Living a Sober Life Isn’t as Scary as You Think

Living a Sober Life Isn't as Scary as You Think - TRC

If you’re worried about the challenges involved with living a sober life, you may be interested to learn there are a few things you can do to prepare. The more you understand about the process of the recovery journey, the more likely you will succeed.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at why living a sober life isn’t as scary as you think.

Living a Sober Life Isn’t As Scary As It Seems

The thought of change is uncomfortable for most people. When that change involves giving up the crutch of drugs or alcohol, that uncomfortable feeling can escalate into fear, dread, and avoidance. You may fear the physical symptoms of withdrawal. You may be afraid that you will lose your current friends, or not be able to cope with the emotions that surface while sober.

While addiction can end up feeling like there is a lack of choice to be made, sobriety always involves a conscious choice. Taking steps to bring the compulsion to drink under control of your rational mind can provide you with the strength necessary to stop avoiding the problem, and to make the changes necessary to heal your life. The following are some of the rational steps to take toward the beginning, and maintaining, a decision toward being sober.

Here are a few things you can do to make living a sober life easier.

Name Your Fears About Sobriety

One of the most powerful tools we have against fear is to name it. Fear thrives on a lack of confrontation. It lingers in the back of our mind, whispering lies and prompting us to be worried about things that have not actually happened. Once we clearly identify our fears and give them a label, some of that influence is immediately diminished.

One of the major fears when considering a life of sobriety is that we won’t be able to cope with our daily life. Another is that we won’t have anything to look forward to on a daily basis, or that we will lose the drive to be social.  We may even fear that not drinking will take away our excuse for not making more progress in life. Whatever you find your fears to be, be bold, and call them out. They are already there, so they might as well get to know them.

living a sober life

Make a Pros and Cons List

Something that is often overlooked by those who want a person to stop drinking is that there are actually benefits that a person is receiving from continuing to drink. These benefits are usually short-term, and often come with severe risks, but they are desirable, nonetheless. If there were only undesirable effects, you wouldn’t keep drinking.

Rather than trying to pretend that those pleasurable aspects don’t exist, give them some space for acknowledgment. Perhaps you enjoy the way that alcohol helps you cope with the stress of your job. Maybe you enjoy the way that it helps you to be more social or more creative. Alcohol could be the tool that you use to forget, temporarily, about the mistakes that you have made in life or the bridges that you have burned.

Now, make another list. This time, list the ways that continuing to abuse alcohol is harming your life. It may be putting your job in jeopardy, or it might be a factor in impending divorce. It may be estranging you from your children or isolating you from important people in your life. There may be physical consequences of drinking which are already surfacing. There may be times where intoxication causes you to do embarrassing things, or to make poor choices.

Creating such a list is another step toward bringing your fears out into the light, and examining them for what they are. After listing your reasons for drinking, and your reasons for not drinking, it will be up to you to assign a weighted value to each factor. If you find that the cons about continuing to drink outweigh the benefits, you know you are ready to take your next steps toward sobriety.

Do Your Research

Fear also thrives on a lack of knowledge. Humans tend to fear the unknown. The best way for managing this fear is to arm ourselves with information. When it comes to sobriety, it helps to know what the process of obtaining it entails. The internet is an excellent tool for obtaining such information.

Your process of getting to the goal of living a sober life will depend on how far into the pit of alcohol you find yourself. If your drinking has progressed to the point of experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms when you abstain, you will want to research the detoxification medications and methods that are available. If your alcohol abuse has resulted in loss of income, insurance, or housing, you will want to research your public funding options for treatment. And if you lose heart along the way, do research into recovery stories of others. This can help to boost your resolve and remind you that a life of sobriety is both achievable, and desirable.

Choose Your Treatment Options

Another fear that we tend to have is that we will be robbed of our autonomy once beginning treatment. You know yourself, best, and so are in the best position to determine what will help. Unless your alcohol problem has resulted in being mandated to treatment by the courts, you are in complete control of your treatment. If your first treatment selection doesn’t produce the best results for you, choose another one.

After arming yourself with some emboldening information about what the journey of sobriety entails, you will be ready to make some smart choices about how to go about eliminating your dependency on alcohol.

You may discover that you will be able to recover with minimal input from a weekly support meeting. You may decide that you are better off entering a medical treatment facility or signing up for a stay at a sober living home. Or, you might decide to benefit from entering therapy at your local mental health office.

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Develop Your Sober Social Network

Most people are afraid of being alone. Humans are social creatures, and we thrive in environments of loving support and acceptance. A lifestyle change as drastic as becoming sober can mean that our social needs change. We may need to rekindle lost relationships or may need to make a new set of friends.

Being a part of a treatment program can provide a jump start in this direction, as you encounter people with recovery values and engage in therapies to provide you with the tools for forming healthy relationships.

Conclusion

Now that you know a few things you can do to make living a sober life easier to approach, you can start your recovery journey with confidence. It

What Motivates You To Stay Sober?

Finding Reasons to Remain Sober

Just as we each have unique circumstances which contribute to the forming of our self-destructive tendencies, we each have unique motivations for getting ourselves out of that danger. A person in addiction doesn’t arrive in that place overnight, and a person in recovery undertakes a similarly long journey back to a place of sobriety. What motivates a person to escape life through using drugs and alcohol can be replaced by opposite motivations to continue in a positive direction. The following are some of the most common reasons given for sobriety by those who have successfully reached their goals. Are your motivations on this list, or would your story of recovery add to it?

