After you’ve gotten clean, it’s essential that you understand how to stay sober—especially considering that relapse rates for substance abuse disorders are between 40-60%. For opioid use disorders, there is a higher probability of relapse at 72-88%.
That rate is one-to-three years after opioid detoxification or drug addiction treatment. These numbers are alarming, making it crucial that you equip yourself with the knowledge and tools to help you remain sober.
1. Determine Your Recovery Style
We do recover, but we all recover differently. So the first step is to determine what style of recovery you prefer. For example, do you subscribe to the 12-Step method? The 12-step programs say that you must abstain from all substances, including medications, to be sober.
Furthermore, the 12-step model takes their sobriety “one day at a time” and promotes daily meetings as part of their recovery plan. Do you agree with that philosophy? Then, a 12-step program such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous is perfect for you.
If the 12-step model isn’t a good fit for how to stay sober to you, other programs and methods are available. Some of these include:
- Celebrate Recovery (Christian Weekly Meetings)
- SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training)
- Women for Sobriety
Additionally, there are holistic and secular recovery programs such as Secular Organizations for Sobriety (S.O.S.). There are medically assisted treatments (M.A.T.) for opioid use disorders.
Furthermore, a Cali Sober movement smokes marijuana in place of opioids and alcohol. And research shows that micro-dosing with psilocybin mushrooms has several benefits for mood, social functioning, and mental health. So there is a recovery community that microdoses called, Psychedelics in Recovery.
I’m not able to make that decision for you. However, be honest with yourself when considering each option to find the proper way to live your sober life. Abstinence is your greatest chance of avoiding relapse.
2. Find Your Sober Support System
One thing about a recovery community is that you can count on making new friends. Have you made friends in Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, or church? The foundation of your sobriety is your support system and a solid relapse prevention plan.
You need new friends to support you who are in recovery too. So how are you going to accomplish that without a recovery community? That is a vital question for you to answer in an action plan to prevent relapse and continue sober living.
3. Establish Your Relapse Prevention Plan
Having a solid relapse prevention plan is a critical element for staying sober. In addition, the new sober you must identify triggers, recognize warning signs, and acknowledge your sober friends and support network.
A good relapse prevention plan should include a hard copy of your support system. I remember having three different cell phones stolen during my short time on the streets. So absolutely, keep a hard copy. Don’t find yourself without support after you’ve made a terrible decision as a result of substance use.
Another relapse prevention tool is the power of forgiveness. First, you must forgive yourself for what you did in your substance abuse days. Second, you must also forgive people who have hurt you.
Holding onto anger, hostility, vengeance, and hate manifests into disease. It’s destructive to your physical and mental health. Don’t give anyone that control over you. I know this is easier said than done, but it doesn’t negate its truth.
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4. Create and Stick to a Daily Routine
Having a daily routine in recovery is necessary because it prioritizes your sobriety. Especially in the early stages of recovery, undesignated time can lead to trouble.
Things to Include in Daily Routine
- Same Wake-up
- Making Your Bed (Good for mental health)
- Personal Hygiene
- Preparing Healthy Meals
- Self-Care Activity
- Attending Responsibilities (Work/School)
- Recovery Hour (Meetings/Alternative Support)
- Cleaning (Gratitude for Your Home)
- Prayer and Gratitude
- Same Bedtime
Don’t forget to follow your daily routine. Creating one won’t work if you don’t put in the work with it. Is having that many new things on a schedule overwhelming for you?
My ADHD goes into panic mode. I need focus, and that is chaos. So I understand. If you relate and these are all new practices, then commit to five things and introduce the others once these have become habits. You are a work in progress. Staying sober isn’t easy; it’s work. So please don’t overdo it and give up. Create realistic goals.
Make sure that the recovery hour is a top priority. Furthermore, there isn’t a one-hour limit to recovery in your daily routine. However, it would help if you spent at least an hour focusing on what healing is for you.
5. Get Therapy for Trauma and Underlying Issues
Have you heard that trauma is the gateway drug? After all those years of being taught, it was marijuana. Trauma is believable, and trauma is often accompanied by mental illness. I’ve only recently come to know the ACE’s/trauma-informed approach, which states,
“Trauma-informed care recognizes and responds to the signs, symptoms, and risks of trauma to better support the health needs of patients who have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (A.C.E.s) and toxic stress.”
