There are over 62,000 bars in the United States, and people buy over 200 billion liters of alcohol each year. Needless to say, if you ever plan to leave your home again, chances are good that you will encounter alcohol. When you come face to face with temptation during your recovery journey, will you know how to stay sober?
The truth about sobriety is that “one day at a time” is sometimes disingenuous. There will be days when you need to focus on one moment at a time. The key to thriving in the face of your triggers is to identify effective ways to stay sober that work for you.
Do you have a plan yet?
Finding the right way to fight the urge to drink is personal, but we have sober mentors and addiction specialists to thank for offering a range of potential solutions. We’ve collected five tips to keep in mind when maintaining sobriety is a struggle. Keep reading to learn how to tackle temptation during everyday life.
1. Know Your Baseline
Have you ever gone too long without eating, only for your blood sugar to drop? Did you snap, get unnecessarily angry, or have an emotional response? This happens to everyone, and even non-addicted individuals can end up losing track of their baseline and flying off the handle at times!
In recovery, we like to use the acronym H.A.L.T. It stands for hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Think of these like your “stats” and keep tabs on not getting too low or too high in any one area.
It’s amazing how quickly something simple like lack of sleep can lead to a relapse if you lose track of the havoc it is wreaking on your brain. Check in with yourself throughout the day. If it’s helpful, you might consider using a mood tracker or bullet journal to identify trends in your behavior.
2. Identify Triggers and Plan Ahead
If you’ve gone through a rehabilitation program, you have probably explored the foundations of your alcoholism. Sitting through even a single group therapy session is enough to help you recognize that everyone has unique triggers. Once you have identified the people, places, things, and life circumstances that lead you to reach for a drink, you are already one step ahead.
These triggers can range from the presence of specific people to general feelings of stress. Once you recognize what they are, it’s time to make a plan for what to do when you encounter them. This is where your actionable coping strategies from treatment will come in handy.
Triggers can sneak up on you, so knowing how you plan to respond in advance can make a huge difference. Have a person to call, a place to go, or a breathing technique to try. When that positive plan is in place, you’re far less likely to default to old patterns.
3. Build a Structure to Fall Back On
Organization goes a long way when you’re planning to live a successfully sober lifestyle. If you build routines into your daily life, it’s much easier to make healthy choices that support your goals.
What does that look like in practice? Treat yourself like a child that needs looking after. You love the child and want them to feel safe – create the structures that allow you to take wonderful care of the child.
That might mean giving yourself a bedtime or having a structured, sit-down meal every night. Maybe you will schedule an enjoyable activity in the middle of the week, so you have something fun and positive to look forward to. You can even keep track of milestones with a chart system and give yourself rewards for developing new habits.
In the process, you’re sure to enjoy the consistency, and you’ll feel great when you meet goals and experience genuine accomplishment!
4. Challenge Your Thoughts
If you find yourself caught in a specific moment of weakness, deciding whether or not to drink can be like the flip of a coin. If you learn to challenge your thoughts, you can rig that coin toss in your favor.
At some point, “One drink can’t hurt” will creep into your mind. Take a moment and remember your rock bottom moment and all of the reasons why you decided to get sober in the first place. Picture the choice as two roads and allow yourself to remember where the choice to drink can lead you.
Sometimes all it takes is a one-second pause. Give yourself the gift of time in moments of weakness. Many alcoholics carry a little list of their reasons for staying sober on a card in their wallet or purse, which can help in these situations.
5. Let the Feeling Be Normal
If you’re newly sober, this may sound impossible, but you can ride out a temptation. Allow yourself the luxury of recognizing that temptations and cravings are part of addiction. Sit with them, acknowledge that they are okay, and make the next right choice.
The urge to drink is temporary. If you are patient and mindful, it will pass. Once you learn to embrace these feelings as part of your lived experience, you will toughen up to temptation and be able to ride it like a wave.
Embrace These Ways to Stay Sober
Staying sober is a personal journey, and no single strategy will work for every individual all of the time. Even so, these five ways to stay sober can provide you with the knowledge you need to find solutions that work for you. With the right tools in your pocket, you can maintain sobriety in even the most challenging situations.
If you are struggling and think you can benefit from more support, outpatient services can help. Access to counseling, support groups, and supportive aftercare have changed lives. Take a look at the rest of the blog for more posts that can help you navigate life in recovery.