 

Faith

People very often find their sobriety in tandem with finding their faith. Their recovery testimony will include a story of turning their backs on the belief system they were raised with, or of not truly understanding their spirituality while in their addiction. As they reach the contemplation phase of changing their addictive behaviors, there will often be a rekindling of some forgotten or buried spark of faith. This newly discovered spiritual path works as motivation to keep pressing onward to recovery.

Growing in spirituality and faith has been recognized by reputable psychological sources as a leading factor in maintaining recovery. Having a belief system which includes the aspect of faith means that a person can place hope in a future which has not yet been obtained. It gives people reasons to continue to do well, even if the positive results are not immediately apparent. This desire to strive toward what we have not yet obtained is the nature of perseverance.

 

Family

Many people in addiction are torn between their love for their family, and the compulsive nature of addiction. The sense of letting their loved ones down, each and every day that they are using, can drive someone with an addiction further into the pit of despair. Finally deciding to do right by those who love and depend on us most can produce a sense of peace and joy that hasn’t been experienced in years. After experiencing such relief, ourselves, continuing in sobriety brings that same relief to our families.

Parents stay sober for the wellbeing of their children, partners stay sober for the sake of being a supportive mate, and children stay sober to bring peace to their aging parents.

 

Friends

For some people, their social circle is extremely important. As much as friends love and support us, maintaining an addicted person as part of the group can be overwhelming. People under the influence tend to act in ways that are contrary to the necessary give-and-take of relationships. They may say hurtful things about one friend, or another, or may betray the friendships through making poor decisions. At the least, they are likely to be a source of embarrassment to their friends through ruining get-togethers or events by showing up – or ending up – intoxicated.

Like the sting of knowing we are letting our family down, the sting of knowing that we are slowly sabotaging our friendships can push a person even further into addiction. Being able to make amends and rejoin our place within our social circle has an opposite effect, and can motivate us to continue to pull ourselves up out of the situation which has isolated us from them.

Building new social bonds is often a part of the recovery process too. New sober friends can be made during time spent in various sober living programs or communities.

 

Career

Getting to a place in life where we are secure in our careers can take a long time. There are usually years of hard work and dedication which go into the task of obtaining job security. Education and credentials are obtained, the workplace culture is navigated, and the years are put into proving ourselves to be a valuable asset to the company we work for. The thought of losing all of that effort to an addiction to drugs or alcohol can be enough to motivate some toward taking the important steps to maintain sobriety.

The importance of keeping one’s position at work, in spite of struggles with addiction, has been recognized by the government and by many workplaces. A person whose working ability is severely impacted by addiction can be deemed as protected under the American’s with Disabilities Act.  These protections provide an opportunity for the employee to receive treatment and recover from the addiction before being terminated from the job. There is usually only one chance to take this route, however, which can be a healthy motivation to not give in to drugs or alcohol a second time.

 

Charity

For some, finding a life of sobriety comes later in life. Others might be in a unique position while in younger life, where they don’t find themselves having to dedicate all of their energy toward raising a family or continuing in a career. For these types of people, the greatest motivation for remaining sober may be found in the ability to share their gifts with the world through becoming involved in charity work.

A notable number of substance abuse counselors and sponsors, for instance, are those who have successfully returned from the hell of addiction and achieved recovery, themselves. They are able to use their personal experience and specialized training to assist others along their journey of sobriety. Being able to apply their bad experiences in such a transformative way provides them with the drive and motivation to hold onto their prize of sobriety.

 

Hope

Any type of forward movement in life relies on the basic component of having hope. Hope is the ability to imagine a future where things are better. A person seeking recovery may not yet have a clear idea of what he or she is wanting to achieve, while simultaneously knowing that life can’t just be about scoring that next high or taking that next drink. For these people, starting on the path of recovery is the first step toward clearing the body and mind of the obstacles to forward-thinking that addiction imposes. As their vision grows more clear, they will be able to find their reasons for maintaining their choice of sobriety.

Your Sobriety Can Have A Positive Impact On Others

Substance abuse often starts as an attempt to change what we consider to be a personal problem. Getting drunk or high can seem like a good way to calm anxiety, act more social, get more accomplished, or take a break from stress. Even in the depths of addiction, the substances are likely to continue to produce this escape from your real life.

Unfortunately for those we care about, they are not experiencing any benefits of escape. They are outside of any relief, stuck in reality, and watching us sink into the dead-end pit of destruction that addiction always brings. While getting drunk or high, a substance abuser is busy spreading his or her problems out to others by creating new ones. You might not be worried about your future while you are getting intoxicated, but you are continually giving those who care about you a reason to be very concerned about it.

The intense focus on escaping through addiction can rob us of the ability to be considerate of those who love and care for us. Part of the benefit of getting sober is that you are relieving your loved ones of this extra burden. Your freedom from substance addiction becomes their freedom, too. A relationship that consists of stress and strife can end up blossoming into one of joy, laughter, and mutual sharing. The following are some of the specific ways that your friends, family, and significant others benefit from your sobriety.

 

They Won’t Be As Worried

Watching someone we love play with danger produces anxiety. In some cases, the anxiety experienced when someone other than ourselves is in danger can be worse than going through it, ourselves. Watching someone else act dangerously means that we have no control over the situation. Dealing with a lack of ability to step in and intervene can result in the development of severe mental health problems. Your loved one may end up suffering from related depression, anxiety, or physical health issues due to their concern for you.

