Tools for Staying Clean and Sober

Before my relapse, in my first few months of sobriety, I had to work as hard at getting sober as I worked at getting and staying drunk. There’s no magic wand here, no great epiphany to be had; it takes dedication. Coming out of addiction recovery facility, I felt like a newborn fawn, unsteady on my legs, scared to leave the safety of my support system, back to my old environment, triggers, the same old, same old. Everything around me felt like a trigger.

I began to learn that my triggers weren’t necessarily the ones I’d learned about in AA or addiction treatment. In fact, my biggest trigger was a simply beautiful day. A day I was feeling good and wanted to enhance how I felt with the use of chemicals. That was, indeed my biggest trigger. Not loneliness, anger, or unmet physical needs. Just a damn beautiful day.

I knew if I was to stay sober, many things had to change. I decided to do everything, well, just a little different. I created reminders around my environment to symbolize this change, some were big, some small. I moved my watch from my left wrist to my right. Every time I looked at the time and date, I was reminded that my life had changed. I started getting dressed in a new way, left foot into the pants first, instead of my right. Weird, I know, but somehow these little things were what provided the constant reminder that I was on a new life path.

Yes, I went to AA meetings every day. I got a sponsor, reworked the steps, studied the Big Book. Even though I still found myself rolling my eyes occasionally, sitting in those meetings was a guaranteed hour a day I was not going to drink. I found that very comforting.

I started exercising again. I found getting in shape helped further reduce my cravings, not only did I get my little runner’s high, but conditioning the body and drinking are incompatible. Similarly, I was very careful about what I ate.

At some point, I’d have to return home. Home for me was like my own little bar. They say to avoid old drinking establishments, so I was clearly at a disadvantage since mine was my own house. This is where my use of rational recovery methods came into play. I had to envision this dominant inner voice as being a completely different entity from me: my nemesis that attempts to get me to drink by tricking me into believing any number of lies.

I’ve learned from my relapses what this inner voice says to me and how it influences me. I know that when I’m actively using, it has completely taken over my thinking and I’m stripped of all choice. I have no superego anymore. I’ve chosen to see it as a separate being from myself, one that lies in waiting to take me down.

This was difficult in the beginning since so many of my thoughts came from irrational part of my brain that had been a dominant force in my life. I wasn’t quite able to identify this voice. I was sure it was just part of my naughty character. With practice, I was able to separate out this voice from my rational voice to claim my lifelong sobriety.