Let’s face it, giving up drinking isn’t easy. The sobriety journey itself isn’t a cake walk either, particularly if you’re someone with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). It is, however, one of the most rewarding things you can do for yourself, but it does require diligence.
Here are some tips for maintaining long-term sobriety once you’ve made the very brave decision to put down the alcohol:
1. Surround Yourself with Supportive People
People with AUD can have a tendency to isolate, but this behavior can trigger the feelings that may have caused you to turn to alcohol in the past. Having a strong support network is vital to long-term recovery because it means you’re less likely to spend time alone. Friends who support your recovery journey can help keep you grounded, serving as sounding boards or voices of reason. If your friends are old drinking buddies, consider reevaluating the friendship, especially if you feel tempted to drink around them. You don’t need to ditch all your old friends, but when you first get sober, it’s always a good idea to be mindful of the company you keep. Sobriety support groups and meetups can be great places to form new relationships with people who are on a similar path to yours.
With the hustle and bustle of today’s world, it’s easy to run on autopilot, packing excessive amounts of activity and responsibilities into a day. While it’s nice to feel productive, overworking puts you at risk of losing touch with your emotions. Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help you to observe your thoughts as they arise rather than acting on impulse. If you’ve never meditated before, try seeking out a practice that resonates with you and start with just a few minutes per day, then build up to longer periods with small increments. Scientists have proven that meditation can change the way our brains operate, and the benefits can be life-changing.
3. Get Active
Exercise is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and, much like meditation, it can enhance your recovery. Chemicals such as serotonin, endorphins, and dopamine, are released into the brain when you exercise. These chemicals are called neurotransmitters, and they can help you feel happier, calmer and more focused. The primary difference is that, with exercise, you’re able to shift your mood naturally, without the liquor (and the hangover). Listen to your body when you begin any new fitness regime. Exercise is a fantastic way to squelch alcohol cravings on the spot.
4. Avoid Triggers When and Wherever Possible
Psychological triggers for AUD vary from person to person – they can be any number of thoughts, places, or things. Triggers may stem from negative experiences, but they can also come from celebratory memories. Identify your triggers and learn to avoid them at all costs. If you’re still in the early days of sobriety and have an event coming up that could be a trigger, try talking to a supportive friend about sitting this one out. Sure, some events are important, but your addiction recovery is more important. Loved ones and friends should understand this. Honor your sobriety and know that, once you’ve put some clean time together, it will become much easier to attend parties and social gatherings down the road.
5. Practice Gratitude
We can’t control every single event that occurs in our lives, but we do have the power to choose our attitude. Doing things like keeping a daily gratitude list can have a profound impact on how we interact with the world. Try starting with little things like, “I woke up healthy today,” or, “I’m grateful for my comfy bed that’s provided a restful night’s sleep.” Practicing gratitude gives you an opportunity to shift your perspective on life and start seeing the glass as half full as opposed to half empty. You might even find over time that the urge to drink in the wake of perceived difficulties has been completely lifted.
6. Join a Support Group
Joining a support group for people with AUD can provide helpful tools for dealing with stressors. It’s a great way to connect with others who can relate to you–being seen and understood can make the recovery journey much easier. It also gives you a whole new network of friends and acquaintances who enjoy activities that don’t involve alcohol, like hiking, or planning sober dinner parties. Programs based on the twelve steps of recovery, or SMART Recovery, which is based on a slightly different set of principles, can help you to identify the root cause of why you drank in the first place. Once you’ve uncovered some of the underlying issues that led you to the bottle, programs like these can give you the tools needed to work through them. And the best part? These programs are usually free and widely accessible.
7. Call Someone When You’re Feeling Low
For those of you who tend to hold your emotions in when you’re feeling discontent, your phone can feel like it weighs 100 pounds. Maybe you think you’ll be a burden to someone if you reach out for help, or perhaps you just have a hard time expressing vulnerability. Whatever the reason, if you’ve managed to build up a solid network of contacts through things like support groups, as mentioned, you’ll have more people to call upon in times of need. You might be experiencing feelings in recovery that you’re used to drinking over. No matter what it is you’re going through, alcohol is only going to make things worse. Someone who’s on a similar recovery journey should be able to help you put your thoughts into perspective and remind you why you’re sober in the first place.
Forming positive habits like these will not only help with recovery maintenance, but can also help you feel good on a daily basis. Using a remote alcohol monitoring tool like Soberlink is another great way to document your sobriety and can serve as an accountability tool for those who are struggling in their recovery. There’s no doubt that sobriety can be hard at times, but recovery does get a lot easier over the long term. And remember, you never have to do it alone.
To learn how Soberlink can help your recovery journey, visit soberlink.com
About the Author
Elizabeth Rosselle is a journalist and copywriter with over a decade of experience in the industry.