You glance at your email and find an invitation to join your friends for movie night. Your first thought is, “Oh no. Not again.” While this may sound like a fun evening out to most, you see it as an opportunity to potentially “mess up.” As much you want to be part of the group and be able to socialize, the idea of risking your sobriety and exposing yourself to temptation keeps you wary.
Now that you’re sober, your life seems to hang in the balance with every decision you make. It’s hard not to wonder if life will ever get easier. We want to blatantly say, “Yes, someday you’ll be able to easily resist the temptations of drugs and alcohol,” but that would be a lie.
Sobriety is tough—very tough. It’s a lifelong commitment comparable to the death of a person you love. For a long time, your substance of choice was a part of your daily life. It was something you depended on; something that made you feel comfortable. Now, it’s “gone” and honestly, time will never be able to completely heal the void. Daily living will be easier to manage, but it’s important to accept that the thought of your addiction will always linger in the back of your mind.
Constantly cornered by the massive wine lists at restaurants, friends and family who enjoy one too many margaritas, and even the legalization of marijuana in a growing number of states, exactly how does someone in recovery survive?
Here are a few ideas to help lessen the persistent tug-of-war in your mind.
1. Stay busy.
The old saying “Busy hands are happy hands” is a fitting mantra for the recovering addict as being idle tends to let the mind drift and revisit old habits. Out of boredom, the addict may rationalize and say, “I could have a drink or get high and no one would know.” However, you would know and that would be an absolute set-back in maintaining sobriety.
If you find yourself with some free time, try the following activities:
- Volunteer your time to charitable causes
- Take up a new hobby
- Start an exercise regimen or cook up a healthy meal
- “Spring clean” your room or closet
- Attend a support meeting
2. Get organized.
It’s common for an addict to live a chaotic life while using. After all, most of their attention is geared towards acquiring their drug of choice while everything else tend to fall in the background.
Now that you’ve made a vow to sobriety, it’s time to gain back control of your daily life by adding structure and order to each day. For the first several months, craft a detailed plan and an organized schedule to help you stay on track. Remember not to view this as punishment, but instead as a way to reduce the possibility of straying from your recovery regimen.
3. Keep your eyes on the prize.
Think of your initial motivation to get sober. Was it to improve your relationships, perform better at work, live independently? Whatever your reasons were, don’t lose sight of them. If you have to write them down and post them where you can see them daily, do so. To successfully break your dependency, the emphasis must always be on the short-term and long-term benefits of sobriety.
4. Avoid pity parties.
Life is not fair. It’s not fair that you are doing your best to recover from your addiction, yet you have to drive by a street full of bars on your way home. It’s not fair that you live in a community where some drugs are now legal and the smell of the smoke in the air calls upon you.
Stop whining. You’ve created this situation and now it’s your responsibility to do what you can to avoid circumstances that can set you back. You have to be completely aware of your surroundings and stay away from people, places or things that can suck you back into your old habits.
5. Don’t stop learning.
People who abuse drugs or alcohol do so for different reasons. Make it your goal to do everything you can to understand why you used.
Soak in as much information as you can about your addiction as long as it’s from a reliable and credible source. Read books, learn from others, share your experiences, participate in therapy sessions and ask questions. Stay curious and never stop exploring other ways to help yourself heal.
Now that you’re on this new path, don’t focus on what you are missing. Instead, think of all the lifelong benefits you will gain. Once you fully identify which things are truly important to you, the decision to choose sobriety every time will be so clear it will hardly require effort at all.