Getting sober, and staying that way, can give the gift of greater peace to a loved one who stays up at night, praying for – and worrying about – you. This important person will be able to go to sleep, unconcerned that you might be snorting your last line, smoking your last unknown substance, or driving drunk for the final time. Your loved one won’t be fretting about what kind of people you are hanging around with, or whether someone is going to harm you while your senses are compromised.

 

They Won’t Feel Used

As much as they may loved you, the friends and family of an addicted person can begin to feel resentful over providing you with unlimited resources, while getting nothing in return. Addiction is traditionally a very self-centered problem. While we are worried about escaping problems and scoring that next high, we often aren’t thinking about the needs of others, at all. Friends and family of an addicted person can get very tired of being asked for money, providing a temporary place for you to crash, or cleaning up the messes that you leave behind. Some will even reach a point where they decide that it is better to just cut you off, completely, until you return to your sober senses.

While it is true that the act of love involves giving to someone without expecting anything in return, it is also important to recognize when we are being taken advantage of or enabling the poor behavior of someone else.  Finding those boundaries and applying them can be yet another source of stress for others in your life. Your sobriety gives your loved ones the gift of being able to relax in the knowledge that you are the type of person who gives as much as you take.

 

They Will Know What to Expect

Being able to predict the behaviors of those close to us is one of the factors that makes a relationship

enjoyable. We know which family members always keep their word, and which friends will always go out of their way to help. We know who we can turn to for advice, and who we can spend a fun evening with. Interacting with someone who is in addiction provides none of this security.

Not only does being under the influence of drugs or alcohol change our personalities, but the periods of withdrawal change us, too. Addiction can turn typically honest people into liars, responsible people into slackers, and caring people into sociopaths. As your highs and lows fluctuate, you may even show glimpses of the person that you used to be. The people around you will gradually become very wary of which version of you that they are dealing with. They are likely to eventually not even be able to trust the good parts of you, as they will have grown fearful that they are simply being deceived and manipulated by the addict parts. Returning to the stability of sobriety is the only way to reverse this type of uncertainty for your loved ones.

 

They Will Benefit From Your Growth

One of the beautiful things in life is the fact that our failures, mistakes, and weaknesses can also turn into our greatest strengths. Resilience is the ability to get back up and keep going after a hardship. The ability to exercise resilience is the best predictor of the ability to achieve life-long success, and people who have recovered from addiction have proven themselves to have this positive trait.

Once you have successfully overcome your experience of addiction, you will be in a unique position to share your strength, wisdom, insight, and understanding with those around you. Rather than being considered the problem child or the black sheep of the family, you can find that you become the rock that the family depends on. You have the opportunity to develop the coping skills and emotional maturity that only going through a hardship can produce, and will be able to give those blessings back to your loved ones.

Finding The Support You Need In Recovery

Finding The Support You Need In Recovery

One of the most important factors in successful recovery from a drug or alcohol addiction is learning how to ask for help when it is needed. It is often the case that being isolated from positive influence fuels the beginning stages of addiction, and is the nature of addiction to perpetuate that negative path. Addiction has often been called a disease of isolation, and reaching out for support is the first step of many toward freeing yourself from the cycle.

 

Support From Family

The primary function of a family is to provide us with a ready-made social structure. Ideally, we learn how to feel safe, supported, and unconditionally loved through those first humans we encounter after birth. The only one who suffers as much as the person in addiction is the family member who is concerned about it. Many prayers, sleepless nights, and tears are experienced by a family member who is worried that an addicted loved one won’t make it through another day.

The family members who provide the best support during your time of recovery will be those who are understanding, non-judgmental, and educated in the dynamics of what an addict needs for recovery. They will understand the importance of reducing relationship friction for the recovering person, and will have good boundaries in place toward not enabling the person in recovery to continue to the substance use behavior in their presence.

 

Support From Friends

If you already have a group of friends who have been cheering you on toward your recovery, you are in a great position. The friends who stick by you during your hardest times are generally the ones worth keeping once your life has improved. There is a tendency, however, for those in the middle of substance abuse to gather other people around them who also abuse drugs or alcohol. Once you have made the decision to get sober, it may be necessary to eliminate these social connections. Particularly during the early stages of recovery, the added temptation to use that these types of acquaintances bring can not often be afforded.

For some, good friends become a surrogate family. This may be due to irreconcilable differences, large distances, or lack of availability of biological family members. Mental health services have expanded the perspective of what constitutes a family, and many treatment programs invite a participant to bring in anyone whom the client considers to fit the description. The most important factor in a relationship during recovery is that you feel supported, encouraged, and understood by your loved one.

 

Support Through Therapy

Substance abuse treatment programs usually offer some form of therapy in tandem with providing tools which are directed exclusively toward remaining sober. The justification for this addition of services lies in the fact that many of those who are struggling with substance abuse are also struggling with mental health issues. The relationship between substance abuse and mental health problems becomes cyclical, with one factor negatively impacting the other. It can be difficult to piece out which problem came first. This dual-factor experience is known as a co-occurring disorder.

Once you have made it through the initial stages of detoxification, and are ready to start doing the work of figuring out your sober life, therapy can provide a space for exploring the issues which began long before the substance addiction, and those which have worked to push you toward the escapism that being under the influence provides. Discovering parts of yourself which have been overlooked, developing new perspectives on old experiences, and gaining more effective methods of approaching life are some of the benefits of participating in therapy.

