Article At A Glance:
Do you find quitting booze or drugs is the easy part, but staying sober and creating long-lasting sobriety somewhat more difficult?
To be brutally honest, staying sober is 100% more difficult than taking the leap… that’s if you’re not covering some of the basic foundational habits i’m about to discuss.
Too many times I see people attempt to get sober, but often neglect some key areas of our life that we must support for long-term sobriety.
These areas are often very simple, and usually don’t require much energy once we work them into our daily routine.
Anyway, that’s enough waffling, Let’s dive in.
Staying Sober Means Staying Connected
One of the first habits you should be doing to stay sober is to stay connected, which keeps us accountable.
Accountability is one of the most important aspects of creating a sober life that is both sustainable and long-term. I talk more about creating accountability and burning the bridges here.
Staying connected can be as simple as seeing friends or loved one’s regularly, or perhaps joining a community, going to church, or simply being involved in a social group.
This habit shouldn’t be complex, and it also shouldn’t be something that you won’t enjoy, otherwise, it won’t be sustainable, and kind of a pointless endeavour.
The goal of this habit is to keep us connected to others, maintain accountability and quite frankly, get us out of our heads that we tend to get stuck in from time to time.
We are also often the introverted type, so we have a tendency to like doing things alone, and that doesn’t always pose well for long-term sobriety.
Physically Active and Eating Well
Another fairly important habit in staying sober is ensuring we’re looking after our body.
It seems like a cop-out habit because we should always be doing this, but I see time and time again people trying to get sober, but neglect their physical and nutritional health.
When it comes to physical activity, exercise is a great and proven way to improve your quality of life, including your mental health. In a 2020 systematic review in the American Journal of Health Promotion, exercise was actually concluded as an effective treatment option for individuals with an alcohol use disorder (Gür & Can Gür, 2020).
Studies have also shown that just simply engaging in brief moments of moderately intense exercise can provide short-term relief from cravings (Ussher et al., 2004). Myself personally can vouch for this, as this is something I would do quite often as a way to distract and/or trick my body.
Please note though – You can overdo it, read more on Exercise in Sobriety: How It Helps & Why More Isn’t Better
Whilst we should ensure we’re supporting ourselves physically, eating a well-balanced diet that covers a range of essential nutrients is also super important towards staying sober.
When we eat well, we allow our body to function optimally, covering some pretty important nutrients needed for brain, energy, and healthy nerve function.
Take B Vitamins, for example, most people know they’re important for energy production, but did you also know we need them for neurotransmitter synthesis? Did you also know that the intake of alcohol impairs absorption and utilisation of B vitamins too? This makes consuming them even more important when we’re looking to get sober (Kennedy, 2016).
Another good example is Zinc, which is critical for immune health and cell growth, but did you know it also helps modulate neurotransmitter release? GABA and Glutamate specifically (Gower-Winter & Levenson, 2012). These two neurotransmitters are often out of balance in a state of withdrawal, which makes Zinc an important nutrient to have when staying sober.
If you’re still scratching your head, I elaborate more about neurotransmitters here.
Resting And Being Kind To Yourself
One thing we forget when looking to get sober is the true importance of relaxation, rest, and simply being kind to ourselves.
Let’s face it, the world is damn busy, and often we are so laser-focused on filling our schedule to cope with our sobriety, that we neglect some pretty basic habits that create balance in our life.
Habits such as good sleep, a lunch break, or just simply just taking out of the day for ourselves are things we should be doing on a regular, daily basis.
Did you know chronic bouts of poor sleep alter our dopamine pathways? this leads to poor impulse control, poor motivation, and an increased risk of relapse (Volkow et al., 2012).
Poor sleep also impairs our cognitive judgment, including our working memory, decision-making, creative thinking, and even changes our reactivity to negative situations, leading us to be more irrational in our response (Killgore & Weber, 2013).
Besides sleep, getting into the habit of self-care throughout your busy life schedule is almost paramount towards creating long-lasting sobriety.
The core of this habit is becoming a less stressed individual, and stress is something we want to manage in the early stages of getting sober.
