How Do You Stay Sober?

The Tools of Recovery

If you ask anyone who is sober exactly how they stay sober, you won’t find a cookie-cutter answer.  Just as many facets of people’s lives lead them to substance abuse and addiction, many facets of recovery help people stay sober – and usually it is not just one thing but a combination of tools and factors that keep people away from their drug(s) of choice.

The adage “addiction does not discriminate” is very evident in substance abuse treatment, especially affordable addiction treatment programs that can cater to those from different socio-economic backgrounds. Some may have found their way into treatment when the pain of past traumas like childhood or spousal abuse was too much to bear. Some have had various mental injuries that caused them to self medicate in order to feel balanced enough to cope with life. Some have had physical injuries that led to opiate dependence and some have no clear explanation why, they just became addicted. Often, those addicted do the best that they can with the tools that they have. For example, when an addict who accustomed to using substances feels pain – physical or mental – they use the coping mechanism or tool of substance abuse. Eventually those tools start to work against them and they need new tools to cope. That is when drug treatment and recovery takes the spotlight.

Once in treatment different coping mechanisms speak to recovering addicts in different ways. What works well for the athlete-turned-opiate-addict may not work so well for the alcoholic female who is a victim of spousal abuse. But that is the beauty of addiction treatment and why most programs are 30 or more days. In treatment, various tools are laid out before clients and each treatment plan is carefully tailored to their needs and directs them towards tools that speak to them.

The tools of recovery are endless but here are three powerful ones that universally work quite well. First is the tool of honesty; addicts are taught to be honest with themselves about their addiction so they don’t let denial tell them they can safely use drugs or put themselves in situations that will lead them to use. They are also taught to be honest with others so that dramatic and stressful situations that arise from dishonesty don’t trigger them to use. The second tool is not going it alone; those in recovery are encouraged to reach out to others – to share the burden of their problems with another to glean a fresh perspective. Inversely, they are taught to help others, to get outside of themselves, to forget about their own problems and inadvertently feel a sense of purpose and esteem boost by helping others. The third tool is not harboring resentments through forgiveness of oneself and others. The emotions that run high when one experiences the feeling of resentment often sparks a knee jerk reaction to use drugs or alcohol to dull the pain and stress associated with the resentment. By allowing in forgiveness, of one’s own wrong-doings and the wrong-doings of others, those feelings start to subside and the feeling of peace through letting the resentments go quiet the urge for a substance.

These are just a few tools among many others that drug treatment programs unveil to clients beginning their journey of recovery. Some of these tools are used, others are left in the tool box but the most important thing is that those in recovery stay sober by using a variety of new tools the best they know how, in ways that benefit their lives rather than harm them.