“I can quit drinking anytime I want – I’ve done it many times.” Sometimes referred to as the Jekyll and Hyde Syndrome, some recovering alcoholics state this oft-quoted phrase. But deep down is usually a desire to quit drinking alcohol–once and for all. So how do some people actually quit drinking alcohol and entirely throw off their addiction? The early stages of sobriety often determine whether or not a recovering alcoholic’s pledge will be successful.
Here are seven helpful tips to help you stay sober during early sobriety:
Avoid people and places that tempt you to drink.
This one might seem a bit obvious. “Of course I wouldn’t go to a bar when I’m trying to stay sober,” you might be thinking. But you can be tempted at the most unexpected places during social occasions or events. Birthday celebrations or football viewing parties may seem innocent on the surface, but alcohol will more than likely be involved. Stay vigilant and keep away from anyone or any place that could tempt you.
Find replacement activities to occupy your time if you want to avoid alcohol.
Give yourself a reward every day that you remain sober
Positive reinforcement is a strong motivator for change. Ask yourself, “What really floats my boat?” In other words, “What would motivate me to remain sober?” After you identify the perfect reward, indulge yourself. For some people, it might be chocolate, for others it might be a new movie. If later your first reward gets stale, then choose another reward to keep up your spirits and commitment to staying sober.
Find a mentor or friend who can encourage you 24/7
Turning away from addiction is a difficult path, but you don’t have to walk it alone. Having a friend to keep you on the straight and narrow can immensely increase your chances at staying sober. Ideally, a friend who can could be “on call” would be best, if you know someone with a flexible schedule. However, don’t monopolize your friends’ time, or you may lose the support. Another solution is to enlist two friends so one doesn’t get burned out. Be sure to give back your time and support to these friends.
Post a month-long timeline that shows your progress
In plain view, post a sobriety timeline which you update each day that you remain sober. Perhaps a daily gold star for motivation? Each morning when you wake up,look at the timeline and think about how you will add another gold star that evening. Throughout the day, reflect on your progress as you take it one day at a time. At the end of the month, you will feel proud of your accomplishment.
Connect with a community
Studies have shown that addicts who try to overcome addiction alone – without community support – tend to relapse. Addiction experiments performed in the early 20th Century involved putting a rat in a cage with a bottle of regular water and a bottle with water mixed with cocaine or heroine. In most of these experiments, the rat drank the drugged water until it overdosed. In the 1970s, Bruce Alexander, a psychology professor, performed a similar experiment with rats, by putting many rats in a large cage he called “Rat Park.” It was filled with toys and play structures for the rats to have fun with and two bottles of water. One bottle contained regular water; the other was laced with morphine. During this experiment, the rats preferred to play with the toys or spend time with other rats, rather than drink the drug-laced water. In this experiment, no rats died from overdosing because they had alternative options to socialize. Although humans are decidedly different from rats, in this regard we share the intrinsic need to socialize. A supportive community can help an addict to refocus and leave the alcohol behind.
Staying active during the early stages of your recovery are another great way to maintaining sobriety. Begin slow with a modest exercise routine and slowly build up to harder exercises. Joining the gym is a great community as they will push you to meet your fitness goals and your focus will be solely on fitness and not on your addiction.
Hitting the gym is not the only form of exercise that can be done. Running or cycling are great workouts that will help you maintain sobriety and help you with weight loss. Much like joining a gym, there are many running and cycling groups that you can join to keep your exercising consistent. These people in these groups are very accountable with each other and you may even make new sober friends, which is a very good thing during early sobriety.
Get good sleep
Recovery addicts tend to have a difficult time getting sleep. While they were users, they would usually pass out after drinking themselves into a stupor. Not getting good sleep in your early days of sobriety can cause you to be irritable, make poor decisions and put you at greater risk of relapse.
There are many ways to beat addiction, but you need some effective methods to keep on track. By avoiding alcohol-related situations, rewarding yourself, having a friend keep tabs on you, tracking your progress, making meaningful connections with friends or your community, and getting good sleep, you can increase your chances of beating addiction once and for all. Staying sober is the early stages is key. Then you can say to your friends, “I stopped drinking alcohol because I quit for the first and only time.”