 

Support Through Education

You may have noticed that many substance abuse support specialists experienced their own battles with drugs or alcohol, and won. Their position, now, as substance abuse counselors, shows that they did not stop there. They went on to solidify their recovery fortress through adding the coursework and putting in the hours necessary to be in a position to assist those who come after. Obtaining support for your recovery through higher education can simultaneously equip you with tools to face your own challenges, and equip you with the credentials necessary to help others with theirs.

While beginning a program to become a substance abuse counselor usually requires that some amount of recovery time be under the belt, there are other ways that education can help, meanwhile. The internet has become nearly an infinite source of information, and issues concerning the dynamics of substance abuse and recovery abound. Educating yourself about topics such as self-care, boundary setting, codependency, abusive relationships, family interactions, and co-occurring disorders can provide you with insight and inspiration to continue onward.

 

Support From a Sober Living Community

The benefits of a sober living community encompass all of the above attributes. While plugged in, you can receive professional support, psychoeducation, and a ready-made social network of people who are invested in your continued recovery. If your community program includes a living facility, you will be provided with a safe place to rejuvenate and retrain your habits to not include drugs and alcohol.

Those who operate a sober living home understand the importance of environment on recovery. The process of maintaining an addiction includes many routines and familiar settings. Getting yourself into a place where you are challenged to operate in new ways can allow your brain the space to rewire toward filling your time with other pursuits and activities. Sober living homes are also safe spaces, where you can expect that others will not be harassing you or putting substances in your path.

Sober living facilities tend to house several participants at one time, meaning that there is ample opportunity to connect with other people who are on a similar journey of life improvement. There are opportunities to participate in support groups, therapy, and fun social outings. Some programs even include job training and job placement options, for those who need a fresh start on their career path.

What Are the Next Steps After Treatment?

What Are The Next Steps After Treatment

The experience of spending weeks in a sober living community can be exactly what is needed during the initial stages of recovery. There will come a time, however, that you are ready to leave that comforting oasis. Once you have your sober feet under you, you will be expected to begin that long journey of exploration into the rest of the world that was avoided in your addiction. Before leaving on this quest, you will want to have your mental bags packed and your emotional supplies stocked. The following are some of the challenges of continued sober living that you will want to be prepared for.

 

Staying Mindful of Triggers

One of the most beneficial aspects of staying in a sober living facility is that of being in a novel environment. The scenery, routines, and socialization have all been specially created to provide you with the best tools for success. Once you are ready to leave this ideal environment you will need to be equipped with coping mechanisms that can apply in the real world.

Once venturing back out into the territories where your addiction began and was sustained, you are likely to encounter old, familiar, situations. These situations are likely to bring thoughts and feelings up that you were able to avoid while under the protection of the sober living facility. When a situation causes you to reconsider your choice of sobriety, it is known as a trigger.

Triggers for your temptation to relapse can come in the form of feelings, thoughts, sights, or even smells. They can occur when visiting certain locations or interacting with certain people. While the easiest tactic for reducing triggers is to not encounter them in the first place, this isn’t always realistic. You may be required to go back into the war zone, and will need to put your coping skills to the test. Recognize triggers for what they are, when they occur, and have a plan in place for how you are going to avoid acting on them.

 

Maintaining Healthy Habits

Many sober living communities provide participants with nutritious meals, exercise routines, and regular self-care activities. Once you are out on your own, it will be up to you to make sure that your daily routine continues to include these benefits to your lifestyle. An aftercare plan which you develop with your sober living support staff can be useful for this task.

The perks of eating healthy are often underestimated. When the body is supplied with proper nutrition, not only do we have more energy for tasks, but our overall mood can be increased. Studies have shown that integrating nutritional understanding into a treatment program can even reduce the risks of relapse. Staying on top of a healthy diet while in the home can provide similar benefits.

Those who exercise regularly increase their odds of living longer. It has been found that exercising just 15 minutes a day can increase life expectancy by several years. With your newly established sobriety, increased self-insight, and improved mood, you will want to stick around and enjoy life for as long as possible. Your loved ones will want you around, as well.

 

Nurturing Relationships

Chances are good that your sober living program placed emphasis on the importance of forming and maintaining healthy relationships. There is a strong tendency for people to adopt the attitudes and habits of those around them. You will want to make sure that the influences that you surround yourself with after leaving a sober living community remain positive. Many people will continue to rely on the friendships formed during the initial stages of recovery as a means of ensuring this.

Returning home to loved ones as a sober friend and family member can present a unique set of challenges. Those who have observed or been victims of your intoxicated behaviors may be skeptical of the changes that you are presenting. It is recommended that at least six months of positive change be extended before friends and family begin to trust that this new you is the real you.

 

Navigating New Situations

Unless you are one of the fortunate people who have a job waiting for you upon your successful graduation from a sober living program, you are most likely going to need to form a new, practical, game plan for sustaining yourself. This may involve returning to school for a degree, gaining new job skills through a training program, or hitting the pavement to turn in job applications.

You may also be required to find a new place to live, or may find yourself in the middle of relationship struggles as time progresses.  Job stress, moving to a new location, and relationship problems are some of the most stressful situations one can experience. The more these type of situations pop up, the more temptation there can be to escape all of the problems through using drugs or alcohol.  Along with maintaining your sobriety, you will need to actively be applying your new coping skills to any of these challenges that life throws your way.

 

Continuing in Counseling

Many people who end up in addiction arrive there due to having unresolved mental health issues. The presence of a mental health condition in tandem with a substance abuse problem is known as dual diagnosis. In these cases, it is not enough to only treat the problem of the substance abuse. Underlying factors can not only continue to impede your happiness, but can be the undoing of a resolve to stay sober.

