Drug and alcohol addiction is a huge problem throughout the UK. According to charity Alcohol Change UK, it is estimated that there are more than 602,000 dependent drinkers in England alone, less than a fifth of whom are receiving any kind of treatment.
Addiction is a devastating condition, but it is one that can be successfully treated. This usually starts with a period of detoxification. Alcohol detox can be a very unpleasant and even dangerous process as you process the toxic elements from your system. It is often accompanied by strong cravings and withdrawal symptoms but getting sober is only the start of the journey.
How to stay sober
That is the million-dollar question! If you have attended alcohol rehab or an outpatient treatment plan, you will have been provided with a range of strategies to help you resist going back to drugs or alcohol. Whether you have received treatment or not, though, there are some things you can do to help in maintaining sobriety.
Here are our 6 tips to maintain sobriety…
1. Take it one day at a time
Many people who have stopped drinking or taking drugs will continue to describe themselves as people in recovery. This is because addiction recovery is a long-term process rather than a single step. Thinking that you will never drink again can be very daunting, especially when you are in the grip of addiction.
Making a conscious drink that you won’t drink today can be much more manageable. If you have not been through detox yet, the first days and sometimes weeks are likely to be very challenging and it is even more important to take things one day at a time during this period.
2. Concentrate on avoiding temptation
Many people who drink or use drugs will have a chaotic lifestyle to some degree but there will usually be certain places, people and situations that are particularly associated with their substance abuse. If you enter into residential drug rehab, you will be in a safe, secure environment away from these triggers and temptations. They will still be waiting when you leave, however, and you might need to make changes.
This will definitely involve avoiding dealers and users if you had a drug problem but might also mean avoiding people you used to drink with as well. This can be difficult but may be necessary if they don’t support your newfound and hard-won sobriety.
Otherwise, it may still be possible to spend time with people in situations where neither of you are drinking alcohol, such as meeting for a coffee. For similar reasons, you should also avoid settings like bars or pubs, at least at the beginning of your recovery. Hanging out with sober friends can be easier and might help you to expand your social circle and activities.
3. Use positive distractions
Another relapse trigger for some people is boredom. Without the drinking or substance misuse that used to take up so much of their time, they don’t quite know what to do with themselves. This might be the perfect time to take up new hobbies or spend time doing things you love that you had no time for when you were lost in a spiral of drink or drugs.
Living a healthier lifestyle overall can be highly beneficial when you are trying to maintain sobriety, so activities that involve physical exercise can be doubly beneficial. This might involve running, going to the gym or taking up an organised sport, but less strenuous activities like walking or yoga can also be good.
Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques can also improve your mental health and overall well-being, which is why such things are often encouraged at rehabs. Hobbies and activities could include anything you fancy trying though – from painting to taking up a musical instrument.
4. Look for addiction treatment if you haven’t already
Long-term substance abuse can easily lead to physical and mental dependency. This can make it incredibly difficult to give up drugs or alcohol as you are likely to be beset by strong cravings and withdrawal symptoms. Many people repeatedly try and fail to quit and this can sometimes be counterproductive, eating into their self-esteem and belief that they can ever really make that change.
Addiction can be successfully treated though and a programme of evidence-based addiction treatment provides the most effective way of breaking free from that vicious cycle. Rehab or other treatment programme types will help you through detox but will also provide therapies aimed at helping you to explore the root causes of your substance misuse and avoid relapse as you move into your new sober life.
5. Use relapse prevention planning and aftercare
Rehab can provide you with the sobriety tools and know-how you need to avoid relapse and it’s important to put what you learned into practice. A good aftercare plan can also help but you will need support whether you have been through a formal addiction treatment program or not.
People in recovery always benefit from support and communication, whether that is from family and friends or support groups. There are numerous charities, support groups and organisations that can provide this help and support when you need it most, so never be afraid to ask for help.
6. Don’t give up
A relapse can feel devastating after any period of sobriety. It can be easy to just give up but you can also choose to see it as an isolated incident or a bump in the road. Learn from it rather than ignoring it though, and you could end up even stronger moving forward. Remind yourself of the importance of sobriety, the negative consequences caused by your drinking or drug use and why you wanted to quit so badly in the first place.
Even with the best of intentions and a good support system in place, it can still be difficult to maintain sobriety without expert help. If you believe you need help in dealing with your own drinking or drug use – or that of a person you care about – you can contact us in complete confidence today.