayside when using drugs. Eating healthy and exercising on a regular basis is part of practicing self-care. Self-care is also about talking nicely about and to yourself. So often we find it easier to care for others than we do ourselves. Why is that? While it’s nice to be the one your friends and family rely on, it’s not selfish to take time for yourself. Whether it’s a quiet moment to enjoy an afternoon movie by yourself, a walk in solitude, or any other kind of healthy outlet to address your physical, mental, and emotional needs, do it. Take care of number one.
#2: Take Up a Sport
It doesn’t mean you have to pull out a competitive side you’ve never had, but it can be encouraging to be part of a team or challenge yourself to be your physical best. Maybe this involves walking a 5K, joining a yoga class, or participating as part of an organized team. Whatever sport you decide to play, have fun breaking a sweat and learning about crossing the finish line to other goals.
#3: Practice Meditation
Busy minds can make us feel anxious and restless, which can lead us to feel unproductive. Mindfulness or meditation can help us relax our minds and take each day one moment at a time. While it may take more than one shot for you to get to a state of meditation, start slowly and grow from there. Download an app for meditation, and try it out to see if it’s helpful. Or, simply sit with your eyes closed and breathe in and out slowly. Focus your intentions on something positive and start out with five minutes of your day. Increase your time as you get more used to entering your meditative state and you’ll be surprised at home much calmer and less worrisome you feel.
#4: Get Out and About
In the same realm of meditation, allow yourself to start walking without any set destination in mind. Take a new trail or walk around your neighborhood and discover new streets you may have never strolled down before. Breathe in the fresh air and admire the sights, sounds, and smells around you. A peaceful area where you can walk or bike can get your heart rate moving in a healthy way, but also work out any stress or tension you’re feeling.
#5: Stop Being Resentful
When you’re sober, it can be hard to watch other people who may not have the same struggles as you do. It can be tempting to “self-medicate” with drugs or alcohol, but when you learn to let go, you can find peace in your life. It’s natural to feel envious of people who are leading seemingly ideal lives. Remember that you don’t know everything that person is going through or what parts of the picture are true and what they are concealing Radiate positive energy, and you’ll start to see that come back to you. Focus on finding what makes you happy rather than being resentful of others who have what you think you want.
#6: Get a Hobby
Do you know how to keep yourself busy in a healthy way? Hobbies can come in many forms and don’t have to be limited to just one activity. Join a book club. Take a cooking class. Learn how to knit. Tune into a podcast or see a live show. Find a focus in your life you can give your attention to and have it bring you happiness and entertainment in return. So often we’re unsure what to do with our “free time” and end up doing destructive harm rather than productive good. Make time for your hobby and get lost in your new world for at least a few hours a week.
#7: Start a Journal
In your recovery, most likely you were given tools and ideas for how to maintain a healthy outlet for when you’re feeling stressed or down. Writing things downs can help you release all your thoughts at once. It helps your creative mind. And, it can help you reflect on how far you’ve come or how you’re feeling during particularly tougher times. It’s ok to talk about your concerns regarding cravings or potential cravings; in fact, it’s healthy to hash it out once in awhile.
#8: Go to a Meeting
One of the most powerful parts of treatment is the positivity of sharing stories of struggle, but also of hope. When you leave recovery, it can be a tough transition because your built-in support system may no longer be readily available. Meetings are a good way to keep the connection to make your sobriety purposeful. It can help remind you why you decided to become sober in the first place and hold you accountable for showing up, which usually is half the battle.
#9: Get Rid of Temptation
While this might not always be possible, you can at least rid your house of any paraphernalia and memories that may cause you to want to use again. Sobriety is a long-term path, and the smallest thing can trigger a craving or the feeling like you can’t control it. Rather than torturing yourself by being “tested” remove as much temptation from your life as possible.
#10: Hang Out with People Supportive of Your Sobriety
Friends you made pre-rehab may be some of the closest people in your life. But, if they’ve not made the decision to become sober, it can be difficult to stay in frequent contact with them. They may not support your decision or not understand why you decided to go through treatment. They may pressure you without even realizing it and create uncomfortable situations. Consider the types of positive influences you want in your life and take a good look at the current company you keep and see if it matches up.
#11: Be Grateful
Addiction is a life-threatening disease. When you can confront it head on and take control of your health and your life, it makes you see a new perspective. Show gratitude in your day-to-day, and you’ll start to see the rippling effects of that positive output. What are you grateful for today? It doesn’t have to be anything grandiose, but take a moment each morning or evening and give attention to one thing you’re particularly grateful for.
#12: Volunteer Your Time
It can be an eye-opening experience to see those in less fortunate situations than you. Even if you only have a couple of hours a month to dedicate, consider volunteering your time to something you’re passionate about. Contact a local organization and let them know your time availability and ask them how you might be able to help. If you don’t want to commit to every month, sign up for a special event, which always needs extra hands to conduct.
#13: Go for a Hike
Or, at least a long walk. The exercise will help lift your spirits and keep you healthy. For anyone who remembers seeing Reese Witherspoon hike the PCT in “Wild” knows how therapeutic hiking can be. You don’t have to take on such a long trail or time span as she did, but be inspired by the power of being in nature. When you’re good to your body and soul, it helps you maintain your strength in more ways than one.
