How to get and stay sober: 10 tips
Changing an entrenched and destructive pattern like addiction is hard. If it was easy, everyone would be sober as soon as they felt like stopping drinking or using.
But as anyone who has been affected by addiction knows, merely deciding that you need to change is not enough to get the ball rolling into positive and sustainable habits that can take you out of the cycle of alcoholism.
Most alcoholics will wake up every day thinking, 'Today's the day I won't drink'. Those same people also know the feeling of despair when that very same day, they're drinking again, despite every intention not to.
How to make change stick
With a monumental life change such as getting sober, it's important to recognise that there are several aspects to making that change stick over time – not just for a few hours until the urge to drink or use overwhelms you once again. Here are some observations from recovering alcoholics on how to approach getting and staying sober:
Realise that making a decision is not enough: You need to take action. If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail, as Benjamin Franklin said.
You can't do it alone: Get as much support around you as possible, including addiction professionals and positive family and friends who want to see you succeed.
Remove as many obstacles as you can: Unfortunately, not everyone wants to see you get sober. Stay away from unsupportive people, like drinking and using buddies, and don't visit the places that trigger you to want to use, such as bars or places where you usually drink.
Make your life as stress-free as possible: Alcoholics' lives are often threaded with chaos and drama. Identify what causes the most trouble in your life – it could be work, certain people, a location or situation – and take a break from it to protect yourself while you are vulnerable.
Be brave: Realise that you will have to make some difficult decisions about your life, which could include changing unhealthy habits, relationships, living situations and jobs. But the most important thing at the beginning is give yourself the space you need to get well, clear your head and assess things as you recover. Don't make any rash changes until you're stable and have the right support and plan in place to move forward positively. There's an old saying in recovery circles, 'nothing changes if nothing changes', and that's worth thinking about if you are struggling or keep relapsing.
Know that change is made up of choices that you make every day: Just because you had a sober day yesterday doesn't mean you will automatically achieve that the next day. Lasting change is about making lots of seemingly small, positive choices, constantly. It might mean saying no to answering a phone call that might stress you, it could mean choosing a healthy meal over junk food, it might mean resting instead of working, or it could mean exercising or meditating when it's the last thing you feel like doing. These 'small' changes add up to creating a new pattern of living that can lead to lasting change.
Magical thinking: Don't expect silver bullet fixes or miracles – recovery is a daily process where you are building a new way of being and a new life. It can take months and sometimes years to create a solid foundation of sustainable sobriety. The good news is, you get out what put in! If you approach building your new life in a slow and steady way, one day at a time, you'll be surprised at how good you will feel.
Gather new tools: Life will throw us curveballs whether we're sober or not, so we need to develop new, positive tools to deal with stress and adversity that will replace alcohol or drugs, which we previously to use to cope. The more tools we have – which could include participating a community of support, professional assistance from addiction and mental health professionals, meditation and mindfulness, exercise and healthy eating – the stronger and more prepared we become in the face of life's challenges.
Cultivate an attitude of gratitude: Everyone's talking about gratitude these days, which is wonderful as it's a powerful tool in living positively. But gratitude is more than just keeping writing lists in journals (although that is wonderful!). Gratitude is a practice that you can implement into every part of your day, which gradually becomes part of your thinking and habits, then your attitude and approach to the world. Being grateful for the little things every day really does end up changing your life.
Don't give up: If at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Relapse is often part of addiction but if you keep coming back to doing what you know works, and get the right supports and plans in place, you can and will succeed in building a sustainable life of sobriety.
Call Elaine on 027 573 7744 to see if Ocean Hills is right for you.