The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the flowers are blooming. The transition to spring is bringing out renewal, new life, and growth all around us – but what about within us? For those of you who are months or years into your sobriety, or those who aspire to that goal, your steadfast commitment to recovery may be starting to fade. We understand, and we’re here today to share 10 ways to re-affirm your commitment to sobriety and keep you successful in the journey.
Strategies to stay successful in long-term sobriety
1. Develop a structured schedule and patterns
Life in active addiction is often uncertain and disorganized, which can hinder your recovery and encourage you to turn to old harmful habits. Instead, develop a structured realistic daily and weekly schedule that will help you to plan out and achieve both short and long-term goals. This ensures all basic responsibilities of life are attended to, your lifestyle is balanced, and that sobriety remains your top priority. This also sets a baseline – if things start getting complicated, stressful, or messy at any time down the road, you know what kind of structured routine and schedule works for you and can return to it more easily.
2. Surround yourself with healthy relationships
We pick up the energy, habits, and behaviours of those closest to us – so make sure those are people you want to be like. By working hard to be the best version of yourself, you will attract others who are doing the same. Once you’ve been in recovery for an extended period of time, you can look back on past relationships with clarity and recognize unhealthy behaviours or toxicity, such as co-dependency or enabling. It can be difficult, but it’s often necessary to take a step back from people who are hindering your growth. Relationships with friends and family can be an important part of recovery, but the quality of them matters, and you should only surround yourself with people who lift you up, encourage you, and support your sobriety. It’s an ongoing process of evaluating people in your life as your needs and goals evolve.
3. Continue to attend 12-step meetings
The need for consistent treatment and peer support never goes away. 12-step recovery programs are strongly encouraged for the newly sober and are equally recommended for people further along in their recovery journey. These meetings provide a community that evolves and grows, offers social support, the ability to learn coping mechanisms from other addicts, motivation, encouragement, and emotional renewal to help you stay sober. Your sponsor is also an invaluable asset to stay successful in long-term sobriety – they are experienced in years-long commitment and can offer ongoing support and advice throughout your journey.
4. Know your triggers and warning signs
Again, this advice is often given to people first entering recovery, but triggers or urges can appear at any point in your life and recovery stage. Come to understand your personal triggers and write them down. External triggers can include places, people, things, or environments that make you think about and crave using, and internal triggers do the same but through feelings, emotions, and thoughts. Some of the most common triggers for addicts that can cause relapse at any point in recovery are stress, being around people who are still using, job or financial issues, relationship difficulties, or family dysfunction. Recognize when you find yourself in a challenging situation and how you start to think about your sobriety in those moments. If you notice yourself returning to addictive and irrational thinking patterns, seeking people or situations from your past, or performing self-defeating actions, tell someone immediately and seek treatment.
5. Practice healthy living
Never forget the importance of prioritizing self-care and your physical and emotional health. For more info about the benefits of good health in recovery, check out last week’s blog here. The gist of it is you should try your best to exercise regularly, eat consistent well-balanced meals, get good quality sleep, create time for hobbies and recreational activities, and utilize relaxation strategies and mindfulness. Exercise releases natural endorphins which help relieve stress, boost your mood, and minimize cravings. Finding activities that bring you joy (e.g., yoga, hiking, art) can prevent boredom and keep you motivated and on track. Following a regular meal and snack schedule can reduce the risk of cravings, which can occur if you’re hungry or if your body doesn’t have the right balance of nutrients.
6. Move beyond the past
Everyone in recovery has experienced bumps and bruises along the way and often that includes making wrong decisions or damaging relationships. To be successful in long-term sobriety, you need to make amends and move on. Feeling guilt or shame for things you did in the past when in the depths of addiction is normal and natural, but holding on to those feelings for an extended period of time or letting them become excessive is unhealthy, counterproductive and will hold you back in recovery. You never want to let those feelings become toxic and contribute to a relapse. Instead, as you’re taught in 12-step programs, acknowledge the mistakes you’ve made and make amends with the people you’ve hurt. This is an opportunity to grow and deepen your relationships with loved ones, reflect on past experiences, and actively choose to live your life differently and in line with your current values and morals.
7. Don’t forget self-care and mental health
Healing yourself holistically, from the inside out, is what transforms you from simply being sober into being happy and successful in long-term recovery. During active addiction, you likely associated enjoyment with using; now it’s important to find new healthy activities that mean something to you and can fill that space. This is an opportunity for personal growth, making connections with people who have similar interests and prioritizing yourself. Mental health is closely linked to stress levels, so identify and indulge in some practices that ease the weight off your shoulders. This could be a long walk outdoors, breathing exercises, grounding techniques, a bath, calm music, or reading a good book. Moreover, self-care techniques can be implemented in small ways on a daily basis – you can try goal setting for the day or week ahead, saying positive affirmations out loud to yourself, doing a quick stretch during the day, journaling your thoughts down, or spending quality time with a loved one.
8. Celebrate milestones
Celebrating your sobriety never gets old because staying sober never gets any less important. Whether you’re reaching a milestone of 10 days or 10 years, take time to acknowledge the hard work and commitment you’ve given to becoming the best version of yourself. It helps keep you motivated in long-term sobriety and gives you a chance to think back on why you first became sober and the ways your life has benefitted from that decision. If you feel comfortable doing so, you can include friends, family, and others in your support network in these celebrations and appreciate the role they play in your success. Every day you’re sober is a victory!
9. Give back to others
Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and can put your own troubles into perspective. Whether in recovery or not, it’s wonderful to contribute to bettering other people’s lives by donating your time or resources. Particularly for addicts, helping others can remind you where you started and where you want to be, and strengthen your self-confidence and self-worth. If you’re active in a 12-step program, becoming a sponsor to support someone else in their recovery is another excellent way to give back. And by the way, Avalon is always looking for dedicated volunteers! Click here to learn more.
10. Ignore the myth of moderation
After months or years of successful sobriety, you might start to convince yourself that you could begin using again with a newfound sense of responsibility and control. The difficult truth is that moderation didn’t work in the past and won’t work now. The goal of recovery is to completely stop using, not to lessen the frequency or dabble in it. One indulgence will most likely turn into several more. Relapses can happen for people years into recovery, and commonly because their memory tricks them into forgetting how bad things were during their addiction and starts romanticizing past experiences when they felt good using. While the time you’ve spent sober has helped heal your body and mind, it has not cured your addiction. Moderation is a myth to those in recovery and the only way to stay sober and committed long-term is to stop using completely and permanently.
Recovery is a long and ongoing process. It takes commitment and resolve each day, and when you’re far along in your recovery journey, staying sober can take on a new meaning. We hope the ideas we’ve shared and the rejuvenated feeling that springtime provides help you take on sobriety with a renewed sense of motivation and focus. Remember how badly you wanted to be at the point you’re at now before you committed to recovery. You’ve made it this far, and as long as you keep re-adjusting your recovery plan and doing what you know works for you, you’ll be successful for years to come. And if anything changes and you notice feelings or urges pop up that haven’t in a while, honesty is key. Be honest with yourself about what that could mean, and be honest with your support group so they can step in and help. 12-step meetings are always a place you can turn for free support, treatment, and community. You can find all of Avalon’s meeting options here. We believe in you! Keep moving onwards and upwards ❤️