Maintaining your sobriety after receiving treatment for addiction is often one of the most challenging aspects of recovery. This is because drinking alcohol and using drugs are two events that many people turn to in social situations or to “relax” after a tough day.
However, there are alternative ways to feel good without risking your recovery. This article will talk about the many alternatives to drinking and using to help you know how to stay sober in the most challenging times.
The Difference Between “Partying” and Addiction
First, it’s important to note that not everybody who parties struggles with addiction, and sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between just “having fun” and experiencing substance abuse issues.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to evaluate if you might be addicted to drugs and/or alcohol:
- Do I use drugs and alcohol to escape from emotional pain or mental health issues?
- Do I feel symptoms of withdrawal when I’m not using or drinking?
- Have I made dangerous or harmful decisions while under the influence of drugs or alcohol but continued to use?
- Does substance abuse run in my family?
- Do I find myself losing control over how much I’m drinking or using (i.e., promising to have just one beer but not being able to stop)?
- Has my drinking or drug use negatively affected my social relationships?
- Do I often question whether or not I might have a problem with addiction?
After answering these questions, you might find that you are, in fact, struggling with addiction. While recovery might feel frightening, know that there is a treatment option out there that will work for your specific struggles.
Once you find your path toward recovery, you can begin to learn tips and tricks on how to stay sober and turn to alternatives to drinking and using when you are in social situations that trigger substance abuse urges.
Why Do People Turn to Drugs and Alcohol in Social Situations?
For many people, alcohol consumption or using drugs is a way to loosen up, let walls down, and have fun. The rush of adrenaline and specific hormones that are released when you drink or use feel good, which makes you want to continue to party.
Drinking and using drugs also leads to muscle relaxation. While this total relaxation might feel good, it ends up causing impulsive behaviors and decisions that can be extremely dangerous.
The Risks of Alcohol Consumption and Drug Use
- Short-term effects of alcohol abuse can include: impairment, impulsive decision making, nausea, headaches, worsened mental health (i.e., depression and anxiety), mood changes, and more.
- Short-term effects of drug use include: nausea, loss of consciousness, changes in sleep patterns, mood swings, headaches, addiction, depression, behavioral impairment.
- Long-term effects of alcohol consumption include: mental health complications, brain damage, liver damage, heart failure, and even death.
- Long-term effects of drug use include: organ failure, brain damage, mental health disorders, difficulty breathing, and overdose, which can be fatal.
Simply put, the risks of drug and alcohol abuse can be deadly. This is why it is incredibly important not only to find treatment that works for your addiction recovery needs, but to also learn how to stay sober.
Alternatives to Drinking and Using
The alternatives to drinking and using will help you to learn how to stay sober while still having fun in social situations. These alternatives are meant to help you to feel good and achieve muscle relaxation without actually introducing substances that cause addiction.
Below is an outline of some of the many alternatives to alcohol and drug use. Be sure to practice these tips with a sober buddy, sponsor, or mentor to help you achieve your long-term recovery goals.
Alternatives to Alcohol
Believe it or not, there are many different alternatives to alcohol that people turn to in social situations to feel as though they are drinking without actually risking their sobriety. Remember, even small amounts of alcohol can trigger uncontrollable urges if you are a recovering alcoholic.
Here are some of the best alternatives to alcohol consumption:
- Alcohol-free drinks
Instead of risking any amount of alcohol consumption, try non-alcoholic beers. You will get the taste of beer and have something to hold in your hand in social situations where the people around you are drinking. There are even alcohol-free mixed drinks (“mocktails”) that taste the same without the negative effects of alcohol.
Additionally, drinks that are carbonated, sparkling, or have a tang to them, such as kombucha, can make you feel like you are drinking alcohol, even though you are completely sober. And the even bigger, long-term benefit of this is that it’s better for your physical and mental health.
However, you should note that alcohol-free beers and mocktails do not help everyone. If you are already in recovery and do not have much sober time, these imitation drinks could hinder rather than help your sobriety.
- Try muscle relaxation techniques
So many people turn to alcohol to find that sense of relaxation. However, using alcohol to relax does not get to the root problem of why you are experiencing stress in the first place. Guided meditation, exercise, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, deep breathing, and massage are all alternatives to the release you might feel when you initially pick up a drink.
- Set up friend hangouts in places without alcohol
Sometimes, meeting friends at a bar is just not what’s best for your recovery needs. Every so often, suggest an alternative plan to hang out—whether that’s going on a hike, bowling, seeing a movie, etc., you can still find ways to have fun with your loved ones without the glaring temptation of alcohol.
Alternatives to Using Drugs
Finding alternatives to drug use can feel challenging. However, there are other ways to achieve a natural “high” feeling that will keep you happy and, most importantly, safe. These include:
- Exercise or playing sports releases natural endorphins and hormones that makes your body feel good
- Find new hobbies, such as reading, painting, gardening, woodworking, etc.
- Learn a new language
- Volunteer around your neighborhood
- Make frequent lists of why you chose to get sober to remind yourself of your goals
- Join a community of addiction survivors to lean on in times of need
Above all else, surround yourself with people who believe in your recovery journey and will help to support you in finding other ways you can stay sober.
Learn More on How to Stay Sober
Our staff at Baton Rouge Behavioral Hospital is here to provide you with the support you need for long-term recovery. We offer safe detox, counseling, group therapy, and mental health help to help you learn how to become sober and stay sober.