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Alcohol: Staying Sober

The journey to sobriety is a lifelong process.

A critical part of recovery from alcohol addiction is remembering that the journey to sobriety is a lifelong process. By understanding the challenges that often come along on the path to recovery, you can surround yourself with the support you need to cherish the ups and handle the downs.

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Lighten the load: Tips for sober living

Recovering from alcohol addiction or abuse can seem daunting, but there are steps you can take to make your journey less difficult:

  • Be optimistic. It’s important to try to be positive as you continue to work through negative emotions and impulses. Remind yourself that each step forward is another step on your recovery journey.
  • Go easy on yourself. Sure, you’ve made mistakes. Even if they seem unforgivable or have damaged relationships, try not to let these experiences bog you down now that you’re working toward changing your life for the better. It’s good to apologize to those you’ve hurt, but also to forgive yourself and move forward.
  • Engage in healthy habits, such as eating well, getting a good night’s sleep, and exercising regularly. Spending time in nature can also be a great way to help relieve stress and promote mental health.
  • Pursue new hobbies, such as going to the movies, crafting, reading, or journaling. Getting involved in new activities can be a great alternative to the unhealthy interests of the past.

Recovery challenges

Here are some challenges that you may face during recovery and ways to help you get through them:

Mental health issues
What You Can Do:
Schedule regular checkups with your primary care provider or therapist.
Financial troubles
What You Can Do:
Consult a financial adviser to help you create a personalized plan to better manage your finances.
Relationship problems
What You Can Do:
Attend therapy with your loved one to work through your issues and learn how to open the lines of communication.
Employment or academic difficulties
What You Can Do:
Connect with a career counselor or academic adviser to discuss your options, your skills, and other information that can help you find a path that’s right for you.
Loss of spirituality or religion
What You Can Do:
Talk with a spiritual adviser or clergy member about what you’re going through and how it might be affecting your beliefs.

Taking care of your emotional and physical needs is an essential part of the healing process.

It’s OK to ask for continued help

Here are some ways for you to surround yourself with support as you continue on your journey toward recovery from alcohol addiction or abuse:

  • Continue individual therapy. It can be a huge relief to talk with someone you don’t know about what you've gone through — someone who is just there to listen and not to pass judgment or insert an opinion. A therapist or counselor can help you to better manage your pain, grief, guilt, or other emotions that you may be experiencing. You may be able to find an individual therapist through your health insurance provider.
  • Explore family therapy. Going to therapy with your loved ones can help you better understand how your experiences have affected one another. A therapist or counselor can help you and your loved ones explore and understand the effects of complex or sensitive relationships and history.
  • Attend a support group meeting. Being around others who know exactly what you’re going through can be very comforting and provide valuable feedback. Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous offer people who have alcohol addiction or a history of alcohol abuse with support as they go through the recovery process.

Find support and resources near you.

Signs of a relapse and strategies for avoiding it

If, over time, you find yourself in one or more of the following situations, you may be at risk for relapsing:

  • Consuming alcohol — even a small amount, like a sip
  • Revisiting the places where you used to drink and seeking out friends who drink heavily
  • Experiencing stress in relationships or at work that triggers thoughts of drinking
  • Feeling isolated from your support networks
  • Losing interest in the activities and practices that support your recovery

If you think you might relapse, it’s important to tell someone you trust immediately — whether it’s a family member, friend, sponsor, or a medical or mental health professional. You may also want to attend a support group session, where you can be around others who are working hard at recovery.