7 Tips for Staying Clean and Sober

If you have stopped drinking or quit your addictive behavior and you are serious about staying sober, you will want to do everything possible to avoid having a relapse. It may seem to you that a relapse is the last thing that you would do, but the truth is they are very common for people new to recovery.

It is estimated that up to 80% of those who find long-term sobriety had at least one relapse along the way. Some had many before they found lasting recovery. Your intentions may be good, but it takes more than willpower to avoid having an addiction relapse.

A relapse can sneak up on you, usually because you don't recognize the warning signs of an impending relapse. A relapse begins long before you actually pick up a drink or a drug.

It stands to reason that if you quit your drug of choice but continue with your same routine, hanging around the same people and places, and not making any changes in your circumstances, that it will be much easier to slip back into your old behaviors and habits.

The following are things that you can change in your life that scientific research shows can help you develop a healthy lifestyle and help you stay sober.


Make Some Changes

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If you are trying to stay clean for the long haul, it's important that you get away from your old routines, habits, and hangouts. Sometimes it is helpful for people new to recovery just to make changes. It doesn't really matter what changes, just as long as it is different.

In order to develop a drug-free lifestyle, some of the immediate changes you will need to make will be obvious—like not hanging around the people that you did drugs with or obtained drugs from. You can't hang around your old drinking buddies and expect to remain sober for very long.

Many trying to stay clean find it is to their advantage to make new friends who are also sober. If you find it difficult to make new friends, try joining a support group and taking part in the fellowship.

Spending more time with your family and planning activities for the entire family can also help you develop a more healthy lifestyle and avoid those situations in which you would normally drink or drug.

Develop a Structured Schedule

The experts say that having a chaotic or disorganized lifestyle can also hinder your recovery. It's important to develop a structured daily and weekly schedule and stick to it. That structured schedule will help you achieve other goals in your life.

And, it's important to develop long-term goals. Staying sober is a high priority, for sure, but developing and pursuing other goals, like going back to school or changing careers, can help you maintain that sobriety.


Build Healthy Relationships

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Like many alcoholics and addicts, you may have gotten to the point that the closest relationship that you had was with your drug of choice. It could be that the only "friends" you had left were the people you bought your drugs from or who you did drugs with.

Now that you are sober, you may have discovered that your past relationships were not only unhealthy but downright toxic.

But, it's not just your drinking buddies and drug dealers who can get you into trouble. Sometimes those who are closest to you can contribute to a relapse. You may have developed a co-dependent relationship with a caregiver with whom you are overly dependent.

You may also have family members, friends, or even employers who have been enabling you without even knowing it. Research shows that if you maintain these types of relationships, your chances of relapsing are greater.

To avoid relapse and remain sober, it's important to develop more healthy relationships and make new friends.


Get Physically Active

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If you drink excessively and were addicted to drugs for any significant length of time, there is a good chance your health was affected. Chances are you are not in the best physical shape.

Exercise and recreational activities can reduce stress, which can be a major trigger for relapse. Exercise can also reduce boredom, another relapse trigger. Mainly, becoming physically active can restore a sense of balance in your life and therefore benefit you emotionally.

The main benefit of better nutrition and increased exercise is that it will improve your overall health, help you feel better in general, and reduce any post-acute withdrawal symptoms that you may experience.


Get a Job

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Recovering alcoholics and addicts frequently have problems meeting work-related responsibilities, maintaining employment, and managing money. If you were active in your addiction for a period of time, chances are you have developed financial problems.

Make no mistake about it, financial problems and problems finding and keeping employment are some of the major triggers for relapse. It's important that you take the steps necessary to get your finances in order.

Returning to work itself can be stressful and therefore a relapse trigger itself. It's important as you return to the workforce that you use all the support you can find to help you maintain your goal of staying clean.

Chances are you are not going to get out of financial trouble overnight. Take it one step at a time—baby steps if necessary—but do whatever you can to improve your financial situation. Learn how to create a budget and find out how you can repair your credit. It may take some time, but you can do it.


Stay Cool and Calm

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It's no secret that many alcoholics and addicts have trouble dealing with anger. Anger is a normal and natural emotion, but many with substance abuse problems have difficulty in managing and expressing anger appropriately.

If you want to stay sober, however, it's crucial that you learn how to manage your anger. There's no doubt that anger will come. It's how you deal with it that will make a difference in maintaining your recovery.

For many alcoholics and addicts, it's simply a matter of never learning what is and is not the appropriate way to handle their anger. Learn what you can do to deal with your anger in ways that won't cause you to end up hurting yourself or others, and most importantly, not cause you to pick up a drink or drug.


Deal With Past Mistakes

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Most people who make their way into recovery have left a lot of pain and suffering in their wake. There are likely many things in their past that causes feelings of shame and guilt.

If you are trying to maintain a sober lifestyle, that shame and guilt can become toxic and cause you to relapse if you do not deal with it properly.

Shame is described as having negative beliefs about yourself and your self-worth. Guilt is having negative feelings about your past behavior. People in recovery can experience a lot of shame simply for having become addicted in the first place.

But most who find recovery also find that they have emotionally damaged friends and loved ones that they have harmed and many regrets about their past decisions.​

To avoid relapse and stay sober, it's important that you take the necessary steps to clean up the garbage from your past and begin to live life responsibly.


Find Some Balance in Your Life

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One common mistake for those who are new to alcohol and drug recovery is substituting a new addiction of compulsion for their old ones. Naturally, those who become alcoholics and addicts tend to be compulsive in general, but that can be dangerous and lead to relapse.

People new in recovery can find themselves approaching their new diet, their exercise program, and even their participation in their mutual support groups with a compulsion, basically substituting one addiction for another.

Although their new activities are healthy and productive, they can be a stumbling block to lasting recovery if they rise to the level of a transfer of addictions.

The secret is to find a healthy balance and to gain control over everything in your life and all of your choices. The key is to learn that you have choices and that you can maintain control. If any area of your life is out of control, it will not help you maintain lasting sobriety.


Learn More About Preventing Alcohol and Drug Relapse

Support group meeting

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There are those whose best advice to newcomers to recovery for how to stay sober is simply, "Don't drink and go to meetings!" If that formula works for you, then, by all means, do it!

But most who want to stay clean find that the more tools they have to maintain their sobriety the better it works. Even the Alcoholics Anonymous program is based on more than merely "going to a meeting." It requires working the 12 steps and reading A.A. literature.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area. 

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

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