Many people, addicted or not, believe that being under the influence of drugs and alcohol and other substances leads to more fun experiences. Even those without addiction have the tendency to supplement most activities with alcohol or other substances in order to “enhance” the experience. However, this can lead to a culture of relationships built on entirely inauthentic connections. An even more sinister effect of this culture is the peer pressure and shaming a person can receive if they refuse to partake in using substances with their friends. The world is an extremely dangerous place for recovering addicts because of this culture of normalization of substance abuse. Unfortunately, the only way to combat that aspect is to continue sticking to your guns and living a life of sobriety despite the pushback. However, there are plenty of things you can do for your own self-accountability and improvement. And the longer you stay sober, the more you will realize how fulfilling and wonderful life is — without harmful substances.
Attend regular therapy sessions
Therapy is essential for building the skills you need to maintain lifelong sobriety. Why?
Well, addiction runs much deeper than on a physical level. Yes, the chemistry of the drugs can have an effect on the brain’s overall chemistry which helps a person become addicted, but scientists have now discovered that it’s not the only cause. Substances aren’t the only things that cause addiction. Think about it: it’s possible to also become addicted to things like shopping, gambling, pornography, etc, which create a shift in the chemical balance of the brain despite not contributing any sort of chemicals to the body (Harvard Health Publishing). This shows that it’s not necessarily the chemicals within substances themselves that cause addiction, but rather the way the brain’s reward center is stimulated.
Because of this, an essential part of recovery is tackling these mental blocks so that you may begin training your brain to no longer be dependent on the substance. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) outlines several principles of addiction treatment based on data the organization has collected for the past 40 years. These principles aim to improve the odds of success in treatment by ending (or moderating) drug use, lowering the risk of relapse, and allowing the person with an addiction to be successful in a lifetime of sobriety. These principles include things such as:
- Addiction is a multifaceted problem, but one that can be treated effectively.
- Treatment should be directed to the individual person rather than to their drug(s) of choice.
- Treatment can be helpful even if the client initially goes involuntarily. (Eventually, the client’s voluntary participation in treatment will influence their recovery path.)
- Medications can be an important part of treatment to address drug abuse or the mental health aspects underlying substance use.
- Counseling and behavioral therapies are highly utilized and the best available treatment options for drug abuse.
There are many types of therapies that your provider might choose to use to treat you. Each one is different, and the one that your therapist or counselor follows will depend on your personal circumstances, and their specialties. If they believe you would benefit from a certain kind of therapy that they do not provide, they may refer you to another counselor who specializes in that type of therapy.
Build a strong support group
Having a support system to lean on is one of the biggest contributing factors to success (Boisvert, et. al). A strong support system greatly reduces your chances of relapsing. While the choice to get and remain sober starts and ends with you, if you’ve only got yourself to answer to when it comes to staying sober, it’s going to be very difficult to stay on the path towards your goals. It really helps to have at least one person who you know is in your corner, rooting for you and depending on you to stay on track. Anyone from your family to your friends to your significant other to your peer support group can hold you accountable — the more the merrier. Through recovery, it’s important to become aware of the fact that your addiction doesn’t just affect you, it has a negative impact on everyone who loves and cares about you.
A strong group of supporters will always provide you with an extra boost of confidence or a pep talk when you need it most. When battling addiction, it’s easy to get caught in a dark thought spiral, so having people to help bring you back to reality is invaluable. Knowing that there is even one person other than yourself who you can lean on in times of trouble could be the difference between relapse and sobriety.
Once you have the foundation for your lifetime of sobriety employing the two things above, there are other ways in which you can provide enrichment in your life without using harmful substances. These activities will either help you to feel fulfilled and happy, utilizing the body’s natural physical responses or at the very least help you make friends who are likely to be committed to the sober lifestyle like you!
Join a sports team
While physical exercise on its own can be beneficial for one’s mental state, joining a sports team or exercise group can allow you to meet new friends who are dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle.
Pick up a new hobby
Developing a passion for something can help you fight away thoughts of hopelessness. The more healthy, happy relationships you form and the list of things you are excited about grows, the more you will feel you have to live for. This is a great fallback for when things get rough. Just knowing that you have healthy, fun activities to immerse yourself in when you’re in a bad mental space can really help pull you out of it and prevent you from turning back to your prior addiction. This can also help you make new friends to replace those who may have enabled your addiction in the past.
Shake things up
If you are still feeling hopeless and lost in your current routine, it may be time for more changes. You’ve likely already made major changes like giving up your addiction, cutting toxic people out of your life, going to therapy, etc, but it may be time to slowly add more positive things into your life. You can do this by sitting down and thinking about what you want out of the next week, month, year, and so on. Then, consider what needs to happen in order for you to achieve those things, then make a list of attainable goals to work toward. Even little positive changes can make a big impact. There’s no such thing as too small a goal.
Think about what you are grateful for every day
Journaling can help you keep track of this, but simply addressing all of the positive things life has to offer you on a daily basis can help you truly see the positive impact of sobriety. Think about what your life was like when you weren’t sober, and compare it to the life you are living now. If you are like most people who have suffered from addiction, life before sobriety probably looked pretty grim. Write down all of the wonderful things you have been blessed with as a direct result of your sobriety. You may be surprised how many things come to mind when you are actively thinking in a positive way!
Life is such a beautiful gift to have been given, and the world is an amazing place. Don’t let substances control your life and taint your experience of this wonderful life you live. Experiencing the world through the most authentic lens possible will open you up to so many more fulfilling relationships and experiences. Don’t let other people tell you that you are strange or “lame” for refusing to supplement your life with harmful substances. You can be YOU without all that mess, and you’ll thank yourself later.
Talk to Someone Who’s Been There. Talk to Someone Who Can Help. Scottsdale Recovery Center holds the highest accreditation (Joint Commission) and is Arizona’s premier rehab facility since 2009. Call 602-346-9142.