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How to Get Sober: A 7-Step Guide to Sobriety

It’s one thing to recognize a need for getting sober; it’s entirely another to do it.



Sobriety means more than giving up drugs and alcohol. It is an ongoing process that requires a commitment to a substance-free life, which can be challenging at times.


The most difficult step is often the first. It can seem not very comforting to look at the end goal and know the many steps it will take to get sober. Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for getting sober. No one can wave a magic wand and make you or someone you love sober. Sobriety is a lifelong journey filled with challenges, obstacles, and incredible rewards.


This guide includes the steps required to support the path and the journey to addiction recovery fully.


Step 1: Recognize the Need to Get Sober

The first step to getting sober is recognizing and admitting that you have a problem with drug or alcohol misuse. This is typically the most challenging part. Denial is a common response. It’s difficult to admit that you have lost control over your substance use.


While only a healthcare provider can formally diagnose a substance use disorder, some signs indicate you or someone you love might be struggling with alcohol or drug misuse. Some of these signs include:

 

  • Using a substance for longer than or more frequently than intended.

  • Making unsuccessful attempts to quit or cut back on substance use.

  • Failing to fulfill role responsibilities at home, work, or school due to substance use.

  • Continuing to use a substance even though it has caused or worsened a physical or mental health condition.

  • Craving or having strong urges to use the substance.


These are only a few of the signs that may indicate a substance use disorder. A licensed clinician uses this criterion—and more—to determine the likelihood and severity of a substance use disorder and formulate a treatment plan.


Step 2: Reach Out

Once you’ve admitted that you have a problem with substance misuse, getting help is the next step.


Sobriety is not a solo mission. Getting sober and sustaining sobriety is easier when you have a trusted support system motivating, encouraging, and supporting you along the way. Many studies indicate that having support from others can improve a person’s chances of engaging in and completing detox and treatment for addiction.

 

Friends and Family:

Loving and encouraging family and friends can help support your journey to sobriety.


When reaching out to family and friends for support, it’s essential to choose wisely. If your circle has grown to include individuals who enable or trigger you to drink or misuse substances, they probably aren’t the best people to ask for help since they may prevent you from breaking the cycle of addiction. Your journey to sobriety will likely involve strengthening some relationships and purging others. You may find yourself leaning on your trusted support system a lot and breaking ties with those who do not aid you in your recovery.


Professional Support:

Not everyone comes from an encouraging and supportive home environment. If your family and or friends aren’t motivating you to seek help for your substance misuse, make an appointment with a medical or addiction treatment professional. These individuals can direct you toward the resources you need for recovery, including the required services and diagnosis of substance use and any co-occurring mental health disorders.


With help from a healthcare professional, you can start looking for a treatment program that meets your unique needs.


Step 3: Find the Right Treatment

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment program for addiction. Therefore, asking questions is essential to ensure your desired program meets your needs. There are multiple factors to consider, including cost, reviews, licensing, accreditations, amenities, and treatments.


Research-Based Treatment

First and foremost, find a treatment program that has a positive track record in terms of patients completing treatment and maintaining sobriety. This is most likely to occur in programs that provide services and therapies based on research. Evidence-based addiction treatment uses the current and best research-based evidence to make informed decisions about your rehab care. Facilities that employ evidence-based addiction treatment use therapeutic interventions based on decades of clinical expertise guided by research, systematic investigation, and scientific studies demonstrated to be effective and generate positive patient outcomes.


Degree of Addiction

What type of treatment you need depends on several factors, including the severity of your addiction. For instance, if your substance use disorder is diagnosed as mild, an outpatient program might be recommended. Outpatient programs vary widely but typically provide a designated number of hours of treatment per week at a treatment center or facility. For more severe addiction issues, healthcare professionals may suggest inpatient care, which requires you to live onsite at the hospital or facility for the duration of treatment.


Healthcare professionals help determine the level of care most suited to your needs.

 

Levels of care include:

 

Readiness for Change

You must be ready to change to find the best treatment program. It will help prevent relapse once the formal treatment program ends.


Relapse prevention is the primary goal of all addiction treatment. Treatment provides you with the tools to change your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors around substance use. If you’re not ready or willing to change those behaviors and thoughts, then treatment cannot do what it’s designed to do.


Step 4: Get Through Withdrawal

For some, withdrawal may be the most challenging part of rehab. The symptoms associated with withdrawal from certain substances can be highly uncomfortable and even dangerous. The urge to use the drug or alcohol to avoid these withdrawal symptoms can sometimes be overwhelming. However, knowing what to expect can help.

 

The Detox Process

Detox occurs when the body goes through the process of eliminating substances from itself. Individuals who experience withdrawal symptoms have become dependent on the substance. This means that the brain and body have become so accustomed to having the substance present that they can’t function properly without it. The brain and body need time to return to functioning without the substance. Medical support can help keep you safe and as comfortable as possible during detox.


Medical Support

Medically supervised detox makes the withdrawal process safer and more comfortable by offering ways to minimize the discomfort and risk caused by the withdrawal symptoms. In the case of an individual who is stopping long-term, heavy alcohol use, treatment professionals can administer medications to help minimize serious risks associated with alcohol withdrawal, such as life-threatening delirium tremens, which can cause extreme confusion, delirium, hallucinations, high fever, and blood pressure, and seizures.


