101 Ways To Stay Sober in addiction recovery reveals tips, practical knowledge and advice for living clean and staying sober.
This was a scary post to sit down and write. How was I ever going to come up with 101 ways of staying clean and sober? I just started writing and ideas started flowing.
This list is drawn from my own addiction recovery, observing people in 12 step programs, my clinical practice, and my insatiable reading and curiosity about addiction.
I opted for more of a free flow form of writing rather than to try to categorize and organize the list. Simple ideaon how to get clean and sober are mixed with complex ones.
One thing I can say with complete confidence is that these ideas work. If they hadn’t worked for some or many, they wouldn’t be on the list. I hope you enjoy reading our version of 101 ways to stay sober.attractive option.
101 Ways To Stay Sober
- Take the decision to quit using all drugs – no kidding, no B.S. NO exceptions. This is huge. Jump up and down and yell and scream ‘That’s it, no more’ at the top of your lungs. Sit down and have a gut wrenching cry. Whatever works for you to seal the deal inside you. Deep, deep inside your inner being in a place that nobody can touch. “I will not use drugs any more NO MATTER WHAT”. Engrave it in stone, build it with steel. ‘If not now when, If not you, who?’
- Get clear on why you want to quit – are you avoiding pain or seeking the pleasure of a better life?
- Make a list of everyone who will benefit from you quitting hold on to it, put it in your journal. Think about how they will benefit and how you have presented yourself to them when you were using.
- Start a journal or diary and enter something every day. This will provide valuable insight into your progress, especially when you are stuck and think you are not making any.
- Pick a quit date.This is important because you are preparing your mind to take action – laying the subconscious groundwork.
- Tell EVERYONE your quit date. This puts friends and family on notice, some will help, some will fall away. This action kept me clean many times in my first year. I played on my pride. The idea of admitting failure to everyone was horrifying. I just couldn’t do it again.
- Get rid of your paraphernalia. Throw out the crack pipes, papers, your bong collection, your beer can collection and your works. You don’t need that stuff handy.
- Get clear on what abstinence is. Look it up. Do a Google search. Abstinence means to not be using drugs or drinking. It does not mean ‘I’ll stop heroin because that’s my problem but drinking is OK’.
- Arrange help for detox, if needed. Detox from Benzos and alcohol can be dangerous, get medical supervision. Detox from opiates can be so uncomfortable you may say ‘Screw this.’ And go use. You WILL be uncomfortable in detox. Every day you are getting closer to getting over the hump.
- Get treatment. You can gain an education on all you need to know to get sober and live sober if your ears are open, you apply the lessons learned and you give it maximum effort. Treatment can be an edge in your favor. Studies overwhelming show people do better with treatment than without.
- Be a smart bettor on your sobriety. An analogy that helped me greatly was looking at thoughts or actions as either stacking or laying odds against me or shaving the points or odds in my favor. Strat looking at things that way. Calling your drug dealer just to say Hi – stacking odds against you. Going to church, shaving points against you.
- Get support, get help Lone wolves do not do well in recovery. This is such a well-known principle that it is a foundational aspect of the 12 step programs “I can’t do it alone, but we can do it together”.
- Get knowledgeable support. Develop support with people who are knowledgeable about addiction and are living sober lives themselves. They get it. People who love and care about you do not understand or have been through addiction just don’t get it. 12 step programs is the best source of knowledgeable solution orientated people.
- Line up support from different sources. You do not have to, nor do we recommend strictly twelve-step support. Think in terms of family, friends, and professionals such as counselors, ministers, or groups in a church.
- Make your support system wide and deep. One of the key purposes of developing a support system is to help you in the inevitable times of craving and urges. That’s when you really need to reach out. You want to make sure that someone is available for help and support.
- Carry phone numbers with you. In times of need you want to make sure that help is readily accessible. Keep a list with at least 10 phone numbers on it in your wallet or purse at all times and don’t hesitate to use it.
