How to Stay Sober Long-Term
If you’re experiencing a hangover after a night of binge drinking, you may tell yourself that this is the last time: you’re too miserable to ever drink alcohol again. But no matter how sincerely you believe that, alcohol is addictive.
And it’s not exactly easy to say goodbye to an addictive substance. Staying sober during the week might be easy, while doing it during a party on the weekend can feel impossible. Here’s how to approach getting and staying sober like the long-term projects they actually are.
Think about your reasons
A hangover usually dissipates within a few hours. By the time you’re feeling better, you may think, “Well, surely I can have a couple drinks tonight and be fine.” That’s because your short-term reason for not drinking is gone. You’re not sick anymore, and so now you want to go out drinking again. That’s a natural impulse, but one of the best ways to fight it is to make a list.
We’re not talking about a grocery list, either. Instead, write down a list of reasons you’d like to quit. The fact that hangovers aren’t fun can be on there, sure — but there should be other reasons for quitting as well. Maybe your spouse gets upset when you drink too much. Maybe you don’t like being unable to remember things. Perhaps your dad passed away from liver disease and you really don’t want to follow in his footsteps.
If possible, don’t just make this list on your phone. Keep a physical copy of it on your person at all times. Look at it when you’re feeling weak, or even when you’re feeling strong. Remind yourself that the first days and weeks are the hardest ones to get through.
Explore sober living
When you hear the term “sober living,” you may think of a sober home where recovering alcoholics live. That’s one way to use the term, but it can refer to much more than that. For instance, sober living in Los Angeles can include meetings with people who care about you. That’s not the same thing as an intervention.
Instead, it’s a place to find support from people who have either gotten sober at some point in the past or are currently trying to do so. It may also refer to treatment in a rehab facility, but living sober requires a commitment that’s much longer than 30 days.
If you’re interested in sober living, you may have to rearrange your social life a bit. If you and your pals go out for drinks every Friday after work, ask them for an alternate venue. If they don’t want to do that every week, ask if they can do it every other week. Then, only go out with your friends when the gathering is not at a bar.
At some point, you may be able to walk into a bar and order a soda without any shame. But that can be really tough at the beginning.
Find other things to do
If you’re not going to bars, what are you going to do? Anything you want, within reason. It’s super normal for people who are quitting drinking to realize they have way more free time now. It’s up to you to make productive use of at least some of that time.
Sure, watching Netflix and eating ice cream is fun some of the time, but if you’re improving yourself by getting sober, it makes sense to go a bit further. Start by thinking about your education. If you’ve always been interested in cars, grab a can of juice and research automotive, diesel and collision repair academic programs. If you’ve always been interested in styling hair, research cosmetology programs.
You don’t necessarily have to make a career change, though you should probably consider it if, for instance, you work as a bartender. Just consider your options, and ask yourself if there’s something you’ve always wanted to do but never really investigated.