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How to Stay Sober

Medically Reviewed by: Charley Allen

Table of Contents

Maintaining sobriety is challenging for individuals in early recovery. The people you used to drink with, the places where you used to hang out, and the ways you used alcohol or drugs as a coping mechanism and a source of reward are all very difficult to leave behind. 

On that note, avoiding triggers and staying sober takes a lot of effort and commitment. Thankfully, recovery is possible since different measures can help you take back control of your life and start the path to long-term sobriety. Keep reading to learn about various sobriety strategies to guide you in your recovery journey.

What is Sobriety?

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The American Psychiatric Association defines sobriety as a condition in which one abstains from using alcohol or drugs. Medical professionals believe that sobriety involves more than simply abstaining from addictive substances. Sobriety must also aim at living a life that has purpose and meaning.

Most people in recovery may progress toward abstinence but still struggle with withdrawal symptoms and physical cravings to drink alcohol or use drugs. As time goes in recovery, some of these physical, emotional, and mental issues may improve. However, they still have a long way to go before they become completely sober.

Ready to find a support group perfect for you? Contact us at (424)327-4614 to learn more.

How to Stay Sober?

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Sobriety does not happen overnight. While quitting alcohol or drugs is never easy, it’s an admirable and courageous first step toward sobriety. Sobriety is a lifelong process that requires a holistic approach, such as substance abuse treatment, mutual support groups, family therapy, and more.

In addition to professional support, the following 13 strategies may help you stay sober:

  1. Identify your Personal Triggers and Avoid Triggering Environments:

Knowing your triggers is vital for staying sober. Avoiding the people, places, thoughts, and emotions that make you think about using substances will help you in your recovery journey. The most important thing is to figure out what can be a trigger for you and find ways to prevent it. Whether your triggers are relationship troubles, stress, frustration, or job or financial problems, be mindful and learn healthy ways to manage them. You can alleviate your triggers by engaging in relaxation techniques, incorporating exercise, learning to communicate effectively, and managing time wisely. 

  1. Recognize Relapse Warning Signs and Prepare for Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS):

Relapse often happens during recovery from substance abuse. Contrary to popular belief, it does not start when you pick up alcohol or drugs. Instead, it begins with subtle shifts in feelings, attitudes, and behaviors leading to the use of alcohol or drugs.

Relapse warning signs include:

  • Reverting to destructive thoughts

  • Engaging in activities that include drug and alcohol users

  • Feeling trapped in a position where substance abuse feels like the only way out of your suffering

  • Engaging in self-destructive, compulsive behaviors

  • Reactivation of denial

  • Reduced rational thinking and lack of accountability

By being aware of the warning signs that contribute to a relapse, you can make better decisions and take preventive measures. 

Another aspect you need to watch out for is post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). Post-acute withdrawal syndrome is characterized by a cluster of withdrawal symptoms that occur a few weeks to a few months into recovery. The condition is manifested by mood-related symptoms such as irritability, depression, sleeplessness, and heightened anxiety, even without a stimulus.

The most severe manifestation of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens. It is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency medical care. Symptoms of this condition differ from those of typical alcohol withdrawal and vary in intensity—ranging from irritability and confusion to nausea, vomiting, tremors, high blood pressure, and seizures in severe cases.

The symptoms of delirium tremens do not arise suddenly but rather develop gradually from early withdrawal symptoms. Learning to cope with post-acute withdrawal symptoms can help you feel better mentally and physically and lessen the likelihood of relapse. Dealing with the unpredictability of symptoms can be frustrating, but a combination of medication and treatment can help make symptoms easier to manage. In addition, seeking professional support and staying engaged in your recovery will help manage the withdrawal process much easier.

  1. Avoid Old Routines and Habits:

Changing your routine is necessary when you are trying to remain sober. Mistakes from the past are easily avoided if new habits can replace old ones. Something as simple as deciding to make your bed every morning or jogging in your neighborhood will help you stay motivated and avoid the temptation to drink or abuse drugs. 

It will be challenging to maintain your sobriety if you stick to the same old habits. After all, you cannot expect to stay clean if you constantly surround yourself with people who encourage you to drink alcohol or abuse drugs.

