These days, relapse prevention is the biggest buzzword in addiction recovery circles. Everyone wants to know how to stay sober once they stop drinking or using. The good news is that staying sober is something that everyone can do. The bad news is that it isn't always easy. Here are a few basic things to remember to keep the cravings at bay.
1. Create a new life for yourself.
Remember that coming into recovery means that you are creating a new life and leaving your old one behind. Old friends and family, unhealthy relationships, and old neighborhoods make it very easy and tempting to fall back into old behavior. This is one of the major reasons why people choose to go to sober living after treatment. It means that you've made a decision not to return to the risky environment from which you came. Keep on that track and avoid your old life. You know that if you wanted to, you know exactly how to get in contact with your old dealer, party with your old friends, or stop in at that old watering hole. Don't do it. Stick with sober living and make new friends in recovery that will help you along on your new journey.
2. HALT the cravings before they start.
We hope you've heard it already, but we're going to say it again because it bears repeating: you must take care of yourself first in recovery. You cannot help others if your own basic needs haven't been met. This is where "HALT" comes in. It's an acronym that we use in recovery to help us remember to care for ourselves every day. HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. Of the four, two are physical needs and two are emotional needs. Feeding yourself is number one on the list. We need proper nourishment to keep up our energy and keep our brains functioning properly. Something as simple as low blood sugar can contribute to a complete emotional meltdown, especially if emotions are already running high.
Angry and Lonely are two emotional needs that must be fulfilled by seeking out others. Your sponsor can help you process anger in a healthy manner. As for lonliness, we need to seek out real connection with others. We must have true friendships and healthy romantic relationships. If you're struggling with this even after speaking to your sponsor, it may be time to seek out a counselor to help you through these struggles.
Finally, we come to Tired, the last physical need. Lack of sleep can certainly make our days more difficult and broaden the temptation to relapse. Often in our addictions, we aren't sticking to a regular sleeping pattern. When we come into recovery, it can be difficult to reset those sleeping patterns. You will need to create a regular daily schedule for yourself and stick to it. If you find that you're having difficulty getting up on time in the morning, you'll need to move to an earlier bedtime. Continue to adjust your sleeping schedule until you no longer feel tired during the day. If you still struggle with sleeping, talk to your doctor about what you can do. Remember that you most likely won't be able to take prescription sleep aids in your sober living home, but your doctor may be able to recommend an over-the-counter sleep aid. Some people find that certain teas or homeopathic remedies help promote healthy sleep cycles as well.
3. Learn new anxiety management techniques and practice them every day.
There is an old joke that states that SOBER is an acronym - it stands for Son Of a B**ch, Everything's Real! Its funny because its true. We used to drown out our realities with drink or drug, and now that we're sober we must face everyday problems head on. For most, if not all of us, this is quite a daunting task. It may prove to be too much anxiety for us if we don't manage it in a healthy manner.
As you make your way around meetings, you'll hear the phrase, "Just take the next indicated step." It means the same as One day at a time, or baby steps, indicating that we don't tackle one whole problem at a time. Instead, we break it down into smaller pieces and take it step by step. Once one small step is complete, move on to the next.
If anxiety persists beyond handling of your daily responsibilities, you may have a more serious problem you need to address. Getting a little more agressive with your anxiety management, you may find relief through daily hobbies, excercise, or other fun. Try to plan something for at least a few minutes every day, and when the anxiety is at its worst, return to it for a few mintues.
If none of these things are helping you find peace, then its time to see your doctor or counselor and talk about your anxiety. Many times our anxiety is caused by poor stress management techniques, while other times its caused by chemical imbalances. Determining the root cause of your anxiety and applying the appropriate remedies will help keep you from reaching for a drink or drug.
4. Voice your feelings to trusted friends and have them help you process through them.
If most of us were to be honest with ourselves, we'd admit that the reason we sought a chemical escape was because we didn't want to feel our painful feelings anymore. The bad news is that when you come into recovery, you'll still feel them. In fact, it will be incredibly painful at times because those feelings never left - they only festered and grew while you were drunk or high. Now that you're in recovery, you're going to have to do some work on those feelings if you want to be successful in your recovery. If you went through a treatment center, then you've already started this process with a drug counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. This is certainly the most important step. These professionals will be able to help identify any underlying co-existing disorders that can prevent you from successful long-term recovery. Once that is done, we turn to our trusted friends and loved ones for help. If you have a spouse or significant other that you live with, that's even better. Now comes the hard part.
Identify your feelings and express them. As addicts, we've been denying our feelings for so long, we don't even realize when we're feeling something anymore. Keep a journal of what you're feeling with you everywhere you go and write down every feeling you have that you don't like. At the end of the day, sit down with someone you trust and talk through each one of those feelings. As you continue to do this, you'll become so much more in touch with yourself and your needs. You'll be able to process through past hurts and free yourself from some emotional pain. When you practice this with your significant other, you'll find that you grow closer with that person and your love grows deeper. Your trust will strengthen and you'll argue less because you understand each other more.
Do you have other methods you use that help you maintain your sobriety? What works the best for you? Tell us in the comments below!