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Getting Sober: Tips and Strategies for Overcoming Addiction

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

How to get sober

It is not easy to get sober. In the first few weeks or months of a new sobriety, you might feel a mixture of relief, excitement, and fear. Relief that you have taken control of your life again and are no longer reliant on alcohol or drugs; excitement at the prospect of a new-found freedom; and fear that you won’t be able to remain sober for long. However, even though it might seem like everything in your world has been turned upside down by your decision to remain sober from alcohol, there are actually many upsides to getting clean and remaining that way. Once you manage to tackle the initial challenges of recovery and put the first tentative steps towards sobriety under your belt, things only get better. 

What is a substance use disorder?

A substance use disorder is a term used by medical professionals and therapists to describe someone who has an unhealthy relationship with a certain substance. It is a diagnosis used mainly in the United States that is most commonly used to describe a problematic relationship with alcohol or drugs. However, it could also be used to describe someone who has substance abuse issues with substances such as nicotine or caffeine. A substance use disorder typically describes someone who is experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Using more of the substance than was initially intended – such as drinking more than planned or taking more drugs than prescribed
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when substance use is stopped – such as shaking, nausea, or sweating when trying to quit caffeine or nicotine
  • Having a negative relationship with family and friends as a result of substance use – such as arguments and broken relationships as a result of excessive drinking or drug taking

How to know if you have a substance use disorder

If you are unsure whether you have a drinking problem, there are a few things you can look at. For example, how much are you drinking? If you are drinking a lot and regularly exceeding government-recommended alcohol intake, then you might have a problem. You can also consider how your substance abuse is impacting your life. If it is interfering with your ability to function in your day-to-day life, then you likely have a problem. You might also have a drinking problem if you find yourself turning to alcohol whenever you are in a difficult situation. You might drink because you are under a lot of stress, or because you have some other mental health issues that you are trying to self-medicate.

Long term consequences of alcohol addiction

While any and all drugs are harmful and can cause a range of health issues, alcohol is particularly damaging because it is legal and socially acceptable. While the short-term effects of alcohol consumption can include feelings of relaxation and euphoria, the long-term consequences of alcohol abuse are particularly severe. While the immediate and short-term consequences of alcohol consumption can include things such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, the long-term effects are much more serious. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol misuse is responsible for more than 140,000 deaths in the United States every year.

Make the Decision to Get Sober

This may sound like an obvious first step, but it’s an important one. Some people decide to quit drinking and then try to go cold turkey. Others decide to quit after a particularly bad incident involving alcohol use. Whatever brings you to the decision, you must make the decision to get sober. And once you do, you must commit to it fully. It’s important to understand that you are not quitting alcohol because you are “bad” or “weak” or even because you can’t handle it. You are making this decision because you want to make a positive change in your life, and you want to be healthier, happier, and more fulfilled. You want to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

Is Getting Sober "Cold Turkey" Effective?

There is no right way to quit alcohol. There is only the right way for you, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. There are many different ways to quit drinking, and you can choose the method that best suits your needs and circumstances. If you want to quit drinking and feel that it is the right decision, you can do it. You just need to find the approach that works best for you.

Some people choose to quit drinking “cold turkey.” This means that they will quit drinking suddenly and completely. People who do this often feel that they have hit a “bottom” in their lives and have had enough of the effects of alcohol on their lives. However, quitting alcohol cold turkey is a very difficult process and often leads to relapse.

There are many reasons why people fail to quit drinking, whether gradually or all at once. However, qutting cold turkey without developing a support system or learning new relapse prevention skills is often a losing battle. For this reason, seeking addiction treatment is the best course of action for anyone getting sober or struggling with substance abuse.

Finding Help and Support

People who decide to quit drinking often think that they can do it on their own. However, getting support and help from others who have been through the same things as you is one of the most important things you can do in order to remain sober in the long run.

A substance use disorder is a disease that affects the brain, and many people with this disease find it difficult to overcome on their own. In order to quit drinking, you need to address the root causes of your drinking, and this is something that you are unlikely to be able to do alone. There are many different ways to get support. You can:
  • Join a support group for people who want to quit drinking. Many cities have these kinds of mutual support groups, and they offer a great source of support and information.
  • Join an online support forum for people trying to quit drinking. These online support groups are full of people trying to quit drinking who can offer advice, support, and encouragement.
  • Talk to your doctor about getting professional help for your drinking problem. Substance abuse treatment centers encourage clients to make sober friends and support one another as they work to quit drinking.