- Find a recovery support group and stay actively involved with it. The most obvious and popular choice is 12 step programs. Please give it a wholehearted chance. They’ve been around longer than any other support group and have helped far more people than any other. It’s hard to argue with success. There are other support groups available.
- Your attitude determine how well you will do something If you regard sobriety is a pain in the butt, it will be difficult for you. If you look at it from the point of view of moving toward peace serenity in achieving your life goals it will become a pleasure.
- I won’t get high and you can’t make me. Nobody can “make you” do anything without your cooperation. Your boyfriend didn’t make you get high, your boss didn’t make you get high, you made you get high. Get off the idea it’s other people’s fault and start taking responsibility for your own actions.
- I won’t get high no matter what. This is the only successful attitude for living sober. There are really only two ways you will handle the ups and downs in life, you either get high or won’t. Millions of people choose to get high. Millions of people choose to stay sober. You need to start choosing to stay sober.
- You must be all in at all times. One of the top three rationales I hear for drug relapse is the statement “I got complacent, I knew what I was supposed to do but I just stopped doing it.” This statement can only make sense to an addict. On normal person would say if it was working why did you stop? Good question.
- Acknowledge your addiction. Recognize that your drug addiction will be with you till the day you die. Become an expert on it. Gain an education and become knowledgeable on drug addiction and addiction recovery.
- Accept responsibility for the bad break of addiction. Pes, you have drug addiction. Stop trying to figure out why you have it. It’s a waste of time and energy. You’ve got it, now handle it. Millions of other people also have a drug addiction, millions of other people do not have drug addiction. Get off the pity pot of “why me?” And just accept that it is what it is. Now, play the rotten cards you are dealt.
- Accept responsibility for your own sobriety. Only you can get sober. Only you can get high. The reason people relapse is quite simple. At one particular point in time they wanted to get high more than they wanted to stay sober, and they acted on it. All the rest is just story, story, story….
- Stop feeling sorry for yourself. In AA they have an old anecdote “poor me, poor me, pour me another drink.” The antidote for self-pity is accountability in humility. Instead of beating yourself up how about just saying yes I did that, all make it right and move on?
- Start practicing honesty. The first person you must become honest with his yourself. Stop lying to yourself and clinging to old justifications and rationalizations. What you are doing did not work. You must take different action to get different results.
- Be in the mindset of curiosity and discovery. Instead of beating up on yourself for past mistakes develop a questioning attitude. Instead of going to right or wrong, good or bad, go to ‘I wonder what was behind me doing that?’ ‘Isn’t it strange how I always act that way in a certain situation?’ Curiosity and discovery can lead to thought changes.
- Learn how to handle your negative thinking More people relapse from thinking negative thoughts than from positive. Many people can “think themselves” into a relapse and justify it. Learn how to nip those negative thoughts in the bud. Check out CBT cognitive behavioral therapy.
- Stop making excuses. Put on your big boy pants, or big girl panties. Take responsibility for your emotions, they are years. Nobody can “make you” feel a certain way. You do that to yourself. Instead of choosing negative emotions why not choose positive emotions?
- Practice forgiveness of yourself. The first person you need to forgive his yourself. This is easier said than done, get some help and work on it.
- Practice forgiveness of others. Forgiveness is the antidote to resentment. In paraphrasing a concept of the 12 step program, ‘unresolved resentments leads to more relapses than anything else’. It’s really hard to stay sober when you’re carrying other people’s weight around with you.
- Start taking positive action Don’t confuse a good attitude or proper motivation with taking action. A thought is just a thought, a feeling is just a feeling, and nothing really happens, results do not occur, until action is taken. Do something for you positive for your recovery each and every day.
- If your home environment is dangerous, change it. You are a grown-up, and can live wherever you want. If people are getting high around you and it’s not an atmosphere supporting sobriety get out of there.
- End toxic relationships. If a relationship is not supporting your recovery, get out of it. That means getting rid of your significant other who continues to use drugs. That means putting up boundaries and limits around people who still drink and drug.
