Long-term sobriety is the goal for anyone who endeavors to stop using drugs. Sobriety itself can last an hour or a life-time, or anything in between – but a short-lived sobriety doesn’t mean much if you find yourself stuck in a destructive cycle between costly treatments, painful relapses, and the guilt and emotions that accompany this switch in both directions.
But if it was easy, then addiction as a whole wouldn’t exist. First and foremost, it’s important to note that the key to long-term sobriety is not necessarily something that exists in the same way for everyone. Everyone has a key, but it’s entirely subjective, and there’s no way of knowing what your key might be. Furthermore, the key alone isn’t enough. There are several components to successfully remaining sober, and all of them are important. Which one is most important will depend entirely upon you.
We’re going to go through several keys and consider why each of them matter for long-term sobriety. As a whole, the basics are support, reason, and alternatives. While it might not start out that way, every addiction eventually turns into something a person can use to run away from their problems. It might start with a party or it might begin as a series of rash mistakes, but it eventually turns into something a person’s brain perceives as completely necessary to maintain sanity. That’s why support, reason, and alternatives matter.
Don’t Be in This Alone
It’s almost impossible to stay sober alone. Some might go so far as to blame loneliness and isolation for most cases of addiction, insofar that people start using drugs as a way to form bonds and connect with others, failing to do so, and instead only forming a bond with substances.
You need to decide on your own that you want to get clean – but you need the right help to stay clean. Friends, family, a partner – whoever you have in your corner, you need to be able to trust them and, just as importantly, they need to be able to trust you. That means telling them everything they need to know and entrusting them with your life at times. They’ll have your back and will be there to convince you to stay strong and continue staying clean on the days when you really don’t want to.
Keep in Touch with a Professional
Having a support system is important. You can call on them for help, rekindle and reform old relationships, and spend more time with the people you love. But professional help is important, too. Family and friends are who you call when you need the support, but it’s the professionals who help you sort out your own head and find your own path through all of this. A therapist or psychiatrist can help you identify why you began using, what makes you want to use again, and what you need to do to get both of these things under control. Some people get into drugs because something else is going on in their lives, and they want a way to deal with the pain. Others develop pain because of their addiction and continue to use as a way to cope. A therapist can help you untangle the mess that drugs has left behind, and help you make more sense of your situation.
Find Your Purpose
We all need something to do, and not just because we get bored. We’re meant to work together, matter to one another, and be useful within the community and within society at large. There’s an inner human drive to empathize and do good things – indeed, helping others intrinsically feels good, and that’s not just a social construct.
That’s why a purpose can help. Addiction often leaves people aimless, unsure of where to go and what to do. Life is difficult to return to after a long period of addiction, and guidance can help. Whether your purpose comes in the form of being a good parent, or pursuing a better position at your company, or quitting and going into a different line of work altogether. Through a purpose, we can find a reason to keep going even on the tougher days.
What’s Your Idea of a Good Time?
You need ways to let off some steam – ways that don’t involve vice and bad choices. It might sound irritating to go and focus on “healthier lifestyle choices”, but there’s more to it. Addictive drugs can’t be “replaced” in the same capacity – they’re some of the most potent and powerful psychoactive chemicals in the world, and the feeling of being high and wanting more fades but doesn’t disappear forever.
You don’t need another way to get high. But you do need ways to deal and cope with the stressors of recovery. From sports to games to dancing, you simply need a few ways to have fun.
It Does Get Easier
Maybe the most important piece of information for anyone to receive while going through recovery is that it gets easier a step at a time. It’s not necessarily a day-to-day change – some days things are better, and some days things are worse. But over time, you’ll notice that it gets easier.
The only way to survive recovery is to be surrounded with people who remind you that it’s not always bad, and that you can be strong and healthy. Another thing that’s crucial is to have a reason to be sober, and something to look forward to. A purpose to focus on, and something to hold yourself accountable for so even in your darkest hour, you call for help before doing anything you might regret. And, finally, it’s important to have fun. To let loose in new and healthier ways, find ways to cope with your stress, be around others and indulge in ways you previously couldn’t.
Over time you’ll realize that there’s more than one key to maintaining a long-term sobriety. Having a place to return to when things get really bad, like a sober living home, is important too. It’s when it all comes together that the future feels more certain.