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Alcohol & Health
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Staying Sober

How to Get & Stay Sober

If you're dealing with an alcohol problem and trying to get and stay sober, you're not alone.

Healthy lifestyle changes and relying on the support of friends and like-minded peers can help. Many have also found success with the 12-step method developed by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).

However, some may be put off by AA due to its emphasis on a higher power or abstinence.

For those looking for other 12-step methods and groups, there are alternatives available.

How to Stay Sober Without AA

AA isn't the only way to attain sobriety.

If you want to try a mutual support group that isn't AA, options include:

  • SMART Recovery stands for Self-Management and Recovery Training. It aims to support those that give up alcohol use. 
  • Moderation Management (MM) is a program that helps people moderate their drinking in cases where total abstinence is not feasible.
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery is a support group for people to share life experiences and success stories about sobriety.
  • Women For Sobriety (WFS) is an all-women mutual support network intended to let women discuss the unique addiction challenges they face.
  • Celebrate Recovery is an explicitly Christian 12-step program. It emphasizes Biblical teachings to overcome addiction.

8 Tips for Staying Sober

It's important to take care of yourself, live a healthy lifestyle, and cut out alcohol if you have a problem.

After all, people die from excessive alcohol consumption every day. 

Here are 8 tips to stop drinking and stay sober:

1. Get professional help

Don't try to overcome alcohol addiction alone. Professional help is available and encouraged.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are real and can be dangerous, if not deadly. Not only is it safer to abstain from alcohol under professional care, but it's also more likely that you will get and stay sober.

Consider inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation facilities, support groups, therapy, holistic health programs, and medication-assisted addiction treatment. 

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2. Surround yourself with support

Surround yourself with friends, family, and other loved ones who support you. You may even turn to addiction support groups to meet other people who are in similar positions as you.

The more you surround yourself with healthy relationships, the easier it will be to recover and maintain sobriety.

3. Do not attend social gatherings that involve alcohol

Being around alcohol when you are trying to abstain from drinking it will only make your road to recovery harder.

If you can, avoid going to events where you know that drinking is going to be a big part.

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4. Do not keep alcohol in your house

Don't keep alcohol in your house — or anywhere that is within easy access for you. If you know that alcohol is in your kitchen, you may be more tempted to reach for it. 

If you live with friends or family, kindly ask them to do the same to support your sobriety.

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5. Continue to go to recovery support groups even after getting sober

If you have recovered from your alcohol addiction, you can still attend support groups like AA.

Continuing to show up at support groups holds you accountable and reminds you why you got sober in the first place. Doing this can help you to stay sober.

6. Seek therapy to work on the issues that entice you to drink

Therapy helps you identify and unpack the reasons that may be causing you to drink.

For example, if you're struggling in your marriage or dealing with trauma, you may turn to alcohol as an escape mechanism. Therapy can help you tackle the root of your issues in a healthy way.

7. Engage in activities you love

The more you drink, the more your passions and responsibilities can fall to the wayside. So, if you're trying to get and stay sober, consider engaging with the things you love again.

Conversely, the more you spend your time doing things you enjoy, the less you'll spend drinking.

8. Exercise to release endorphins naturally

Studies show that exercising releases natural endorphins that make you feel happy.

Because alcoholism is often linked to depression, consider getting your body moving to help boost your mood.

What Happens if I Relapse?

If you relapse, you are not alone. Unfortunately, relapsing is common because getting and staying sober can be extremely difficult.

Recovery takes time and effort. This is why it often requires professional addiction treatment.

Studies show that people who obtain professional help are more likely to remain sober than those who try to recover on their own.

Does a Relapse Mean Failure?

A relapse does not mean failure. It just means that you have to keep trying. Alcohol and drug addiction is not easy to overcome.

Find a treatment center or helping professional that is right for you. With the support of family members, other loved ones, and healthcare professionals, you can get and stay sober.

Benefits of Relapse Prevention Programs

There are plenty of benefits to relapse prevention and treatment programs.

These include:

  • Making friends who can support you on your recovery journey
  • Getting the support and care of medical professionals
  • Increased accountability
  • Access to mental health therapy

Attending a relapse prevention program may help stop you from relapsing during your addiction recovery journey.

Treatment Options for Drug or Alcohol Relapse

There are treatment options available for drug and alcohol relapse. Seek out an inpatient or outpatient rehab treatment facility, an experienced professional, or addiction support groups to start.

A support system is key in obtaining a sober life.

Here are the most successful types of treatment for alcohol and drug addiction and relapse:

Inpatient Programs

Inpatient treatment takes place at a licensed residential treatment center.

These programs provide 24/7 comprehensive, structured care. You'll live in safe, substance-free housing and have access to professional medical monitoring.

The first step of an inpatient program is detoxification. Then behavioral therapy and other services are introduced.

These programs typically last 30, 60, or 90 days, sometimes longer.

Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs)

Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are sometimes referred to as intensive outpatient programs (IOP).

Partial hospitalization programs provide similar services as inpatient programs. These include medical services, behavioral therapy, and support groups, along with other customized therapies.

However, in a PHP program, you return home to sleep. Some services provide food and transportation, but services vary by program.

PHPs accept new patients and people who have completed an inpatient program and still need intensive treatment.

Outpatient Programs

Outpatient treatment is less intensive than inpatient or partial hospitalization programs. These programs organize your treatment session based on your schedule.

The goal of outpatient treatment is to provide therapy, education, and support in a flexible environment.

They are best for people who have a high motivation to recover and cannot leave their responsibilities at home, work, or school.

Outpatient programs are often part of aftercare programs once you complete an inpatient or PHP program.

Medication-Assisted Therapy (MAT)

Medications are sometimes used in alcohol addiction treatment.

Some help reduce the negative side effects of detoxification and withdrawal. Others help reduce cravings and normalize body functions.

Disulfiram (Antabuse), acamprosate (Campral), and naltrexone are the most common medications used to treat AUD.

When combined with other evidence-based therapies (such as cognitive behavioral therapy), MAT can help prevent relapse and increase your chance of recovery.

Support Groups

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and SMART Recovery are open to anyone with a substance abuse problem.

They are peer-led organizations dedicated to helping each other remain sober.

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Updated on March 24, 2022
10 sources cited
  1. Alcohol Alert #60.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  2. Alcohol Poisoning Deaths.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 Jan. 2015.
  3. Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 3 May 2021.
  4. Alcohol Use Disorder.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 11 July 2018
  5. Becker, Howard C. “Alcohol Dependence, Withdrawal, and Relapse.” Alcohol Research & Health : the Journal of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2008
  6. Moos, Rudolf H, and Bernice S Moos. “Rates and Predictors of Relapse after Natural and Treated Remission from Alcohol Use Disorders.” Addiction (Abingdon, England), U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2006
  7. Most People Who Drink Excessively Are Not Alcohol Dependent.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  8. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” Harvard Health.
  9. Skerrett, Patrick J. “Heavy Drinkers Aren't Necessarily Alcoholics, but May Be ‘Almost Alcoholics.’” Harvard Health, 22 Nov. 2014.  
  10. Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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