As a survivor of childhood and adult trauma, I believe in this truth. Furthermore, every drug addict I’ve met has trauma stories. So my life experiences validate this understanding.
If you do not get therapy or other professional services to deal with trauma, you have a higher chance of relapse. It’s an obvious tell. Getting clean does not mean getting sober. There is work involved.
You get to decide what course you choose, but I highly recommend therapy for your mental health. Through therapy, I have been diagnosed with ADHD. It’s something I wish I’d known sooner.
Before seeing a therapist, my physician prescribed a few different antidepressants, but none of them worked. It wasn’t until I saw a therapist that I received homework that determined what mental health condition I had. So that I could receive proper treatment, if I hadn’t seen a therapist, I would remain undiagnosed and not adequately treated.
There are different drug classifications for antidepressants. All of the medications my doctor tried were selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These are the most commonly prescribed antidepressants and increase serotonin levels.
Unfortunately, I had undiagnosed ADHD and didn’t need serotonin. My brain chemistry was lacking dopamine. Once I spoke to my therapist, she diagnosed me and prescribed me Wellbutrin.
Wellbutrin is a norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor (NDRIs). NDRIs stimulate dopamine. Now I feel great. Not only a little better but fantastic. So I believe in this step for staying sober because I’m experiencing the benefits.
I can get up out of bed and function, and I was severely depressed before. Unfortunately, I lost both parents within a year last year, and I could not function. As a mother, that’s not viable, but I couldn’t get out of bed. My husband is a superhero, so the kids were cared for, but I felt like a failure over something I couldn’t control.
I have an offer for 20% off Online Therapy. I’ve been seeing my therapist in person, but I’ve heard great things about virtual therapy.
If you cannot afford therapy, I would consider group counseling, outpatient treatment programs, or recovery coaching. Explore your options, and don’t give up on finding a source of help. A sobriety mentor or sponsor is fantastic support.
However, a licensed professional is the only one authorized to give mental health diagnoses and suggest treatments.
6. How to Stay Sober by Loving Yourself
Loving yourself is essential if you’re going to maintain sobriety. Notably, loving yourself makes it more challenging to violate that love with drugs and alcohol.
People in active addiction completely abandon self-care and often have low self-esteem. I don’t have to tell you that poisoning our bodies with drugs and alcohol is the opposite of love. You’ve lived it.
So what does loving yourself look like to you? Can you think of any areas where you are hard on yourself? That’s a great place to start. Sometimes loving yourself can be as simple as taking a shower or brushing your teeth.
It can be taking yourself to a favorite place in nature and spending time with the creator or splurging on your favorite takeout and binging Grey’s Anatomy. Do what makes you feel better. Define what loving yourself is to you and then do it.
Also, spend time with yourself. It can be awkward at first if it’s not already a practice. However, when you spend time alone, you learn about yourself. A great deal of healing can occur if you spend time in the quiet instead of constantly filling your void with noise.
7. Setting Healthy Boundaries in Recovery
Once you get sober, you must establish your boundaries with relationships, environments, and things. Firm boundaries should be in place to prevent relapse. So avoid old hangout spots and old hangover faces.
Another effective boundary recovery tool is writing letters to those you need to set boundaries with because they remain in your life. The key to that tool being successful is writing from a place of grace while holding back any hint of disdain or antagonization.
That is crucial for them to receive your letters graciously, and hopefully, those people will respect your boundaries. If someone refuses to honor your boundaries, then they’ve become toxic.
8. Eliminate Toxic People and Environments
Eliminate them all! Seriously, let them go. They are poison to your recovery and want to see you fail. If they’re people using drugs or old drinking buddies, they’ve got to go. Stay away from that miserable mindset and toxicity.
Even if it’s a loved one or family member, you have to decide what is more important; their feelings or your long-term sobriety? If your loved one is willing to go to family therapy, that is a boundary to consider before cutting them out completely.
I wish that my loved ones went to family therapy. But unfortunately, they did not and continued with enabling behaviors. Furthermore, they didn’t recognize warning signs of substance use. Or how part of addiction treatment is treating the entire family.
Furthermore, stay away from unhealthy environments that have the potential for relapse. That was an entire county for me, but I’ve remained heroin free for over eight years. In part, by staying the hell away from places and faces. It’s best for long-term sobriety goals.
9. Indulge Self-Care
Self-care is the first thing people in drug addiction stop doing. The minute you say yes instead of no, you deny your self-care. Self-care includes physical, mental, and spiritual needs met. So what does that look like for you?
