Addiction is a terrible disease that can impact every aspect of your life. Relationships, family, career. This affliction takes no prisoners, and grants no safe quarter for anyone.
Although challenging, recovery and sobriety are a real possibility for those who want to make a positive change in their lives.
If you’re in recovery, you know first-hand the struggle to stay sober. You’ve worked hard to reach this milestone, and are prepared to work even harder to keep substance abuse in the past, where it belongs.
Yet we all know the statistics about relapse. In fact, it is estimated that up to 80% of those in long-term sobriety have experienced at least one relapse along the way.
Well, we’re here to help make sure you don’t become another statistic.
In this guide, we’ll cover some key tips designed to help you stay sober no matter how hard it gets.
Without further delay, let’s dive right on in…
We all have ‘triggers’ that put us in a bad headspace and that drive us towards using again. These triggers may include certain places (like that old bar or hangout you used to use at), people who are bad influences on your life, stressful situations, and even certain physical items.
But triggers go well beyond those external to yourself. Internal triggers are just as important, and often even more powerful than external triggers. These may include certain emotions, thoughts, or feelings.
Step one is identifying what your triggers are. This may require some serious self-reflection and an honest dialogue with yourself.
Once identified, you can work with your support system, sponsor, therapist, or even on your own to develop a plan to avoid each of them, and to handle them should you find yourself face to face with a trigger.
Although a relapse can sneak up on you like a ninja, in retrospect, there are often warning signs that indicated one was coming. Hindsight is 20/20, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use these hard lessons to gain a sneak peek into the looking glass and anticipate future relapses BEFORE they happen.
Generally speaking, the cycle leading up to a relapse follows certain phases including an emotional relapse, a mindset relapse and the physical act of relapse itself and/or self-destructive behaviors leading up to the relapse.
Although these warning signs will vary person to person, were are a few of the most common indicators to watch out for:
No, not the fun furry kind. PAWS stands for “Post-acute withdrawal syndrome”. This stage can last anywhere from 6 months up to 2-years from the last time a person ‘used’. Depending on the individual and their substance of choice, symptoms may include but are not limited to: insomnia, night sweats, tremors, anxiety, mood swings and depression.
Without proper treatment and/or management, these symptoms can often be a serious hurdle in the recovery process. Being able to recognize these symptoms and seek help when necessary is a key component to your sobriety.
In many cases, your drug of choice is connected to certain habits, rituals or routines in your daily life. Recognizing these and making life changes that prevent you from falling into these same habits is paramount.
Even when inconvenient, you must make the change. This can be as simple as taking a different route home from work than the one that goes past a certain friends house or hangout.
Addiction often leaves a wake of destruction in its path, including destroyed relationships. As part of your recovery process, you no doubt realize that many of the relationships you had with people while in the throws of addiction were unhealthy.
Research has shown that maintaining these same relationships, even with behavior changes, while in recovery, can lead to relapse. Making new, sober friends, is an important step in the process. If you find you’re having a hard time meeting new people, consider a support group.
Your goal here is to stay busy. Not only that, you should develop a consistent structured schedule that helps keep you on task and your nose to the grindstone. A disorganized lifestyle and chaotic day to day has been shown to cause increased stress, unforeseen challenges, a greater chance of running into triggers, and relapse.
Substance abuse can take a nasty toll on your physical, as well as mental health. Now is the time to focus on self-care as a core pillar of your new lease on life and to help you stay the course.
Those in recovery often experience difficulty maintaining employment, meeting work-related responsibilities and managing money. Those who struggled with addiction for a significant period of time prior to entering recovery often find themselves leaving treatment in debt. This can add an increased level of stress, and may be a potential trigger to be mindful of.
We suggest reaching out to a career coach or vocational rehabilitation counselor to assist with updating your resume, brushing up on interview skills, and finding positions that match your level of experience.
Emotional swings are common among those who have abused substances. Changes in brain chemistry coupled with the added stress of recovery can be overwhelming. This can have a negative impact on virtually every aspect of your life (if not managed).
Anger, grief, sadness and more are all natural emotions, but learning how to deal with them in a healthy way can mean the difference between staying sober or falling off the wagon. Working with a therapist, sponsor and your support network on how to deal with these emotions in a positive way is advisable.
We all make mistakes in life, leading to pain, regret, shame, and guilt. But the past is the past. You can’t undue what’s been done while active in your addiction. If you let these thoughts consume you they can quickly derail your sobriety.
Virtually everyone in recovery has left a wake of emotional, financial and even physical turmoil in their path. It is important to take steps towards making amends for those mistakes and to take responsibility and charge of living your life more responsibly moving forward.
Recovery is a challenging and ongoing process. You’ll no doubt face your own demons, hurdles and issues along the way. But you are strong. You are capable. And you will get through this.
Staying motivated is part of that process. As such, acknowledging and celebrating your ‘wins’, no matter how small, is a major component of maintaining sobriety and self-love.