Common mental health problems that are associated with substance abuse include depression, anxiety, PTSD, and schizophrenia. During substance abuse periods, it can be hard to discern whether the observed symptoms are due to the negative effects of the substance, or due to deeper issues. Once you have cleared out the possibility of the substances being the source of your problems, you will be better able to address any mental health concerns that continue to hold you back from becoming your best self. Exploring these issues with a good counselor can provide you with a clear path forward.

Setting Sober Boundaries In Friendships & Relationships

Setting Sober Boundries in Friendships and Relationships

Once you have decided to take the steps toward living a life of sobriety, you are likely to find that other aspects of your life are also calling for change. One of the most noticeable areas of change often has to do with the dynamics of your relationships. While working on changing your own thought patterns and ineffective coping responses, you will also be navigating interactions with others from a new perspective.

It is inevitable that the topic of your sobriety will, at some point, become a factor in your socialization. It is important to have plans in place for how you will approach situations which can trigger your temptation to use. Some plans for setting sober boundaries work better than others, and you may find that you try out more than one approach before settling on what works best for you.

 

Ask Others to Abstain

At the most extreme level of boundary setting is the expectation that friends and family will respect your sobriety by not willfully exposing you to temptation. This tactic relies on others restricting their own behaviors, and can be difficult to manage. There is the possibility that resentments will arise, or that feelings will be hurt over perceived lack of understanding on behalf of one party or another. You may be offended when a loved one disregards your request to refrain from drinking or using around you, and they may be offended that you are imposing your own beliefs upon them.

 

Leave the Situation

A step down from the approach of asking others to not bring substances into your presence is to let it be known that you will take your leave if such a situation arises. This method of avoiding temptation depends on the dedication of the individual in recovery to flee when the temptation to relapse becomes too strong. A downside to this tactic is that it may be viewed as passive-aggressive behavior, which is a way of attempting to control the behaviors of others through mental and emotional manipulation. Friends and family may perceive your sudden leaving as a statement of disgust at their failure to abide by the rules of your sobriety, and may be left with a feeling of unease at your departure.

 

Filter Your Friendships

The situation of avoiding being exposed to drugs or alcohol is often best controlled through being selective about who we hang around. Chances are good that, while in the midst of substance abuse, you kept people around you who were not interested in your recovery. They may have been the ones to supply you with the drugs or alcohol, or may have been the ones to encourage you to score it. They may have just been the type of people who constantly annoy or depress you, which indirectly contributed to your wanting to escape the situation through intoxication.

If the people who have a negative impact on your decision to stay sober are not on the same page when you finally decide to get clean, their continued influence can make your road to recovery much more difficult. The people we choose to hang around can make a big difference on the type of people that we become. Use this time of recovery to clean house as far as friends go. Choose a new set of friends out of the people whom you attract while in this better place in life. You don’t have to let the old ones go, entirely, but you can put those friendships on the back burner while focusing on recreating yourself.

 

Be Picky About a Partner

When we are younger, many of us will find that we just kind of fall into a romantic relationship. The person we end up with is someone who just happened to be around, a lot, and the relationship is based on exposure and proximity. This phenomena makes the importance of the aforementioned boundary of filtering friendships all the more important. In the case that we do fall for someone nearby, in the future, we will want to make sure that we are in a good position for that someone to be a positive influence on our lives.

It is usually recommended that those in recovery abstain from getting into a romantic relationship for at least the first year of sobriety. While this may seem restricting, it is based on sound principles. The initial stages of recovery involve a lot of internal and external readjustments to your life. It isn’t fair to bring someone new into it while you are in the middle of rebuilding, and doing so may actually take you off course from your best laid plans for a better life. Take time to discover the real, sober, you before determining what kind of partner fits best with your lifestyle.

 

Reduce the Codependency

Those who are already in a committed relationship at the time of choosing sobriety have a unique set of challenges. There are often many dysfunctional patterns in place within relationships where one or both  partners are indulging in addiction. Changing these patterns between two people can be much more difficult than changing the patterns of the individual. The road to recovery while in a relationship can be kind of like running a three-legged race. Both parties have to keep moving forward, or no one makes progress.

If you are finding that your partner is not interested in running this same race with you, you have some tough decisions to make. Some may decide that the relationship is not able to be salvaged, and will decide to go it alone. Others may benefit from education and counseling in the area of codependency. Increasing boundaries through reducing codependency means that the ability of the reluctant partner to negatively affect your recovery is reduced through your own growth. You can learn to resist temptation to engage in negative interactions with your partner, and can find new ways of coping with any stresses that the relationship produces.

The Difficulties Of Adjusting To Sober Life

The Difficulties of Adjusting To Sober Life

The road to recovery can be difficult. If it were an easy journey, more people would be choosing the path of sobriety. Knowing what to expect during this time of transition can assist with giving an extra boost of resolve when you are tempted to throw in the towel. The following is an overview of the various areas of difficulty that you are likely to encounter during this restructuring period of your life. These difficulties are well-known to substance abuse survivors and professionals, and support exists for any of these areas that you may struggle with.

 

Physical Difficulties

The first difficulty that many people experience when getting sober is withdrawal. Withdrawal refers to the shock of a body to no longer receiving the input of a substance that it has come to rely on for regular functioning. Symptoms of withdrawal vary along with the type of substance in question, but often involve flu-like features. Headaches, nausea, body temperature dysregulation, and intestinal problems are some of the most common symptoms.

