The thought of never taking a drink or a drug ever again might be daunting. What if your child gets married? What if you are diagnosed with a terrible disease?
Getting sober and staying sober may seem like an insurmountable challenge if you look at the rest of your life. That’s why many addicts and alcoholics advise staying in the day.
By putting one foot in front of the other one day at a time, you can slowly learn how to live your life without mind-altering substances. Take it step by step, and discover how living clean can be more fun, fulfilling and joyful than you ever imagined.
Here are ten tips on clean living and how to maintain a sober lifestyle.
1. Detox Your Body
If you have been taking drugs or drinking regularly, your body will go through withdrawal when you stop.
Withdrawal from alcohol or drugs can cause a myriad of symptoms that range from mildly annoying to fatal. You may get irritable, depressed, and agitated. You may feel nauseous and experience muscle spasms, chills, shaking, and retching.
If you are withdrawing from opiates you need medical supervision. You may not even be considered for long term treatment until all traces of the substance are gone from your system. Because of the dangerous side effects of kicking the habit, it is recommended that you do this in a hospital or professional facility where you can be medicated or otherwise treated if necessary.
Because withdrawal is so excruciating, many people would rather go out and take their drug of choice again than continue with the process. You are at your most vulnerable to relapse when you are suffering through cleaning out your system.
Hang in there. Once you have gone through the process and your body is clean, you never have to go through it again- so long as you stay clean.
2. Remove Yourself from Your Old Lifestyle
The preferred treatment for alcoholism or addiction usually means removing yourself from the environment where you used to use. Many people go to rehab so they are out of the way of triggers which may make them want to pick up again.
By staying in a professional treatment center for 30, 60 or more days, you will be away from the things that may have encouraged your addiction. You will be away from family members who might also be using, or whose presence drives you crazy enough to make you want to get high. You will be removed from your neighborhood, where it may be easy to cope and where your partying buddies remain.
Many recovering addicts find that a respite from the pressures of work, family, relationships, and bills helps them start on the road to recovery with a firm foundation. By focusing on yourself and your health first, you start learning healthy habits. By surrounding yourself with others who feel like you do, you establish a foundation where you learn how to ask for help, how to share your feelings, and how to deal with the urge to drink or drug.
3. Get a Sponsor
Both Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous recommend getting a sponsor to help you stay sober. A sponsor is usually someone else who is in recovery who can help to show you what it was like for them and how they learned to get and stay sober.
While a counselor or therapist is also helpful, many people in recovery find it is comforting to speak to someone else who has been through what they are going through. The sponsor is not there to give medical or psychological treatment, but simply to share their experience, strength, and hope about a sober life.
It might feel weird at first to call up someone you do not know and just talk. Eventually, you will grow more comfortable with sharing what is going on in your head. You will gradually learn to pick up the phone whenever the urge to drink hits or you are struck by anger, grief or other triggering emotions.
Just talking often helps until the compulsion passes.
There is no right or wrong way to choose a sponsor. You may find someone right away with whom you “click,” or you may have several sponsors throughout your life as your sobriety evolves. You may speak to your sponsor daily and go through the 12 Steps, or you may just chat when you need to.
Learning to trust others and ask for help is a critical part of staying clean.
As your body gets clean, you probably will have to deal with some psychological issues that may surface. You may have suffered childhood traumas or you may have grown up in a family with alcoholism or addiction; often these conditions predispose people to grow up and begin using themselves.
Alcoholism and drug addiction are diseases that affect the whole family, whether everyone is drinking and using or not. Many marriages and relationships suffer when one member is abusing substances. Domestic violence is often a factor, plus manipulation, lies, and disappointment.
Individual, family and couples therapy may all help you and your loved ones recover from the ravages of addiction. You all can learn how to relearn old destructive behaviors. You can learn how to communicate better and how to get better in all aspects of life.
Relationships formed while someone is in the throes of addiction often require adjustments when that person gets clean. A family member who is used to taking care of you may seem annoying and controlling when you are sober. Loved ones may resist accepting your claims of having changed and be reluctant to trust you.
Therapy can help all of you navigate these unknown waters of sobriety.
5. Support Groups
In rehab, many people grow to appreciate the sharing and camaraderie they find in group counseling. Addiction is a condition where you get increasingly isolated, so making friends and leaning on each other is critical to getting better.
Many people find solace in the rooms of AA or NA. By attending meetings, you hear constant reminders of how you are not alone, and what it was like before getting clean. You also meet people who you can help!
