Ask any recovering addict and they’ll tell you that the hardest thing is not getting sober, it’s staying sober. And it can also become expensive in terms of money and time. A story in the New York Times mentions that there are those who manage to ‘achieve recovery through 12-step programmes while others spend thousands of dollars’.
Regardless of how you choose to maintain sobriety or how much money or time you will spend, it will always be your personal choice, and it is probably the most personal decision many people make. Not only does it involve keeping yourself drug- or alcohol-free, but it also involves saving your life.
For some, recovery can be more than just attending 12-step meetings throughout the week. There are additional (or different) ways to stay sober, and there are many other aspects of sobriety to consider as you begin your journey.
When you decide to get sober, you also make a decision to incorporate a variety of healthy practices into your life, as there’s a direct connection between the two. Treating the body and the mind adds a holistic dimension to your sobriety. So, these suggestions can not only help you stay sober, but they can also improve your physical and mental health in the process.
As a recovering addict, your body is probably not used to any kind of intense physical movement. As a result, you need to incorporate exercise into your daily routine. Why? Exercise produces endorphins, the feel-good neurochemicals that produce what’s called the ‘runner’s high’ – the feeling of euphoria that runners feel as they run and when they finish a race.
However, you can get the same feeling by exercising regularly. You can try running, fast-walking, joining a gym and lifting weights, joining a spin class, or performing body weight exercises at home. Once you get into a routine, stay with it. Not only will it help keep you sober, but you’ll also end up being in the best shape of your life.
According to University of Utah Health, your addiction to drugs or alcohol affected your body
to the point where it could not properly absorb, digest, and use nutrients, which led to ‘vitamin deficiencies and poor nutrition overall‘. A healthy sobriety diet can essentially reset your body’s functions. What does it consist of?
Simple fresh fruits and vegetables, proteins such as salmon and chicken, herbal teas to help soothe digestion, and lots of yogurt and cheese. You should also increase your intake of supplements such as B vitamins and other essential minerals, including calcium, magnesium, and iron. Your body needs to get used to functioning correctly again, and these kinds of foods and supplements can get that started.
An emotional support dog
Dogs not only provide us with companionship, but they can also provide emotional support for your recovery journey. Just as exercise produces endorphins, caring for an emotional support dog causes our brains to produce another neurotransmitter called oxytocin. According to Sy Montgomery in The Boston Globe, it causes a ‘cascade of physiological changes. It can slow heart rate and inhibit the production of stress hormones, creating a profound sense of calm, comfort, and focus‘. The less stress you have in your life, the more likely you’ll stay sober, and having a support dog can help drain the stress away.
Help with other conditions
Recovery can also be complex, especially if your addiction is related to a mental or physical condition. This is called comorbidity. For example, if you suffer from depression, you probably sought relief from it by drinking. The reverse might also be true: you drank excessively, and that led to depression. In those cases, you need to seek professional help to diagnose whatever the additional physical or mental illness might be. Treating both conditions at the same time gets you mentally healthy and helps keep you sober.
Sobriety is your life
Your sobriety is paramount and will always be from now on. The choice you made to give up your addiction and live a healthier and happier life was probably quite easy. Staying on your sobriety journey will take everything you have, and that’s what makes it difficult. However, if you integrate such habits as exercising, eating healthy, caring for an emotional support dog, and, if necessary, getting professional help for any additional mental or physical health conditions into your daily life, you can face all the challenges you encounter on your journey.
Jackie Cortez works with The Prevention Coalition to identify and highlight resources on every aspect of substance abuse, ranging from prevention to addiction treatment. As part of her advocacy, she has written a number of online articles on mental health and well-being. In her spare time, Jackie enjoys gardening, reading and walks with her favourite four-legged friend, Buster the Labrador.