Once the initial effects of withdrawal are navigated, a person in recovery will be faced with choices about how to build a physical life which doesn’t include drugs or alcohol. He or she may notice that there are large chunks of time that were wasted by using, and these blocks of time now need to be filled with other, more healthy, activities. Using this newly discovered free time to focus on repairing the damage that substances have done to the body is a good approach. Not only can a good diet and exercise contribute to a longer and more energetic life, they can also assist with the mental and emotional aspects of recovery.

 

Mental Difficulties

The primary function of drugs and alcohol is that of altering our mental perceptions of reality. While we are experiencing the desired effects of a substance on our ability to relax, have fun, or focus, our brains are actually being physically altered. Consistent substance use can actually rewire our brains to a point that it forgets how to function without the instructions from the drug.

The way that this happens is more complex than can be explained solely by the chemical reactions in the brain. Humans have an innate desire to experience the sensation of being rewarded. This desire to experience reward is what motivates us to work hard toward our goals and aspirations. Drugs and alcohol produce an artificial feeling of reward, and one which requires no hard work to achieve. This can be a problem for a person who is starting out in recovery. No longer having access to the immediate gratification of chemical reward can be frustrating and depressing. It takes time for a person in recovery to retrain the brain into understanding that the real rewards will only come after some time and effort have been extended.

Apart from retraining our thoughts to be focused on longer term goals, there also tend to be some issues requiring processing adjustments. You may find that your short term memory is rusty, or that your attention span is nonexistent. Those experiencing this can take heart in the knowledge that science has finally shown that the brain can regrow neurons after being damaged through drug and alcohol use. It may take some time, but you have a good shot at being able to get back up to mental speed after a long enough period of sobriety.

 

Emotional Difficulties

Closely linked to mental difficulties is that of emotional difficulties. Our emotions can be tricky things, influenced by everything from hormones and human instincts to our developed thought patterns. Drugs and alcohol play a very large part in influencing these emotions, and a person in recovery may find that he or she does not know what to do with the experience of intense, sober, feelings. Some of these feelings may be exactly what the person in addiction was seeking to avoid through the numbing power of substances.

One of the most powerful techniques for navigating the intensity of emotions during recovery is the practice of mindfulness. Being mindful allows you the space to just let the emotions pass through, without trying to control them, act on them, or fight them off. Validating your experience of emotions in this way, without allowing them to dictate your behavior, can provide a doorway into exploring yourself and your needs in a new, healthy, way.

 

Social Difficulties

Substance abuse can be devastating to relationships. A person in active use will often end up cutting ties with those who disagree with the addiction, and gathering people around who support it. During recovery, this social pattern will need to be reversed. Old relationships will likely need to be mended, and new relationships – with sober friends – will need to be formed. Isolation from others can be a red flag for relapse, and you will need people around you who will hold you accountable for staying engaged in your recovery.

 

Practical Difficulties

Depending on how far addiction ended up taking control of your life, you may find that you are now in a position to need to rebuild your approach toward providing for your basic needs. It may be the case that you need to find new housing, get a job, or obtain some career training and education. The consideration of gaining all of these necessary resources can be daunting. It is important to not attempt to do too much, too soon. It didn’t take a day to sink into addiction, and it will take more than a day to get out of it.

While giving yourself time to get to know yourself better, be on alert for any resource links that become available to you as you continue to connect with your sober support system. Many communities offer temporary assistance with housing and job training, along with providing ongoing education and encouragement in maintaining your sobriety. As social awareness of the nature and prevalence of substance abuse grows, more resources are becoming available.

Where to Turn For Help After Relapse

Where to Turn For Help After Relapse

It is hardly possible to talk about recovery without mentioning relapse. The instance of relapse for a recovering individual is so common, that many substance abuse treatment programs now include it as part of the process of recovery. Not only is it common, but it can actually be something which brings you closer to your goal of sobriety. Relapsing while under conditions which are different than your old patterns of addiction can ultimately assist you in developing better immunity toward your cravings.

In order to turn an instance of relapse into eventual victory, the first step after experiencing it is to not panic. You are not alone in the experience, and the lapse in judgment does not mean that you have to continue to slide down the slippery slope of addiction. Acknowledge that you have stumbled along your journey, and then look for ways to help yourself move forward. The following are some options for you to explore when seeking hope and direction after relapse.

 

Call On Your Higher Power

There aren’t very many spiritual or religious belief systems which claim that humans are unredeemable and need to be condemned for making mistakes. There is good reason for this. Most of us believe, deep down, that people are worthy of love, healing, and forgiveness. If we believe that exists for other people, then it surely applies to ourselves, as well.

One of the hardest thing for many people to do is to be kind to themselves after making an error. Instead of seeking comfort, there is a tendency to hide in shame and to beat ourselves up. The roots of this tendency can be traced all the way back to the book of Genesis, which recorded this phenomena almost three thousand years ago. In the iconic story of creation, humans were recorded as being filled with dread for doing wrong. They resorted to lying in an attempt to cover it up.

Whether your conception of a higher power aligns with the stories in the Bible, or not, it is important to not fall into this very common, and very human, trap. When we are busy punishing ourselves for our failures, we are not free to look upward and outward toward a brighter future. When dealing with relapse, take time to examine your personal belief systems, and to grab onto whatever light and love you need for encouragement to continue on.

