Overcoming addiction is a lifelong process, but with support, getting sober can be less challenging than you imagine. If quitting drugs or alcohol is your ultimate goal, but you aren’t sure how or when to begin the process, these 10 tips for overcoming addiction can be a great place to start your journey.
1. Build Connections
When you’re trying to get clean and sober, it’s important to know you aren’t alone. One of the best options for overcoming addiction is to enter an inpatient treatment program so you can have constant support and supervision, especially if you need to go through detox. If you’re ready for this level of help, call 800-681-1058 (Who Answers?) . One of our specialists is ready and waiting to take your call.
Still, if you aren’t ready for inpatient treatment, or if you have already completed a rehabilitation program and need ongoing support, attending weekly meetings with programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can be very effective for maintaining sobriety in the long run.1
Not inspired by group meetings? No problem. Simply connecting with friends or loved ones can be a very effective form of support when you’re getting sober. Of course, connecting is more challenging in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. But there are creative ways to seek support from loved ones that can offer you companionship on your path to sobriety. FaceTime a friend or set up a Zoom call with a loved one—the platform matters less than the actual connection because talking to others reduces isolation and may be an important part of your journey to sobriety.
2. Find a New Passion or Rediscover an Old One
When you want to get sober, you may struggle to fill up chunks of time that used to be consumed by your substance use. For many people, hours of unfilled free time can feel challenging or even triggering. But, if you use your newfound freedom to start a new hobby or return to an abandoned favorite pastime, the challenge can become an opportunity. Any hobby you love is a great choice, but if you need some inspiration, you can try exercising or finding new ways to express yourself.
If you feel physically capable, exercising can be especially helpful when you’re overcoming addiction. We already know that exercise is linked to stress reduction—it can also boost your mood and improve your cardiovascular health. And now, research suggests that people who get regular exercise are less likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.2 In other words, simply taking a walk outdoors could offer excellent support while you work to overcome addiction.
Of course, you must consider your current state of well-being before starting a new exercise routine. If your addiction has affected your physical health or if you’ve been avoiding movement, you don’t want to jump into an intense workout routine. Instead, speak with a trusted healthcare provider about how to exercise safely.
Writing or painting can be a great hobby while you’re on the road to recovery. Studies show that talking about your feelings can improve your mood and mindset.3 Then, if you choose a hobby that helps you express those emotions—literally or figuratively—you can then boost the benefits of talking through your feelings.
3. Start Volunteering
When you’re getting sober, you will spend a lot of time focusing on yourself, but it’s also important to give back. Many people find that volunteering makes it easier to stay clean and sober. Volunteering may even alter your thought process, making you less likely to struggle with substance use. Recent studies suggest that getting involved in your community, and practicing social service reduces your likelihood of abusing drugs or alcohol.4
4. Practice Mindfulness When Overcoming Addiction
If you have already sought help for addiction, you may have learned about cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). During CBT, you learn strategies that can help you break unhealthy patterns by exploring the connection between your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Research suggests that embracing a mindfulness practice can help reinforce CBT training and make it easier to obtain and maintain sobriety.5 When you practice mindfulness, you strive to be in the moment and not worry about what happened before or what will come next. In this way, you can change anxious thoughts that may contribute to your addiction, reinforcing CBT or preparing you for this kind of treatment.
Many people think that mindfulness means sitting in silence or chanting mantras alone in a room. However, something as simple as stopping and taking 10 deep breaths can ground you quickly and start you on the path to more extensive mindfulness practices.
Once you become more familiar with mindfulness, you’ll learn to feel content when you just sit and breathe. In short, you’ll learn to feel happy with yourself. And you won’t need external factors—or your addiction—to feel comfortable.
5. Journal While Getting Sober
Overcoming addiction is a long journey. And, sometimes, it’s easy to forget how far you’ve come. But if you record your thoughts and feelings every day, you’ll be able to look back on all the ways in which you have grown. Plus, when you’re having a rough day, you can turn back and read over successes to help you celebrate the hard work you’re putting into staying clean and sober.
