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How to Get & Stay Sober

You are not alone if you are dealing with an alcohol problem and trying to get and stay sober. The road to sobriety is not necessarily easy, but professional help is available.

Anyone can develop alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol intake, despite the consequences, according to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

When people start drinking at a young age, they face an elevated risk of developing AUD later in life. For example, teenagers who consume alcohol before the age of 15 are five times as likely to report having AUD as the people who waited until reaching the legal drinking age of 21 years old.

People who have family members with unhealthy alcohol use are also at a risk of developing AUD. In fact, nearly 60 percent of alcoholism can be traced back to genetics. Environment also plays a role. After all, parent’s drinking patterns can impact their children’s habits when they grow up.1

People with mental health issues are also more likely to struggle with AUD. These include those who live with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), childhood traumas, and more.

Still, almost one-third of American adults drink excessively, and 10 percent of them have alcohol addictions. About 15 million people have alcohol use disorder.9

Not everyone who drinks is an alcoholic. Moderate alcohol use is typically considered safe. This generally means up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. This might be a standard beer (12 fluid ounces) or two, or a standard glass of wine (five fluid ounces) or two.

But if you or someone you know is regularly drinking more than this or has developed a dependency on alcohol, seek support.

8 Tips for Staying Sober

It is 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 single day. 

On average, six people die of alcohol poisoning (intoxication) every day in the United States. Many more people lose their lives to overdoses that involve other substances, including prescription drugs.

Here are 8 tips for staying sober:

1. Get professional help

First things first, do not 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 surveillance, but it is also more likely that you will get and stay sober with help.

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

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 from alcohol addiction.

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.

4. Do not keep alcohol in your house

Do not 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.

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 Alcoholics Anonymous (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 can help you identify and unpack the reasons that may be causing you to drink. For example, if you are struggling in your marriage or dealing with trauma, you may turn to alcohol as an escape mechanism. Psychotherapy can help you tackle the root of your issues in a healthy way.

7. Engage in activities you love

One symptom of alcoholism is a diminishing enjoyment in things you once loved. The more you drink, the more your passions and responsibilities are likely to fall to the wayside. So, if you are trying to get and stay sober, consider engaging with the things you love again.

The more you spend your time doing things you enjoy (that do not involve alcohol), the less likely you are to want to drink or have time to drink.

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.

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How to Stay Sober Without AA

While some people get and stay sober without joining Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), others rely on the support of people who are in their shoes, which can really help. However, if you do not want to attend AA meetings, it is not a requirement. You can follow the other steps above to help you stay sober.

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, and often requires professional addiction treatment.

Studies show that compared to people who obtain professional help, those who try to recover on their own are less likely to achieve three-year remission. They are also more likely to relapse down the line.

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You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.
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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. When you have a substance use disorder or an alcohol use disorder, you become reliant upon these substances. This makes daily life without them especially difficult.

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

The benefits of relapse prevention and treatment programs are aplenty. First, you may make other sober friends and meet other people in recovery who can support you along the road to recovery. 

You can also find the support and care of trusted medical professionals who specialize in unhealthy alcohol and substance use. With new friends and health care providers, you can succeed.

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 ProgramsInpatient 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. Most programs help set up your aftercare once you complete the inpatient portion of your treatment.
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHPs) Partial hospitalization programs (PHP) are sometimes referred to as intensive outpatient programs (IOP). Compared to inpatient programs, partial hospitalization programs provide similar services. 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 as well as 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) Sometimes, medications may be used in alcohol addiction treatment. Some medicines can help reduce the negative side effects of detoxification and withdrawal. Others can help you 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 and SMART Recovery are open to anyone with a substance abuse problem. They are peer-led organizations dedicated to helping each other remain sober. They can be the first step towards recovery or part of a long-term aftercare plan.

Resources

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(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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