  1. Focus on Self-discipline:

Self-discipline helps form healthy routines. It is one of the traits needed to overcome substance use disorder. Self-discipline is something that you can develop gradually. Small acts of it, such as limiting internet use or skipping weekend parties where alcohol is present, can profoundly effect on your outlook and health over time. You may also write down daily goals and then strive to achieve them; this will help you build disciplined habits one at a time. Remember that you always attribute your outcomes to the choices you make.

  1. Build Healthy Relationships and Get Support:

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Maintaining sobriety requires more than cutting ties with your old drinking or drug-using friends. It also entails building new and healthy relationships with helpful and supportive people in your recovery. Cultivating a strong support system with your new friends, family, or workmates makes all the difference, especially in difficult times. 

  1. Develop a Structured Schedule and Find Balance in Your Life:

By developing a structured schedule, you can lessen your chance of engaging in risky behaviors that could lead to a relapse. You also gain some measure of control over your day. Create a plan to help you re-organize your life as you begin your sober journey. Your plan doesn’t have to be extremely strenuous. You may start with the simplest step: deciding to get up and go to bed at the same time every day. Also, you may start including healthy activities like prayer, exercise, and reading in your morning routine. Incorporating a balanced routine into your day-to-day life can help you keep occupied and lessen your risk of relapse.

  1. Practice Healthy Living, Exercise, and Healthy Eating:

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Everyone can benefit from healthy eating and exercise. Exercise helps release endorphins, a brain chemical that reduces stress and gives a pleasant feeling. Exercise is also a great way for people in recovery to combat boredom and make progress toward their overall health. Going to the gym, doing some home yoga, or playing sports with your sober friends are options for going sober and healthy.

Aside from exercise, eating well can help stabilize your emotional and physical health, which direct impact on your cravings. You should watch how much and how often you eat and consuming a balanced diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. 

Taking care of your body is important to achieving mental and emotional wellness. Physical activity and a healthy diet have been shown to reduce the frequency and intensity of negative thoughts and behaviors.

  1. Stay Calm and Collected:

People who abuse substances often struggle to control their temper. If anger is not managed, it harms your health and your chances for long-term sobriety.

When under stress, you may tend to revert to old habits. When relaxed, you may become receptive to new and healthy activities. Perhaps you could try meditation, yoga, and breathing techniques to help manage your stress.

  1. Celebrate Milestones:

If you’re working through a 12-step program, you’re probably familiar with the concept of milestones. Plastic chips are the standard form of reward in these programs, with a bronze coin awarded after one year of participation.

Recognizing and honoring the efforts you’ve made in recovery can help keep you motivated and remind you of the reasons why you decided to seek sobriety. Make sure that your incentives do not include intoxicating substances. Think about experiences, write a journal, go places, celebrate with your family and friends, and do things that will help you stick to your new healthy routine.

  1. Find a Peer Support Group:

Participating in a recovery support group can help you get sober, grow as a recovering individual, and connect with other sober people going through the same things. That being said, there are numerous types of addiction support groups for alcohol abuse and substance use. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are two examples of 12-step programs that address substance use disorder.

You’ll get the inspiration you need to achieve your goals and keep moving forward when you spend time with individuals who go through the same struggle as you. Addiction recovery is a long and winding road with ups and downs. You’ll need your peers’ encouragement and help to make it.

  1. Engage in an Activity That is Meaningful to You:

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Engaging in an activity that is meaningful to you enables you to step outside of yourself and devote your time and energy to worthy causes. You may begin a community support group, or devote your free time to helping others by volunteering at a local animal shelter or children’s hospital. Whatever it is, trying something new increases your odds of meeting people who share your passions, which helps you remain sober.

  1. Be a Designated Driver or Try a Non-Alcoholic Cocktail:

Alcohol and tobacco products are often present at parties and other social gatherings. To keep you preoccupied and shift your focus from triggers, you can volunteer to help out in the kitchen or set the table. You may also bring a non-alcoholic beverage or cocktail so you won’t feel left out or be tempted to grab a drink. 