For example, taking a hot bath with bubbles or salts is a form of my self-care. However, my husband, not so much. So first, define what self-care means to your physical, mental, and spiritual needs. Then, practice those acts of self-care for support with staying sober.
10. How to Stay Sober by Learning New Things
Another way to battle drug abuse problems
Immersing yourself in something new is a fantastic way of staying sober:
- It distracts your mind from obsessing over relapsing.
- It sparks your creativity, and that is a confidence boost.
- It focuses your attention and energy on something positive.
Replacing a negative behavior such as substance abuse with a positive behavior gives you a better chance at success. I attribute a huge part of my first year of sobriety to blogging. I am a writer, and I found a platform to share my message. And unfortunately, technology was not my best friend.
So it was an adventure setting up my first website. It involved a lot of Googling and watching YouTube. I laughed, I cried, but best believe, I was preoccupied. There was no time to allow my mind to wander to dark places. So learning something new in my recovery was instrumental in my success.
If you love writing, I’d consider throwing yourself into blogging. Additionally, I found community through blogging about my addiction and rehab stories. They were recovering addicts and active drug users faithfully reading my story. So it provided virtual and safe friendships. I could depend on people to be there for me mentally through virtual support.
We need more recovery stories to inspire and bring hope to those still sick.
If you despise writing, go another avenue, but find something new. An alternative to learning something new is volunteering. If your passion is service for others, providing those services can be your focused distraction.
11. Perform Random Acts of Kindness
Did you know that performing random acts of kindness boosts your mental health? It’s true. People with mental illness experience great benefits from being charitable. Random acts of kindness have several positive benefits, including increased feelings of self-worth and reduced anxiety and depression.
Additionally, acts of service generate endorphins which decrease pain. Committing to performing random acts of kindness also lowers your blood pressure.
12. Get Your Finances Under Control
There is a correlation between poverty and substance abuse disorders and subsequent relapses. In addition, poverty increases stress, hopelessness, and low self-esteem. People in poverty also have decreased access to healthcare and social support systems. When weighing the heaviness of this reality on top of addiction recovery, it increases the chance of relapse.
So it’s vital that you take some steps in getting your finances on track to stay clean and sober. Also, you can view it as achieving a financial goal. So it’s a confidence boost and a win.
First, find ways to get help with bills and work at paying them off. Second, you need to apply the steps for getting out of debt to your financial circumstances. Third, you need to create a realistic budget and live within your means. Cut unnecessary expenses and prepare your food at home.
Say goodbye to luxuries such as Uber Eats and put that money towards bills and debt relief. If you want to stay sober, you have a better chance if you’re maintaining a budget and happier with your finances.
13. How to Stay Sober by Staying off of Social Media
One of my tips for staying sober is staying off of social media for an extended period of initial recovery time. Honestly, I’ve gone back and forth with deleting my social accounts completely.
Social media projects a false narrative and is damaging to your mental health. Social media use can cause depression, anxiety, and in some cases, suicide. Furthermore, social media is addictive, and you’re an addict. So it’s a safe bet that you will use it too much. Most of us do. Addiction doesn’t always mean alcohol abuse or using drugs.
During the initial stages of recovery, I recommend staying off of social media. I stayed off of mine for several months in rehab. Did you? If so, then you’re aware of the capability you already possess. So please do it.
I remember when I got home after rehab. Seven months had gone by, and the abusive monster I was on the streets with before messaged me on Facebook. We weren’t friends there.
My heart began thumping in my chest, and I knew I shouldn’t even read the message. It would be better to block immediately. However, curiosity got me, and I read the D.M. I had an opportunity to throw seven months down the drain in less than 30 minutes, but I know I can’t use heroin again. It doesn’t play nice, and Fentanyl is an ugly enemy waiting to kill people.
So I blocked him. You can not leave any doors or windows open. They are detrimental to your successful sobriety.
14. How to Stay Sober Using Journaling Methods
My favorite method is prayer journaling. I’ve experienced several remarkable benefits of prayer journaling in recovery. In addition, it’s created an intimate closeness with God. I feel good as I’m writing in it and afterward. Prayer journaling is a healing practice and a spiritual release.
Another popular style is gratitude journaling. There are a few different methods of expressing what you’re grateful for in your life. For example, you can practice daily gratitude with a list of three to ten things you’re thankful for each day.