Planning for cravings and avoiding temptation

During the treatment process, there will be times when you feel like you cannot go another day without a drink. When this happens, you must be ready to face and overcome the cravings. You must be prepared with ways to deal with cravings and ways to avoid temptation in order to stay sober. You can:

  • Be prepared for high-risk situations and know how to avoid them. This can include staying away from certain friends who may push you toward drinking, changing your daily routine, and avoiding places that you associate with drinking.
  • Have a plan for dealing with cravings. This could include anything from counting to 10 or doing a breathing exercise to going for a walk or calling a friend.
  • Find ways to distract yourself when cravings hit. Many people find that drinking water or eating something sweet helps them to deal with cravings.

Taking care of your mental health

Many people who are dealing with alcoholism also have mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. Getting help for these issues can help you to quit drinking and remain sober. Depending on your situation, you may be able to treat your mental health issues on your own or with the help of a therapist. You may also be able to get medications such as antidepressants to help. It is important to remember that you are not alone. There are many people in the same situation as you who are also dealing with these issues. Getting help and support for these issues can help you to quit drinking and remain sober.

Choose the appropriate therapy

Depending on your situation, you may wish to receive therapy to help you quit drinking and deal with your substance abuse problems. There are many different kinds of therapy designed to tackle substance abuse, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and family therapy. Treatment facilities help people recover from active addiction by providing multiple treatment options, including:

  • CBT is often recommended to people who want to quit drinking. A treatment provider will help patients to identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs. It can also provide you with methods for dealing with cravings.
  • DBT is particularly suited to people who have problems with self-harm or have difficulty regulating their emotions. DBT encourages people to accept their emotions and to understand the source of these emotions.
  • Family therapy is a type of therapy that helps people resolve interpersonal conflicts with family members. Since alcohol abuse and drug abuse both often run in families, familly therapy is often a critial foundation of the treatment process. It can also help family members deal with the adverse consequences of their loved ones’ addiction.

Tackle the First Few Days and Weeks of Recovery

The first few days and weeks of your sobriety are often the most challenging. It is during this time that you are most at risk of relapse. You may feel like you are battling the world, and you may feel overwhelmed by the challenges of early sobriety. You may feel that you can’t go on, and you may want to just give up. It is during this time that it is most important to reach out to other people and get emotional support, whether this support comes from support groups or family members. It is also important to take care of yourself and avoid self-harm. You can:

  • Reach out to other people who are in recovery. These people can provide you with advice, support, and encouragement during your first few weeks of sobriety.
  • Stay away from people who are drinking and who may try to pressure you into drinking.
  • Get some exercise. Exercise can help you to deal with a wide variety of issues, from the mental to the physical.
  • Avoid self-harm. Self-harm can be a sign that you are facing stressful situations and challenges. However, it is not a healthy way to deal with these issues.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

The most common form of treatment for alcohol use disorder is outpatient substance abuse treatment. Most people will go to weekly or bi-weekly group therapy sessions, either one-on-one with a therapist or in a group setting. You might also have one-on-one sessions with a doctor or psychiatrist to help you manage any underlying mental health issues that are contributing to your drinking.

During this type of treatment, treatment professionals will give you a structured plan to follow that will guide you through the process of discovering the reasons why you turned to alcohol in the first place, and helping you figure out how to cope with life’s challenges without turning to alcohol.

Inpatient Substance Abuse Treatment

Many people who are trying to get sober from alcohol or drugs will choose to go to an inpatient rehab center. These treatment programs are like a combination of an outpatient treatment program and a stay in a hospital. You are given a room in the rehab facility, where you sleep and spend all of your time during the day. You attend group therapy sessions, one-on-one therapy or medical appointments, and are otherwise treated like a patient in hospital. Inpatient rehab is not for everyone, but it is a form of treatment that can help people who are dealing with severe withdrawal symptoms. It often includes a detox process and can handle any medical emergency. If you have tried to get sober before and relapsed, or if you are dealing with a serious alcohol addiction, then inpatient treatment might be a good option for you.