While getting out and mingling with others is important, only you can determine when you’ve had enough interaction or exposure to people drinking alcohol. Drive yourself to the event to prepare for situations where you don’t feel comfortable. By doing so, you’ll always be able to leave the party if you feel it’s required for your health, safety, or sobriety. Do what you feel is right for you, and your loved ones will understand if it means leaving earlier than expected.

  1. Incorporate Self-Care Practices, Such as Outpatient Therapy or Carrying an Honest List of High-Risk Feelings:

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Learning to love and care for yourself is one of the most important things a person will ever have to do. Patience, compassion, self-worth, and love for yourself are essential components in getting sober and remaining clean.

The time you spend alone is just as valuable as the time you spend with others. Being alone can be difficult at first, but you’ll appreciate your time alone gradually. Spend some time each week discovering who you are by trying new things, visiting new locations, expanding your horizons, listening to new music, creating art, and attending outpatient therapy.

Months or years of sobriety won’t protect you from regular triggers that can lead to relapse. By attending outpatient therapy, you can better manage your mental health and lessen your chance of relapsing. In the same way, if you’ve ever worked with a doctor specializing in addiction medicine, it’s important to keep any follow-up appointments to help you stay focused on your recovery.

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The path toward recovery often entails facing our own weaknesses head-on. Carrying a list of high-risk feelings is a coping strategy that requires reflecting on the thoughts and emotions that trigger a relapse. These emotions can range from anger and shame to isolation and exhaustion. Include a healthy coping mechanism with each emotion, such as calling a friend to talk about your feelings. The next time an uncomfortable emotion arises, instead of reaching for your addictive coping mechanism, try one of the healthy strategies on your list.

If you are ready to take the first step towards staying sober, Design for Recovery has all you need. Contact us at (424)327-4614 to learn more.

If you have implemented some of the strategies provided above but are still having difficulty maintaining your sobriety, it may be time to seek professional help and a recovery program.

At Design for Recovery, we have the experience and safe environment for sober living that will help you avoid relapse. Our facilities provide a variety of sober living programs to help you prevent relapse, readjust to society, and improve your quality of life. Our programs include employment support, family services, one-on-one mentoring, and other extra support. 

At Design for Recovery, we aim to help our residents maintain meaningful relationships with a support network of sober, compassionate people long after they’ve finished formal treatment. Every day, residents put in the effort to learn and practice new skills, values, and coping skills. 

Sobriety is within reach for individuals willing to ask for support and take things one at a time. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our relapse prevention and sobriety programs.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to maintaining sobriety. The more tools you have to recognize and cope with addiction symptoms or possible triggers, the more prepared you will be to enjoy life in recovery and avoid relapse. However, there are essential activities that may help you stay sober. These include: 

  • Recognizing your triggers (people, places, emotions) and managing stress with healthy coping strategies

  • Cultivating supportive relationships (family and close friends) that will encourage you to get sober

  • Prioritizing self-care, nutrition, sleep, and exercise to help reduce cravings and improve your mental and physical health

  • Attending support group gatherings and follow-ups with your doctors and therapists

The first and foremost principle of recovery is to change your life. You cannot become sober just by refraining from substance abuse. In order to quit drinking or abusing substances, you must establish a new lifestyle and habits. If you don’t make any changes, the circumstances that led to your addiction will inevitably resurface and worsen.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) identifies health, home, purpose, and community as the four pillars of recovery.

  • Health- Recovering from or coping with an illness and making healthy decisions that promote one’s physical and mental health

  • Home- Having a home that is both safe and livable

  • Purpose- Having the independence and resources to actively engage in society through activities like having a job, volunteering at an organization, caring for family, or pursuing creative interests

  • Community- Having a network of kind, loving, and supportive friends and family.

When you have a friend or family member working through the process of recovering from an addiction, it is important to recognize the progress they have made and to encourage them to keep moving forward on their path.

Typically, a sincere “Congratulations, I’m so proud of you,” followed by a reassuring hug is enough to express your happiness for someone you care about on their achievement. They have come so far, and hearing the words “I’m proud of you” from others can be a tremendous boost of self-confidence. Tell them you admire their determination to maintain their sobriety. Assure that you care about their progress and are rooting for them to succeed. 