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Some of my biggest tips on creating moments of rest include:
- Establish a self-care practice, this can include mindfulness meditation, a journaling practice or some deep breathing.
- Take your damn lunch break, and if time allows, take a short 15-minute nap.
- Avoid overwhelm and stop overbooking your life.
- Sleep is very important, ensure you’re getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep a night.
Have Vision and Purpose
What is your vision? your end goal? where do you want to grow and what sort of mark do you want to leave on this world?
I believe one habit we all must have, getting sober or not, is to establish purpose, a true passion, or direction in our life.
This is not always an easy one, and of course, it may change over time, but just simply having an end goal is the key to shaping a bigger, and brighter future.
As a Clinical Nutritionist, I believe my current purpose is to empower, educate and guide people on living an addiction-free life, without limits.
Just simply creating a positive trajectory on your life prepares you for a greater story, and a more successful outlook on your journey staying sober in long-term sobriety.
What is your legacy? what kind of mark do you want to leave on the world once you’re gone?
Be Kind and Grateful
The last and probably fairly important habit is cultivating positivity through the power of kindness and gratitude.
It’s so easy to move from point A to B in our busy, stress-filled life, that we completely overlook the little things that we’re still truly blessed with.
Clean water, food abundance, and even just having breathe in our lungs.
Being grateful cultivates a mindset of positive thinking thought patterns, with sets us up for success in other areas of our life.
On top of gratitude, we also must remind ourselves daily to be kind, show support for others and practice the art of compassion.
Compassion creates a level of connection and stronger bond towards people, and allows us to feel more accepted in perhaps the “brokenness” way we once perceived ourselves to be.
Practicing regular compassion can also help bring on new opportunities, and allow us to see our life’s direction more clearly.
When we incorporate basic foundational habits into our life, such as looking after our physical health, eating well or learning to take time for ourselves, we greatly shift the odds in our favour towards staying sober.
Although these five habits could seem overwhelming at first, it’s best to start small and incorporate little ways to do them.
If you’re not exercising and want to look to start, begin taking regular walks, perhaps even on your lunch break, which also takes time for yourself.
Maybe you start prepping some healthy meals on a Sunday, or start taking moments through-out your day and write down three simple things you are grateful for.
Regardless of how you do it, starting small is the first step towards making them effortless habits in our daily routine.
When we have these effortless habits, we can finally live an addiction-free life, without limits.
- Gower-Winter, S. D., & Levenson, C. W. (2012). Zinc in the central nervous system: From molecules to behavior. BioFactors, 38(3), 186-193. https://doi.org/10.1002/biof.1012
- Gür, F., & Can Gür, G. (2020). Is exercise a useful intervention in the treatment of alcohol use disorder? Systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Health Promotion, 34(5), 520-537. https://doi.org/10.1177/0890117120913169
- Kennedy, D. (2016). B vitamins and the brain: Mechanisms, dose and efficacy—A review. Nutrients, 8(2), 68. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8020068
- Killgore, W. D., & Weber, M. (2013). Sleep deprivation and cognitive performance. Sleep Deprivation and Disease, 209-229. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-9087-6_16
- Ussher, M., Sampuran, A. K., Doshi, R., West, R., & Drummond, D. C. (2004). Acute effect of a brief bout of exercise on alcohol urges. Addiction, 99(12), 1542-1547. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2004.00919.x
- Volkow, N. D., Tomasi, D., Wang, G., Telang, F., Fowler, J. S., Logan, J., Benveniste, H., Kim, R., Thanos, P. K., & Ferre, S. (2012). Evidence that sleep deprivation Downregulates dopamine D2R in ventral striatum in the human brain. Journal of Neuroscience, 32(19), 6711-6717. https://doi.org/10.1523/jneurosci.0045-12.2012
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All the best in health,
Former Drinker & Clinical Nutritionist
Former drinker, Nutritionist, Biohacking enthusiast, self-experimenter, research fanatic, and self-taught writer, Stephen immerses himself deep into the literature of human optimisation and better understand the nature of addiction. His goal is to help people take control of their addiction, reset their cravings, unscramble their broken brain circuitry and use actionable strategies that work ten times better than anything else.