The essence of addiction treatment is to stay sober. But that’s not really why you go into treatment. As simple as that objective might sound, a more accurate description would be to learn to enjoy sobriety.
That’s a message a lot of people tend to miss as they embark on their journey of recovery. Some people misunderstand sobriety as a lifelong oath to not have fun, but ultimately, it’s fun that keeps you sober. Very few people have the willpower to be sober, perpetually miserable, and not willing to relapse.
You might be able to stay sober just for the sake of sobriety for a while, but the temptation eventually catches up with you. You have to replace it over time with things that make staying sober well worth it, over a life of addiction.
Have a Backup Plan
No matter how committed you are to your day-to-day, you can still have bad days. The brain takes a solid few months to recover from an addiction, and the emotional effects of those days can linger for years – to the point that it can be considered a chronic disease. Aside from how drugs scar the brain and change the way you process certain things, drug use is also very difficult to deal with from a stress aspect. As such, the scarring it leaves behind can be significant enough that, some days, it all just seems like too much and you would rather be getting high.
That’s why you need a backup plan. A place to go, a person to call, a thing to do. A list of things for when you really need something to remind you that being sober is worth it, and that you really shouldn’t break your commitment. In sober living circles and similar such groups, recovering addicts with enough time and experience under their belts become sponsors to those who are new to the program, and struggling. Part of sponsorship is having someone to call or rely on when you need that emotional support.
But the same goes for any support system. Call your parents, or your partner, or someone you can trust who can help set you straight. Sober living homes are perfect for this. But if you’re feeling that the stress you’ve been going through has gotten to your head but you finally have the time to take a break from it all, then going on a short vacation or staying at a nice sober community can help you get your head back on straight, and focus on the days, weeks, and months ahead.
Work on Your Relationships
Few things in life are as fulfilling as being in a healthy loving relationship with another person. It could be platonic, or a romantic bond between partners, or the parental bond between a parent and their child. Whatever relationship you want to focus on the most, take your time to work on them. Spend more time with your loved one or friend and learn to trust them.
If you had a lot of “friends” before sobriety who helped encourage you to get to where you were, then chances are you’re through with those relationships and might be in need of some new friends. The Internet has made finding such friends easier than ever. You don’t even have to go hang out in places to find people – just get into a local online community of an interest of your choice and attend the local meetups. It could be a group dedicated to board games, or sports, or a movie series, or something else.
The stronger your relationships with those you care about the most, the less likely you are to relapse.
Keep Things Fresh
Aside from potentially making new friends, also consider trying out new things. It never hurts to explore your creative side, check out new hobbies, or generally spend more time doing things you’ve never done before.
Sobriety is a great time for exploration. It’s arguably the best time for it, as you’re meant to try and figure out who you are now that you’re attempting to put this chapter of pain and struggle behind you. That means testing things out, being creative, and taking the time to think and consider what you might want to try out, no matter what it might be.
That means doing things you might’ve been scared of before, even if it means something out of the norm like trying your hand at being a barber or taking culinary classes.
Establish a Career
Or, more accurately, make a living doing something you actually enjoy doing, and something that’s worth doing. Some people get into addiction partially because of the stress of working a job they don’t care for, either just for the money or because there are no alternatives. Work is important, not only because we have to make money to support ourselves, but because having a job and maintaining employment gives you a sense of purpose. This feeling is even stronger when you’re doing something you care for more strongly.
On the other hand, some people find it fulfilling to climb the ranks of employment and reach a greater position of power within a certain company. Or sometimes, being a reliable part of a small business can give you that feeling of being integral, having the responsibility and accountability that might have been missing in your life before.
These tips are not the only ways to stay sober. Everyone has their own tricks and ideas, and it’s not guaranteed that because one thing worked for someone, it’ll work for everyone else. However, a lot of these tips essentially boil down to the same thing: work on yourself. Whether it’s improving your ability to communicate and coexist with others, gaining new skills, spending time with old hobbies, or taking the time to focus on your future, there are countless things worth doing with your time now that you have more of it to spend. The only question is where to begin.