Recovery is much more than stopping drug and alcohol abuse. Trying to maintain abstinence from addictive substances or behaviours while keeping up your old lifestyle will not work. Successful addiction recovery requires a lifestyle overhaul. To stay sober after drug or alcohol rehab you will have to learn how to rebuild your lifestyle around recovery, not fit recovery into your lifestyle.
Your lifestyle includes your interests, opinions, values, and behaviour. To help you stay sober positive lifestyle changes will need to be holistic — that is they will have to address all areas of life: physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual. Learning to care for yourself in all these realms is an integral part of addiction treatment and long-term recovery. As you enter recovery some lifestyle changes will come naturally, while others may take more work on your part.
The sometimes drastic changes that are required to get and stay sober can seem daunting at first, but there are simple and practical steps you can take to change your lifestyle to foster your recovery.
8 Lifestyle Changes to Help You Stay Sober
1. Eat a healthy diet.
One of the first and best lifestyle changes you can make to support your recovery is to adopt a healthy diet. Proper nutrition is imperative to help rebuild tissue damage that may have occurred due to alcoholism and drug abuse. Eating a healthy diet will also help reduce stress — so the benefits are not only physical, but mental and emotional as well, and therefore reduces your risk for relapse and helps you to stay sober. Eating healthfully also reduces your risk for developing a food addiction.
So how can you incorporate healthy eating into your lifestyle? Start by eating three meals a day. This means no skipping breakfast! Plan meals in advance to avoid last minute trips to the drive-thru and be sure to have healthy snacks such as cut fruit and veggies, lean meat slices, or nutritious nuts on hand. If you are still unsure about how to incorporate a healthy eating plan, speak to a nutritionist or dietician in your area.
2. Exercise regularly.
Integrating exercise into your daily routine and recovery is a sure-fire way to boost your ability to stay sober long-term. Because exercise does not only improve your physical health, even mild exercise can boost the feel-good chemicals in your brain, helping you reduce stress and improve your mood. Joining a fitness club or participating in group activities such as walking or running with others in your neighbourhood will also help you to meet other people who share your desire for a healthy lifestyle.
One of the hardest things for many people in early recovery is the fact that being around people who drink or use is no longer appropriate — and often this means letting go of all of your former friends. Forming a new group of sober friends is imperative as you will need support and advice in early recovery – and recovery meetings are a great place to meet new people at first who you can be sure will be supportive of your new lifestyle.
In addition to forming new healthy friendships, rekindling relationships and building trust with family and friends who are supportive of your recovery is also beneficial. Becoming lonely is one of the most common relapse triggers – so reach out to new and old people who will support you to stay sober.
4. Seek out new hobbies.
To positively change your lifestyle you will likely have to acquire new hobbies to replace all the time and money you previously spent fuelling your drug addiction. Hobbies are extremely fulfilling — you just have to spend some time reconnecting with what you were interested in. Everyone had something they enjoyed before addiction consumed their entire lives, but trying new things is also beneficial. Painting, collage, scrapbooking and other arts, fishing, writing, reading, sports — are all healthy activities that can bring joy to your life.
5. Learn to relax.
Most people begin drinking or using drugs for one of three reasons: to escape, to relax, and to reward oneself. In recovery you will have to find new ways to do those things. Learning to relax without drugs and alcohol is an important lifestyle change needed to stay sober. Try meditation, hot baths, aromatherapy, and even exercise to de-stress and relax after a long day. Try rewarding yourself with a trip to the spa or by buying a new book. Staying relaxed and stress-free means avoiding another common relapse trigger.
6. Take control of your finances.
Managing your money was probably not a strong suit whilst in the thralls of addiction. Getting advice on money management (for example, getting rid of your ATM card and tackling overwhelming debt) will keep you ahead of the game and help prevent relapse. Having a grip on your finances will reduce your stress and is a lifestyle change that can support you in achieving other goals in recovery.
7. Practise gratitude.
Practising gratitude is a highly recommended practise for any recovering addict. It requires a shift in your thinking and attention, from what is ‘missing’ in your life to being thankful for what you do have. Almost all religions and spiritual practises incorporate gratitude into their practise — but you do not have to be religious to reap the benefits. Grateful people are happier and less stressed. To achieve this, try keeping a gratitude journal where you can list three to five things that you are grateful for each day. This will help you take the focus away from any trying situations or problems in your life at the moment, and focus on what is good.
8. Be honest.
Addiction requires lying to yourself and others. Recovery requires honesty. If you are to be truly successful in recovery and want to stay sober, you have to be honest with yourself about your disease and the changes you have to make. One sign that you are headed for relapse is catching yourself lying to others — even if it seems unrelated to your addiction history. Saying your fine when you are not, making excuses for why you did not show up, and other seemingly harmless lies are warning signs to be aware of. Being honest is holding yourself accountable for your previous and current actions, and will go a long way to improve your overall life.
Committing to sober living means committing to improving your lifestyle overall. Take it one day at a time and ask yourself one question before bedtime each day – “Did I care for myself today?” If not, take a look at the areas in your life which you can focus on improving in order to make staying sober that much easier.