#14: Clean House
This can be taken literally or metaphorically or both. Take time to clear out the clutter from your life and make way for new beginnings. It feels freeing to get rid of items that no longer serve you and to spruce up your space and feel good about the place you’re in. If the idea of an overhaul seems overwhelming, start small and go one room at a time. Band together with others who may want to clean their homes too and host a garage sale or clothing swap.
#15: Be Forgiving
This one is for both you and for others. Forgive yourself and all the mistakes you may have made because of your addiction. Trust in who are as a person now and the kindness you want to show others. Also, be forgiving of others who were linked to the beginning of your addiction or who may not have understood when you said you’ve had enough. Forgiveness is a tough lesson to learn, but once you grant it, you’ll feel freer.
#16: Take Continuing Education
Learning about your addiction and how it affects people in different ways can help you stay sober. There isn’t one specific reason why one person becomes addicted to drugs and another does not. There are several factors that come into play to make each situation unique. By being informed and arming yourself with the knowledge you need to stay sober, you’ll know what to look out for and how to make sure you continue on the path you want to be on.
#17: Lean on Others
Don’t be afraid to look to others for support. No one can take on the world by themselves. Everyone needs a helping hand once in awhile. When you’re feeling extra challenged, reach out to people you trust for a listening ear, an extra pair of hands, or just quiet company. Don’t look at reaching out for help as weakness or hitting a rough patch as a failure. There will be ups and downs in your sobriety; it’s about knowing how to adjust during the dips and appreciating when times are peaceful and good.
#18: Seek Treatment
Relapse can and does happen. If it happens, turn to the treatment that helped before. It may not be the same amount of time, but there is still the same goal of being healthy and sober. It’s finding the right kind of care at the time you need it. Treatment can help you get back on a healthy path if you’ve started using again. As mentioned before, sobriety is an ongoing process. It takes consistent work, and there’s no shame in reaching out for help and guidance if that’s what’s needed.
#19: Rid Negativity from Your Life
A toxic environment of any kind can lend itself to continued negativity in your life. As much as you can, eliminate negative influences, people, or habits from your life, even if it takes some time. This also goes for negative speak of yourself or others. It’s all too easy to shift blame or to make excuses for inappropriate behavior. You aren’t expected to dwell on the past and those who continue to remind you or doubt your future is considered a negative influence. Surround yourself with positivity and people who make feel like yourself at your best.
#20: Learn to Enjoy Alone Time
That’s right. Feel good about being alone. Take a bubble bath. Binge watch a favorite show. Go to an art opening or an afternoon movie as a party of one. Sometimes we just need a break from being around other people and recharge the batteries, so to speak. Being withdrawn now and then is good to reconnect to what you want out of your life and not get caught up in thinking about what is expected of you. Focus on you.
#21: Read a Book
Lose yourself in someone else’s story. As someone in recovery, it might be meaningful for you to read memoirs or stories of others who have suffered from addiction and what they’ve done to overcome it. But reading can also just be a way to wind down your day and relax. By making it a ritual, it will trigger your brain to slow down a little and let you feel peaceful while becoming immersed in another world.
#22: Support a Friend
There may have been activities or celebrations you missed because of your addiction. Now is the time to show your support as a good friend. Whether it’s a function your friend is hosting or a birthday they’re celebrating, make your presence known. Show up and demonstrate your reliability during one of their more important moments.
#23: Plan Something Exciting
It’s always nice to have something to look forward to. This can be travel, a staycation, or even a road trip with no specific destination in mind. Think of an event or activity you’ve always wanted to do and do it. The day-to-day can feel mundane and make you feel restless for something to fill your time or bring you joy. Create your own small, daily joys and then, plan something big and exciting that will keep you inspired.
#24: Take It One Step at a Time
Don’t worry about where you’ll be two months or two years from now. Focus on today and how far you’ve come and check in with yourself to decide if you’re where you want to be. Make small adjustments to your life if it’s not quite what you pictured. For instance, if you’d like to eat healthier, don’t ditch your favorite foods altogether, make small choices like drinking more water or eating a protein-rich breakfast as steps to your larger goal. The same goes with your sobriety. Check in and acknowledge any feelings of anxiety or concern you might be feeling and get ahead of it with action.
#25: Do What Works for You
The tips listed are simply suggestions. But above all, do whatever works for you to get into a routine where you feel comfortable with the changes you’re going through. Don’t feel the need to tackle all the tips at once, but instead, use them when you’re feeling restless or uncertain, tempted or extra challenged. Don’t let your addiction control you even in sobriety by being fearful of living a full life.
If you or someone you love is struggling with their physical or emotional sobriety know that help is available. No one should ever feel like they have to work through their recovery alone. At Above it All, we specialize in relapse prevention and can help you come up with a personalized plan and approach to recovery. Remember that recovery is a process and there is no shame in asking for the help and support you need.Find hope. Find recovery. Begin a commitment to lifelong recovery today – for yourself, your friend, or for your loved one.
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Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. Sep. 2015, Accessed Feb. 26, 2016.
Addiction Center. 5 Reasons to Stay Sober in Difficult Times. Revised Oct. 2017, Accessed Feb. 25, 2016.
Better Health Channel. Partying Safely- Tips for Teenagers. Accessed Feb. 26, 2016.
WikiHow. How To Quit Drinking Alcohol. Accessed Feb. 27, 2016.