A person is regarded to be in long-term recovery or remission when they have reduced or eliminated their substance use for at least five years while also experiencing an improved quality of life. The recovering individual has reached a point where they no longer see their substance of choice as a threat. They will have faith in their ability to live a life free of drugs. 

Maintaining sobriety and lowering the risk of relapse can be accomplished by emphasizing healthy routines and positive activities. A solid, healthy support system is one of the approaches to incorporating these activities into long-term sobriety.

Abstinence is the ability to avoid using any addictive substances. Abstaining from substance use does not address a person’s behavior, emotional state, and mental health. It simply signifies that the person is drug-free and alcohol-free. Being able to steer clear from drugs or alcohol and saying “no” politely if offered by other people is abstinence. 

Sobriety involves abstinence but encompasses far more than simply ceasing heavy alcohol or drug-using habits. It focuses on the individual’s growth and change as they become the person they want to become in the face of ongoing addiction effects like cravings and urges. It addresses a person’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Yes, it is possible to achieve sobriety without professional help. However, doing so and maintaining sobriety without professional support is exceedingly rare. People who want to recover and stay sober benefit greatly from the guidance, treatment, information, and more strategies provided by addiction treatment.

In addiction and recovery, avoiding triggers is just one piece of the puzzle. When you know your triggers and how to avoid them, you can better manage your responses when you face them in the real world. Some effective ways of dealing with triggers are outlined in the following:

  • Maintain a Solid Support System – You don’t have to go through the recovery process on your own. Ensure you have a solid network of people to lean on. This might be anyone from family members, friends, sponsors, to peers you’ve met through your addiction recovery group. There should be somebody you feel safe confiding in case you meet one of your triggers and need to have a discussion with to help you avoid relapsing.

  • Practice Relaxation Techniques – Stress is a major trigger for many individuals. When you feel stressed, it can be easy to go back to destructive habits. To handle stress, master relaxation techniques to remain calm in any circumstance. Developing healthy coping skills for dealing with stress saves you from feeling overwhelmed and benefits your physical and mental health. It’s important to take your time and find the methods of relaxation that work best for you, such as engaging in sports or arts.

  • Find A Replacement Activity – Addiction occurs because engaging in activities that are addictive stimulates the brain’s reward pathways. If you can find a suitable replacement, this could be a great option to help you get back on your feet during your recovery phase. If you want to avoid temptations and give in to cravings, finding a new activity that you can enjoy is important. Do something healthy like painting, music, yoga, the gym, or any other creative pursuit instead of turning to another addictive behavior, such as binge eating.

One of the common challenges that people in recovery deal with is unpleasant emotions. Several unpleasant emotions often surface after an addiction is exposed, especially when a person’s loved ones are made aware of the problem. Stress, trauma, and shame are a few of these emotions. This is challenging for people in recovery since they previously turned to drugs in an attempt to dull these emotions. Instead of trying to push these feelings down, it’s healthier to accept them and work through them openly.

Many recovering individuals also struggle with relapse both during and after treatment. When attempting to get sober, you need to be vigilant against temptations like cravings, stress, and even old friends. Fortunately, drug and alcohol treatment programs are created specifically to assist with relapse and recovery. It aids in the establishment of life skills, the modification of unhealthy habits, and the cultivation of a peer support system that will serve to anchor one firmly in sobriety. You can rely on your network of peers and mentors to help you get back on track if you relapse at any time throughout or after rehabilitation.

Relapse commonly occurs while a person recovers from using addictive substances. The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that the relapse rate for those in recovery is between 40% and 60%.

However, relapse should not be seen as a sign of failure but rather as an opportunity to apply or improve treatment strategies. Developing a plan for preventing relapse, such as seeking professional treatment or attending rehab, may minimize the risk of relapse.
  1. Melemis S. M. (2015). Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 88(3), 325–332.
  2. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2023, February 16). Recovery and Recovery Support.
  3. NIDA. 2023, March 9. Treatment and Recovery. Retrieved from on 2023, April 14.


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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