 

Look To Loved Ones

While few who ascribe to a spiritual belief system will dispute the benefit of divine grace, there is still a protective factor which faith, alone, does not provide. As human beings, we need to be around other people. If we are blessed enough to have positive, supportive, and loving people in our lives, these dear ones can provide us with the motivation that we need to dust off and continue our journey of sobriety. Studies have shown that, in particular, loved ones who are educated about the nature of addiction and the process of recovery play a crucial role in recovery. If your friends and family are abundant in love, but lacking in knowledge, take this opportunity to fill them in on the best way that they can support you following your relapse. A benefit of educating them in this way is that you are likely to learn a thing or two about your relationship with addiction, as well.

 

Join A Sober Living Community

The benefits of belonging to a sober living community after relapse are numerous. The dwelling provides you with a safe and substance-free environment. You will be surrounded by people who have been on a similar journey, and so are primed to encourage you in your recovery. You will be supported by professionals, who understand the intricacies of how to approach someone who has relapsed. And you will be in a position to receive more and better tools toward managing your cravings as you move forward.

 

Healthy Environment

Sober living communities are precisely that. They consist of a community of people who are similarly committed to living a life of sobriety. They usually consist of a rented dwelling, managed by people who are supportive of the idea that sobriety is much easier to maintain when a person has a stable, substance-free, environment to live in. To this end, there are usually some basic rules in place, including participation in house chores and an agreement that you will not use drugs or alcohol while you are living there. For someone who has attempted sobriety on his or her own, yet struggles with relapse, having the extra accountability and safety provided by a sober living home may be the extra layer of security that is needed for success.

 

Social Support

Positive social support is a key factor in maintaining sobriety. The residents of a sober living community provide a ready-made social circle of positive people. As part of social support group development, many sober living homes require that sobriety group meetings be attended by all. This may come in the form of required 12-step meetings at an outside location, or of customized support group meetings within the home. There are also often opportunities to participate in fun and sober activities, such as going to the movies or out to eat. These meetings and activities provide an opportunity to bond with your fellow life travelers, and to forge a social network which is supportive of recovery maintenance.

 

Professional Guidance

Substance abuse treatment programs are run by specialists in the field. They have often obtained unique training and certification, and have logged many hours of intervention before graduation. They are trained in assessing your situation, assisting in any detox necessary, and in providing you with the tools necessary for each stage of your recovery journey. These professionals can provide you with the coping skills that you need to make a different decision about your drug or alcohol use in the future, and can assist you in learning to avoid triggering situations, all together.

7 Tips For Staying Sober With Alcohol Around You

Tips For Staying Sober With Alcohol Around

The decision to not drink alcohol is easy enough to make when there is no option to have it. Unless we plan to live our lives in a bubble, however, the chances of encountering situations where the alcohol is flowing freely are likely to occur. Family gatherings, work parties, and get-togethers with friends all carry with them the possibility that you will be offered a drink.

It is important that you go into these situations armed with a game plan, so that a momentary lapse in your judgment won’t result in setting you back from your recovery goals. The following are a some tips to try when preplanning your escape route from situations where the temptation to drink may be high.

 

Tip #1: Bring Your Own Beverages

One option for reducing the temptation to drink with your buddies is to bring your own, non-alcoholic, beverages with you. As nationwide recognition of a need for recovery increases, more options are being made available in choices of non-alcoholic beers. Try bringing along a six pack of your favorite flavor. For those who enjoy the taste of mixed drinks, there are several mock cocktail options available. You might even impress your friends with your ability to mix drinks that are both tasty, and free from negative consequences.

 

Tip #2: Surround Yourself With Sober Friends

Most of us remember having those friends which we once considered to be sticks in the mud. They were the folks who refused to drink, even while we were urging them to lighten up and join the party. Those types of people can be appreciated while we are on the other side of recovery. It appears that they knew something, all along, that it takes the rest of us a hard road to learn. These are the types of friends that will be sure to support you in your commitment to not drink, and make valuable allies to take along with you to events which are going to have the taps flowing.

If you aren’t able to take these lifelong non-drinkers along with you, look to your new recovery friends.  One of the benefits of joining recovery groups or communities is that the members provide a level of accountability for each other. When one of you is feeling weak toward the temptation to drink, the other will likely be in a place to encourage commitment to sobriety. Your recovery partners can be there to remind you of your ultimate goals, and can provide a fun diversion from interacting with intoxicated people.

 

Tip #3: Engage in Physical Activity

Drinking is a largely sedentary activity. It is hard to hold a drink in your hand while you are dancing, running, or playing a sport. Whenever possible, make sure you are signing up to participate in any physical activities that are available at an event. For those who have a competitive side, simply knowing that a drink will diminish your ability to focus on the win can provide enough security to abstain. You won’t want intoxication to make you a sloppy athlete.

 

Tip #4: Declare Yourself the Designated Driver

Not everyone is comfortable with a long evening of explaining that he or she doesn’t drink anymore. An easy way to get around this self-disclosure is to volunteer to be a designated driver. Those who are still involved in the world of drinking tend to sincerely appreciate this supposed self-sacrifice, and you will be able to gracefully avoid being offered a drink. Additionally, knowing that you are the one responsible for making sure everyone gets home safe can replace the sense of missing out with a sense of purpose.

 

Tip #5: Commit to Another Engagement

Yet another tactic for making sure that you get out of a situation with your recovery intact is to make it known that you will have to be leaving early. Not only does this put others on alert that they should not be offering you drinks, it provides insurance against you changing your mind. Knowing that you have to complete a task or meet an obligation after the party can keep you focused on the importance of staying sober during the event.

