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How To Stay Sober: 9 Answers About Staying Sober And Why You Need A Sober Community

August 30, 2021

Table of Contents

What Percentage Of Alcoholics Stay Sober?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about 33% or “one-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms 1 year later.”

You can increase the odds of staying sober by finding support and a sober living community.

You might find sober life lonely or feel like you are missing out on living a fun life when you are drug or alcohol-free. But, other people like you have found that they could not manage their lives with drug and alcohol use. Not everyone can have “just one or two drinks.”

Addiction is a “chronic brain disease” that is treatable yet not cured. Addiction treatment is an ongoing, lifelong process. Relapse of any chronic diseases, like asthma and diabetes, can and do occur throughout a person’s lifetime.

According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), the relapse rate for drug and alcohol addiction is about 40-60%.

Rear view of man with raised hand on group therapy in medical center.

While 40-60% sounds like a high number, the relapse rate for addiction is “are similar to rates for other chronic medical illnesses.” Relapse prevention can help you stay sober throughout your addiction recovery.

Relapse prevention and long-term sobriety can include many different things. Most people need to continue outpatient therapy, attend support groups, and find purpose in their everyday life to stay sober.

What Does It Take To Stay Sober Long Term?

Staying sober long-term takes self-care, getting support, a relapse prevention plan, and committing to healthy living.

When you think of staying sober for life, you might feel intimidated. When you look at the long-term end goal, you might feel overwhelmed. You might think, “Now, I need to stay sober forever?”

Staying sober for the long term is easier when you think of everything day by day. 

Much like any other goal in life, long-term sobriety is more manageable in small parts. Take one step at a time and break everything into shorter goals. Look at sobriety in stages, from detox to addiction treatment to sober living to everyday life.

Each stage of recovery brings you closer to your goal of long-term sobriety. Celebrate each of these wins and successes. When you advance to a new phase, tell your loved ones and share your success with them.

Black Latina woman from Bogota Colombia between 20 and 29 years old, sitting in the living room of her house looking away, very shocked by her problems and loneliness

Think of detox as your way of getting to the treatment center. Then, completing treatment advances you to sober living. Following that, you get back in the real world, where your life of sobriety is just beginning.

Be honest with yourself about what you need to stay sober.

Recovery can be a linear process, yet you might need to go back if you aren’t ready to move forward. For example, you might complete a sober living program yet do not feel prepared to get back in the real world. Be honest with yourself and your support team.

You might have a slip, relapse, or strong urge to drink or use drugs. There is no shame in admitting that you need to go back in your recovery! Sometimes, you need to take a step back before moving forward.

Committing to long-term sobriety also involves continually looking for ways to improve your life. You might get bored when you no longer work towards the next step.

Continue to grow and nurture important relationships. Join a support group, and as you get more experience, look for ways to help others. You can become a mentor or a sponsor to those in early recovery.

You will increase your chances of success if you find others who are like-minded and share your goals.

Finding a sober community is essential to feel a sense of belonging and camaraderie in your shared struggles to overcome addiction.

How Long Do You Stay In Sober Living?

You should stay in sober living for at least 90 days or more for the maximum benefit.

According to the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, the average stay in a sober living program was between 166 and 254 days (at the time of the study). Most programs recommend at least 90 days. You might need more time to achieve long-term sobriety.

Most addiction treatment centers recommend at least 90 days of sober living before returning home. Many people need more time to get the skills they need to continue sober life outside of a sober living program.

After a sober living program, the time it may take you to get back in the “real world” may vary in comparison to others. Each person recovers at their own pace.

You might have a strong support system of loved ones and family members to help you in your sobriety. Or, you might need time to build a support system if your addiction negatively impacted friends and family members.

Facade of a residential center with covered porch and door

During inpatient addiction treatment, you might have gone through detox and learned about co-occurring mental health issues related to alcohol and substance use disorders. After treatment, getting back into the real world can be scary.

You might not feel ready to go back home right after treatment and need a place to transition. 

Treatment centers can help to keep you safe from the triggers and stressors in your everyday life. Sober living homes can be the next step after completing a treatment program.

Sober living homes help you remain accountable to your sobriety. In early recovery, you need to give yourself time to build healthy habits. In sober living, you will be in a community of like-minded sober friends committed to helping each other.

Is AA The Only Way To Stay Sober?

