How to Stay Clean
Getting clean can be a challenge, so you understandably want to maintain your sobriety going forward. However, this is easier said than done. From daily stressors, triggers, habits, and more, there are many things that could lure you back into using. By preparing for the challenges that lie ahead now, you may be better positioned to successfully deal with those challenges in the months and years to come.
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How to Stay Sober
Those who have never traveled down the difficult road to sobriety may offer trite advice, such as simply not drinking and attending support group meetings. For many recovering addicts, however, such advice is insufficient. In addition to having to change your lifestyle, you also need to learn how to successfully deal with the many influences that may have contributed to your continued use over the years. Even when you have great strategies for managing triggers and other factors, you will need to have the willpower to implement those strategies. What can you do to maintain long-term sobriety?
Identify Your Triggers
When you reflect on your past experiences with drugs or alcohol, you may find that certain things led you to use them. This could include certain people or situations, places, or other things. A trigger is something that causes emotions or thoughts that ultimately lead to use. Spend time thinking about your routines, relationships, and other important aspects of your life, and identify the thoughts and feelings that they evoke. Some of the more common triggers include challenging personal relationships, financial stress, issues at work, people around you who use drugs and alcohol, emotional stress, and more. After you have gone through the complex process of getting clean, these triggers may still be present in your life. They could play a significant role in the possibility of a relapse.
Recognize Relapse Warning Signs
Most people do not simply start using drugs or alcohol again without going through a few phases. However, these phases are challenging to miss unless you actively look for them. The phases of a complete relapse include an emotional relapse, a mental relapse, and a physical relapse. How do you know if you are at risk of a relapse? You may notice that you fall into some of the same thought patterns that you once had. Compulsive behavior and self-damaging actions may be coupled with irrational thoughts and irresponsible behaviors. Often, these may be minor at first, but they may progress and become increasingly problematic. Eventually, you may place yourself in situations where people around you are using drugs and alcohol, and you may start to think that using is a reasonable step to take.
Prepare for PAWS
Many recovering substance abusers experience PAWS, or post-acute withdrawal syndrome. These may begin in detox, but they can continue for as long as two years. The actual length will depend on the nature of your substance abuse. PAWS symptoms include fatigue, irritability, difficulty sleeping, depression, and anxiety. In some cases, these symptoms can be severe. A recovering addict may be inclined to start using again to alleviate the symptoms. If you are struggling with PAWS symptoms, it is important to seek medical attention. Your doctor can help you to manage the symptoms so that you can avoid relapsing.
Avoid Old Routines and Habits
After getting clean, you may naturally slip back into your normal routine. Unfortunately, some aspects of your old routines and habits may have contributed to your substance use problem. Routines and habits are comfortable and often deeply engrained in people. Changing them can take considerable effort. This may include making adjustments to your circle of friends, finding a new place to work that is less stressful, finding ways to better manage stress, improving how you manage money, and more. Some people may get triggered by passing a bar on the way home from work or having trouble unwinding at the end of the day. Everything from changing your commute route to finding effective stress management techniques may be necessary. Review your list of triggers to identify areas of your life that need to be altered.
Build Healthy Relationships
Getting sober can give you some clarity on the nature of your relationships. For example, you may now realize that a friend who you regularly drink with was enabling you. This person may have had good intentions, such as simply wanting to spend time with their buddy. However, the nature of the relationship may need to change, or you may need to create a healthy distance from that person. You may have co-workers who enjoy happy hour together regularly, a co-dependent family relationship or something else. You can take different strategies to build healthy relationships, and each of your toxic relationships may require a different approach. You may be in a better position to identify toxicity in your relationships and improve them when you seek support from family counseling and individual or group therapy.
Unfortunately, you may discover that some of your toxic relationships simply cannot be improved. For the sake of your sobriety, you may need to let go of those relationships. Establishing new relationships can be difficult, and there may be stretches of time when you feel rather lonely and even empty. Some people may be inclined to fill these voids with drugs or alcohol. There are healthier ways to navigate through this difficult time. For example, you can focus on the healthy relationships that you do have, such as by spending more time with those people. During your group or individual therapy sessions, you may also learn how to establish and build healthier relationships, manage relationship issues, improve thinking patterns and focus on other aspects of self-improvement.
Develop a Structured Schedule
Giving up old habits and routines may be easier to do if you create a new schedule. As a first step, you could identify what goals you want to achieve. For example, do you want to head back to school, focus more on family, improve your exercise routine or make other changes in your life? You can actively work your goals into your new routine by identifying them upfront. Rather than leave anything to chance, write down your new schedule for weekdays and weekends. Include time for your goals as well as your responsibilities, such as paying the bills, getting groceries, cleaning the house, and more. It may seem awkward at first to follow a new schedule. However, over time, this schedule will become habitual.
Practice Healthy Living
By getting sober, you have already taken a significant step to improve your health. However, your substance abuse issue may have negatively impacted your body in many ways, so focusing on nutrition, exercise, and rest at this time is important. Make time to prepare and eat three balanced meals daily in your new schedule. Find an exercise routine that you enjoy. This could include anything from a daily walk with your dog to a team sport. Allow yourself a healthy amount of time to get ample rest at night. Paying attention to mental health is equally important. This may include regularly focusing on a hobby or activity that you like, meditating or other enjoyable activities.
Keep in mind that you are not alone in your goal to stay clean. Long Island Interventions is committed to helping you to maintain your sober, healthy lifestyle. Contact our team today to learn more about our services and request a consultation.