 

Tip # 6: Bring The Games

Similarly to how physical activity can reduce the urge to drink, being mentally engaged can distract from the lure of dulling your mental acuity with alcohol. Group games range from silly to cerebral, and can be customized to the personality styles of those participating. Your more intellectual friends may enjoy a game of words or knowledge sharing, while your more theatrical friends may enjoy a game of charades or picture drawing. Taking on the role of game master will provide you with a distraction from the alcohol, and joining in will be an opportunity for everyone to see that it is possible to have fun without it.

 

Tip #7: Remember Why You Stopped Drinking

When it comes to using substances, most people are tempted only by the good aspects of it. A user imagines the scenario where emotions are numbed, thoughts are more focused, or a better time is able to be experienced. The temptation rarely presents itself with information about the other side of that coin. With every benefit of drinking comes a side effect which is not nearly as pleasant. This downside can range from making regrettable decisions to risking our very life.

When the temptation to drink hits, spend time pondering those negative consequences which prompted you to stop drinking in the first place. What is it that alcohol has stolen from you over these years? In what ways has imbibing kept your life from developing in the way you once dreamed of? Counteracting the seductive voice of temptation with the reality of your situation can provide that extra boost of resolve needed while navigating through situations involving availability of alcohol. The beauty of this tip is that it can be applied at any time, and under any circumstances. The only tool needed for it is that of your own insight.

Picking Up The Pieces of Your Life In Recovery

Picking up the pieces of your life

The Betty Ford Institute defines recovery as “a voluntarily maintained lifestyle composed characterized by sobriety, personal health, and citizenship.” Sobriety refers to the act of refraining from using substances which are not prescribed to you by a doctor. Personal health refers to taking care of your mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. Citizenship refers to the position of holding a meaningful and respectable role within your community.

For a person who is just beginning the journey of recovery, these milestones of success may seem lofty and unobtainable. The key to reaching this mountaintop lies in the small steps which are taken on a daily basis. You may end up completing these small steps in a different order than other people approach them. Life is a puzzle, and we each have our own way of putting our puzzle together. The important thing is that there are no missing pieces when we are done.

 

Stabilize Your Environment

It is very hard to make good decisions about our future while we are in the middle of chaos. It is in our human nature to react to a stressful situation on instincts, and to leave the deep thinking for later. In order to reach your fullest potential in recovery, you need some space for your introspective thoughts and rational planning skills to develop. For many, this means leaving old environments behind through entering a sober living facility. For others, the environment will be stabilized by refusing to allow certain individuals to come into your space. Do what you need to do to clear out the clutter of your mental, emotional, and physical life, just like you would clear off a table before bringing out a box of puzzle pieces to work on.

 

Develop New Relationships

When we are living a life of addiction, we tend to attract others who are of a similar mindset. They may not be using the same drugs, or abusing the same alcohol, but they will tend to support the fact that we do so. During recovery, you are likely to find that these types of relationships no longer fit into your big picture. While working on putting together your own life, it is important to surround yourself others who are on a similar journey of self-improvement. These healthier relationships will operate through encouragement, sharing, teaching, and providing accountability during times that you are tempted to give up. As you interact and learn more about your new friends, you will be learning more about yourself.

 

Define Your Goals

When we aim for nothing, nothing is what we will likely hit. Once the instant gratification of substance abuse is removed, you will be able to consider where it is that you really want to go in life. Once you know where you want to go, it will help to find people who can provide insight into how to get there. Teachers, mentors, life coaches, therapists, and successful friends are all great sources to consult when sketching out your game plan for the future. Try using a template for SMART goals to make sure that you are covering all of your bases.

 

Institute Healthy Habits

A vital aspect of reaching our goals is to develop healthy habits. Things in life that are worth having rarely arise from lack of action. Those who are successful have learned that there are often periods of time that we are called upon to stick to our plan, even when it appears too boring, hard, or long. Sticking to the plan is able to be accomplished through deciding upon a schedule which balances self-discipline , and self-care. The discipline will help you to press on when your energy levels are low, and the self-care will give you some much needed recharge.

 

Develop Good Character

It is generally considered that there are six aspects which comprise good character. Those aspects are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. Being trustworthy means that others know that you are a person of your word. Respect is earned through being respectful of the needs and boundaries of others. Responsibility is developed over time, as we demonstrate that we have the ability to complete our obligations. We practice fairness and caring when we take the needs of others into account. Possessing all of these traits means that we are acting as a benefit for humankind. We become givers, rather than takers.

 

Work On Damaged Relationships

As we tend to find out early in life, the only people that we can change is ourselves. While you are busy putting the puzzle of your life back together, you may find that your life just does not feel complete without the presence of those whom you have been estranged from during your addiction. It may be the case that they have wronged you, and it is likely the case that you have wronged them. As the person who has been developing good character, the responsibility to mend those relationships may fall upon you. Reaching out to them with love and forgiveness can provide the foundation for building a new – and better – relationship. It may take time for those relationships to heal, completely, but your continued striving toward becoming your best self will be observable evidence that can embolden others toward making life changes toward reconciliation, as well.

 

Get Involved in Your Community

Think about the most successful people that you know. Chances are, they are also people who are well known, and well respected, within the communities that they live in. Being active within a community is a vital piece of overall mental and emotional wellness. Giving our time, energy, knowledge, and resources to help others provides us with meaning and purpose. For a person in recovery, this stage of life development is often the time that you end up finding your true self, and the person who was shrouded in darkness during the time of addiction. Getting to the point of taking your place in society – using whichever gifts you have been endowed with – is your time to shine.