- Surround yourself with people who are sober. I heard, but cannot verify, the Donald Trump was once asked what the biggest factor he attributes his success to is. Without hesitation he said “the people I surround myself with.” Surround yourself with winners, not losers.
- Avoid isolation. Addiction is a disease of isolation, recovery is all about connection. The deeper and addict gets into a disease the morn more isolated they become. One of the reasons such emphasis is put on building a support system is to force people in recovery to reach out of themselves. Remember, lone wolves do not do well in recovery.
- Start reaching out. Addicts and alcoholics by definition are self-centered in the extreme. Start reaching out to other people and be of service. Seek out active engagement in a recovery program. Look for volunteer opportunities or obtain a ’recovery job’.
- Increase your self-awareness, and get to know yourself The first step in solving any problem is to become aware of it. You can achieve this through some introspection. Two of the most important tools used in early 12 step programs where prayer and meditation. Someone once told me that prayer is asking the questions and meditation is listening to the answers.
- Keep busy. Develop a schedule for yourself and stick to it. This does not necessarily mean filling your day with mindless activities, but rather to start planning your days in living intentionally. For your sobriety, it’s much better to wake up and say I need to do this, that, and the other thing, rather than to wake up and say I wonder what I’m going to do today.
- Start eating well. A proper diet can accelerate the recovery curve. Drugs and alcohol can destroy or block the intake of necessary vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. Start eating a balanced diet again.
- Start exercising. Feeling good is a necessary part of sobriety. Many people have gained benefits from exercise and working out. Ideally pick something that you really enjoy doing and start adding it to your routine.
- Learn how to cravings and urges Sure as the sun will rise tomorrow at some point you will have the urge to get high. Having urges his normal and pretty much unavoidable. The skill comes in when you learn how not to act on them. You can want to get high and that’s okay, just don’t act on it.
- Monitor your thinking, become an observer of your thoughts. Instead of just thinking a thought and being that thought, take a step back and observe yourself thinking that thought. Ask yourself why am I thinking this way, what’s going on here, why did this thought pop up? This distancing sets up the ability for you to change your thinking.
- If you notice recurring negative thoughts, develop a counterpunch. For instance, if the self-defeating thought “I can’t do this ’keeps recurring. Develop a counter thought to her immediately replace the negative thought. In this instance you might say “stop, stop, stop, that, I CAN do this I have successfully been doing it and I will continue to do so. Your counter thoughts can be whatever they want as long as they make sense to you. If you ramp them up with some emotion they become even more effective.
- Separate thoughts from actions. I think the entire population of the world would be in jail if everybody could read everybody else’s thoughts. The deal is you can think of thought without acting on. This is extremely difficult for addicts in early recovery because they are so used to automatically acting on their urges and cravings. You can think of thought you don’t have to act on it.
- Practice positive affirmations and repeat them often. You’ve probably heard that before in it might be corny. But look at it this way you need to reprogram your brain. For years and years you have programmed your brain were negativity, helplessness, and hopelessness. Those of become your “automatic” settings in your brain you need to establish a new way of thinking that is positive, hopeful, and beneficial to you.
- Remember the pain of using drugs. Pain is a wonderful motivator. The avoidance of pain might be the primary reason you stop using drugs it doesn’t make sense to go back to that pain, keep it fresh.
- Play the tape forward When contemplating a return to using drugs addicts are notoriously shortsighted short minded. They are just looking for the immediate 30 seconds or five minutes of gratification and failed to look beyond the miseries to follow. Look at ALL the consequences of a return to drug use, keep it fresh.
- Remember the benefits of not using drugs. PThe best tool for this is a gratitude list. A great assignments to think of three things you are truly grateful for and write them down. Keep the list in keep adding to it. The trick is don’t repeat anything. This will keep the benefits of being sober fresh in your mind. It is a type of positive affirmation. Keep that fresh also.
