How to Get Sober from Drugs and Alcohol

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Develop a Plan for Getting Sober

Discovering how to get sober through treatment can help you take the first step toward recovery. Beating an addiction requires a huge commitment, but once you acknowledge there’s a problem and quit drugs and alcohol, you’ll find many options for addiction recovery.

Getting sober is possible when you:

  • Commit to stop using the substance.
  • Set long-term and short-term goals.
  • Develop a plan of treatment.
  • Find a support network.
  • Plan to live a life free of substance abuse.

Commit to Giving Up Drugs and Alcohol

If you are wondering how to get clean and sober from drugs or alcohol you may find that committing to stop can be an excellent first step. Getting sober can take a lot of time and effort, so if you can find reasons to stop and state them clearly, you will likely have a better chance for recovery.

Committing is hard. We are more likely to commit when we truly feel the pain of the consequences of drug use. This isn’t meant to make us feel guilty—just to acknowledge that we may not be living the life we want to live.

Reasons to Quit Using Drugs or Alcohol
  • You would like to rebuild damaged relationships with children, a spouse, or other family members.
  • Addiction is damaging your professional life and threatening your ability to make a living.
  • You want to live a healthy lifestyle.
  • You have put your life in jeopardy by consistently using drugs or alcohol in dangerous situations.
  • The addiction has caused you severe financial stress or legal problems.
  • Drug or alcohol use has caused blackouts and you want to be able to remember life events.

Set Goals for Quitting Drugs and Alcohol

More important than knowing how to stop drinking and doing drugs is setting goals that make the process less stressful. You should set realistic goals, both for the short- and long-term. These goals must be specific and measurable.

Short-term goals are important because they help to build your confidence and encourage continued abstinent behaviors. Make sure to write them down.

Short-Term Goal Examples

Below are some examples of realistic short-term goals. Completing these goals will encourage you to continue on your path to recovery.

Remember to take it easy on yourself. We all fall short of our goals at times. Often, when we slip up, this causes more guilt and shame, which then leads to more drug use. Realize that achieving goals is a process.

  • My goal is to attend three 12-step program meetings this week.
  • My goal is to enter a 30-day inpatient treatment program.
  • My goal is to remain drug and alcohol-free for two weeks straight. If I succeed, I will reward myself with an enjoyable, sober activity or favorite food.
  • My goal is to remain abstinent for four weeks straight. If I succeed, I will take a weekend trip somewhere.

Long-Term Goal Examples

Some sample long-term goals include:

  • My goal is to be drug and alcohol-free for one year. If I achieve this, I will schedule a week-long vacation to somewhere I’ve always wanted to go.
  • My goal is to form a healthy and sober circle of friends who are supportive and encouraging. I will do this by opening up more at meetings and approaching others.
  • My goal is to attend therapy twice a week for one year.
  • My goal is to have a plan in place for any withdrawal symptoms, which will include strategies such as stress management, exercise, and contacting my doctor.

What Are My Drug and Alcohol Rehab Options?

Many individuals who want to get sober might find that a treatment facility is the best option. Entering a rehabilitation facility can be a good way to remove yourself from an unhealthy home environment or other triggering situations, as well as promote complete accountability in a structured, therapeutic environment.

Rehab centers remove you from unhealthy environments and triggers.

The first step in treatment is detox. Depending on the substance that is being abused, it may be necessary to undergo detox in a supervised environment where you can receive care and possibly medication to help you deal with uncomfortable or potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.1 Remember that detox is only the first step on the path toward recovery.

Addiction Treatment Options

What works well for one person may not work well for another. Do your research on different treatment options so you can decide what is right for you and your path to recovery. Some treatment options include:

  • Inpatient treatment: You may have heard about residential or inpatient treatment programs lasting 30 days60 days, or 90 days, but treatment durations are highly variable and these lengths can be adjusted according to your personal needs. When living at the treatment facility, you can escape your current environment to focus solely on your recovery.
  • Outpatient treatment: Outpatient rehab options include intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, and standard outpatient treatment. Intensive and partial are more structured, and typically time-intensive treatment programs. You attend therapy several times per week, depending on the intensity of the program. Standard outpatient programs typically require you to attend once per week and may gradually decrease this rate over time.
  • 12-step programs: 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are free to join and have meetings all across the United States and Canada.
  • Alternative support groups: Groups such as SMART Recovery and Secular Organizations for Sobriety forego the more spiritual atmosphere of 12-step programs and base recovery on scientific principles and ongoing acquisition of knowledge.

How to Find the Right Addiction Treatment Program

There are many ways to begin your search for the right addiction treatment program.2

  • Consult your family physician or other treatment professional for an evaluation or referral.
  • Ask trusted friends/relatives.
  • Search trusted online sources.
  • Read online reviews of treatment centers.

