Staying Sober When the World is Using

Posted on July 3rd, 2012

Achieving sobriety for an alcoholic or drug user is an important and an impressive milestone. Whether you are just starting out on your journey of recovery and have been sober for one day, or you are many years clean, staying sober will always be a struggle. We use the term in recovery rather than recovered for a vital reason: you will always be tempted, to some extent, to use again. And as you fight this battle to stay clean, people using around you can litter the path with obstacles and barriers. There are many ways to deal with staying clean while others are using, but ultimately it comes down to your choice. You have the power to stay sober or to bow to the pressure and fall off the wagon.

Do you need to avoid users entirely?

Only you can answer this question because only you understand your willpower. However, a trusted friend, mentor, or counselor can help you answer the question honestly. We are not always truthful with ourselves, and a second person can provide you with a valuable perspective. Listen to the advice of others and your own intuition to decide whether or not you can handle being around those who are using or drinking. Of course, the earlier you are in your recovery, the more helpful it is to simply stay away from the partying and using scenes. Although you will always be tempted, staying sober gets easier as time goes on.

If you are at the point at which you feel you can be around those who are using, you need to be careful. Now is when you will begin to learn who your true friends are. Hanging out with friends with whom you used to use or drink is especially risky. You may begin to feel like you are slipping back into old and dangerous habits. Any of your friends who continue to pressure you into using after they know that you are trying to stay sober need to be cut from your life. They have no real interest in your recovery or your well-being. By staying around them, you are asking for a relapse.

Tips for staying sober while in the presence of users

If you do choose to hang out with friends who still use drugs or drink, or you need to be at a social event where drinking will be going on, there are some ways you can bolster your will power and stay sober. There is no reason that being around substance abuse has to weaken you or cause you to use again. Stay strong against the temptations and the pressures.

Make an ally. There is always power in numbers. Enlist a friend or family member to stay sober at an event with you. Having someone with whom to commiserate and with whom you can comfortable talk. You may not need to stick to this friend’s side all night long, but when you are feeling weak, seek her out for support. The two of you may even enjoy making fun of those who are not sober!

Make sure at least one person knows you are sober. You do not need to advertise to the world that you are a recovering addict, especially if you are at an event for work. If you have one person, such as a close friend or coworker, who understands your situation, they can look out for you and help you stay clean under pressure.

Mentally list pros and cons. Sometimes willpower gets a big boost from logical thinking. When you feel tempted around those who are using, treat the question of staying sober as an exercise in critical thinking. In your head, think of the benefits you might get from giving in and having a drink. Then list the negatives, which are sure to overwhelm any short-term positives. The logical perspective will harden your resolve.

Learn to have good, clean fun. Parties and social events are often fun for people because they get drunk or high. If this was you in the past, you now need to learn to enjoy the events while sober. Get to know other people by asking lots of questions and engaging in interesting conversations. Go to events that involve more than simply standing around and drinking, such as art gallery openings, movie screenings, and book clubs. When you have more to do, you will need alcohol less.

Keep your stomach full. A grumbling, hungry stomach will only make you cranky and turn your willpower into a bowl of jelly. Eat a little bit before a party and eat sensibly while there to avoid hunger cravings turning into drinking cravings.

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