AA and other 12-Step Meetings

There is some controversy around the use of 12-step meetings in addiction recovery, but it remains one of the most common elements of addiction treatment. There are AA meetings, Narcotics Anonymous meetings, and a host of other 12-step groups operating in most cities around the world. At these meetings, you will meet other people who are dealing with addiction and trying to get sober. You will also hear people share their stories and learn how they managed to stay sober and live a better life as a result. Many people who get sober go to 12-step meetings for the rest of their lives and find that they provide them with a support network and a way to stay sober.

12-step Alternatives

Many people who are critical of 12-step meetings have come up with their own alternative models of addiction treatment. These organizations promote the idea of self-empowerment and self-reliance. They focus on strategies that you can use to cope with life’s challenges without turning to alcohol or drugs. They also promote alternative ways to deal with underlying mental health issues that might be contributing to your use of alcohol or drugs.

Smart Recovery

SMART Recovery is a program that promotes using evidence-based strategies to help you get clean and stay clean from alcohol. It is not a 12-step program, but it is a program that is based on science and has been proven to be effective in helping people get sober. At the core of SMART Recovery is the idea that you first need to set goals for yourself, and then you need to keep working towards those goals. You need to be able to recognize when you are feeling tempted to use alcohol or drugs, and then use evidence-based strategies to cope with those urges. You need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself physically and mentally. You need to keep track of your progress and celebrate your achievements. 

Moderation Management

Moderation Management is a program that has been proven effective as an approach to long-term sobriety. The core of the program is a belief that you don’t have to abstain from alcohol completely in order to stay sober. Instead, you can learn to moderate your use of alcohol, meaning that you can drink responsibly and in moderation. The reason why this approach works is that many people who try to go cold turkey and stop drinking completely often fail. They are unable to stick to their sobriety and end up going back to drinking. By learning to moderate your use of alcohol instead, you can avoid this relapse. You’ll also avoid the negative health effects that result from heavy drinking.

Building a social support system

One of the most important parts of getting sober is surrounding yourself with people who are also sober. You need people who you can turn to when you feel tempted to use alcohol or drugs again. You need people who can support you and help you get through the tough times when you are struggling with temptation. There are a few ways that you can build a social support system: You can go to 12-step meetings or join online forums or groups that are focused on sobriety. You can also try to make friends with sober people in your day-to-day life. You might not find other sober people at work, but there are likely sober people in your neighborhood. You can also try to find sober friends online.

What happens if I relapse?

If you have managed to get sober for a few weeks or even months, only to fall back into your old ways and start drinking again, then you have experienced what is known as a relapse. If this has happened to you, you are certainly not alone. In fact, relapse is extremely common among people in early recovery. Although this might make you feel like your efforts to get sober have been pointless, it is important to understand that relapse is not a sign that you are a weak person or that you will never be able to get clean and sober. In fact, relapse is actually a very normal part of the recovery process, and you can learn a lot from the experience.

Rebuilding Your Life in Recovery

The road to sobriety and a better life is a long one, and it can seem like nothing is changing for a very long time. But as time goes by, you will begin to notice positive changes in your life. You will notice that you are feeling better in general, and you will feel empowered and excited to keep moving forward. You may need to find new ways to deal with stress, or you may need to find a new way to balance your work and home life. The point is that getting sober and quitting alcohol is a chance for a new start, a chance to become the best version of yourself that you can be.

Do I have to be sober forever?

People who get sober often worry that they will have to remain sober for the rest of their lives. It is important to remember that the goal of sobriety is not lifelong abstinence from alcohol. Instead, the goal is to learn how to function without alcohol. You can learn to cope with life’s challenges, you can maintain a job, and you can have a healthy social life. Even if you don’t end up staying sober for the rest of your life, it is important to get clean and get on the right path. You don’t have to know where your sobriety will take you. You don’t have to know what your life will look like in five or 10 years. All you need to do is take the first step towards your recovery journey.


Edited by: David Beasley

David Beasley - Design for Recovery

David Beasley is a certified RADT (Registered Alcohol/Drug Technician). David, moved to California from North Carolina after many failed attempts to get sober.

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Charley earned his Masters of Clinical Psychology from Antioch University, Los Angeles, and is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).He teaches mindfulness to both adults and children in group setting such as schools, corporate workplaces, and medical treatment facilities.

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