- Start validating yourself as a sober person. In my opinion one thing I would love to change in the 12 step programs is the introduction of “Hi my name is bill and am a drug addict (or alcoholic). To me that is reinforcing the pain of addiction. I would rather be able to state ”Hi, my name is bill and I’m a sober person living in recovery.” If you did not drink or drug today you are sober. Start acknowledging it.
- Don’t get into social pressures to use drugs This is one of the most common causes of relapse. The ridiculously simple strategy is to learn to say no, in mean it. That’s not to say that living a sober life is simply about saying no but the bottom line is you must develop the skill of refusing offers of drugs in social situations.
- Avoid situations, places and activities where you will have to say “no” to drugs or alcoholThe simplest refusal skill that can be learned is to avoid situations where you have to say no. In other words if you know the drugs or alcohol is going to be around don’t subject to yourself to it. Is avoiding all situations possible all the time? No, of course not. But you must learn to think in terms of avoiding unnecessary risk.
- Avoid people who you know will offer you drugs. It’s not okay to hang around with your drug dealer just to see how he is doing. It’s not a genius idea to go to the bar just to see how the boys are doing. Do not needlessly expose yourself to toxic people or situations.
- Use your head, be aware. I remember in my drinking days one of my favorite lines which I thought was hilarious (and also true). Was this “I walked by a bar and suddenly I was drunk.” Be aware of your surroundings and the likelihood that they will generate thoughts and feelings of using. If you always got high at concerts for example it might be a good idea to avoid concerts for a while. If you got drunk in bars it might be a good idea to avoid bars for a while.
- Practice saying no, use some visualization. You’re likely to encounter and people you will not be able to avoid in visualize yourself as being completely in control of your decision to say no in a given situation.
- Develop a one-liner. A one-liner is a simple response to an offer to use drugs or alcohol. Find one that works for you and practice it until it becomes site second nature. Some examples might be “no thanks”, “not today”, “been there done that, I gave it up”. The shorter and sweeter generally the better. Make your response and move on no need for undue explanations. I didn’t have one older adult who is somewhat socially prominent and was very worried about what her friends would say back home she came up with this “I have a medical problem and I’m not allowed to drink, and I’m not really comfortable talking about it.”
- You must be assertive with others If you’re simple one-liner did not work in people press the issue trying to “forced you” into drinking or drugging you must get assertive. Stick to your guns. You must convey your refusal in such a way that they “get it”. If they don’t get it remove yourself from the situation. One of the saddest relapse stories I heard was a patient who would gone through a 30 day inpatient treatment, had high hopes, went home and his family decided to take them out to a fancy dinner to celebrate. They insisted that he have wine with dinner, after all drugs was his problem. He did not have the refusal skills to handle that situation.
- Practice acceptance of wanting to say yes. You are an addict, and will be to the day you die. There is a little piece of you that will always be tempted to return to using. It’s doubtful whether that will ever go away, so just accept it. Remember you do not have to act on it. When I get thoughts of using after 25 years of sobriety, I don’t half and puff jump up and down and great myself is good or bad I simply say isn’t that curious, isn’t that interesting after all these years but still pops in my head. Then I move on.
- Always have an escape plan. This is classic old-school AA 12 steps. If you’re going into a situation which you know might be potentially dangerous to your sobriety make sure you have an escape plan. For instance if you are invited to a wedding where you know drinking and some drugging may be going on, but you think you can handle it, drive your own car make sure you can get away quickly. Go with a sober buddy who can look out for you.
- Have an emergency plan in place. Urges and cravings can strike at any time. Take the time before hand to create a plan of action you can automatically resort to when they seem to become too much. Examples might be having phone numbers of people you can call in your pocket. Have sufficient knowledge about your hometown area so that you know where and when the next available 12 step meeting is. Drop in do 25 push-ups. Whatever it is for you make sure that you have a predetermined course of action that you know will deflect the urging craving to use.
- Get enough sleep. Unfortunately, disrupted sleep patterns happen more frequently than not with people in early recovery. The bad news it’s a little bit of a pain in the butt. The good news is it will pass Google the phrase “sleep hygiene” to get some good tips.
