What Does It Mean to Put Sobriety First?
Putting sobriety first means making a conscious choice to create an environment that promotes your recovery. It means you’re actively taking steps to avoid the complacency that puts you at risk of relapse following graduation from residential treatment.
1. Take It One Day at a Time
When you leave residential treatment, you may feel as though you are ready to conquer the world. This unbridled sense of optimism is sometimes referred to as riding the pink cloud. It feels amazing, but it can leave you with unrealistic expectations for what your life in recovery should look like.
When you’re in recovery, you’re breaking old behavior patterns and replacing them with new ways of living. This process takes time, so you must be patient with yourself. Break down what you want to accomplish into manageable short-term goals, and focus on making continual progress in your recovery journey. Don’t let small setbacks keep you from celebrating the progress you’ve already made.
2. Reevaluate Your Relationships
To succeed in your recovery efforts, you need to be surrounded by people who are supportive of your efforts to change your life for the better. People who minimize the seriousness of addiction or create a toxic environment filled with jealousy, criticism, guilt, or shame will only drag you down to their level. To keep moving forward, you need to either end the relationship completely or figure out a way to minimize contact.
Remember that it’s normal for relationships to grow and change over time. People who truly have your best interests at heart will understand that your sobriety needs to be your top priority. You don’t need to feel guilty about making changes that will allow you to lead a wellness-focused lifestyle.
Letting go of old relationships can be difficult, but you can make this transition easier by staying actively involved in the recovery community through participating in 12-Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or self-help programs such as SMART Recovery. Building a strong sober support network will keep you focused on the future.
3. Set Healthy Boundaries
Learning how to say “no” to people you care about isn’t easy, but you must enforce boundaries that support your recovery efforts. You should not allow others to manipulate or control you.
Some examples of healthy boundaries for people in recovery include:
- Declining social invitations at places where alcohol will be served, if you know being around others who are drinking will be a trigger for you
- Politely leaving situations that make you feel uncomfortable
- Cutting back on commitments that interfere with your recovery efforts
- Maintaining your personal values even when others disagree with your choices
4. Treat Co-Occurring Disorders
Often, people in recovery are struggling with co-occurring mental health conditions such as depression or anxiety. If you don’t address your dual diagnosis, you risk sliding back into addiction. This is because abusing drugs or alcohol is often an attempt to self-medicate the symptoms of a co-occurring mental health disorder.
Mental health conditions are typically treated with a combination of medication and therapy. However, it’s important that you don’t abruptly stop your medication because you are starting to feel better. These medications need to be tapered gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms that could put you at risk of relapse. If you’re experiencing side effects that are causing problems with your daily life, discuss your concerns with your care provider to see if changing your dosage or trying a different medication might be appropriate.
5. Make Time for Self-Care
When you’re busy, it’s easy to put self-care on the back burner. However, recovery is about more than simply abstaining from drugs and alcohol. It’s about healing your mind, body, and spirit.
Self-care practices that will help you put sobriety first include:
- Exercising regularly
- Getting sufficient sleep
- Eating nutritious meals
- Engaging in stress-relieving hobbies
- Spending time outside to reconnect with nature
- Meditating and/or attending worship services
6. Ask for Help
It’s unreasonable to expect to be able to solve all your problems on your own. Substance use disorders aren’t caused by a lack of willpower, so you can’t simply will yourself to get better.
If you are struggling with cravings, feeling overwhelmed, or worried about the next steps, don’t be afraid to reach out to your treatment team. At St. Joseph Institute for Addiction, we’re committed to your success. Graduates of our Pennsylvania residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment program have access to personalized relapse prevention and continuing care resources. We encourage you to be proactive in your recovery efforts, so we can work together to find a treatment approach that best fits your needs.