Six Steps for Sobriety
You’ve taken that first big step and stopped using substances, now what? If you follow this advice on how to stay sober in six steps, you have a fighting chance. First, congratulations on getting clean! We all know how hard that is. If you’re reading this, perhaps you were also smart enough to enter a sober living house. Congratulations on that too, because you’ve now greatly increased your chances of staying sober. Start by recognizing that the old you is gone, hopefully forever. During this transitional period, you’ll start to wonder when life will be fun again. Surprisingly, you’ll find yourself bonding with your sober living house co-residents through activities and meetings. Initially, it’s tempting to hide in the house and avoid people but isolation is not the answer. From the time man first roamed the Earth, he recognized that there was strength in numbers. Tribes were formed and relationships were forged. Although the new you is raw and super-sensitive, you have to allay your fears that everyone is talking about you. The people around you are going through their own challenges and all they will know of you is what you show them. This is fresh start in many ways, including meeting and getting know a new group of people who are bonded by the same goals. This is a time when you pause to understand your past mistakes and start develop the plan of action to make amends with your friends, loved ones and yourself. First, you must deal with now. Early recovery is a time of transitioning, from one life, to another. It’s akin to a caterpillar becoming a moth. You go into a cocoon (sober living) and when you emerge, you are more beautiful and amazing than ever before. If you are truly committed to your new, beautiful life, you chances of a successful recovery rest on your honesty, your willingness and your ability to be open with everyone, including yourself. Follow these steps to help guide you through recovery:
1. Join a support group.
The disease of addiction is powerful. Just like any other disease, you’ll need professional help. The first tip on staying sober is finding a recovery coach and a sponsor, too. These individuals and twelve step mentors will help you unravel the dishonest way of thinking that has governed your life. A strong support group is a fellowship of people who share their experience, strength and hope, with each other. You will be welcomed with open arms. These veterans will lead you down this new and exciting, scary path. The relief you once sought through substance abuse will be replaced by the love and support you’ll find in these groups. Sharing your story, without holding back, with someone who’s been there, promotes healing and accountability.
2. Be open with others.
A little secret — many people suffer from fear and low self-esteem. It’s a common human trait, but most people find solace through developing meaningful relationships and dedicating themselves to the pursuit of something that makes them happy. For some, that means sports or career path, for others it means a hobby or charity work. Sober living provides you the opportunity to really think about and identify what would make you happy. Sober living offers a clean slate and a fresh start.
To begin this process of discovery and to erase the past, you want to rely on the support and advice of veterans of recovery. Be open with them (they’ve heard it all) so as to give yourself the best chance of creating meaningful change in your life. Their advice or criticism isn’t an attack on you, or a sign that you’re failing. It’s a reminder that to be successful in your new life, you must stop doing things your way. Surrendering your old ways is crucial when recovering from addiction. You have to remember that your best thinking got you into your present circumstance. You’ve gone astray and now it’s time to put your life back on course. Let someone else take the helm for awhile.
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3. Be honest with yourself.
You need to reach out when you feel yourself tempted. Whatever you’re doing, thinking and feeling, must be shared with your sponsor and in your support groups. The standard “I’m fine” response is nonsense and you’re likely not fooling anyone. Feelings that aren’t being shared openly get bottled up and often lead to relapse. Expand your support network by inviting safe, experienced people into your circle. At first, your emotions will seem insurmountable and overwhelming. This is because you’ve been numb out for so long, you lack the skills to cope with stress. This is what sober living helps create — the skills necessary to cope with life’s daily challenges. Do you really think that no one else has gone through what you have? No matter if it was lost loved one, a lost job, a relationship that ended badly or a collection of disappoints that drove you to abuse, millions of others have gone through it and worse. If they can cope, you can too, but you must enlist the help of others to teach you how to deal with your issues. Sobriety provides an awakening opportunity. If you honestly share your feelings of despair, low self-esteem or whatever underlying issues may haunt you, you’ll be delighted to see that you’re surrounded by a supportive community with whom you’ll establish a strong fellowship.
4. Live in the present.
It’s been said many a time that those who live in the past are unable to realize a better future. The same holds true in sobriety. Yes, you made choices you regret, but part of sobriety is making amends with everyone — including yourself. Another tip for sobriety is to live life one day at a time. However if you’re struggling, one day, can seem forever. Rather than trying to get through the entire day, break it down into five minute intervals. Focus on the next five minutes. The do it again, over and over until it starts to feel natural. The struggle isn’t out there – it’s in your head. With practice, this process will become instinctive. If you find your commitment wavering, pick up the phone and call your sponsor, or go to a meeting. Join support groups, even on social media. Share your thoughts, feelings and actions. Ask for help. Breathe in and out and remind yourself why you can never back to your old ways. Then take it one minute, one hour, or one day, at a time.
5. Identify your triggers.
Identifying your triggers is the key to preventing a relapse. In your first years of sobriety, it’s important to be in a drug and alcohol free environment. This of course includes a family get together if alcohol is being served, bars, clubs, pool halls, even sporting events if there’s memory of abusing substances at these locations. You MUST be cognizant of your triggers and avoid them. To do this requires honestly with yourself. If you know family functions bring up relationships that help fueled your addiction, you need to avoid these situations. Triggers can also be family members. We all have relatives that drive us to drink, so to speak. Communication and interaction with these individuals needs to be avoided, even if it means moving to another town. Paydays are another potential trigger, as silly as it sounds. Even weekends can be a trigger because in your past, that might’ve been the period during which you abused. You should avoid this by changing your “people, places and things,” as covered in The Big Book. Moving across town is often not enough. Moving out of state is a better idea. How do you pack up and move? Choose an out of state sober living facility. That will help you plant roots in a new location. Many of these sober living houses help you find work in your new location, so don’t worry too much about how you’ll support yourself — there are options. If you must be in the presence of alcohol, bring your sponsor or another person of support with you. [cta id=’269′]
6. Healthy body, healthy mind.
Things like meditation and Yoga have a great effect on the body and the mind. They help you decompress, they channel your energy and feelings and there’s a certain amount of cleansing of the body and spirit. Exercise is always good because it releases chemicals in the brain that help you focus your energy and provide rewards to every little accomplishment. It also builds self-esteem. Studies show that even just 30 minutes of exercise a day will help fight fatigue, depression and reduce stress. Although acute withdrawal can last through the first few months of your sobriety, refocusing your energy of exercise will help reduce the chance of relapse. The depletion of your dopamine receptors have taken a toll, so it will take time to get them back to where they were before you started blocking them with substances. Exercise boosts your self-esteem and helps with sleep. It also increases energy, promotes a healthy appetite and releases tension. In some ways, you’re replacing an unhealthy addiction with a healthy one.
7. Give back.
Giving back is the best way to remove a person from their inner ‘self.’ That nagging little voice in your head creates anxiety. By helping focus on others their needs, those little voices in your head are replaced by the need and satisfaction that comes from helping another human being. Helping others creates feelings of connection, belonging and value, thus increasing and stimulating the ‘feel good’ chemistry in your brain. Sobriety is a precious gift. It requires honesty, hard work and commitment. But the freedom and joy you experience, far outweigh the work that’s involved. Your body and mind will feel alive in a way you’ve never felt, before. You’ll be able to solve problems without turning to substance. Your relationships will improve. You will actually do all the things you’ve talked about doing, and more.