- If you get an urge or craving, talk yourself through it. This simply means don’t let it rent space in your head. Tell yourself about those negative consequences of using, but do it out loud to yourself or to another person.
- Pray. Ask for strength their help from God or your own personal higher power. You don’t have to do this alone. I used to carry a little business card that said “each night I turned my troubles over to God, he’s up all night anyway”.
- Buy yourself some time. People say that recovery is attained a data time. But sometimes a day can look impossible. Break it down, can you stay clean until lunch? Can you stay clean for the next hour? Chunk it down. You can get through this moment, minute, hour, or day.
- Remember all urges and cravings pass with time. The trick is to prevent yourself from taking action during the time the urge or craving is active. Use delaying tactics.
- Use distraction. Distract yourself from the addictive cycle of thinking that wants to take you out in use drugs. Get on the phone, go to the movies, go shopping, anything to distract yourself from using.
- Do some sort of physical activity. This is a variation on distraction but it has the added effect of releasing some dopamine and endorphins some of your feel-good chemicals naturally.
- Get in front of a mirror and look at yourself in the eye. For me, this is really hard to do. But looking myself in the eye and asking the question do I really want to get high has saved me many times.
- Make an entry in your journal or write in a notebook. Get Get the desire to use drugs out of view and onto paper. That’s a form of release. If you want you can crumble it up and throw it away or later light it on fire and let the smoke and ashes go up to God.
- Keeping communication with friends in recovery. Call them if you need them. Ask for help. If you have a sponsor call him. There is an unspoken rule in recovery that help will always be extended to somebody who is in crisis.
- Substitute a reward other than drugs.
Now may be a time to treat yourself to an ice cream cone or a little shopping trip.
- Go to a 12 step meeting and “rat yourself out”. Previously we mentioned to write or Journal about an urge or craving with the intention of getting it out of view and onto paper. An even better solution is to admit to people in recovery that you are having a hard time. They will be able to identify and to support you. Take advantage of the available support
- Associate a new behavior with your urge or a craving. Maybe you’ve heard of people wearing rubber bands snapping them against their wrist to change thinking. I’ve tried it, it hurts though. You can always do something like clap your hands or laugh out loud. Nobody really needs to know what you’re doing.
- You must learn to solve life problems without drinking and drugging. How are you can handle the problems that life throws at you? I don’t know. But I do know you cannot drink and drug. You must find another way to handle the good times and the bad times. Eliminate drinking and drugging as even a possibility in your mind.
- Thoughts cause feelings. The inability to handle uncomfortable emotions is perhaps the most common cause of relapse. Recognize and take responsibility for your emotions and feelings.
- Challenge your thinking. Try to adopt another point of view you have the ability to choose your point of view and by doing so you have the ability to choose your emotional state.
- Recognize your own feelings and emotions increase your vocabulary. There are literally thousands of feeling words yet most people when asked how they are feeling will say something like good, okay, or shady. Being able to accurately identify your motion starts to empower your ability to change it.
- Accept your emotions and feelings. Pou are a human being designed to have emotions. There are no good or bad emotions they just are there are times to be happy, there are times to be sad. Experience your experience.
- Talk about your feelings. Share with your feelings is somebody you trust. Talking about your feelings helps you to identify on and process your emotions. It really helps to quantify them and explain.
- Put some structure in your life. There’s an old saying that says addiction thrives in chaos recovery thrives in structure. You don’t have to map about every little thing but it certainly helps to have a plan.
- Set attainable goals for yourself It certainly helps to stay in recovery and improve the quality of your life if you can point to certain goals that you have set out to achieve and have achieved.
- Have a plan and work toward it. It really does not matter whether you’re going quickly or slowly as long as you are moving forward.
- Start being. Engage in some activities designed to improve your inner self. Whether it is yoga, praying, meditation, or walks on the beach. Realized it is important to develop who you are as well as what you are doing..
