Staying clean at a rehab facility or a sober living home is difficult, but nothing compared to the struggle of continuing a sober life while still fighting the urge to use again in an environment without the same level of control that you might have come to expect in recovery clinics. The daily struggle to stay clean is a part of recovery – and yes, it does get easier.
While most people relapse in the first year after recovery, only a fraction (15 percent) relapse after five years. And over time, that number continues to drop. The idea that it becomes easier over time to stay sober is data-driven – but that doesn’t change that early on, it’s exceptionally hard. Knowing how to stay sober is key – but what exactly does that entail?
A Support Network Is Important
You’re not in this alone – nor should you ever be. Beating an addiction isn’t about willpower, it’s about consistency. You need to stay sober day in and day out but doing that on your own isn’t just a tall ask, it’s unrealistic.
That’s where a support network becomes important. A support network is a collection of people you can rely on to help you when you really need them. They’re your friends, your family, and the professional help that has helped you get this far. Ideally, you’ll want to be a part of at least a few support networks as well – just as those we love help us, we should all aim to help those we love.
Do not rely on one person to keep you clean while you’re going through recovery – supporting someone going through addiction treatment is much more than a one-man job. Anything can count as help – from giving you a ride to and from your daily meetings, to having a place for you to stay when your current home is too much to handle with constant memories and triggers related to your days as an addict.
The hardest part about having a support network for many addicts who learned to stay independent is the idea of depending on others. We all need to do away with the notion that we’re independent people. An independent existence is lonely beyond belief, and often more selfish than anything else. Few people lead truly independent lives.
We’re always part of a system, always part of a greater whole – from our families, to our communities, to our nations. We’ve all grown up in a world forged by countless lives, many of whom were given in the name of helping others lead better ones. Many people wake up every day to serve others, whether as a waiter or a doctor or a firefighter. To depend on others isn’t to give up all autonomy in your own life, but to accept that sometimes, we need assistance to get us through hard times, so we can be our best selves for those we care about the most, and society in general.
When It Becomes Too Much
Some days are really good, and some days are really bad. It’s important to celebrate good days, but it’s just as important (if not more so) to have a plan for the bad days. Whether your plan is to call a friend or a sponsor or your therapist, having a number to call or a place to go to matters.
Preventing relapses is more important than overcoming them and having a plan in place that you can simply execute without having to think a great deal about it matters. Be sure to discuss your plan with your loved one, sponsor, or therapist – talk to them about what you should do on your bad days and how you should contact them.
Sometimes, It’s Okay to Relapse
It’s important to remember that a relapse doesn’t mean your recovery has failed. While it’s a misstep, relapses are also an opportunity to better understand your triggers, reflect on what went wrong, and work with a professional to find ways to avoid similar issues in the future. Even if the reason for your relapse is, on the surface, as simple as struggling to maintain sobriety over a long period of time, there are always deeper factors to consider. Recovery programs aren’t meant to provide you with the motivation needed to stay sober for decades. Sobriety, like any relationship, is something you need to work on over time.
It’s likely that you’re going to relapse, more than once even. While you shouldn’t treat it as an inevitability, it’s important to reframe how you might feel about a relapse. It’s going to feel terrible, that’s for sure – but by prioritizing a positive takeaway over a constant feeling of shame and self-doubt, you can turn a setback into the best step forward you could’ve made.
There are many ways to work on your sobriety, but the most important one is to make sure you always have something to achieve, a goal to reach, or a purpose to fulfill. Don’t let your life stagnate. Instead of going back to rehab and then heading back into your ‘normal life’ try adapting new lifestyle changes and maintain your road to recovery by going to weekly meetings, scheduling regular visits with a therapist, and helping others in early recovery learn through your experiences to improve in their own journey and manage their goals of long-term sobriety.
Remember Why You Started Recovery
Whatever it might be that finally convinced you that it’s time to stop, you need to hold onto that and reflect on it from time to time. We live in a day and age where it’s easy for the days to blend together and fly past us – but reflection is crucial for a healthy state of mind.
Keep a journal, write a blog, take pictures, or just log your emotional progress in a notepad. Whatever you do, keep track of your progress and take the time now and again (or on a specific date) to look back on where you were, and where you are. It’s easy to feel stuck despite the endless goal-chasing, and goal-chasing often doesn’t make us any happier – it just keeps us busy and focused. Take the time to think on why you decided to get sober, and understand that even if the time since going sober hasn’t felt like you might’ve expected it to, there might have been more change in your life than you realized.