Newly Sober? Tips to Maintain Your Sobriety
Addiction is tough. Alcohol and other intoxicants are commonly used ways for people to relax and socialize, whether they’ve had a bad day at work, are meeting up with long-lost friends, or just feel like unwinding. For many people, that isn’t a problem, but for someone that faces substance abuse issues, socialization can be a huge roadblock to recovery.
Chances are if you’re reading this, you or a loved one has recently admitted there’s an issue. Maybe they’ve even made it through the early stages of rehab, fighting through detox to grasp a new life of sobriety. We’d love to tell you that the hard part is over, but sadly, relapse risks are everywhere. That doesn’t mean that sobriety is impossible, though! Recovery isn’t the uphill battle that movies portray it to be; sometimes it can be as simple as making just a few changes in your life.
Generally speaking, the first 90 days of recovery are critical to maintaining sobriety. Shame is a major factor when it comes to the risk of relapsing, but it’s important to know that you are not your addiction. Many of the tips below involve changing the narrative you believe about yourself, from connecting with loved ones to creating concrete things you can point to as indicators of living a successful, sober life.
Make Basic Changes
This might be the easiest way to maintain your sobriety: all you have to do is tweak something. Habits can be hard to change on your own, but making even a small shift can help turn your recovery from a long-lost wish to an achievable goal. Remember how we mentioned shame above? Changes help to fight that shame. Whether you’re spending time with loved ones, beginning a new sport, or picking up a new hobby, new activities will combat that shame by giving you demonstrable actions to point at as indicators of your recovery.
The changes you make depend on your lifestyle, income, and what is actually feasible for you, but they don’t have to be major. Some of the changes you can make include:
- Learning to cook
- Spending time with family or friends
- Joining a team sport
- Modifying your travel routine to and from work
- Creating a new evening routine
Human Connection is Key
Human connection isn’t just the domain of children’s cartoons or melodrama: it’s the cornerstone of our society. Notice that most of the suggestions above involve connection, whether you’re seeing old friends again or making new ones. The people that surrounded you during your addiction were likely ones that egged your addiction on, but that doesn’t mean you have to be trapped in a cycle of loneliness. Reach out to people you once knew, to family, to people you may have drifted away from; consider forming new bonds with people that share a common goal with you unrelated to sobriety or recovery. You are more than your addiction: human connection can prove that.
Put Your Health First
You don’t have to become a fitness nut, militant vegan, or meat-loving carnivore to make a change in your health. Whether you consider veganism, add more veggies to your diet, or start a new exercise routine, your health is more than sobriety. Addiction means you likely neglected other areas of your life, with your body being the first thing you forget. Again: changes don’t need to be huge. Maybe it’s as simple as taking a walk every evening, or adding in a side of sauteed broccoli with your dinner now and then. Regardless of how you do it, paying attention to your body’s health will help mitigate withdrawal symptoms and help you feel stronger all around. Though mental health often can’t be fixed through diet and exercise, it is impacted by them.
One Day at a Time
There is a myriad of tips out there for maintaining sobriety, especially early in recovery. One thing you’ll find in almost every list, though, is that you need to take recovery one day at a time. Just like job hunting, a breakup, or the loss of a loved one, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when you look at the bigger picture. The bigger picture isn’t important right away: what you choose to do, day by day and moment by moment is. If a single box-office bomb won’t ruin Hollywood, a slip-up or bad day won’t be the end of your recovery.
Remember, recovery isn’t about becoming a brand-new person, about who you’ll be twenty years from now, or about forgetting the past. Recovery is about acknowledging your mistakes, learning from them, and using them to propel you forward.