When researching addiction treatment programs, you may want to consider factors such as the availability of medical detox services, treatment of co-occurring disorders, and medication-assisted treatment. You may also want to ask about the program’s levels of care and staffing, licenses and accreditation, and types of treatment plans.3

What Are My Therapy Options in Rehab?

Once you’ve quit drinking or using drugs, the next step will be staying sober. There are different types of therapy that can help you maintain sobriety. This step of the process is unique to you and your situation. Therefore, your therapy may look very different from someone else’s. Some common types of therapy include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy – When combined with medication or other behavioral therapies, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be highly effective in treating addiction. This type of therapy helps you identify and replace negative thoughts related to your addiction, as well as potentially maladaptive behaviors that arise from them.
  • Motivational Interviewing – These techniques help to resolve any ambivalence towards your recovery efforts, potentially increasing your treatment engagement and ultimately your chances for positive life changes. As part of motivational enhancement therapy (MET), motivational interviewing includes individual, customized therapy sessions.
  • Family Therapy – This type of therapy may involve one or more of your family members and can significantly improve treatment success. Sessions may focus on familial struggles in addition to your drug and alcohol addiction.
  • Contingency Management Therapy – This therapeutic approach supports continued recovery progress by rewarding positive behaviors. Tangible rewards such as vouchers for items or services are offered as part of contingency management therapy.

You may also participate in individual or group therapy sessions in an inpatient or outpatient treatment center. While individual sessions are completed on a one-on-one basis and highly personalized, group therapy sessions are run by a facilitator and often include about a dozen patients, though that number can vary based on the treatment center.

Establish a Recovery Support Network

A strong network of friends, family, and others (who once may have been in similar situations) can go a long way in supporting recovery. Supportive networks can be cultivated in various ways, such as by frequent mutual support meetings or regular phone calls. Making use of organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and any alumni organizations attached to a treatment program can also be very helpful.

With strong supports, you will know there’s always someone to talk to who can help keep you strong when you are facing any challenges to your recovery.

Types of 12-Step Programs

young man in alcoholics anonymous 12-step meeting

In addition to AA and NA, many other 12-step programs cater to specific drugs or substances in general:

  • Cocaine Anonymous.
  • Marijuana Anonymous.
  • Pills Anonymous.
  • Heroin Anonymous.
  • Crystal Meth Anonymous.

You should never have to battle addiction alone. Creating a strong network of friends and family members will help to prevent relapse and provide you with support and encouragement along the way.

How to Overcome Temptations and Cravings

Once a recovery plan is in motion, it is important to understand that recovery doesn’t happen in a day. You should plan how to overcome temptation, as there may be people around who will encourage or pressure you to fall back into old habits.

You can also take other steps to promote a substance-free life:

  • Create strategies to deal with cravings. Plan how to stop cravings and have a process in place to deal with these as they occur.
  • Find new hobbies and develop new habits. Hobbies such as music, art, or exercise can help the process along, as these activities break the cycle and create new and healthy habits to replace old ones.
  • Make a list of why you want to get sober and look at it regularly. Make lists to remind yourself why you need to get sober and what is at stake if you fail.
Strategies to Fight Cravings
  • Focus your attention on something else (distraction): a book, music, a phone call, etc.
  • Exercise, go outside, or spend time in nature.
  • Mindfully attend to your cravings. Instead of trying to avoid them, explore them. You’ll find that they are temporary and will pass.

With the right support system in place, many people addicted to drugs or alcohol find themselves conquering what they thought was an impossible struggle. These preliminary steps, along with accountability, can help you move forward in your recovery. As individual problems require individualized treatment, creating a personalized plan to implement these steps can help provide the structure needed to face the problem and beat it.

Life After Treating Your Addiction

Being cognizant of the warning signs of relapse is an important part of staying sober. If you begin obsessing about drinking alcohol or using drugs, this may signal an approaching relapse. Convincing yourself that you’ll be able to take charge of your drug or alcohol use this time around or spending time with friends or family members who are a bad influence may also be signs of a relapse. In these types of situations, it is important to utilize your support strategies.

Life after treating your addiction to drugs or alcohol may not be perfect or go as planned. Your treatment plan may include aftercare strategies, especially if you are at high-risk for relapse. Your aftercare plan could include:

  • Regularly scheduled therapy sessions.
  • Continuing with a step-down or relatively less intensive treatment program.
  • Alumni programs.
  • Sober living arrangements.
  • Discussions with your sponsor, doctor, friends, or family.
  • Attendance at mutual support groups or 12-step program meetings.
  • Reentry into a treatment facility, if needed.

Call 1-888-319-2606 Helpline Information if you would like more details about your drug and alcohol rehab center options, including information on how to pay for treatment.

Sources:

  1. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2006). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment.
  2. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021, March). Treatment for alcohol problems: finding and getting help.
  3. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Q&As for alcohol treatment programs.

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