Just as undergoing addiction detox and attending treatment is one step in the recovery journey, so, too, is life after treatment. Recovery is an ongoing process — one might go so far as to call it a lifestyle — so it follows that recovery doesn’t reach completion after you get sober. Staying sober after detox is just as, if not more, important than getting sober in the first place.
And while none of this is an easy undertaking, it is possible.
How to get sober and stay sober
Of course, getting sober requires a mental shift that views addiction and substance use as damaging and dangerous to your physical and mental health. This realization should hopefully usher you into a willingness for a detox and addiction treatment program. Under the guidance of medical professionals and mental health therapists, your motivation and perseverance will help get you sober.
Then comes the “how to stay sober after detox” part. Thankfully, there are a number of lifestyle changes you can adopt that will help you maintain sobriety and avoid relapse long after detox.
1. Become a member of a support group
A variety of post-addiction treatment support groups are available as valuable resources for you. This might be offered directly through the treatment center you attended, where you can meet regularly with the community of individuals who journeyed through treatment with you.
Or, it might be one of the following support groups already existing in your community:
- 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA);
- SMART Recovery;
- Women for Sobriety;
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS).
Support groups are important tools in staying sober as they offer accountability and support from other group members.
In addition, you begin to build a community of like-minded people who desire the same freedom in life as you do — this provides an environment of open communication, encouragement and understanding.
2. Make your mental health a priority
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about half of those who battle a substance use disorder also struggle with a mental health disorder. Sometimes the addiction is the root cause of the mental health disorder (i.e., depression occurs as a result of the lifestyle surrounding addiction), and other times the mental health condition results in substance use (i.e., untreated ADHD is more likely to result in addiction later in life).
For this reason, it’s important after treatment to maintain your mental health in beneficial, wholesome and productive ways. The best way to boost your mental health is known best by you, but some ideas can include:
- Regularly meeting with your therapist to continue receiving professional input;
- Eating a balanced diet with plenty of nutrients, like proteins and vitamins;
- Exercising every day in your preferred method;
- Setting aside weekly or daily time for cultivating a hobby;
- Turning off electronics and instead reading a book or exploring the outdoors;
- Volunteering at a local library, humane society or national park.
These activities, and more, can help you replace the time once spent focused on addiction with more productive, mental health-enhancing experiences to help you stay sober.
3. Surround yourself with healthy people in healthy places
If you relinquish a lifestyle of substance use, you have to give up more than just the drug or alcohol consumption. For the permanence of recovery, you also have to give up the people and places associated with the addiction. If you continue spending time with the people who enabled or partook in substance use alongside you, you’ll continuously put your sobriety in jeopardy.
For this reason, it’s important to avoid the people and places that played a part in the narrative of substance use. Instead, focus on strengthening your relationship with friends and family who you may have lost contact with, those who stood by you during treatment or those who you formed a friendship with in treatment.
The less time you spend in potentially triggering places, the stronger you will become and the more sustained your sobriety will be.
4. Work on setting and achieving goals
Addiction steals a lot of time away from you: time which could have been spent chasing down dreams, furthering your education or providing for your future self. But, as they say, there is no time like the present, and this mentality can not only help you make up for lost time, it is a helpful answer when you wonder how to stay sober.
When you set goals for yourself, you begin making choices that align with the achievement of this goal. Additionally, you say no to choices that don’t — this plays into sobriety in that when triggers or temptations arise, you have a plan to fall back on. Does using this drug help me to finally graduate with my bachelor’s? If the answer is no, then the choice is easy.
5. Seek out additional help
No one said you need to journey through post-detox recovery alone. Staying sober is challenging, and you have people here to help.
If you are worried about facing these challenges, consider the benefits of regularly meeting with a counselor. Not only will this provide you with continued professional support, it will give you a healthy outlet through which to process successes and setbacks, goals and lifestyle changes.