Deciding to get sober can be one of the most important steps you can take in changing your life. Lots of people with lives controlled by drug use or excessive drinking one day reach the point where they feel like they’ve had enough, and they want a life with more awareness and control.
Unfortunately, many people who intend to get sober will struggle and eventually succumb to relapsing, in spite of their best intentions. The truth is that the decision to get sober is only the start of a journey you will take every day. Here are some steps that can help you keep your commitment to sobriety, changing your habits for good.
1. Let other people know
Sobriety requires such a radical change in how you live and think that it’s very hard to do on your own. Keeping your decision to yourself leaves you vulnerable to your weaknesses and justifications, and can make it much harder to make it through moments of weakness. Telling your decision to supportive friends can build both encouragement and accountability, giving you the push you need to hold on to your sobriety in hard moments. Friends, family, and peer support groups can all offer ways out of the moments when the temptation gets strong. Try to find several people willing to talk to you about your urges, and help you weather any internal storm.
2. Reward yourself
A system of rewards is something many people have found to be an effective tool for fighting off cravings. Think of things you really enjoy, pleasures that you like to give yourself or something you could look forward to. When you reach a new milestone in your sobriety, give yourself one of these rewards. Tell yourself that if you just make it through the next day sober, you will have a nice meal, an exciting concert or movie, a hike in nature, or whatever would make you come alive. Having something to look forward to can increase your reasons to be sober, and this can in turn help you gain endurance to make it through times when the cravings seem strong.
3. Know your vulnerabilities
At first, it may seem like your cravings are random and uncontrollable, simply coming out of nowhere and difficult to make go away. However, over time you may begin to recognize certain “triggers” that bring on cravings or intensify your temptations. Common triggers include smells, sights, sounds, or friends that remind you of your past life, as well as difficult emotional experiences or times when you feel exhausted or overwhelmed.
Do everything you can to reduce the causes of these cravings. If you are having strong emotional feelings, do whatever you can to take care of yourself and get at the root of the problem. Feel free to not go to a party or social gathering. If you do choose to go, think of a plan of escape, and work out alternative ways of engaging with people so you can feel comfortable saying no.
4. Replace use with something positive
Addiction takes over your life. When your use and craving becomes one of the central things you live for, doing without it can be a huge adjustment. Simply replacing that with nothing, so you spend all your time trying not to do what was once a huge part of your life, can easily get overwhelming and exhausting. That’s why it so important to enjoy your newfound freedom to explore new things to do. Establish routines of taking care of yourself, through exercise and engagement with supportive friends, so you can fill your days with things that restore and heal you. Taking time to help others and support a cause you believe in can connect you with deeper passions and truly give you something to live for.
5. Keep your attention on the present
It can get overwhelming if you try to think about going your whole life without ever using again. A particular moment of strong craving can make a large commitment seem difficult to maintain. The key is to break your decision down into smaller ones, to focus on keeping sober, not over your lifetime, but simply in the day, and in the moment. Multiple moments of doing whatever it takes to stay sober in the here and now will add up to an increasingly empowered life of making your own decisions, and truly being free of any substance’s control.