Friday, September 16, 2022

7 Practical Tips To Help You Maintain Sobriety


With each passing year, more research on the long-term impacts of alcohol consumption is released. The data paints an unpleasant picture for long-term health and wellness with excessive alcohol use. Yet, this information often seems distant and doesn't address the nuances of addiction and change psychology.

Overcoming alcohol misuse and maintaining sobriety requires an ongoing effort. Here are seven practical tips that can help you maintain your sobriety and change the course of your life.

Use Stress Management Techniques

Stress is a significant trigger for alcohol misuse. Learning stress management techniques is a powerful way to mitigate the risk of relapse during sobriety. These skills can also help you cope with alcohol withdrawal and navigate triggering situations.

Cognitive-behavioral therapists teach several stress management techniques that have notable physiological results. Working with a professional can help you find the approach that's best for you. A few methods and strategies include:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) - intentional tightening and releasing of muscles to relieve tension and redirect focus.
  • Box breathing - slow and controlled breathing that uses timed inhales, exhales, and holds.
  • Visualization - closing one's eyes and envisioning positive results or a peaceful environment.
  • Reframing - identifying negative thoughts and processing them into positive thoughts. 

Alternative practices like meditation and forest bathing also offer benefits for stress management. Try some different approaches to find what works best for you.

Connect With a Group

While getting support from family and friends is essential for sobriety, it can be limiting. If they haven't had similar experiences with alcohol misuse (or aren't ready to address that part of their lives), you may feel unheard or misunderstood. 

Reaching out to a group of peers who also struggle with a substance use disorder can be comforting and validating. There's power in the recognition from others in a similar situation. The sense of community and understanding can give you the purpose and drive you need to stay the course.

Hollywood depictions of AA meetings aren't all-encompassing. While you can attend group meetings like that, there are many different types of group support. You can also find meetings catered to your specific religion, sexual orientation, gender, etc.

Seek Professional Support

Having a professional by your side as you navigate sobriety is worth its weight in gold. In addition to helping you with stress management and coping skills, professional therapists can help you unlock the roots of your disorder. 

There's a strong relationship between mental health disorders, trauma, and substance use disorders. Understanding the roots of your challenges and learning to process your experiences can help you let go and move forward in your sober journey. Work with a trauma-informed therapist who has experience in substance misuse and recovery.

Find a New Passion

Behavioral psychologists often talk about something called a flow state. It's a state in which you're so engaged in an activity that you tune out the world around you. The key to finding your flow state is identifying an activity that brings you joy, but also offers enough of a challenge to keep you engaged.

In other words: find a new passion.

Explore some new hobbies and activities that aren't centered around alcohol consumption. Try things that get your mind or body working. Many people going through recovery engage in physical exercise, learning how to run or lift weights. Others learn how to paint and engage in art therapy as a part of their treatment plan.

Don't be afraid to try new things until you find something that resonates with you.

Set Positive Goals

While it may seem simple, having things to work toward can make all the difference in maintaining sobriety. It's helpful to have a combination of small, daily goals and longer-term life goals. 

Small daily goals can focus on actions and behaviors. Many people set goals around self-care, such as exercising, nutrition, hydration, and stress management. This is also an opportunity to rebuild relationships, connect with friends, and engage in new skills.

Longer-term goals pertain to how you want your sober life to look. These goals could be financial, career-related, travel-related, etc. Take some time to reflect and identify what you're working toward. 

Create Routines and Structure

Consistency is synonymous with success. Creating consistency in your life will help you stay the course, avoid triggers, and find your flow. Experts often highlight the importance of structure and routine in recovery, regardless of the individual or substance in question.

Use your goals, passions, and responsibilities to create a daily and weekly routine. Consider outlining it on paper for a visual reference. Remember that this is just a starting point; you can adjust as needed. 

Know Your Warning Signs

Sobriety isn't always linear; relapses happen. Yet, they're rarely unpredictable. Everyone has triggers and warning signs when at risk for a relapse. Take the time to understand yours and share them with the people around you. 

Many people in recovery are triggered by stressful situations or exposure to alcohol. You may also experience a potential relapse when exposed to people or places from your past. While avoiding triggers and managing stress is essential for success, it's not always possible.

Put a clear plan in place for impending relapses. Have a list of people to call and exercises to work through. Work with your support team— professional and otherwise— to navigate the difficult days and find the best path forward.

Maintaining sobriety isn't always easy, but it's worth it. Use the helpful tips in this guide to support your recovery journey. 

This is a guest blog entry.

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