You can also use your journal to help set goals for yourself. Set aside time each day to record your goal, then journal about the challenges and successes you met while working towards it. In this way, you can identify areas where you need support. Conversely, you can also pinpoint the areas worthy of celebration.
Finally, you can use your journal as a place to record your gratitude. Every day, try to record at least three things for which you are thankful. Then, in the hard times, review your list. You’ll see all the positivity in your life and may even find reasons to stay clean and sober when you’re experiencing cravings or emotional triggers.
6. Choose Healthy Meals
Choosing wholesome, healthy foods will make your body feel better. Plus, certain foods can help you maintain sobriety by balancing out your hormones. In particular, choosing foods that are high in carbohydrates can help balance your serotonin levels. (That’s the feel-good hormone that can boost your mood and help you relax.)
In combination with proteins, a mix of foods such as beans, lentils, and peas can make it easier to ignore substance cravings. Depending on your particular substance addiction, you may be facing B and C vitamin deficiencies. Choosing foods, such as eggs, poultry, and citrus fruits, can help your body recover from the physical side effects of addiction.6
7. Create Accountability
Reaching out to any friend or family member can help when you’re overcoming addiction. But you can further boost your efforts by selecting one individual as your accountability partner. This is a person you can turn to any time you have a craving or are experiencing a physical or emotional trigger. Twelve-step programs like AA and NA are great places to find an accountability partner, especially since sponsorship is a fairly common aspect of these programs. A sponsor can serve as a mentor and provide you with advice, support, and empowerment during your recovery process.
It’s important to remember that relapsing is a common part of recovery, and there’s no reason to feel shame or guilt about it. The sooner you reach out to a trusted person about your slip or relapse, the sooner you can get help.
8. Choose Your Company
Who you spend time with can affect your behavior. For that reason, if you had a group of friends with whom you abused drugs or alcohol, it’s best to distance yourself from them when you’re getting sober. That way, you won’t have to witness people using drugs or alcohol and be confronted with temptations to relapse to substance use. Recovery is a great time to seek out a new group of friends, especially those who are also living a life of sobriety. You may also meet new people through a new activity, like a sport.
9. Read Books
Reading self-help books and books about getting sober can help when you’re overcoming addiction. You may also want to read books that help you manage the negative emotions that motivate substance abuse. But even reading other types of books, like novels, can help you get clean and sober. This is because reading is a great distraction—it can take you into a fantasy world where your addiction is a distant memory. You can also read stories about people who overcome great challenges. In this way, you can learn from their solutions and adopt new coping strategies for hard moments in your own journey.
10. Find the Right Treatment Center for you
All of these steps may help you as you work towards getting sober. But sometimes, overcoming addiction is not something you can do alone. In that case, the best thing you can do is to reach out and ask for help.
Remember, quitting alcohol and drugs is hard. So, if the tips we’ve shared aren’t working for you, you might need professional treatment. And there’s no shame in that fact.
If you are ready to get clean and sober, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. While it may be hard to make the first call, once you do, help will be on the way. Ready to get support in overcoming addiction? Pick up the phone and call 800-681-1058 (Who Answers?) .
- Brigham, G. (2003). 12-Step participation as a pathway to recovery: The Maryhaven experience and implications for treatment and research. Science Practice Perspective, 2(1), 43–51.
- Smith, Mark A., Lynch, & Wendy J. (2012). Exercise as a potential treatment for drug abuse: Evidence from preclinical studies. Frontiers in Psychiatry.
- Zech, E., & Rimé, B. (2005). Is Talking About an Emotional Experience Helpful? Effects on Emotional Recovery and Perceived Benefits. Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy, 12(4), 270–287.
- Davis, A.N., Carlo, G., Hardy, S.A., Olthuis, J.V., & Zamboanga, B.L. (2017) Bidirectional relations between different forms of prosocial behaviors and substance use among female college student athletes. The Journal of Social Psychology, 157(6), 645-657.
- Korecki, J.R., Schwebel, F.J., Votaw, V.R., & Witkiewitz, K. (2020). Mindfulness-based programs for substance use disorders: a systematic review of manualized treatments. Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, 15(51).
- Fielden, S. (2006). The Role of Nutrition in recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. Visions Journal, 2 (9), p. 9-10.