Medical support can also wean you from certain substances slowly, helping the brain and body adjust to the loss of the substance more gradually and minimizing some withdrawal symptoms. These benefits not only ease the discomfort of the detox process but also help to prevent relapse during this stage of treatment.


Step 5: Choose the Appropriate Therapy

Detox isn’t the end of the road. It’s typically just the beginning. For most, detox is not enough to maintain sobriety. It is generally the first step in a more comprehensive treatment plan.


As previously mentioned, no one treatment is effective for all people.


The Personalized Plan

Reputable, research-based treatment programs select therapies and interventions to match your personal needs. For example, a Veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who misuses cocaine doesn’t have the exact needs as a stay-at-home mom struggling with alcohol use.


When you enter a treatment program, an addiction professional makes a thorough diagnosis to determine your specific needs and selects therapies based on those needs. Some of the therapies that may be used include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT helps you recognize your triggers and teaches you coping skills to help you manage stressors and avoid relapse.

  • Motivational therapy. Motivational therapy utilizes rewards to help you maintain your commitment to sobriety. For instance, you may receive a voucher for certain days you stay substance-free.

  • Family therapy. Family therapy addresses relationship issues that may contribute to substance use, including enabling behaviors and codependency. It also helps mend relationships impacted by substance use.

  • Interpersonal therapy. Interpersonal therapy helps you build a good support network beyond treatment by teaching you how to build healthy relationships.

This list is by no means exhaustive. Many more interventions may be used to help you recover from substance misuse.


A Consistent Relationship Through Treatment

Just as no treatment plan fits all people, no one treatment plan may be suitable for the entire time you are in a formal treatment program. For this reason, treatment plans need to be flexible. As your needs change, so too should the treatment plan.


This is most easily achieved if your treatment team is managed by a single caseworker who can track all treatments and therapies, make sure everything is compatible, and advocate for you when changes are necessary. A reputable treatment program provides these specialists.


Step 6: Build Support for Recovery

Support isn’t just needed to get a person started on the path to recovery from addiction. As stated above, support can help the individual stick to treatment throughout the program. In addition, having a support network once treatment is over can ease the transition from rehab to daily living. This support fosters the motivation and self-confidence needed for sustained sobriety.


Family Therapy

For many, returning to daily life after treatment means returning home to family, which is why family can be the most robust social support system. However, relationships within the family may have been impacted by substance misuse and, therefore, require mending.


As mentioned above, family therapy may be part of your personalized treatment plan. It can help families resolve conflicts that may have contributed to or started as a result of substance use, educate everyone about addiction, identify and manage situations of enabling or codependency, and help all parties understand ways the family can support sobriety.


Interpersonal Therapy

Suppose you don’t have a family or social solid circle to return to post-formal treatment. In that case, a personalized plan may include interpersonal therapy, which can help you build a healthy social network. This research-based technique has been shown to support sobriety. Studies show that women struggling with alcohol misuse and depression who participated in interpersonal therapy were able to give up alcohol and maintain sobriety longer than those who didn’t.

 

Mutual Support Groups

Many research-based, reputable treatment programs include mutual-help groups— 12-Step or peer support programs—as part of the treatment plan. These programs offer multiple benefits for individuals in treatment, including: 

  • Resources for further education on substance misuse.

  • Information and understanding from other people in treatment.

  • Accountability to maintain sobriety.

  • Sources of social support both within rehab and after treatment completion.


Along with these benefits, 12-Step programs and other forms of mutual-help groups can increase the likelihood of achieving and maintaining recovery from substance misuse. Research demonstrates that people who participate in 12-Step programs have better outcomes than those who don’t.


Step 7: Participate in Aftercare Programs

The hope is that you will be ready to resume daily life after treatment, manage stressors and triggers, and stay sober for the long term. The reality is that many situations can make it hard to reintegrate into everyday life without some hiccups and the potential for relapse. Aftercare programs make it easier to remain in recovery and avoid returning to substance use.


Relapse Risk

Once a formal treatment program ends, you should be re-assessed to determine which ongoing therapies, groups, and services might be most beneficial for you. Aftercare may include:

  • Residing in a sober living environment with others who have completed rehab to support ongoing sobriety.

  • Ongoing counseling and behavioral therapies.

  • Alumni programs to keep you connected to treatment resources and professionals.

  • Continue membership in 12-Step or other mutual-help groups.


Support Programs

Programs like sober living homes, motivational phone calls, alumni programs, and mutual-help groups provide support that can continue in the short term or as needed for the rest of your life.


Addiction is a chronic condition, and relapse is a possibility. Maintaining connections to resources in the months and years after treatment can help you maintain your commitment to sobriety.


These steps, when done with commitment, can result in sustained sobriety and the potential for you to live a healthy, productive, and substance-free life.


GETTING HELP

Call Us if you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, or addiction and need help. Our non-profit organization offers free clinical evaluations and case management services to individuals and families who need them.

 

ANOTHER SOLUTION has helped others find successful long-term recovery for over 25 years.

 

WE KNOW RECOVERY.

 

For Help, Call: 972-669-8395

Another Solution-The Missing Link to Long-term Sobriety

 

Resource: American Addiction Center

Updated Aug 31, 2023

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