5 tips for staying sober from alcohol

Staying sober from alcohol isn’t easy, and it isn’t always necessary. I cannot tell you whether or not you are a problematic drinker. However, if you feel like you are struggling, or if you are exploring sobriety as a potential upgrade to your life, keep reading.

My objective is to share some insight for people learning to live sober, regardless of the necessity.

For context, a bit about myself:

My name is Matt, and I’m 1005 days sober from alcohol and drugs. Over many years, I smoked, snorted, and ate just about every drug imaginable. They were almost always fun, but I never really loved drugs. I certainly loved alcohol, though, as long as there was no barrier between myself and drinking it.

I wasn’t the type to drink a beer socially. First of all, beer never got me drunk. My intention with alcohol was never to just enjoy a casual drink with friends or colleagues. If I was drinking, my purpose was only to get drunk as quickly as possible, and that is precisely what I did.

I spent a decade of my life tiptoeing on a balance bar of functional alcoholism over total collapse and near-death. Eventually, I went to a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I had my first stint of sobriety and CBT therapy.

Since completing inpatient rehab, I’ve done a ton of discovery related to sobriety and maintaining it, including AA meetings, SMART recovery, meditation, and therapy.

Currently, I do not actively participate in any “sobriety programs,” and I also don’t have any issues related to alcohol addiction (like cravings). My health has fully rebounded, and I’m doing more now than I ever knew I could.

Summarizing sobriety into one single post is impossible for me. However, as a celebration of 1000+ days of sobriety — a milestone I created for myself (as below-mentioned) — I’d like to share some of what I’m doing to live my best sober life.

Here are 5 tips for getting sober and truly living free from addiction to alcohol:

1. Identify your triggers. Know them and make peace with them.

Take time to identify which people, places, things make you feel like you need to drink. It sounds so simple, I know- but it often does take time and reflection to learn exactly which scenarios are sliding you another drink.

I was constantly triggered more by success than I was by failure. The idea of winning a new job or being offered any unique opportunity that I had worked for would push me far closer towards euphoric drinking than any single bad day I ever had.

Over the last 1000 days, I’ve heard many tragic stories that resulted in relapse, as well.

Regardless of what you are triggered by, it is best to take time and observe yourself, your feelings, and your instincts to identify what those circumstances are. Once you have identified your trigger(s) to drink alcohol, managing the consumption is a lot easier. You don’t have to fix them, either. Sometimes it’s best just to know what they are and make peace with separating from them.

2. Make (and celebrate) milestones.

When you live in the throes of addiction to anything, including alcohol, getting from one day to the next without relapsing is mentally and physically taxing. Making it through just one day without your vice is worth celebrating, and you should.

I kept a pen-and-paper tally in early sobriety, which was visibly rewarding as the mess of ticks and slashes kept growing. Eventually, I started rewarding myself in other ways by the month.

For a while, I’d build an installment of the LEGO Architecture series every time I reached a new milestone month.

Now, I’m in the years, but I still miss having more regular milestones. So, I just invent them as I go. This post, for example, is a celebration of my 1000-day milestone. I get immeasurable joy from sharing sobriety with other people, so I cannot see a better fit for celebrating this one.

3. Surround yourself with sober people.

Having sober friends is essential to your current sanity as well as your ability to live sober.

You don’t have to cut everyone out of your life that is still doing what you struggle with. However, it isn’t a terrible idea to remove yourself from those environments if they are constants in your current surroundings.

I used to think that I’d be the only sober person in the room, at the party, or wherever- but that proved to be untrue. Once I started living sober, other teetotal people gravitated towards me, and vice versa.

Over time, being sober while you are present with other people will allow you to build a supportive network that will (more often than not) understand what you were, are, or might eventually be going through. With the right company, it gets easier.

4. Share your feelings.

Talk therapy is an integral piece of my own sobriety. Talking about my feelings related to my past and the things I’m currently growing through have been crucial for me to stay sober.

Sharing your feelings doesn’t always have to be awkward or uncomfortable chitchat with other people. You can keep personal notes or even talk to yourself about what is going on in your mind, how it feels now and what leads to what you are dealing with in the present. This will prove to be very helpful with time, as it allows you to better understand yourself past and present.

Personally, I love looking back on my written thoughts from earlier sobriety. It gives me a visceral glance back at what my struggle used to be, which keeps me grounded in my current phase of life as a sober person. This also helps me to feel grateful and humbled by what I’ve actually been able to do, rather than focus on what my current difficulty is.

If you have the opportunity and/or the network, speak with others about sobriety, what you’re going through, and what you think you need. The most important lessons are often learned through listening to the experiences of other sober people.

Remember that nobody (even people who are sober for their whole lives) can really tell you if you have a problem, but many people can tell you how they knew they needed to fix something they were struggling with themselves.

5. Remember that you are learning new ways of living, feeling, being. Enjoy re-doing things.

Sobriety gives you a brand new outlook on a whole new world.

The things that you feel in sobriety are unaltered by the substance you used to be consuming. So, much of what you’ll experience, feel, see and do are actually brand new to you, and you shouldn’t allow anyone make you think otherwise.

It’s okay to be scared, overwhelmed, and over-the-top excited for something that others think is normal or confuses them because they say you’ve experienced it before- it’s new to you, so you should embrace it.

You may have gone places and/or had outstanding experiences in your past. Still, when you go there and experience them again with a sober mind, you get to have a second “first-time” experience at that place or with those people- and I guarantee you, it’s usually better. There are countless things that I have “re-done” in sobriety that, in retrospect, I know I never genuinely enjoyed when I didn’t have a clear mind.

This list could go on and on and on. Sobriety from alcohol is the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m 1000+ days sober, and in the last 1000+ days, I have certainly done more than 1000 things that I love.

If you’re interested in reaching out or seeing what I’m up to, you can follow me on Twitter @WritingByMatt, or send me an email via the contact form on my website.

Journalist + travel writer talking a lot about Thailand, SE Asia, plant-based food. Creative director of a digital services agency in Bangkok.

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