Addiction is a terrible and tricky disease. It starts slowly and works its way into your life, often disguising itself as it goes. It can take a long time for someone suffering from an addiction to admit that they have a problem. It can take even longer for someone suffering from addiction to get the help they need to detox and regain their sobriety.
This is because, in spite of the lies an addict’s brain may be feeding itself, medical intervention is often needed to detox safely. “Remember,” says one Georgia detox center, “alcoholism creates very real changes in your brain chemistry. Medication can help sustain the chemical balance in your brain while also easing withdrawal symptoms.” Rehab, the experts go on to say, is where you go after detoxing–so you can learn and develop the tools you’ll need to resist an addiction and to stay sober.
That’s all well and good, but what about after rehab? What happens when after you leave your treatment program, you have a bad day and really want to drink? How are you supposed to handle stress? Your go-to method of self-medication is no longer an option!
Here are some good ways to deal with stress when you need to stay sober.
Self care works differently for everyone. It’s slightly mislabeled because to the uninitiated, self care implies more coddling and comfort. Sometimes this is true. Sometimes you need to just take a night off, stay home by yourself and watch bad TV. More often than not, however, self care is about taking healthful care of yourself. It starts with the basics like bathing, eating a healthy diet, getting a good night’s sleep and getting some form of exercise every day. You work up from that into harder things like going out with friends, getting your errands done, going to therapy, etc. Self care really means taking care of yourself and what you need to do to stay healthy before you worry about what others are thinking and feeling.
The hardest part of staying sober is learning how to distract yourself when you have down time. At work and when caring for your family, there are places you need to be and tasks and people who demand your focus. But once you’re done, and left to your own devices, it can be difficult to resist the urge to run out to the nearest bodega and buy a beer or a bottle of wine. This is when you need to find something else to focus on, some kind of (healthy!) distraction.
There are a lot of ways to distract yourself — some aren’t so great, like staring at social media all night. Others can be incredibly beneficial. One of the trendiest new hobbies/distractions right now is the adult coloring book. These coloring books are filled with intricate designs meant for older colorers and while it might seem juvenile, there is science that backs up the benefits of coloring.
Other healthy distractions are working out, gardening, crafting, etc.
Buy yourself a blank book and go to town. You’ve undoubtedly been told that you need to share what you’re feeling but you’re also probably pretty self-conscious about what you’re feeling. Journaling will help you work through this. Your journal is a safe space in which you can write out everything you’re feeling and get it out of your head without having to worry about what anybody might think.
There is a reason that so many people flock to AA and Al-Anon. It is because their system of support works. Forming connections with people who know what you’ve been and are going through is important. Having a sponsor, someone you can call when the temptation to drink overpowers your distractions, can help you stay sober even in your darkest moments. Moreover, going to meetings gets you out of the house and gives you a space in which to open up: two very important parts of self care.
Make no mistake: dealing with stress and sobriety is going to be difficult. Thankfully there are a lot of healthy ways to cope and work through it.