If you’ve developed a bad habit with any substance, you may be interested in learning how to get sober and stay sober. This past year has been difficult for so many people for so many reasons. If you find yourself taking certain addictive substances, like alcohol, more often than usual, or you just want to develop a healthier lifestyle, you may be ready to take the first step toward sober living.
In this article, we’re exploring how to get sober and stay sober.
How to Get Sober and Stay Sober
Getting sober can seem like a huge hurdle to overcome when you’re suffering from a substance abuse disorder. And looking ahead, the thought of staying sober – spending the next days, weeks, months, and years of your life avoiding the substance that has taken a central place in your life – can seem overwhelming. In fact, thinking too much about how you’ll manage to stay sober forever can turn you off from trying in the first place.
But you shouldn’t let your anxiety or overwhelming thoughts stop you. There is hope! Plenty of people do, in fact, get sober and stay sober, and you can do it as well. No one can promise you that it won’t be a challenge and that there won’t be bumps in the road along the way, but it can certainly be done.
Here’s how to get sober and stay sober.
Change Your Routines and Habits
Are you a “creature of habit”? Probably, the answer is yes. Most humans are. You tend to get comfortable with certain habits and routines and stick with them. Even if your life seems chaotic and unpredictable on the surface – which can definitely be the case with people in the throes of a substance abuse disorder – you probably have certain routines and habits. For example, you may hang out with the same people or go to the same places all the time.
Luckily, while humans might be creatures of habit, they’re also highly adaptable to change. You might be surprised by what you can get used to, even if it feels foreign or uncomfortable for you at first. One of the first things that can help you to get sober and stay that way is to change your habits and routines. Chances are, if you’re using substances regularly, you’re visiting places where those substances are sold, hanging out with people who use the same substances, or both. For example, if you’re an alcoholic, you probably have bars or liquor stores that you visit regularly. If you use street drugs, you probably have relationships with dealers and other users who do the same thing, and you probably talk to or visit with them regularly.
Those habits will have to change. It’s certainly possible to go to a bar and order water or soda, but you can’t expect it of yourself – especially not early on in the recovery process. It may be a possibility later if that’s what you want, but for now, you can start by staying away from that bar (or any bar). If you have friends who are actively using a substance you want to avoid, you’ll need to avoid those friends, as well, at least for now. Even if they promise not to pressure you, staying sober around people who are using will not be easy, and it may be impossible for you to do so.
Don’t just give things up, though. Look for replacements. AA and other sobriety-based fellowships have regular meetings – AA, in particular, is so ubiquitous that it has meetings multiple times a day in most locations, in fact – so you might be able to substitute those for less healthy activities. Go to a meeting instead of the bar. Go to a meeting when you normally drive to the liquor store. If drug-using friends call you up and invite you out, go to a meeting instead.
If AA isn’t for you, you can still do this with other things. Go to the library. Go buy ice cream. Go for a walk on the beach or in the park. Go play Dungeons and Dragons with sober friends. Substitute anything healthier you enjoy for an unhealthy habit until you’ve broken the bad routines and replaced them with good ones.
People need people. There’s a good chance that you’ve turned to substances as a method of dealing with something in your life – some people numb emotional pain, some self-medicate physical pain, some use it with others to avoid loneliness, and so on. Whatever it is, that won’t go away just by getting sober, so you need a support network to help you deal with that, plus a support network to help you with your addiction recovery.
If you have mental or physical health problems, your support network should include medical professionals who can help you manage your condition, symptoms, and treatment. You can also benefit from talking to people with the same or similar conditions – you’ll be able to understand each other and compare notes. AA or other sobriety support groups can be useful in helping you meet others who have experienced substance abuse. Even if you don’t choose AA, you can benefit from including others who have gotten sober and learned how to stay sober in your support network. And you’ll want to include supportive friends and family in your support network as well – even plain old loneliness can have negative effects on both your sobriety and your overall health – but be sure that you only include those who don’t encourage you to use substances and are not toxic to your well-being.
Celebrate Whenever You Can
Staying sober is a big deal. Even if it’s just your first day. After all, the first day leads to the second day, which leads to the third day, and so on. Look for milestones in your progress and give yourself permission to celebrate yourself for achieving them. The first day sober. The first week sober. Completing each step in a 12-step program. Dealing with a tough problem without turning to substances. Enjoying a party without substances.
Of course, each celebration doesn’t need to be a huge party. But you should acknowledge your successes, even the ones that seem small. Reward yourself in small but meaningful ways – watch a favorite movie. Buy yourself a small treat. Tell someone who will be excited for and with you. Substance abuse disorders can do a number on your self-esteem, and you need to build yourself back up to believe that you’re capable of getting and staying sober and worthy of support and success. So make the celebration of signs of your capability and worthiness a habit.
Sobriety is not a goal anyone reaches on their own, and some people need higher levels of help than others. That’s OK. If you or someone you know needs help with getting and staying sober, contact The Heights.
- Partnership to End Addiction. Survey: Ten Percent of American Adults Report Being in Recovery from Substance Abuse or Addiction – Partnership to End Addiction. Published March 2012. Accessed October 7, 2022. https://drugfree.org/newsroom/news-item/survey-ten-percent-of-american-adults-report-being-in-recovery-from-substance-abuse-or-addiction/
- Grohol JM. Changing Our Routines and Habits. Published May 17, 2016. Accessed October 7, 2022. https://psychcentral.com/lib/changing-our-routines-and-habits#2
- MentalHelp.net. Recovery from Addiction: Social Support. Accessed October 7, 2022. https://www.mentalhelp.net/addiction/recovery/social-support/
- Connors CD. 10 ways celebrating success improves your health. Ladders | Business News & Career Advice. Published November 17, 2019. Accessed October 7, 2022. https://www.theladders.com:443/career-advice/10-ways-celebrating-success-improves-your-health