- Get involved in organizations are structured activities Of course, we recommend twelve-step involvement but there are an infinite number of other causes you can join up with and be productive with. Consider sports.
- Have fun. If your focus is entirely on not drinking or drugging it will become drudgery. Instead focus on having some fun and engaging in pleasurable activities that do not involve drinking or drugging.
- Keep an open attitude toward life. If you think about it everything you enjoy doing, you had to try for the first time. There are many things out there you have not yet tried. Start experimenting, you might not like everything but you will certainly find new activities that are enjoyable.
- Focus on what’s really important in life. P80% of what you do each day is often irrelevant. Focus on the most important 20% and you’ll get the big stuff done while being less busy.
- Simplify your life. You’ll find that life feels easier and lighter if you only have the things you really need or love – you’ll enjoy your things more, save money, and have more free time.
- Avoid stress and needless worry If your life is full of struggle, it’s likely that you’re often fighting over little things. Let go off all those.
- Clean up your messes immediately. Yes, you will make mistakes and have bad days. Make corrections and adjustments as needed don’t put anything off.
- Be compassionate with yourself and others. Not only does it make it a lot easier to deal with everyone around you, but showing that you care about others also makes you feel better about yourself, too. You become a positive influence in the lives of others and you’ll be helping yourself at least as much as you’re helping them.
- Consider other people’s point of view. Maybe, just maybe they might be right. It wouldn’t kill you to admit it.
- Spend time together. somebody once asked the Dalai Lama how to be spiritual. He replied “if you want to be spiritual, spend time with your family”.
- Acknowledge you need to love and be loved. This is one of the greatest joys of the human life experience. Unfortunately, it can also go very wrong. You could end up abused, neglected, and miserable – or worse.
- an addict in active addiction is not very lovable. Unfortunately that’s all they know.
- Most addicts are really terrible at relationships. There are extremely talented at the relationship with drugs namely the need to get high and stay high. To do that they must be self-centered in the extreme this is exactly the opposite of what is needed for a healthy relationship.
- In order to be in a healthy relationship you must understand yourself. There are techniques you can use that will contribute to your success in finding healthy people. The first thing you should do is to ensure you’re ready for the kind of relationship you’re looking for.
- Know what you want out of life. When looking for a person to share your life with, you want one who shares your goals, dreams, and values. Avoid settling for less because your long-term happiness could be affected – and so could the happiness of your partner.
- Stay focused on your goals. Giving up your dreams and desires for someone else seldom works well. Seek out a person who encourages you to pursue your dreams. When you’ve found one, that’s someone worth paying attention to!
- your entire life is now your own choice you get to choose whether to be active in your addiction. You get to choose whether to be active in your sobriety. For drug addicts and alcoholics it really simplifies life’s choices. If you choose to engage in your addiction your life will progress toward the worst it will never get better choose to stay sober, there is a high probability your life will get better beyond your wildest dreams.
- To thine own self be true. Remember, you are now a healthy sober person in recovery. Act like it.
Recovery Tips for Staying Sober
- The Recovery Book is the easiest to read reference book on 100’s of topics on addiction recovery. I know tons of couselors who have this on their book shelf and refer to it constantly.
- The Happy Addict. The Happy Addict is the ultimate guide to achieving an amazing life after addiction. No more guilt. No more shame. No more feeling held back by the past or low self-esteem.
- The Craving Mind. This ia an Amazon Best Seller. A leading neuroscientist and pioneer in the study of mindfulness explains why addictions are so tenacious and how we can learn to conquer them.
The Recovery Book: Answers to Questions About Addiction and AlcoholismThe Happy Addict: How to be Happy in Recovery from Alcoholism or Drug AddictionThe Craving Mind: From Cigarettes to Smartphones to Love – Why We Get Hooked
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Some Really Good Free Resources
- Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction (Drugabuse.gov) – In my opinion this is the best short read on addiction. I have used the content for many therapy groups and lectures…check it out.
- Substance Us In Women Women and men may face unique issues when it comes to substance use, as a result of both sex and gender.