No, you can take many pathways to long-term sobriety.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) remains one of the most common support groups for long-term sobriety. AA inspired additional 12-Step programs, like Narcotics Anonymous (NA), for those struggling with other types of substance abuse.

According to Social Work in Public Health, “early involvement [in 12-Step programs], in the form of meeting attendance and engagement in recovery activities, is associated with better substance use and psychosocial outcomes.”

The cornerstone of 12-Step meetings is admitting that you are powerless to your addiction. You are asked to surrender control to a higher power, which may or may not be based on faith.

AA and other 12-Step programs are not for everyone, as some are turned off by the term “higher power.”

You can explore your options for a support group while in addiction treatment. Many treatment providers offer suggestions to help you find the best fit for your recovery.

How Can I Get Sober Without AA?

You can find support groups that are not 12-Step focused to get sober without AA.

Some support groups, like SMART Recovery, do not use the 12-Step model. “SMART” stands for “Self-Management and Recovery Training.” SMART Recovery focuses more on building coping skills for everyday life and does not focus on a higher power.

SMART Recovery has a four-point program:

  1. Building and maintaining motivation
  2. Coping with urges
  3. Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
  4. Living a balanced life

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a list of online recovery resources. You can explore different types of support groups that might help you in your long-term sobriety.

While peer support is vital to addiction recovery, you might find other ways to stay sober.

Recovery is about much more than living a drug or alcohol-free life. Addiction recovery is about learning how to live life on life’s terms. You can find many pathways to a healthy and happy life. Sobriety is just one part of living a happy life in recovery.

Woman Speaking At Support Group Meeting For Mental Health Or Dependency Issues In Community Space

Most addiction support groups are peer-run without the guidance of a professional. You might find that group therapy benefits you more if you need the guidance of a therapist for mental health, social, emotional, or relationship issues.

During group therapy, you get the benefits of support while getting professional help. However, group therapy is usually only temporary and not meant for lifetime support. Group therapy can also be costly if your insurance does not cover the costs.

Peer-run support groups are often free of charge, widely available throughout the country, and accessible to everyone.

Seeking a support group committed to helping others can be a beneficial and cost-effective way for you to stay sober.

With the many types of groups available besides alcoholics and narcotics anonymous, you can look into what kind of program will help you or a loved one.

What Percentage Of AA Members Stay Sober?

According to a 2014 survey by Alcoholics Anonymous, 27% of members stay sober after one year, 24% for one to five years, and 13% between five and ten years.

Recovery from alcohol and drug addiction can be full of ups and downs. You might stay sober for years and relapse following the sudden loss of a loved one. Other unexpected life events can cause a relapse, which might make recovery seem impossible.

Going to a 12-Step program or other support group offers encouragement and support for your long-term recovery. Many treatment centers encourage you to find a support group that will work for you.

How Can I Be Sober And Happy?

You can be sober and happy by focusing on your health and wellness in your everyday life.

Even if you choose not to go to AA meetings, you can still live “one day at a time.” When you live one day at a time, sobriety does not appear as impossible. You can focus on short-term sobriety, staying sober for 24 hours at a time.

As you go one day at a time, the days will add up. You will find that long-term sobriety is possible when you focus on the daily process instead of the long-term end goal.

two-male-peers-talking-inside-residential-center

You can focus each day on doing something that will make you feel happy and fulfilled. 

While addicted to alcohol or drugs, you might have only thought about the next time you would get drunk or high. Many recovering addicts now find that they have more time to fill without drugs and alcohol consuming their thoughts and actions.

To be sober and happy, you can focus on your mental health, physical wellness, life goals, attend support groups, and find ways to help others.

Being happy with a sober life means replacing your unhealthy drug or alcohol addiction with meaningful, fulfilling activities.

In addiction recovery, you get your life back. Think of late nights when you blacked out from alcohol or drug use. Remember the morning after, when your head was aching and foggy, and maybe you couldn’t even get out of bed?

Now, you are no longer fighting yourself. With a clear mind, you can focus on what will lead to long-term happiness. You can now focus on loved ones more than before. You can help others in their sobriety, which is proven to increase happiness.

