Maintaining sobriety after treatment can be scary. For some, it is difficult to go back to the real world after being in a facility with routine and treatment professionals. Treatment facilities can feel safe and secure, and leaving them may leave an addict or alcoholic with a feeling of uncertainty about how to proceed in sobriety.
After leaving treatment, certain behaviors can lead to success, while others may result in relapse. The following are four habits of those who maintain successful sobriety.
In sobriety, triggers can be anything that may lead you to return to using. These could be certain places, people or emotions. In sobriety, you are in control. This means you can do your best to avoid places and people who may threaten your sobriety. This may mean no longer frequenting restaurants where you used to drink or cutting out certain friends you used to spend time with only to drink. Though these may be difficult steps to take at first, sobriety is much easier to maintain when you are not faced with the same people, places, and things as you were when you were drinking. It is harder to avoid triggering emotions than it is to avoid people or places. Because of this, it is important to find a healthy way to deal with those feelings. There are healthy ways to work through negative emotions. That may be calling a friend, journaling, etc. The same things may not work for everyone—you have to find what works for you.
Focus on your mental health as well as your physical health
In sobriety, it is easy to feel like you made a positive life change because you are stopping drinking or using. While that is true, it’s important also to focus on your health as a whole. Just because you stop using does not mean that all aspects of your life will improve on their own. Often those who have battled alcoholism have underlying issues, such as depression and anxiety. This can be referred to as a dual diagnosis.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, “In a dual diagnosis, both the mental health issue and the drug or alcohol addiction have their own unique symptoms that may get in the way of your ability to function, handle life’s difficulties, and relate to others. To make the situation more complicated, the co-occurring disorders also affect each other and interact. When a mental health problem goes untreated, the addiction problem usually gets worse as well. And when alcohol or drug abuse increases, mental health problems usually increase too.” Because of this, it is important to be sure that you are addressing your mental health in addition to your physical health. Both feed off the other, so in order to be the best version of your sober self, it is vital to take care of your health as a whole.
Get to know yourself and be OK asking for help
One of the most important behaviors in sobriety is getting to know yourself well enough to know what you need. While using, it is likely that you turned to alcohol as the answer for every uncomfortable situation in life. Because of this, you likely never learned how to recognize what you need in less-than-ideal situations. In sobriety, it is important to be able to recognize when you are feeling overwhelmed or unsure, and to be able to take actions to address the situation and learn how to cope. For some, this could mean calling a sponsor from a 12-step program. For others, it could simply be asking for help from a family member or friend. One of the best lessons to learn in sobriety is that asking for help does not equate to weakness. Sometimes doing so is necessary in order to stay sober and continue in your recovery.
Find peers in the same situation as yourself
Sobriety is not something you need to do on your own. In fact, that just makes a difficult thing even more difficult. When it comes to maintaining sobriety, peer support can be a powerful tool. People in the same boat as yourself likely have advice to offer, and even when they don’t, it’s a comfort just to know someone is going through the same thing you are. It is important not to isolate in recovery.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Peer recovery support services, such as recovery community centers, help individuals remain engaged in treatment and/or the recovery process by linking them together both in groups and in one-on-one relationships with peer leaders who have direct experience with addiction and recovery. Depending on the needs of the adolescent, peer leaders may provide mentorship and coaching and help connect individuals to treatment, 12-step groups, or other resources. Peer leaders may also facilitate or lead community-building activities, helping recovering adolescents build alternative social networks and have drug- and alcohol-free social options.”
Though maintaining sobriety may look unique for each individual, these behaviors can pave the road to recovery if followed.
Written by: Beth Leipholtz