If you are like many people who are recovering from a severe alcohol use disorder, your lifestyle during your drinking days probably included spending a lot of your time getting alcohol, drinking alcohol, and hanging out with others who drank.
To learn to live life sober, it is important that make some adjustments to your lifestyle. Some of the changes are obvious, like no longer hanging out with your drinking friends or going to those places where you used to drink.
Some of the changes that can improve your chances of remaining sober may not be as obvious. The following are tips for developing an alcohol-free lifestyle developed from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA):
New Leisure Activities
When you get sober, it is suggested that you avoid the people that you used to drink with, if possible, but also to make new, healthy relationships that will be supportive to your recovery.
It is also recommended that you develop new social patterns and new leisure activities to replace the void in your life that used to be filled with alcohol-related activities.
The new friends that you make can be helpful to you in changing your social and leisure activities, if you try to develop those relationships and participate in recreational activities with your new friends.
It may take some time to make new friends, but you can help the process along by becoming involved in religious or community organizations or by doing volunteer work.
This is another area of your new sober life where membership in a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous can be helpful if you sign-up for service work within the group.
Leisure activites that you could consider:
- Take up a hobby
- Start a fitness or exercise program
- Begin a weight-loss program
- Do volunteer work
- Start a journal
Create a Structured Schedule
Research has shown that people in recovery who develop and adhere to a structure daily schedule consistently have a better chance to remain sober.
Establishing a schedule and sticking to it on a daily basis supports abstinence and discourages you from deviating from your planned activities and ending up returning to your previous social patterns.
Setting Long-Term Goals
Once you have established a structured schedule and have learned to stick to it, you may need to begin to set some long-term goals for your future. Deciding what you want to achieve in your life and making a plan to meet those goals can also benefit your recovery.
Some long-term goals you might consider include:
- Furthering your education
- Changing careers
- Saving for a financial goal
Developing spirituality in your life does not necessarily mean "becoming religious." According to the NIDA, spirituality in recovery is meant "in the general sense of one's having values and altruistic goals in life, rather than in any specific religious sense."
Regardless of how you define a "higher power," research has found that reaching beyond yourself to find fulfillment and happiness can be helpful in maintaining sobriety.
By becoming involved in community service, volunteer work, or religious or charity organizations you can look beyond yourself for spirituality. Again, this is an area where participating in a 12-step group can benefit you. Service work and helping others is a central part of working a 12-step program.
Dealing With Shame and Guilt
Years of heavy drinking can leave an alcoholic with a great deal of guilt and shame, which can produce negative feelings and a loss of self-esteem.
Shame is negative beliefs about yourself. For example, believing that you are a weak or deficient person. Guilt is belief that you have behaved wrongfully. For example, lying about why you couldn't make it to work.
According to the experts, feelings of shame are much more damaging and more difficult to heal because it's what you have come to believe about yourself.
The problem with negative feelings about yourself is that they can lead to picking up a drink to help you temporarily escape from those bad feelings.
Cleaning Up the Past
One way to improve self-esteem and reduce or eliminate those negative feelings are to live a sober and responsible life - being a reliable family member, employee, and member of the community.
Making amends to those you may have harmed during your drinking days can also help in restoring your self-esteem and self-respect. This also is one of the tenants of the 12-step program in step 8 & 9, which can help you in letting go of guilt and shame.
If you merely stop drinking and make no other effort to develop a sober lifestyle, there are unseen stumbling blocks out there that can cause you problems that could lead to a relapse.
And, it just make sense. Getting rid of old habits, sticking to a schedule, making long-term plans, becoming a responsible citizen, and dealing with the mistakes of your past are the next right things to do.
Learn more about Living Sober.