How To Stay Sober: 14 Essential Tips
You’ve had ups and downs on your sobriety journey and worked hard to get past substance abuse. Congratulations! Getting sober is no easy feat. Whether you beat addiction to alcohol, cannabis, or other drugs, your recovery journey is unique. Part of the ongoing process of getting sober is staying sober.
It can be easy to feel like you’re past the point of relapsing but proceed with caution. Some studies show that 65 to 70 percent of people relapse at least once during their journey with sobriety.
If you’re sober, you’ve already found strategies to avoid drinking; the key is to keep up with what’s worked and consider additional ways to stay focused on your goal. But first, let’s clarify what sobriety actually means.
What Does Sobriety Mean?
Sobriety means different things to different people. In many 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, sobriety means completely abstaining from all drugs and alcohol, and any other addictive substances. To others, it means being in control, but not completely abstaining, such as social drinking and cutting back to an occasional glass of wine.
No matter how you define it, sober life has many benefits, including a higher overall quality of life and one includes a healthier lifestyle. You may find that new friends are sober friends, and after recovering from a substance abuse disorder, people generally see life in a new, hopeful way.
Whether you’ve struggled with drug addiction, excessive alcohol use, binge drinking, or any substance use disorder, addiction recovery is a long game. Relapse prevention is a key part of the entire sobriety journey.
You’ve worked hard, and implementing strategies to stay sober puts you in control of your recovery. After all, this is your comeback story!
1. Create Structure in Your Life
Creating structure in your daily life helps you stay on your plan daily. Structure helps to mitigate old habits and can bring purpose to your days. It helps with healthy thoughts and routines.
Incorporating structure can be simple, such as rising at a certain time daily and making your bed. Or it can be more elaborate if you thrive on structure, with time blocked off for self-care or activities to ensure boredom doesn’t sneak in and cause you to have cravings.
2. Avoid Triggers
Triggers are sometimes unavoidable and different for everyone. For some, a trigger may be spending time with a friend who doesn’t respect your sobriety. For others, a trigger for potential relapse can be as simple as a bad day at work.
Know your triggers ahead of time, and plan for them by having an exit strategy or, as some in recovery call it, a Plan B — Plan to Be Sober.
Watch out for triggers like the ones below:
Toxic friends or family
Lack of sleep
3. Adopt Self-Care Routines
Self-care is an important aspect of sobriety. Perhaps you introduced self-care routines into your life for the first time when you decided to get sober.
Or maybe you never got around to it during your recovery process. If not, now is a perfect time. Self-care is good for your mental health, and it’s a way to tell yourself, “Hey, I’m worth it!”
Studies show that shame and guilt can hinder recovery from addiction. This is why self-care plays such an impactful role when trying to stay sober. When feelings of shame or guilt enter your mind, always have a few self-care routines to turn to.
Self-care isn’t just bubble baths and therapy sessions. Those are great, but self-care can be simple acts you do to create a sense of calm and control, and they don’t need to be expensive.
Below are a few super-simple self-care ideas:
Treat yourself to a movie
Create a music list
Go for a walk outside
Read a book with a weighted blanket
Think about other activities that bring you calm, and leave you feeling energized. Self-care isn’t a luxury when you’re managing your sobriety. It’s a necessity.
4. Manage Stress in Healthy Ways
Stress plays a large role in addictive behaviors. Studies show that stress is a key factor in relapse behavior. Stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and for some people — relapse. But this doesn’t have to happen to you! You’ve got this!
Getting ahead of stress by implementing healthy stress management techniques is key to staying on track with your sobriety.
Check out this list of a few ways to relieve stress:
Walking your dog
Get adequate sleep
5. Manage Withdrawal
Withdrawal symptoms can be mild to severe, depending on your level of addiction and substance abuse disorder. Sometimes, you may not realize your symptoms are due to withdrawal and detox.
Below is just a sample of ways your body may be signaling withdrawal:
Muscle and joint aches
Paranoia and hallucinating
You may have already experienced some of these symptoms, and symptoms may come and go. Be prepared to manage withdrawal symptoms.
Some quick tips for managing withdrawal symptoms include:
Take a cool shower
Eat nutritious meals
Get a massage
Sip ginger or peppermint tea
Contact your health professional for medicine to help
These are just a few ideas for managing withdrawal. It is important to remind yourself that withdrawal is a temporary feeling that will pass. You’re going to be okay!
6. Surround Yourself With Positive People
Think about the people in your life who positively influence you and your sobriety goals. Make a list of loved ones and others who stood by your side when you struggled. Connect with them by phone, in person, or on social media. Sometimes a reassuring word from someone you trust and respect is all it takes to keep you on track.
