The act of getting sober is the first step in a long journey. Staying sober long enough to completely get the drugs out of your system and survive any withdrawal symptoms can be difficult without assistance, but many manage. Yet that’s when the trouble really begins. Day after day, the first few weeks of early recovery are mired in cravings and temptations, reminders and nagging thoughts of release and relapse. For some, avoiding temptation feels like sticking your head into a bucket of water, holding your breath, until you realize that to survive, you’ll have to develop gills rather than pulling out.
Gills take time to develop – or more concretely, avoiding temptation and recovery is about learning how to enjoy life while sober and stop thinking about the temptations and cravings. With time, they do fade – but the beginning can be excruciating for many. Some don’t make it through the first few weeks without a relapse, and it may take several until you finally abstain permanently. The key is not to give up, and to eventually make sobriety the norm, rather than avoiding temptation the uncomfortable exception.
Life while sober is not meant to be boring, monotone, or painful. It’s meant to be everything that life while addicted is not: namely, real and beautiful. Life while sober is life, in its full diversity and absurdity. It’s everything that being alive is meant to be, and if you can appreciate that, then recovery will be much easier. Here are a few ways to work on avoiding temptation in early recovery and keep your mind off a potential relapse.
Find New Hobbies
Having new things to do is more than just about filling time, but it’s about engaging in something that requires concentration, focus, and brain power. Teaching yourself a new skill takes time and effort, and not only will that reduce your ability to think inwards and react to your cravings, but it will help you rebuild any brain power lost through drug abuse.
While the brain is not quite a regenerative organ, it does have the capacity to recover from damage through continuous use – and like a muscle, using it regularly keeps it healthy. The best way to do that is by learning something new, all the time. From reading books to playing puzzle games or engaging in deep discussion and philosophizing, doing something new can help you rediscover the beauty of simple sober living and keep your mind off other things.
Create A Busy Schedule
Another way of avoiding temptation is to give yourself less time to think about it. Create a strict schedule, and stick to it.
Build a morning routine, structure your day around work, allocate hours of the day to specific chores, tasks, and hobbies, and build a day that leaves you feeling accomplished and tired each time you hit the hay.
Get Your Endorphin Release
Even if you’re not a particularly sporty person, doing something active on a regular basis can greatly improve your outlook on life, improve your health, and make you happier in general.
You don’t need to hit the gym if you’re intimidated or bored by conventional exercising. Find a dance studio, or go for walks in the park, or go swimming. There are many ways to get physical, and many don’t have to involve sports or traditional workouts.
Know Your Triggers
Another tip for avoiding temptation is avoiding your triggers. Sometimes, the cravings come and go – but they are often triggered by a familiar stimulus, such as a sight, sound, or smell. It could be a stroll through an old neighborhood, a specific song, or a painting.
Anything bringing back the nostalgia of years gone by and your days as an addict can be counterproductive to your early recovery and should be avoided. With time, you can readjust and reintroduce these memories without much risk – but it’s best not to tempt fate early in the healing process and just work on avoiding temptation at that time.
Make New Friends
Aside from finding new things to do, it’s also a great idea to meet new people. Not only might you be surprised at how a few strangers could enrich your life with stories and perspectives you might never have expected, but new friends can stave off the loneliness or introversion that often follows sobriety, especially if your old circle of friends hasn’t completely accepted your decision of avoiding temptation.
Pursue New Experiences
Whether it’s a trip into a different part of the country, a food you’ve never tried before, or an experience you’ve never experienced, make a promise to yourself to be more open this time around and make an effort to taste every bit life has to offer, regardless of what it might be offering.
Have A Support Group
No matter how much time has passed since you left the addiction treatment clinic, the support should never end. Think about your friends and family, and how they have stood by you throughout your recovery. Cherish this support group and nourish your relationships with each person who means something to you. Our connections to others make life better, and more valuable.
Avoiding Temptation & Staying In Therapy
Therapy is more than just your gateway into sober living. Therapy is meant to be a continuous, lifelong process – although it does not always have to be in front of a therapist. It doesn’t hurt to check in with your therapist every now and again and talk about the progress you’ve made, but in the meantime, be sure to approach other forms of therapy, and find what helps you work through your stress and your personal issues with addiction the most.
Some people prefer group therapy, as it presents an opportunity not only to talk about issues with others who have had similar experiences, but it provides you with a place to make new friends and help newcomers to the sober life.
Others prefer creative therapy, like music therapy or art therapy. It’s best to continue staying in whatever form of therapy your treatment entailed for at least a year or so, and then branch out into finding other ways to live life and reflect.
Temptations will never fully go away, but your attitude towards them will change. Avoiding temptation does not have to be dangerous, if your conviction is strong enough, and your motivation to resist is unbreakable. One aspect about sober living is in the idea that you should spend as much time and energy as possible learning new things and building relationships, skills, and experiences. This is because the more you have, the more likely you want to protect it – and that gives you a greater drive to resist any cravings and temptations and continue to reap the rewards of well-lived sober life.
Just being sober itself won’t be enough to change your life, but it will give you the chance to change it. You must take that chance and, with the guidance of others around you, never let go.