Staying sober means staying engaged, active and encouraged in your recovery. When things are good, it’s easy to ignore your coping skills and tools for recovery. When things are tough, it’s easy to beat yourself up and think there’s no way you can stay clean.
You know the first is a bad idea and the second just isn’t true, but in the moment? You might need some practical tips for staying sober. Because yes, staying sober comes with ups and downs. But that’s because life comes with ups and downs. And no matter where you are in recovery or life, you’re never defeated.
Practical Tips for Staying Sober
When it comes to staying sober, there are so many things you can do to stay strong and focused (or healthily distracted and relaxed). Your journey is your own, and it’s up to you to try new techniques and figure out what isn’t and isn’t the best match for you.
This exploration is part of the joy of being sober — you get to figure out and meet you! So take a look at some of the practical tips for staying sober we’ve listed below, and know that it’s only a partial list of the things you can do to make a sober life fun, active, rewarding and, well, sober!
- Take a few deep breaths. Put a pause between yourself and your thoughts. Reconnect to the here and now.
- Say a prayer. This doesn’t have to involve God, gods or even any spirituality at all. You can just say a general thank you or a positive affirmation if you want. Acknowledge the bigger world around you, and see your (sober) place in it.
- Find somewhere quiet and calm, and take an extra moment for relaxation and reflection.
- Find something to fix. Bryan Griffith of The Life Challenge suggests, “Find something in your home that needs repair – bike, computer, whatever – and figure out how to fix it (this one’s challenging and potentially time-consuming, yet rewarding!).”1
- Find something to clean or organize. Like finding something to fix, this is something that can offer distraction and leave you with a good, accomplished feeling. And a cleaner, fresher, more inspiring home!
- Cook a good meal. Take some time in the kitchen and cook something special. This is fun, distracting and an opportunity to pick up a healthy new skill.
- Take a class. Take a cooking class so you can make that good meal. Take a basic home repair, bike repair or car repair class, and get back to finding things to fix. Learn a new hobby or sport. There is so much you can learn to do now that you’re sober.
- Go back to school. Okay, this one isn’t an immediate tip for staying sober, but it can set you up for long-term success! Get the degree you always wanted or the credentials you need to pursue a career that matches your passions and vision for your sober life.
Take a few deep breaths. Put a pause between yourself and your thoughts. Reconnect to the present.
- Take an art class. Classes don’t have to involve “work” or studying. They can be expressive and creative too!
- You don’t have to be Picasso. You can express yourself through simple daily journaling and can learn a little more about yourself while you do.
- Read a book. Books offer information, escape and entertainment. Read a book about recovery. Read a book about a fantasy world. Read a good biography. It’s your choice!
- Go for a walk. Take your recovery outside. Change up the scenery, add a little movement to life, and stop to smell the roses.
- Take a fitness class. An active recovery is a healthy recovery. And being active can also be fun and social!
- Listen to music. Does hard rock let you blow off some steam? Classical music calm your soul? Hip-hop speak to your experiences and help you feel understood? Pick your favorite tunes, put on your headphones and connect or disengage as you need.
- Go to a support group meeting. There will always be someone who has “been there, done that” and can give you even more real-life tips and advice for navigating tough times.
- Call your therapist. Professionals exist for a reason. Reach out anytime you need a refresher, some support or some extra insight.
- Take care of your physical health. If you’re in pain, sick or just don’t feel good, your recovery is at risk. Stay active, eat well and work with your treatment team to take care of any co-occurring physical health issues.
- Take care of your mental health. Mental health is just as important as physical health. Check in with yourself regularly. Take medication if it’s prescribed for healthy brain chemistry and balance. Make sure you are going to those therapy meetings and participating in any and all aftercare.
- Call a friend or family member. We don’t all have supportive biological families, but we can always call on the families we choose to build with our friends and our recovery community. Pick up the phone for immediate love, support and connection. What could be better when times get tough?
- Hang with animals. If being social seems like too much, find a good animal friend. Animals can provide love and connection without the added stress personal relationships sometimes involve. So take a walk with your dog, pet your cat or go volunteer to do these things at a local shelter.
- Volunteering. Your time and your heart can be so valuable to others. Volunteer and work directly with those in recovery or in need of support. Work with families in need. Volunteer to clear trails or pick up trash at a park. Whatever you give will give you even more back.
If being social seems like too much, animals can provide love and connection without the added stress personal relationships sometimes involve.
- Stay social and active. You are welcome to spend time by yourself, but make sure you balance that with plenty of time with others. The Huffington Post explains that when we can’t or don’t form connections with others, we’ll look for connection elsewhere. And for those of us in recovery? That “elsewhere” is often in drugs, alcohol and other addictive behaviors.2 So call old friends or new friends, and get out there and have fun.
- Create sober entertainment options. What if you’re trying to be social and active, but everything seems to revolve around drugs or alcohol? Create your own activities! Throw a sober tailgate. Invite everyone to a board game night. Find local venues and activities that don’t offer alcohol, and suggest everyone meet there.
- Leave when you need to. Do put yourself out there and stay social. But also feel free to leave any event or interaction whenever you feel you need to. You don’t have to stay somewhere if you feel stressed, pressured or triggered. Recovery is yours. Do what you need to to stay healthy.
- Make (another) list. Wait, isn’t that what we’re supposed to be doing for you here? Yes and no. There’s no way one list can include all the tips and tricks for staying sober. And there’s no single list that will work for everyone. Recovery is personal. Try any of these tips that interest you, add new ideas of your own and get out there and practice. Discover your best sober life and live it!
By Alanna Hilbink
1 Griffith, Bryan. The Life Challenge. June 18, 2018.
2 Hari, Johann. “The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think.” Huffington Post. 18 Apr. 2017. Accessed June 22, 2018.