Apart from the pyrotechnics and the fireworks, another popular fixture of New Year Celebrations is alcohol. This has always been a practice during these celebrations for as long as anyone could remember. This, however, is no help for someone who is in recovery from substance dependence, and definitely not help for those wanting to know how to stay sober.
Most people understand sobriety as the act of refraining from imbibing any substance, particularly alcohol, that could induce inebriation or intoxication. This definition, however, pertains more to the act of abstinence than it does to being sober. The textbook definition of sobriety pertains more to not being inebriated or intoxicated at a given time.
How Does One Stay Sober?
If the textbook definition of sobriety is to be followed, then the simplest answer to the question of how one becomes sober is that one needs to choose to be sober. As such, one needs to stay away from substances that could influence their behavior and thinking. This, however, is easier said than done, particularly for those who have already crossed over to having a substance abuse disorder.
There are, however, a number of ways that could help a person in staying away from drugs or alcohol and maintain sobriety.
In most cases of substance abuse, it is usually prompted either by intense urges or by specific triggers. Different people could have different triggers, and the triggers could be as varied as daily stress, emotional issues, or even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). During rehabilitation, there are therapy forms that help the patient in identifying the things that push them to use whatever substance they have a dependence on. By being able to identify the triggers, the person could void exposure to them, or at the very least mitigate the effects of the triggers so they could resist the urge to drink or take drugs.
Evaluate the Habits and Routines that Lead to Substance Abuse
Other than triggers, many patients in rehab are also made aware of some habits or routines they might have that contribute to their inability to say no to alcohol or drugs. In many cases, the habits or routine are not directly linked to drug or alcohol use but could lead to being exposed to a trigger. Triggers are the thing that causes them to use substances or go into relapse. Evaluating these habits or routines could reveal a smarter and easier way to avoid being drawn into using substances once more.
Many people in rehab resonate quite well with support therapy, which is why there are many support groups in existence today. Many groups target specific issues that people need help with. These support groups provide an environment where people get to talk about their specific issues without fear of being judged unfairly. At the same time, patients receive relevant help for concerns related to what they need support for.
Recognize Relapse Warnings
Many people who fall into a relapse do so because they were not able to discern how close they already were to it. It is not uncommon for people in recovery to become a bit lax about the possibility of a relapse, particularly when they have been getting used to the environment outside of the treatment facility. Being outside has a way of making people forget the lessons learned while in rehab, as everything begins to look and feel normal. With this, some people then begin to fall back into the habits they learned to kick while in rehab, mainly because they failed to see the signs that they were already tipping into a relapse.
Avoid Uncertainty and Chaos in Life
There are those who think that uncertainty often leads to discovery, and learning something new along the way. There are people, however, who do not have the luxury of being safe from developing bad habits when faced with uncertainty. To people who had just come out of rehab, where everything is structured and orderly, uncertainty and chaos could become unbearably stressful. This stress could push the person into bad habits once more, as they become unable to deal with it. This is why the orderly and structured life learned in rehab needs to be continued when already outside of the facility.
Engage in a Healthy Lifestyle
Most people who are into substance abuse do it because of the euphoria they get when they get high or drunk. Many might argue this fact but the very same euphoria could be derived from a good workout. It could also be derived from the everyday feeling of being healthy that a person gets when they lead a healthy lifestyle. The dopamine that is forced out by substances will come out naturally after a good workout, and by feeling good when a person is disease-free.
Accept Past Mistakes and Move On
Guilt has a way of making life immensely difficult at times. In instances where wrongdoing was done, it could be good as the guilty party could be made to seek reparation. For someone who is in recovery from addiction, however, it could be quite detrimental as it could impede with the healing process. There are many who take far longer to recover, or even suffer from a relapse because they still hold on to the guilt they feel while they were still doing substances. Learning to accept that a mistake was made and that it is now in the past is essential to moving forward and recovering from it.
Celebrate Milestones in Recovery
One of the most common questions that people in recovery ask is “what is it all for?” This could be due to great stress during medical detox and rehab, or it could be due to difficulty in adjusting to a life without addiction, or even both. Whichever the case might be, many in this situation often find that maintaining sobriety is very difficult, which is why it is important to acknowledge and celebrate accomplishments, such as the number of days or months that a person has remained sober. This answers the question of what it is all for, as remaining sober is a huge accomplishment for anyone who has been through rehab.
Ensure Emotional and Mental Health
Substance abuse causes a chemical imbalance in the brain, and over time, this affects a person’s behavior and cognitive functions. Even when a person has completed rehabilitation, many still suffer from the lingering effects of having used substances with mind and mood-altering properties. It is not uncommon for mental or emotional issues, or both, to come up during the recovery period. This is why it is important to ensure that a person’s mental and emotional health is taken care of at all times if one wishes to maintain sobriety.
Work to Better and Strengthen Relationships
It has been established that people who have healthy and supportive relationships are also the ones who are able to navigate through personal difficulties the best. This includes the highly challenging times experienced as a person tries to maintain sobriety. Family and friends have been always been highly influential in a person’s recovery, and this could also be the case with people who are doing their best to resist the cravings that could lead to a relapse. Stronger relationships have also been proven to be the most reliable, which is quite important when a person is in dire need of support.
Learn How Best to Deal with Post-acute Withdrawal Symptoms
Most people think that with medical detox and rehab behind them, the agony of withdrawal would also be something they need not go through again. There is, however, the phenomenon known as post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS). PAWS are the symptoms associated with the psychological and emotional aspects of not being able to use substances anymore.
PAWS is believed to happen because the brain is recovering from the alterations done to it while the person was using substances. As change is never a painless thing, the process of the brain correcting itself of the chemical and neurological imbalances that happened is bound to have a profound and lingering effect on the person as well. When this happens, there is nothing more the person could do than wait for it to be over. The best a person can do in such a situation is to not make things worse and cope with the emotional difficulties experienced as best as they could. This includes self-care, stress-management techniques, and healthy living.
Let Free By the Sea Help You Find the Best Options to Stay Sober
The truth about sobriety is that it is a process that people need to continue to work on to maintain it. This is because slipping into a relapse is immensely easy, particularly in cases where staying sober is highly challenging. We here at Free By the Sea know this to be true because we have been with people who experienced these challenging times to stay sober, and we have seen them through the worst of it. We can help you as well. Talk to us now.
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.