However, I prefer a once-a-week journal entry using gratitude journaling prompts. This practice centers my focus on the act of appreciation. And I spend more time absorbing the experience versus jotting three quick things down before walking out the door. There are several journaling styles. So choose which one you’ll honestly commit to and benefit from using.
15. Daily Exercise
Exercise is essential for your body to function and thrive. In addition, the rush of natural endorphins triggers positive feelings in your body, similar to that of morphine. Now, I must say that I’ve experienced this high, and before I got to that perfect spot, I felt like I was going to throw up.
So I stopped, drank some water, and got back into the workout. So push through it to get to the other side. It feels incredible. Do you have a loved one or family member that works out? Many people who work out get motivation by working out together.
16. Find Sober Activities
One of my favorite activities is karaoke. Now before you hate, I can sing a little something sum. So after rehab, the idea of frequenting bars wasn’t ideal especially knowing that you could count on finding pills.
However, singing soothes my soul, and I can’t live without it. So I found a karaoke app and honestly had some of the best nights trying to duet with people and perfect a song.
Sober living doesn’t have to be boring. It’s what you make of it. So what activities do you enjoy? Can you enjoy these activities sober, or are there obstacles in the way? I don’t suggest tempting fate. Don’t place yourself in obvious situations like a bar. Find sober friends and make sober life fun.
17. Create a Vision Board for Your Sobriety
Creating a vision board that encaptures your short-term and long-term recovery goals is a motivating tool to remain sober. These visual collages serve to display your wants and needs so that you can focus your attention and energy on manifesting your goals into a reality.
Now, when I say manifest your dreams, I’m not suggesting making a vision board, hanging it up, and expecting it to do the work. No. If only it were that easy? You are responsible for your actions. So stay focused and consistent in achieving your goals of leading a happy sober life. And remember that the universe often assists those on the right path, and staying sober is always the right direction.
18. How to Stay Sober by Changing Your Diet
Changing your habits from an unhealthy diet to a healthy eating lifestyle gives you confidence in your sobriety. You begin to feel better, and your gut health and natural energy level improve. Also, focusing your time and energy on something healthy distracts you from being unhealthy.
Right? You don’t use heroin if you’re focused on a whole food plant-based diet. Your mindset has shifted to caring for your body instead of destroying it.
19. Have Faith in God
God to you may be a higher power or an unknown reality. However, for me, God is the creator and savior. Therefore, whatever your faith is, practice it. When I’m in communion with the Lord, my life goes better. It’s not perfect, but it is closer to it than I’ve ever lived before.
Having my faith in God is my ultimate salvation from the hell I’ve experienced. Time and time again, God has delivered me from dark situations and forgotten corners. I realize some people would suggest that God placed me there first, but that is a lack of faith.
Shitty things are going to happen to you. However, having faith makes the good things that happen to you extraordinary. Also, my faith has helped me live through experiences I cannot imagine surviving without God. So faith is an integral part of my list of how to stay sober.
20. Believe in Yourself
Believe in yourself and your ability to stay sober. Confidence is key to believing in your power; believing in your ability boosts your confidence. It’s a beautiful cycle once you apply it.
Unfortunately, people with substance abuse disorders commonly have low self-esteem issues. So it’s essential that you factor that reality into your recovery and have yourself a plan to change that poor self-image you’ve created in your mind.
Practice speaking recovery affirmations to begin the positive influence of your mindset shift. Some people say affirmations in front of the mirror. I find this to be a vulnerable moment with myself. However, that is not necessary, provided that you’re saying them.
Another confidence boost is by setting goals and achieving them. Start with small goals and work up to bigger goals. Accomplishing a goal that you’ve put intention into gives you the reward of believing in yourself.
You’ve overcome drug addiction and/or alcohol abuse. You are a badass. Do you realize how incredible you are? You’ve replaced drinking buddies with new sober friends. Your desire to stay clean outweighs and focus on long-term sobriety is incredible.
Sometimes we forget how far we’ve come, and I need you to acknowledge right here, right now, how freaking awesome you are.
That concludes my list of tips for staying sober. Do you have any tips for how to stay sober after rehab? Please let me know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Ervin is the owner of Sober Healing. She is a freelance writer passionate about opioid recovery and has celebrated breaking free since 09-27-2013. She advocates for mental health awareness and encourages others to embrace healing, recovery, and spirituality.