The positive people in your life can come from many places, including:
Someone from a support group
Friend from church
7. Start a Hobby
Sometimes, staying sober is easier when you replace old habits, like sitting at a bar, with new hobbies, such as photography. Keeping busy by doing things you enjoy. Doing so can lessen the times you have cravings and can get your mind off of negative thoughts.
Here’s a quick list of new hobbies you could try. Keep an open mind!
Learning to code
These are just a few ideas for hobbies. What’s something you’ve always wanted to try? Now may be a great time to start something new.
8. Make Peace With the Past
Forgive yourself for past mistakes and failures, and make peace with the past. Your emotional health is crucial for staying sober. When you do negative self-talk, pause and reflect on how far you’ve come.
Sometimes the biggest critics aren’t the people around us — but ourselves. We can’t change the past, but we can learn from it. Leave the past behind. Look through the front windshield — not the rearview mirror.
Consider inpatient or outpatient therapy options if you’re struggling emotionally with guilt or shame. It could be the missing link to staying sober.
9. Clean House
If you haven’t done this already, consider cleaning out your pantry and cupboards to remove any tempting substances lurking. When you have a bad day, you don’t want that bottle of whiskey conveniently waiting for you to grab a tumbler and ice. Staying sober can be hard enough, and removing temptations from your home will make it that much easier.
On that note, cleaning out any items that could derail your sobriety is a great idea. This includes drug paraphernalia or reminders of your favorite bar, like a branded ashtray.
Clear Out Emotional Reminders
Cleaning the house and clearing any items that could make you emotional and cause a setback are included in this strategy. If you’re early in your sobriety journey, and some photos may make you emotional — consider putting them away, as you want to feel emotionally stable. Staying sober takes energy.
Be wary of anything or anyone who causes negative thoughts, wears on your emotional state or triggers you. Clean house to stay sober.
10. Avoid Old Haunts
Some people in recovery take different driving routes just to avoid their old haunts, like their favorite bar on the way home from work. If you’ve had hangouts where you drank, do yourself a favor, and steer clear of these places on your sobriety journey.
Sometimes running into people you know can prompt you to think, “Just one drink won’t hurt.” Don’t get too comfortable. Stay the course and avoid your old partying haunts.
11. Get Outside
Fresh air and nature can do wonders. Studies show that being outside in nature relieves stress and has many health benefits. Going outside doesn’t have to involve a hike up a mountain. Find some green space, and take a walk. Breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy the views.
One thing to note is isolation is one of the enemies of sobriety. If you can find a friend to walk with, even better! Sober living means living fully again. Getting outside connects us to nature and can make us feel alive.
12. Get High (On Exercise)
Substance abuse creates a high that our minds and bodies get used to. Meet the enemy of substance abuse — exercise!
While walking is a great way to get moving, adding other forms of exercise is great for those in recovery. Exercise has health benefits for everyone, but people recovering from addiction can benefit. Exercise increases endorphins and can help you avoid relapse.
Your exercise routine can include going to a gym, but let’s face it — the gym isn’t for everyone. There are so many options for exercising at home with on-demand programs or at-home workout equipment, in case the gym is not your thing.
Getting your body moving can be as simple as starting a morning or evening ritual of daily walks or as structured as signing up for an in-person HIIT class to hold yourself accountable.
Here’s a list of ideas for getting your blood pumping:
Recreational league sports
Exercising is a great strategy for sobriety because it can reduce cravings, build your confidence, and help you meet other people who engage in healthy habits.
13. Stay in Touch With Support Groups
Being a part of a support group can be one of the best ways to stay sober. Having peer support as part of your support network is helpful because it connects you with people going through the same journey. Many different addiction treatment programs exist, including family therapy groups, outpatient programs, and inpatient substance abuse treatment centers.
Some people prefer to tap support on their own time as they go through their normal lives alongside their sobriety journey. One way to have continued support on your schedule is to join the Sober Sidekick app.
The Sobriety Sidekick App provides the following:
24/7 AA meetings
If you’d like some support getting, or staying sober, Download Sober Sidekick today!
14. Celebrate Wins Along the Way
You may have celebrated milestones during your sobriety journey. If not, now is a great time to start! Track your wins on a calendar or through a Sobriety app.
Why is celebrating wins so important?
Working towards a goal helps to break it down into smaller pieces to make it feel more attainable. Similarly, as we experience achievement, acknowledging small wins keeps us motivated. Some people journal their sobriety milestones, while others track them on their phone or a calendar.
Celebrate yourself and your hard work when you hit a milestone, such as your first week sober. You’ve earned it!
Staying sober is part of the process of recovery from addiction. Support is available, and you never have to be alone on your sobriety journey. Get free support today from Sober Sidekick.
New Findings on Biological Factors Predicting Addiction Relapse Vulnerability | NIH
New study suggests shame and guilt can hamper recovery from stimulant addiction | PsyPost