It would be best if you also were mindful of some of the following tips to help you remain sober and happy:

  • Avoid comparing yourself to others
    • You might see others on social media enjoying a drink or two while on vacation
    • You might also see other people who appear to have it better than you
    • Comparisons to others are unhelpful because we don’t know their whole story
    • Nearly everyone has a struggle or issue that they deal with
    • Go at your own pace, one day at a time, and don’t get caught up in keeping up with others
  • Celebrate the small wins
    • Long-term sobriety is the collection of daily victories
    • Congratulate yourself for the milestones, whether your first day sober or ten years of sobriety
  • Practice gratitude in your addiction recovery
    • Keep a gratitude journal to stay positive
    • Practicing gratitude means looking for the good in life each day
    • You can write down three things that you are grateful for at the end of every day
    • During early sobriety, you might struggle to find the good things, but as you practice, you will get better at noticing the little things that mean a lot
  • Find like-minded sober friends
    • Sobriety can feel lonely
    • You might need to distance yourself from friends who continue to use drugs or alcohol
    • You might feel like you are missing out
    • Find others who are like-minded by attending AA or NA meetings or other support groups

friends-walking-on-the-beach

The first steps of sobriety might be the hardest. When you detox, you deal with ridding your body of dependency on drugs or alcohol. Whether you are starting your sober life, take things one day at a time.

One sober day will lead to a sober week, then months and years.

How Do You Not Get Bored When Sober?

You can find new ways to have fun without alcohol or drug use when sober.

During early recovery, you might wonder how sober people stay busy or have fun. Can you have a social life without drugs or alcohol?

Of course, you can! You just might not have considered what that will look like. As you continue in sobriety, you might realize that you don’t miss late nights, blurry memories, and hungover mornings. You might ask yourself, “Was I really having fun?”

Sober life offers you a chance to focus on fulfilling and meaningful pursuits. 

Drugs and alcohol might have limited your options for fun and recreation. You might have only socialized in clubs, bars, or parties. Now, you can get into different experiences that will add fun, value, and friendships to your life.

Sober people  enjoy some of the following:

  • Taking up a new sport
  • Learning a musical instrument
  • Hiking and outdoor activities
  • Meditation and yoga
  • Weight-lifting and exercise classes
  • Learning to cook
  • Taking a class to learn a new language or skill
  • Joining a book club
  • Volunteering and helping others in the community
  • Painting, glasswork, sculpture, drawing, and other art

As you meet other sober people, you will find many activities you can do for fun without drugs or alcohol. Start with your support group. Many support groups have recreational activities for members to have fun together.

African American woman lying in bed and looking at camera.

How Can I Stay Sober During Triggering Events?

Staying sober during triggering events, like parties, weddings, holidays, vacations, and when out with friends who drink, can be tough.

To stay sober during events like these, you must first be honest with yourself.

Being honest with yourself means asking, “Am I ready for this?” Maybe your family drinks to celebrate the holidays, or your high school friends want to meet at a bar over winter break.

You might be ready to face these triggers, or you might not feel comfortable yet. Your family members and loved ones should understand what you are going through. They likely will not pressure you to join along with them if you feel uncomfortable.

However, even your closest friends and family might not understand your struggle.

You might need to decline invitations to events if you don’t feel comfortable. Sometimes, your friends and family members might think that you can have just one drink. Even if they support your sobriety, they might still not understand how your addiction works.

But, if you do choose to attend a potentially triggering event, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Bring your own drinks or ask ahead if non-alcoholic options will be available
  • Always keep a cup with you, even just to hold, so others don’t ask, “Aren’t you drinking?”
  • Have an “out” or a reason to leave if you feel uncomfortable:
    • “I need to get home to take my dog out.”
    • “My brother’s car broke down, so I need to take him to work his night shift.”
    • “I have a test tomorrow and need to study.”
  • Have at least one sober friend come along to keep you accountable for your sobriety
  • Talk to peers in your support group and ask for advice
  • Be prepared for people to ask, “why aren’t you drinking?”
    • You can make up an excuse if you aren’t ready to talk about addiction, like “I’m taking a medication that doesn’t allow me to drink,” or “I’m the driver tonight.”
    • You can also choose to tell them about your recovery if you are comfortable (or, say that you don’t need to explain your choices to them) 

Staying sober can be tough, especially without support. Finding a sober community will help you find like-mind people to have fun with as you live your new sober life. Sandstone Care is here to support teens and young adults with substance use disorders. Call (855) 958-5511.

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