Updated on February 6, 2024
5 min read

7 Ways on How to Stay Sober

Key Takeaways

7 Ways to Stay Sober

There are several things you can do to stay sober. For example:

1. Identify Triggers

One of the most important things you can do to achieve sobriety is to recognize what triggers your drinking or drug use.

Triggers can be external or internal. Some of the most common triggers include:

  • Stress
  • Grief
  • Spending time with people who are drinking or using drugs
  • Relationship problems
  • Work or financial challenges

It helps to avoid triggers altogether. If you can’t avoid a trigger, have a plan in place. Develop coping skills to help you avoid drinking or using drugs in response.

2. Establish a Routine

Routines have many benefits, as many people find comfort in them. A consistent daily and weekly routine filled with things that improve your well-being can help you avoid relapse.

They help you achieve goals and ensure you remember what’s more important than drinking or doing drugs.

3. Recognize Relapse Warning Signs

For most people, it may seem like relapse sneaks up on them. In truth, however, there are warning signs they can heed before they relapse.

Recognizing relapse warning signs allows you to take the necessary steps to avoid a mistake. The most common warning signs include:

  • Returning to thought patterns you had when abusing substances
  • Engaging in self-destructive behavior
  • Looking for situations where it would be easy to use drugs or drink
  • Spending time with people you drank or used drugs with
  • Behaving less responsibly overall

4. Turn to Your Support Network

Healthy relationships are valuable when you want to remain sober. If you start feeling triggered to use or drink, you can reach out to people who care about you.

Conversely, a relationship with someone who enables your drinking or drug use can harm your sobriety. Unhealthy relationships make the process more complicated than it already is. 

Whenever possible, avoid people with whom you have unhealthy relations. If you can’t or don’t want to do this, seek professional counseling and encourage your loved one to do so too.

5. Seek Professional or Peer Support

Spending time with those who understand the challenges of abstaining from drugs and alcohol is one of the most effective sobriety tools. These people include:

  • Mental health professionals
  • Counselors
  • Doctors
  • People who also struggle with sobriety

These people can understand your experiences better and give you the support you need in your recovery.

6. Celebrate Your Sober Milestones

It’s important to acknowledge the effort it takes to stay sober. Even short-term accomplishments should be celebrated for those struggling with addiction. As you build on your success, you can celebrate months and years of sober milestones.

Many 12-step programs have mastered celebrating sobriety. People who reach certain sober milestones receive pins or chips, acknowledging their achievements.

7. Build a Healthy Lifestyle

The healthier and more fulfilling your life is, the less likely you will turn to drugs or alcohol.

Healthy living means different things to different people. If you’re trying to build a healthy lifestyle, consider including the following:

  • Regular exercise
  • Recreation/hobbies
  • Good nutrition and healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Sufficient quality sleep
  • Stress management

Managing stressful events or phases is one of the best things you can do to stay sober. Tools that can help you with stress management include:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Time outside

Additionally, you’ll need to find ways to manage physical pain if you know it’s a trigger for drinking or drugs.


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What Does Staying Sober Mean?

The term “staying sober” means different things to different people. It is most often related to avoiding alcohol, but it can pertain to using any substance.

In 12-step programs, “sober” means abstaining from drugs and alcohol forever. Other definitions of staying sober are less strict.

Here are other possible definitions of the term:

  • Someone who occasionally experiences a slip-up
  • Someone in the process of achieving sobriety (sober living)
  • Rare or limited use of alcohol

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Is It Difficult to Stay Sober?

The challenge of staying sober varies in intensity from person to person. For many people, staying sober is impossible without professional medical support.

If you or a loved one struggles to stay sober, remember that addiction is a physical and psychological issue. It’s normal to need support in this endeavor.

Some people decide they aren’t going to drink or use drugs, and they never do so again. Others struggle to stay sober their entire lives, especially if they struggle with dependence or addiction.

What’s the Point of Staying Sober?

Regardless of how much someone drinks, the benefits of sober living can include:1,2,3,4,5,6,7

  • Better mental health
  • Lower risk of cancer
  • Reduced cardiovascular risk
  • Improved immunity
  • Improved sleep
  • Weight loss for some people
  • Better organ health

Staying sober offers many benefits, especially for people who are heavy drinkers. The risks associated with heavy drinking include:

  • Hepatitis
  • Anxiety
  • Cancer risk
  • Cirrhosis
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Digestive issues
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Other cardiovascular risks
  • Pancreatitis
  • Social, financial, and legal problems
  • Tolerance and dependence

Many of the risks of drug use are the same, but they also include:

  • Overdose
  • Infections associated with IV drug use
  • Respiratory illnesses associated with smoking

Professional Treatment Options for Addiction

Although many people can stay sober without professional help, others find this professional level of support necessary in their recovery. It is especially true if they have alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD).

Professional addiction treatment helps you manage withdrawal symptoms when you first decide to stay sober. Additionally, it can help you manage the challenges of addiction.

Some of the best treatment options for addiction include:

Inpatient Treatment

Inpatient treatment allows people to live full-time at the treatment facility and receive round-the-clock medical supervision. These programs include:

  • Medically supervised detox
  • Group counseling
  • Individual therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Support groups, including 12-step program participation

Outpatient Treatment

Outpatient treatment allows people to participate in treatment without staying overnight. They live off-site but spend several hours per week in treatment. These programs include:

  • Individual counseling
  • Group therapy
  • Family therapy
  • Access to medication
  • Support groups, including 12-step program participation

When choosing a professional treatment program, consider:

  • Location
  • Cost 
  • Health insurance coverage
  • Accreditation
  • Philosophy of the program

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Staying sober is a challenge for many people. Despite the difficulty, sober living offers many benefits, including better mental and physical health. You can do many things to improve your chances of staying sober. 

Some powerful tools include establishing a routine, turning to supportive loved ones, and managing triggers. For many, professional treatment is essential for achieving sobriety.

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Updated on February 6, 2024

Related Articles

7 sources cited
Updated on February 6, 2024
  1. Comorbidity: Substance Use and Other Mental Disorders.” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2018. 

  2. Alcohol and Cancer.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019. 

  3. Solan, M. “Alcohol and Heart Health - Harvard Health Blog.” Harvard Health Blog, 2018. 

  4. Romeo et al. “Moderate Alcohol Consumption and the Immune System: A Review.” British Journal of Nutrition, 2007. 

  5. Bhaskar et al. “Prevalence of Chronic Insomnia in Adult Patients and Its Correlation with Medical Comorbidities.” Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 2016. 

  6. Suter, PM., Tremblay, A. “Is Alcohol Consumption a Risk Factor for Weight Gain and Obesity?” Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, 2005. 

  7. Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2011.