5 Tips For Staying Sober

5 Tips to Actually Stay Sober This Time

Have you watched a loved one run the gamut when it comes to sober living, treatment centers and outpatients? Or maybe you’ve been to more treatment centers than you can count and one more time find yourself drunk or high and asking why it happened. Well, there’s some good news and there’s some bad news. The good news is that staying sober, even if you’re young, is totally possible. In fact, getting sober young is kind of the thing to do in Southern California right now. The bad news, is that if you were expecting to find an easy 5 step list on this page that would take all the work out of recovery, it doesn’t exist. If you want to break the cycle though and figure out what’s gotta change to make it, here are 5 tips to stay sober long term this time.

1. Let go of the car-wash mentality.

Rule number 1 if you want your recovery to last longer than the 30 days you spend inside of that treatment center, is realizing that, umm well, 30 days in a treatment center won’t fix you. While insurance companies might not like the idea that you can’t cure alcoholism or addiction in a month (that’s a topic for another day – stay tuned!), it’s the truth. Would you treat any other chronic, potentially fatal illnesses with a 4 week vacation and then a couple support groups here and there?

The bottom line is that recovery requires consistent effort. Treatment can be a fantastic start – but if it isn’t followed up with behavioral and lifestyle changes, it won’t ever be effective. If you go to treatment, remove the drugs and the alcohol and then expect to go back to living the same life you were before, dealing with your problems the same way, and pursuing the same fixes as soon as you discharge, you’re going to relapse. Real recovery isn’t a quick fix – its an overhaul that has to be maintained and cultivated with consistent action.

2. Long-term treatment is dramatically more effective than short-term.

The research is in – success rates at staying sober climb with the more time an individual spends under professional care. While this is something we have known as addiction specialists for a long time, there is finally scientific research to back up these observations. 30 days of treatment isn’t enough to do anything. The reality is, 90 days is not a whole lot better. Effective treatment takes long-term care, especially for young people. Building on tip number one, if we are going to make the required behavioral and emotional changes to get recovery to stick, it’s going to take some time. Many that enter treatment have been using drugs or alcohol for years – how can a habit that is that entrenched and deeply rooted in someone just go away in 90 days?

It can’t. And it doesn’t. Sadly, if you stick around recovery long enough, you’ll watch relapse after relapse, sometimes fatal, of individuals that think this doesn’t apply to them. Do yourself a favor and get it right the first time.

3. Get uncomfortable.

Here’s another one that the treatment industry isn’t willing to tell you. If you want to stay sober, you’re going to have to get uncomfortable. Here’s an insider secret that nobody working in “luxury treatment” wants you to know: it’s a lot easier to market a treatment center that looks like a spa day but there is literally zero empirical evidence that even slightly suggests that addiction treatment success rates increase with the addiction of luxury amenities.

Quite the contrary actually. One of the most important elements of long-lasting sobriety is the development of humility. Again, not a popular statement with active addicts and alcoholics, and definitely a harder sell than a private sushi chef. But when you give an addict or an alcoholic everything they want and bend to their every desire in early recovery, you are actually crippling them. In fact, one could make the argument that facilities that play to the every whim and desire of addicts in order to charge exorbitant fees are not only being opportunistic, they are being unethical and setting addicts up to relapse. Food for thought….

I actually wrote a whole article on why this doesn’t work if you want to check it out.

4. Don’t surround yourself with drugs and alcohol.

But isn’t this a no-brainer? Well, with music festivals, family events, and typical young adult frequented parties, it’s unfortunately not. Look, I’m not here to tell you to go hide inside of a bubble for the rest of your life and never have fun again. In fact, getting sober gives us the ability to go anywhere and do anything if we have good reason for it. But lets not take that phrase out of context. When someone has 30 days sober and they decide to go to Coachella, it isn’t them “exercising the freedom that sobriety has given them”. It’s them setting themselves up to get high or drunk.

Again, can’t tell you how many of these relapses I’ve seen over the years. There’s all kinds of fun stuff to do in recovery, and if music is a passion of yours, there will be plenty of time for concerts and festivals down the road. But please, get sober first.

5. Find a group of like-minded peers.

When we’re young, friends can feel like they are everything. The problem is, many (or all) of our relationships when we first get sober are centered around or focused on drinking and using. It’s hard enough to learn how to start having healthy, two-way relationships with other human beings when we get sober. Trying to take that back into a relationship with someone who is still actively using is even worse.

Having a recovery community of peers who are all walking the same path can make or break early (early = the first few years) recovery. Surround yourself with people that you want to hang out with that live the same lifestyle as you. There is strength in numbers, and alcoholism is a disease of separation. The more support and love we have around us, the better our chances of staying sober. It also makes things a lot more fun.

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7 Comments
  • Dana Saruk
    Posted at 23:13h, 06 June Reply

    Wonderful article. You said it all….

    • Howard Barker
      Posted at 19:10h, 07 June Reply

      Thanks Dana!

  • Debbie Ogata-Arakaki
    Posted at 01:00h, 09 June Reply

    Amen! Terrific article! I never understood the rationale behind spa living as part of recovery. It’s like a reward for negative behavior. I totally agree with you, Howard, tip 3 is critical. We moms spend our entire lives trying to make our children happy and comfortable. It’s tough to realize how much we enable the alcoholic with this philosophy. Until we submit and open our eyes, we become part of the problem. As a seasoned parent, I know now that the road to long term sobriety begins with that first step into uncomfortability for our son and for us. We are grateful to NL!

  • Brad Manger
    Posted at 00:39h, 10 June Reply

    Your 5 tips map the way for long term sobriety. Abstaining from from drugs & alcohol while altering your environment , lifestyle & peer group will guarantee step 3 . Your right…. staying sober isn’t easy but a lot more likely w/ a longer term program that understands the complexity of addiction .

  • Moira McGraw
    Posted at 16:05h, 10 June Reply

    Terrific article! I appreciate the reminder to “Get uncomfortable”. I now know how vital this was for our son to get into recovery. And I continue to realize that as a codependent parent, I need to quit fixing, rescuing, and must continue to “get uncomfortable” enough to let my son experience the reality of his disease. I finally started to see how my denial was destructive for my son, and an avoidance of learning how to live my own life. I have as much work to do in recovery as he has! Surrendering to my own need for Alanon has been a spiritual treasure. I am so grateful to New Life House for the help our family is blessed with.
    -M.M.

    • Howard Barker
      Posted at 20:13h, 10 June Reply

      Thanks Moira! As weird as it sounds to someone unfamiliar with recovery, I am very grateful to be an alcoholic! Without that impetus, I doubt that I would have ever had the motivation to begin the spiritual process that recovery has exposed me to. It sounds like you have also found the silver lining in your struggles!

  • Tamra Barker
    Posted at 17:47h, 12 June Reply

    Excellent article, Howard!!! They all sound like “no brainers” now, but would have sounded rather foreign when I began this journey. I was immersed in denial and quite ignorant in the area of alcoholism. The correct program and education for parents is critical! I am so thankful for NL because it provided both! I am especially grateful for and proud of the son I have!!!!! Congratulations on your upcoming five years of sobriety!!!

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