If you’re wondering how to stay sober, I’m speaking to you as a recovering addict with over 4 years of sobriety. I’m not a counselor and I do not preach. I plan to merely meet you where you’re at. Hopefully my experience and strength will give you hope that staying sober is possible.
At a time in my life I was a chronically relapse. I was great at getting sober, but staying sober was the hard part. It was as if I was a great starter but not a great finisher. This wasn’t just with drugs but also other areas of my life. I would make a decision to go to the gym today and would have a great start. After a while, I would lose interest to go to the gym and failed to complete my goals. It was as if I would be winning the race but would fail to cross the finish line in many areas. The point of this is to demonstrate that my inability to stay on track with my goals manifested in areas outside of my desire to get sober.
How to Stay Sober – My Experience With Staying Sober
I had a strong desire to stay sober for many years. Getting sober was the easy part, I got sober everyday. Even with cigarettes I had periods where I would quit everyday and then be right back at it. The mentality was always, “I will get sober tomorrow,” even though time and time again I proved through action that “tomorrow” was a lie. I think one of the key first steps to staying sober was to stop lying to myself. I started saying to myself, “I’m getting sober now,” even if subconsciously I knew I was going to use later. Instead of, “I will get sober tomorrow,” I would tell myself, “I would use tomorrow.” This affirmation I found to bestow more positive results. Even though I continued to relapse, at least I was affirming what I want without softening the guilt behind using.
The Next Step
Not all people are addicted to drugs. Some can get sober on your own, some can’t. If you tried the mind over matter approach mentioned above and still can’t seem to grasp how to stay sober you don’t have to do it alone. There’s plenty of recovering addicts, including myself, that want to help those who are suffering. They understand what you’ve been through and can talk to you with empathy towards your current situation. They can share how staying sober was possible for them without preaching or lecturing. There’s also professional help through various drug rehabilitation and cognitive behavioral therapy available. Even if you don’t have health insurance, there’s still a lot of resources out there. If I searched half as hard for professional help without health insurance as I spent searching for my next high, I would of found it without problems.
How Do I Stay Sober?
What I discovered is I did need help and it wasn’t difficult for me to accept that. Addiction is put in a box, either you’re an addict or you’re not. The truth is everyone has their forms of addiction. It’s no different than everyone has their sources of anxiety or depression. Some people can deal with anxiety on their own, some need help. Because I didn’t put addiction in a box I had no shame for reaching out for help. Sure, I had some guilt. But shame is seeing behavior as who you are while guilt is seeing it as something you did.
When I reached out for help to try and understand how to stay sober I started with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is the common practice of most drug rehab facilities and it works for some people. However, this form of treatment wasn’t effective for me. Looking back I realized it was trying to challenge the way I thought my whole life. It was trying to replace all the negative thought patterns that caused my addiction with positive thought patterns. Theoretically, getting rid of these negative thought patterns is the cure for drug addiction. But it’s really hard to challenge these thought patterns with words as they were ingrained in my belief system since a young age. I tried rehab from August of 2011 to June of 2013 and found brief moments of sobriety before the negative thought patterns took control and I’d relapse like clockwork. Staying sober seemed nearly impossible at this stage,
June is where I tried a different approach that was more effective in helping me understand how to stay sober. Rather than going to therapist hoping that they could remove these self-defeating thoughts with words, I started to take action. After all, actions speak louder than words. The actions I took were gaining self-esteem by doing esteem-able things. At first, it went against everything I believed in. In my addiction lying, stealing, and playing the victim were how I survived. Regardless of what I believed in I took action anyways. I remember walking to a Dollar Tree to make amends for stealing candy bars because it was the right thing to do. My thoughts were going completely against the action I was about to take, but I took the action regardless. After a while of taking these positive actions they became habit. Once positive action became habit, positive thinking manifested itself naturally. The long-term benefits of being an up-standing person would further affirm this new path in life. No longer did I have to hide behind lies, not see a bright future for myself, or have empty friendships revolved around drugs. Finally I could be free. I’ll never say using drugs doesn’t seem like a fun idea, but risking all I’ve gained for “fun” seems like a dumb idea. I equate it to seeing an attractive woman but knowing she has STD’s. Sure, it seems fun, but it’s a bad idea so I don’t entertain the thought. Since I don’t entertain the thought of using drugs it doesn’t become an obsession I have to battle with.
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