How to Stay Sober & Avoid Relapse

Staying sober takes continuous effort. These tips will help anyone is recovery from alcohol, drugs, food or codependency though the examples in this blog are mainly for substance abuse.

After the first couple of years in recovery, the excitement wears off and you get complacent. You think you've got this. 

You miss a few meetings but everything is okay. Life gets busy and over time it gets harder to remember why meetings were necessary in the first place.  

Minimizing these subtle changes and their effect is how denial starts.

Hanging out with old buddies that use or getting compulsive in other area are early warning signs of relapse.

This blog gives a boost to your recovery by getting back to the basics and adding more tools to the toolbox.  

1. Continue working the steps and using the principles 

The greatest thing about the steps is that you can apply them to any situation.

For example:

You've had an argument with your partner and you don't know how to resolve it. 

Recovery principle - Find the line between what you are powerless over (others) and what you need to change (your behavior). By doing that first, you will know if making amends is needed.

Surrendering provides your Higher Power the opportunity to find a new solution instead of forcing one yourself.

2. Always have a sponsor you can trust  

Working with a sponsor is an critical part of recovery. We cannot fix ourselves. It takes a more experienced member to help us see the bumps in the road.

Sometimes, things change and you might not relate to your sponsor as you did in the beginning. People grow apart in program just like in life. If it's not a good fit, consider getting a new one.

When a sponsor isn't a good match, you won't call them. Working the steps becomes a chore. Without complete trust, the sponsorship suffers.

You start sponsoring yourself which is never a good idea. You can't solve the problem with the same mind that created it.

Pretending everything is fine when it's not is relapse behavior.

3. Know your triggers and plan ahead

There are lots of triggers out there - some are obvious like hanging out in bars but others are harder to catch. For instance, you have been sober for several months without any desire to use. You start dating someone in the program.

Gradually the relationship becomes more important than your recovery - and it doesn't impact you until you break up.

The perfect storm is created.

You haven't been to a meeting for months and you're lonely. Emotions are too intense so you innocently decide to visit an old buddy for support. Before you know it, you drowning yourself in beer. 

Know your triggers! Not going to meetings, not calling your sponsor or putting a relationship ahead of your recovery all put you at risk for relapse. The further you get from working the program, the more prone you are to relapse behaviors.  

4. Surround yourself with people who support growth

Even in recovery, there are those who want it and those who don't. It's like the Big Book says, some people are constitutionally incapable of being honest with themselves. This isn't said to pass judgement. Everyone is at a different place in their recovery.

Look for the ones that want it. They'll be generous with their time, doing service, talking to newcomers, and generally happy to be there. They have what you want!

They will encourage you when you want to bail. It's like an insurance policy for serenity. Don't leave home without it!

5. Listen to recovery podcasts to supplement meetings

There will be times when meetings aren't an option. You're sick, traveling, or working late and can't make it to a meeting. Listening to recovery podcasts or online/telephone meetings are great alternatives.

It's a reminder that your tribe is there - it reminds you that people are working it 24/7 and is always there for you, whenever you want it.

6. Build a reliance on a Higher Power that works for YOU 

Learning to trust a Higher Power takes time - and lots of practice. That's why starting the steps is important - they give you the tools to work things out and shows you a new way to live.

First step is admitting your powerlessness and that you can't do it alone. We are a hard headed bunch and this makes it REALLY TOUGH to rely on a Higher Power. At first you make need to "act as if."

By realizing you cannot control people, places or things, you become more willing. You definitely can't control the substance but you can't control much else either.

Start by giving a problem to your Higher Power. Then leave the issue alone and see what happens. You will see a change or have a better sense of what to do. Maybe you'll have the urge to do nothing. Honor whatever comes up without dismissing it!

The Promises

As you continue to work the program, you build a spiritual connection over time. You learn to recognize and trust it. That's when you will feel less alone and more "taken care of" by your HP.

I hope you use these suggestions jump start your program! Recovery doesn't have to be all about the pain!

The promises in the Big Book says that

"We will be amazed before we are halfway through. We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness. We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. We will know peace."

You deserve it!  Just keep coming back!

If you are struggling in your relationships, join me for my online masterclass on Healing Codependency: How To Create Loving Relationships Without Sacrificing Yourself.