Ten Tips for Maintaining Long-Term Sobriety

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Every year I like to celebrate what I refer to as my “sober day.” It is the anniversary of my sobriety, the day that I mark as the first day that I stopped drinking. This upcoming May will mark my ninth year of sobriety. Over the course of this journey, I have learned many things that have helped me maintain a life of recovery. I learned some of them during my treatment program and others I learned during the course of living a life of recovery.

If I could give just ten tips to anyone that is either considering a life of recovery or already living one, these would be the list:

1. Find a treatment program that provides life-skills.

In my personal opinion, this is perhaps the most crucial step. A good treatment program will lay a strong foundation for a person to live a life of recovery. There are many options out there, but in my opinion, the ones that are of the most benefit will be inpatient programs that are longer than 28 days. A good treatment program should help provide a person with practical life skills to help them stay sober. Without the adequate tools to live a life of sobriety, the challenge will be all the more difficult.

2. Eat healthily and take vitamins.

Healthy food
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When I was drinking, I wasn’t eating very healthy, and I never took any vitamins. During my time in treatment, I began to take a closer look at the types of food I was consuming and decided to take charge of my overall health. I have found that when I eat healthily and take my vitamins regularly, I feel better physically, mentally, and emotionally. When I feel better, it is easier for me to stay sober. I have found that living a healthy lifestyle makes the prospect of using drugs or alcohol much less appealing.

3. Focus on self-care.

Self-care is vital for everyone, but it is even more important for people recovering from addiction. When we make a point to take good care of ourselves, we can better handle the daily stresses of life. Sometimes we need a little extra time to get a massage or do something fun for ourselves. There is nothing wrong with making our well-being a priority. When it comes to living a life of sobriety, this becomes something that should be non-negotiable.

4. Be mindful of external influences.

During my early recovery, I noticed that when I watched movies that glorified drinking or listened to music that talked about alcohol, it put me in a bad mood. I quickly realized that the things I was taking in with my mind directly impacted the way I felt. I made a point to limit, as much as possible, the number of things that harmed my thoughts. Over time I have found that there are so many positive things out there that bring me joy, I no longer wish to get dragged down by things that make me feel bad.

5. Exercise.

For me, exercise has been a key to maintaining a life of sobriety. When I exercise regularly, I feel better physically. I can handle stress better and enjoy my day more when I make exercise a regular part of my life. Exercise training may not be an ideal choice for everyone, but I would highly recommend giving it a shot. It may be pretty uncomfortable at first, mainly if you have not worked out regularly in a long time. Still, I can tell you that the rewards are well worth the effort.

6. Establish short-term and long-term goals.

Towards the end of my treatment program, I sat down and made a list of short-term goals and long-term goals that I wanted to accomplish. At first, some of them seemed pretty far-fetched. It is hard to dream of achieving goals when you have been accustomed to living a life of addiction, but that is why this is such a beneficial thing to do. When we realize that we can achieve our goals after conquering our unhealthy habits, our confidence grows along with our motivation to stay sober. Nine years ago, I never would have guessed that I would be married with two children and a home of my own. Hard work, persistence, and dedication to staying sober helped me get to where I am today.

7. Create a sound support system.

Friends support
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We all need a little help from time to time. When living a life of recovery, it is imperative to establish a support system. A person with an addiction will often resort to drugs or alcohol when times get tough. Once a person is no longer using, they will need to find healthier alternatives to help them get through life’s challenging seasons. Difficult times are where this support system becomes vital to maintaining a life of recovery.

8. Address the root cause of the addiction.

One of the most beneficial aspects of my time in treatment was that I could figure out the root causes of my addiction. I was then able to address the problems it created entirely. Had I not been able to do this, I think it would have been much more difficult for me to maintain a life of sobriety.

9. Evaluate relationships.

We all have positive and negative people in our lives. Sometimes we cannot completely cut ties with all of the negative people we know. Still, it is possible to limit the interactions with them as much as possible. I realized that if I were going to stay sober, it wouldn't be a good idea for me to hang out with people who hurt my mental and emotional well-being. I also realized that I shouldn’t be around people who did not respect my decision to live a sober lifestyle. I have made a point to surround myself with positive people and to enforce firm boundaries with those people I find to be toxic.

10. Set yourself up for success.

Living a life of recovery is certainly possible. It may seem daunting at first, but there have been countless people who have been able to turn their lives around and get things back on track. One of the most important things a person can do to set themselves up for success when it comes to sobriety is to reach out for professional help. There is nothing wrong with asking for assistance. It may be difficult to admit there is a problem, but that is the only way anything will be able to change. Confronting addiction is hard work, and it can be a little scary, but it isn't something that a person has to do on their own. There are many resources available to those who wish to create a better life for themselves.

In the beginning stages of addiction recovery, a lifestyle of long-term sobriety may feel out of reach. Thankfully a sober lifestyle is not only possible; it is also very achievable when a person takes the necessary steps to create a better life for themselves. Anyone who has lived a life of long-term recovery will tell you that it all started out with the first decision to give it a try.

Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP

AUTHOR

Julie

After overcoming her own addiction in 2012 Julie went on to become certified as an addiction counselor in order to help others achieve a life of recovery. She worked in the addiction field for 8 years and now uses both her personal and professional experiences with addiction as an influence for her writing.