But 12 stop meetings are not the only sources of support. Your therapist may recommend that you attend group counseling sessions. Like 12 step meetings, these entail sharing, but they are monitored by trained counselors who may offer more professional guidance (AA and NA are not led by trained professionals).
Others find solace in church meetings and other spiritual groups.
Wherever you find companionship away from harmful substances can be a source of support. It is a critical step in the recovery process to maintain relationships with people, even when they may disagree with you or get on your nerves.
It is also critical to learn how to express yourself, how to listen, and how to function in society. Many who have been immersed in drugs and booze for a long time have forgotten the basic tenets of society like how to make conversation, how to clean up after oneself, and how to extend a hand in greeting.
6. Learning to Enjoy Clean Living
At first, it might seem like torture to get through a day without a drink, a pill, or something else. Eventually, you will see how much you have been missing.
Many people start to rediscover hobbies and activities they used to enjoy before drugs and alcohol took over their lives. They start to exercise, play sports, take up painting or singing, and attend concerts.
Maybe you want to finish that degree you dropped. Maybe you find yourself doing better at work. Maybe you find fun in volunteering, travel, or crafting.
You will be surprised how enjoyable so many things are when you are not struggling with a hangover or obsessing about the next drink.
Many people liked to sit on bar stools fantasizing about what they would do “if.” Once you get clean, part of staying clean is finding out who you are and what you like without the substances.
It can be hard, especially in early sobriety, to get the courage to try new things. The negative chatter and self-loathing that often accompanies addiction may make you scared to try anything at which you may fail. Take your time and take it easy as you venture out into the sober world.
Much of post-addiction therapy entails examining your life honestly to see how you ended up a drunk or a junkie. This is hard, frightening work.
However, with a kind sponsor or skilled therapist, eventually, you will be able to work through the pain of your past in order to move on. By being honest with yourself, you will see things in a whole new way.
You may find compassion for yourself when you realize many of your behaviors came out of fear and pain. You will find companionship when you realize that you are not the worst person in the world and that others have been like you and eventually found peace through clean living.
The honesty and humility borne from the pain of addiction can lead to many revelations that can assist you and others in getting out of the abyss.
Even if talking to another seems scary, you may find you are capable of being honest through writing in a journal. By getting out your feelings you can come to terms with them. We are only as sick as our secrets.
8. Prayer and Meditation
No one has to believe in God, Jesus or Allah to get sober. However, many people do find that spiritual practices help them on the road to recovery, Prayer and meditation can help soothe the void inside that you used to try to fill with booze.
Many people find that faith in a”Higher Power” helps get them through the day. By believing in something greater than themselves, they give over their problems to something stronger.
Because drugs and alcohol are so powerful, it is helpful to believe there is something more powerful that can help you through it.
Meditation has been proven to have health benefits for everyone, including addicts. It calms anxiety, reduces stress and controls pain- many triggers which cause people to use. If you can calm your mind through this practice, you may have an easier time living without alcohol and drugs.
It is said that a grateful soul will not drink. Many twelve-step recovery meetings will focus on the importance of gratitude. It is a time-honored technique to stave off the cravings.
Many people die of alcoholism and addiction. If you are one of the lucky few who have been able to stop, an awareness of how fortunate you are will help you from going backward.
If you no longer wake up with a hangover, be grateful for that. If your wife did not leave you, be grateful. If you still have a job, legs to walk with, lungs to breathe, be grateful. Many people do not have that opportunity.
By acknowledging gratitude for a second chance at life, you help secure your future. Express your gratitude every day. It helps so you do not forget what it used to be like, and start slipping back into old ways.
10. Service to Others
One of the most important aspects of long term sobriety is a dedication to helping others. By sharing your experience with someone who has just started to think about quitting, you are being of service.
Helping others helps you get your mind off your own problems, It helps instill gratitude. You may not be able to stop someone from drinking or drugging, but it is sure to help you refrain.
Whether you volunteer at a soup kitchen or hold the door for someone in the grocery store, helping others is one of the best ways to enjoy living sober.
Clean Living: The Ticket to a Better Life
Initially, the challenge to stop drinking or using drugs may seem impossible. But many people have found ways to not only get sober but enjoy life without a drink or drug. You can too.
Clean living can be more than just surviving addiction: it can a path to happy relationships, a meaningful career and a fulfilling life.
For more tips on how to get sober and stay that way, check out our blog.