Staying Sober

Staying Sober with Support and Tools

Most questions defy easy answers. Here’s an example: “is it possible to beat substance addiction on your own?” Some will reply with a “yes,” others with a fervent “no.” Here’s the not-so-simple truth:

  1. Achieving lasting recovery is up to the individual, when all is said and done. Just as nobody else can get an education or lose weight for you, you must kick your bad habits on your own.
  2. However, it’s just as true that environmental cues play a critical role in whether or not a person’s recovery efforts succeed, according to the National Institutes of Health. A healthy environment for overcoming substance abuse will include friends, family members, and acquaintance who support your efforts.
  3. The rewards of living free of addiction outweigh any short term pain caused by ending old associations or relocating to new surroundings. Nothing can replace sobriety when it comes to enjoying a rich, rewarding life.

Let’s look at these three factors in more detail.

Taking Responsibility for Your Recovery and Staying Sober

Sometimes the hardest part of getting better is realizing you’ve got a problem. Human beings have an almost endless list of ways to avoid disturbing truths. These include:

  • Outright denial. “Drinking (or drug use) is my way of relaxing. I can quit whenever I want.”
  • “At least my drinking keeps me from going berserk and getting a gun. I’m not nearly as bad as those monsters you see on the news. They hurt others. I only hurt myself; and it’s my life anyway.”
  • “Drugs are the only way I can stomach living with you! Now get off my back, before you make me do something I’ll regret!” Here’s another common ploy: “I’m a victim of my mental illness. I’d be fine if the scientists would get off their lazy butts and find a cure.”
  • “New Year’s Eve is only a month away. Nobody can stay sober on the biggest party night of the year! I promise I’ll go cold turkey at the beginning of January. That’s a fair compromise, right?”

You will never make any progress as long as you’re using these self-defeating tricks. Your path to recovery must begin with an honest self-appraisal. Nobody enjoys looking in the mirror and facing the consequences of their misdeeds. But doing so is the essential first step in your journey. There’s no better time to take it than right now.

Transforming Your Environment

Cues, also known as “triggers,” are anything in your surroundings that makes you crave an unhealthy substance. Here are some of the more common cues:

  • Bars, clubs, and other locations that provide opportunities for falling off the wagon.
  • People with whom you abused drugs or alcohol, especially if they’re still caught up in the habit.
  • Billboards, commercials, and other messages that advertise addictive products.
  • Neighborhoods your mind associates with your condition. For example, seeing a corner where you once bought drugs can trigger a relapse.
  • Times or dates. “Wow, it was one year ago I had my first joint. That brings back memories…”

You must separate yourself from as many of these factors as possible if you want to stay sober. Finding the right home is crucial to recovery.  Creating a positive, healthy environment for healing is one of the best things you can do for yourself. But just as important is replacing these triggers with people and things that encourage you to stay clean. Otherwise you’ll yearn for something to fill your inner void.

Enjoying the Difference

People fall into addictive patterns because they’re trying to replace pain with pleasure; and, let’s face it, everyone wants to feel good. There’s nothing wrong with enjoyment as long as it doesn’t drive you towards self-destruction. Your goal is to derive your pleasure from healthy sources like exercise, personal achievement, and positive relationships. That’s the way to build a lasting foundation for the future. Best of luck towards your success.


Pat McGraw recently helped a friend get treatment for their addiction. Through his writing, he strives to educate others about addiction and substance abuse recovery.

The Treatment Specialist

The Treatment Specialist is a national addiction and mental health treatment resource network helping adults, teens, and families locate treatment based on their individual needs, conditions, and resources. If you need support staying sober or getting treatment call for a free confidential assessment at 866-644-7911.

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