Perhaps you’re newly sober and trying to figure out how to keep it going. Or maybe you’ve been sober for several months and you’re starting to struggle. Either way, there are lots of helpful strategies that may help you to maintain your sobriety. I don’t think there’s one right way to get or stay sober. There are many ways! Using a mixture of these strategies is your best weapon! I am only 6 months into my alcohol-free life, but I wanted to share what has helped me the most. I hope some of these suggestions will be helpful for you, too!
Reach out and connect with other people who are sober. I had so many intense emotions in my first 30 days. I needed to talk about them….a lot! Not drinking can be lonely at times, too, because so many social activities are built around alcohol. I consider it a blessing that bars have been closed and events have been cancelled this year because that eliminated a lot of temptation for me. If you don’t have any sober friends yet, make some! Whether it’s through Alcoholics Anonymous or SMART recovery or an online group like the Stop Drinking group on Reddit, find yourself some sober friends to connect with! If you’re having trouble staying sober, you may also want to find a therapist and talk to your doctor about alcohol addiction treatment options.
Start a morning ritual and renew your pledge to stay sober every day. I start each day by reading, writing, and praying/meditating. Oh, and coffee! With a warm mug in my hand, I read a little, write a little, and relax with some calming music. This is what I call my daily spiritual practice and it’s something that I have realized is crucial for my sobriety. I had read about the importance of having a daily morning routine in a book called Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. Great book, great ideas! He recommends forming a morning routine citing the fact that some of the world’s most successful people do this. His suggestion includes reading, writing, meditation, and exercise I believe. I haven’t gotten to where I can exercise in the morning yet, but I have a 15-20 minute routine that includes the other things. It’s really helped me. I have filled one and a half journals in the past 6 months from doing this and I am so proud of that. It motivates me to stay sober, too, because I enjoy my morning ritual so much.
Tell your non-sober friends and family members about your decision. If you want to ensure that people won’t pressure you to drink alcohol, tell them that you’ve stopped drinking and that you intend to stay sober. Sharing about your addiction to alcohol can be a hard thing to do. It made me feel vulnerable and I never knew how people would respond, but I was heartened by the fact that it’s such a common problem. Luckily, most of the people I told about my sobriety were very supportive. And harsh as it may sound, if a person is worth keeping in your life, they will be supportive of your sobriety. Anyone who ridicules you or tries to discourage you from seeking treatment for alcohol abuse and staying sober may be struggling with issues of their own. It may be in your best interest to at least limit your time around them while you focus on staying sober.
Identify and avoid your triggers. A trigger is anything that makes you want to drink. This can be a place, an activity, a person, or something else. My triggers have changed over time. At first, cooking was a huge trigger for me because I often used to cook and drink at the same time. So guess what? I didn’t have to cook! Woohoo! Takeout every night, right? Nope. Not exactly! Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of cash flow in my household, so I had to come up with quick and easy meals to throw together for the first month after I quit drinking alcohol. I made a lot of crockpot meals that first month. This workaround helped to limit my time in the kitchen since I couldn’t avoid it entirely. My husband cooked a couple of nights each week, too. After the first month, I started to enjoy cooking again. Now when I cook, I make myself a mocktail (usually my old standby of seltzer and a splash of cranberry juice) and listen to music while I prepare dinner. It’s very relaxing.
Have a nice drink when you want one, just not an alcoholic one. Any time I have been in a situation where other people are drinking alcohol or when I am home and want to drink, I make sure that I have something special to sip on. This seems to trick my brain into thinking it has gotten what it wants. This simple trick has definitely helped me stay sober. Usually, I’ll have a mocktail, a can of limoncello La Croix, a mug of my favorite tea, or, once in a great while, a sugary sugary can of soda! My husband is a fan of non-alcoholic beers and I like one every now and then too, but I realize that’s not for everyone. Try out different non-alcoholic options and find what works best for you!
Exercise regularly. Exercise causes your brain to release feel-good hormones called endorphins which is great if you need a boost. If I don’t exercise for a few days, I notice a big drop in my tolerance for stress and my cravings for alcohol usually intensify. To help me stay sober, I try to exercise 4-5 times per week. In the warmer months I like to take long walks. During the winter, I hop on an exercise bike and go for a spin. I also love to dance! But only in privacy of my home so far. I’m not that confident yet! If you don’t exercise regularly, find a form of exercise that you enjoy. Try out different types of exercise to find what you like, such as running, cycling, swimming, dancing, kickboxing, rock-climbing, or rowing. If you’re not currently active, start slow, such as just 10 minutes a day at first. Slowly build up your time to 30 minutes per session and try to do at least 3 sessions per week, but more is better!
Practice HALT when you get a craving to drink. HALT stands for hungry, angry (or anxious), lonely, and tired. Checking yourself for these feelings any time you are craving alcohol can help you to attend to your physical, mental, and emotional needs. Sometimes having a snack, talking about your emotions with a friend, or taking a nap is all it takes to feel better!
Read “quit lit” for sobriety tools and perspectives on not drinking. Some of my favorites include Alcohol Explained by William Porter, This Naked Mind by Annie Grace, Quit Like a Woman by Holly Whitaker, The Unexpected Joy of Being Sober by Catherine Gray, and Drinking: A Love Story by Caroline Knapp. These books have helped to inspire me and given me new tools to help me stay sober.
Find out what your interests are and start pursuing them. My hobbies went away as alcohol took up a larger portion of my time and energy. But once I got sober, they started to come back. The first hobby to return was making chainmail. Then, when the weather got cold, I started knitting and baking again. And finally about 5 months into my sobriety, I started writing again. My love for these things never went away. I just didn’t have the drive or energy to do them anymore because of alcohol. If you don’t have any hobbies, try some out! Try learning a language, playing an instrument, painting, or whatever appeals to you!
Celebrate your successes. I have come a long way in my sobriety, and I never want to go back. I have celebrated every single milestone of my alcohol-free journey and I think that makes a big difference. It’s important to acknowledge your hard work as you continue to stay sober. Share with friends and family as you hit each new milestone. Buy yourself a new dress or video game or something else to celebrate your first 30, 60, or 90 days. Go out for a special meal with a sober friend to celebrate your 6 months, 1 year, or more! Mark these milestones and be proud of what you have accomplished. You deserve it!
Thanks for reading and for all of the encouragement, friends! Got any more tips? I’d love to hear them.
“Perhaps you’re newly sober and trying to figure out how to keep it going. Or maybe you’ve been sober for several months and you’re starting to struggle. Either way, there are lots of helpful strategies that may help you to maintain your sobriety.”Tweet