Sober living is – you guessed it – a lifelong journey. It’s also a richly rewarding one, though it’s no easy task. Becoming independent of addiction can take months or even years, which is why it’s so important to maintain that hard-earned sobriety on a daily basis. Here are some tips and tools others in recovery have successfully used to stay clean and sober for life.
Sober Living Strategies
Have a Sober Companion
A sober companion (or sponsor) is someone who spends time with you and acts as a constant support system throughout your day. They provide emotional and physical encouragement as you maintain your sobriety. Sober companions are also typically in recovery but have a long history of sobriety. Their experience means they remember how hard the beginning can be and know what helped them stay sober. The level of attachment is up to you. However, in the beginning, it’s important to spend most of your time with one or more sober companions. They will help you avoid triggering situations and people who could be a negative influence on the progress you’re making.
Individuals new to recovery may also find it hard to self-motivate when working, cooking, and taking care of themselves. While a sober companion is not a maid or social worker, they can provide you with tips which have helped them steer their life onto the right path. Think of them as a close older sibling or mentor.
Consider Sober Living Homes
Sober living homes are group homes for people who have just finished an inpatient recovery program. Also sometimes called halfway houses, they provide a safe, and temptation-free environment as you transition into your new lifestyle. Alcohol and other drugs are not allowed on the premises, and visitors are usually vetted before residents spend time with them. Life in this environment is essentially like renting a house with roommates, but with intentional rules and guidelines. Residents pay rent, pitch in on cleaning and maintenance duties, and keep each other accountable. While living at a sober living home, you are encouraged to find work while still attending meetings. There is usually a house manager who supervises the house and enforces the rules. For the most part, though, you are in charge of your life and recovery work.
The benefit to sober living homes is that they create a supportive environment with like minded people who encourage you to make the right choices. They will expect the same from you. A study conducted by the National Institute of Health (NIH) found that a “lack of a stable, alcohol and drug-free living environment can be a serious obstacle to sustained abstinence.” Sober living homes can greatly increase your chances of long-term sobriety and help you build new, healthy relationships.
Explore AA, NA, and Other Support Groups
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the world’s best-known sobriety support group. It has chapters worldwide and most known for its “12-step program.” Joining an AA or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meeting puts you in community with larger groups of like-minded individuals. You will share stories, celebrate successes, and encourage each other to stay the path. Many people’s recovery journey begins at an AA-style meeting, and it is a great place to meet a sponsor or sober living companion. An AA program is more flexible and you can attend meetings that fit into your schedule. Joining a group like this is one of the best and most popular long-term sobriety tools. Even years after you move out of a sober living home and transition to a more normal lifestyle, going to meetings can help you stay grounded and intentional about your sobriety.
Sober Living and Avoiding Relapse
Addiction is a chronic disease. It even shares similar relapse rates with other chronic illnesses, such as type II diabetes. It’s no surprise that recovery is difficult- but that does not mean it is impossible. Statistically, relapse is most likely to occur during the first year of recovery. This is why long-term treatment programs and sober living houses can be so beneficial. Trying to assess how you will stay sober for a year is a daunting, even overwhelming task. Therefore, it is best to take bite-sized steps towards long-term recovery. Do not think of it as staying sober for a year. Rather focus on staying sober for a day, and watch that one day turn into days, weeks, and months. Take it one step at a time and find time to understand what your triggers are.
Triggers can be anything that causes you to repeat destructive behavior. It can be anything from being around intoxicated people to being stressed. Understanding and recognizing your triggers can help you avoid temptations to relapse. If you know that doing x will cause you to experience temptations, then avoid it as best as possible. It is easier to do so when you are surrounded by other people who are doing the same as with a sober living home.
A common misconception is that “recovery” is complete when treatment ends. Recovery programs are intended to help set you on the right path, but actually staying on that path is your responsibility for life. You will probably always deal with certain substance abuse triggers and temptations. Recovery is about learning to avoid and manage them.
Dealing With Relapse
If you have relapsed after attempting to get sober, it is not the end of the road. Many people experience a relapse at some point in their journey. Acknowledging that it is just a setback is the first step in dealing with it. Some people enter into a self-destructive mindset and convince themselves that since they have relapsed, lifetime recovery is impossible. This could not be farther from the truth. Remember that addiction is a chronic disease which means that statistically, relapse is more likely than not. What is important is the determination to keep trying. Reaching out to a recovery center is a helpful step in the right direction as it will realign you with your goals.
Recovery is a difficult journey, but is one which will change your life for the better. If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, please contact us today. Together, we can help you begin your journey to lifetime recovery.