The Top 5 Things That Will Keep You Sober

April 29th, 2024

By P. Casey Arrillaga, LCSW, LCDC

There is no magic-bullet cure for addiction. Rather than promise that clients they will automatically stay sober and live out their dreams if they come to Windmill, we let them know that recovery is hard work, but it is doable. We tell them that there isn’t an easy fix, but there are a number of things they can do to dramatically improve their odds. This post will cover our Top Five list of those actions that help the most.

What We Know So Far

Addiction of any kind is a chronic and potentially relapsing disease. Whether the addiction is to alcohol, other drugs, gambling, sex and love, food, shopping, or anything else that helps a person escape themselves, no matter how long a person has been sober, there is always danger that they will fall prey again. To make matters worse, when a person re-engages in their addiction, it often seems to pick up right where is left off, and then things go downhill from there.

This means that it is of paramount importance that anyone with an addiction take whatever steps they can to reduce this risk and prevent relapse. No matter how good the person’s intentions, it is actions that make all the difference. Thus, each thing on our Top Five list is a concrete action to be taken, not just an idea thought or talked about.

1. Engage with recovery fellowships.

This has been shown to be one of the most important factors in recovering from addiction. As humans, we are profoundly social creatures who thrive when connected and suffer when we are not. Thus, the social connection and reinforcement of regularly engaging with others who are also working on their recovery can make all the difference. In fact, people who engage with recovery fellowships regularly are twice as likely to stay sober as those who do not. This is equally true if the person attends meetings of 12 Step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, LifeRing Secular Recovery, or Women for Sobriety. Whichever fellowship you choose, going regularly may make the difference between achieving your goals or not.

2. Regularly talk to others in recovery in between meetings.

Research shows that recovery fellowship members who get phone numbers of others from the fellowship and call them between meetings increase their chances of success. Doing so creates stronger social bonds with people who share a similar goal, which becomes a great reinforcement to continuing in recovery. It also provides an opportunity to give and receive feedback from someone who deeply understands what the caller is experiencing on their recovery journey.

3. Be of service to others.

Many people who are early in recovery from addiction struggle to find a sense of belonging and purpose. Addiction often robs the sufferer of these vital human feelings, leaving the person more and more isolated and shameful. Service is a way to counter these feelings, because helping others is the best-known pathway to a sense of meaning and purpose in life. It can also help self-esteem to see that others benefit from your presence and what you are doing, however small or simple it may seem. This is why so many recovery fellowships have all sorts of ways to be of service at the meetings and in between them. Service should not be limited to the recovery fellowships, though. There are many opportunities and much need for service in any community. Look for ways to be helpful and you will be helped, too.

4.  Get to know yourself better.

Self-exploration may sound scary to someone who has seen the worst of themselves while in active addiction. Nonetheless, it is very difficult to recover without such self-knowledge. This is because someone who doesn’t know or understand themselves well can easily fall into negative behaviors and not recognize it. Even if they do it is very hard to get a handle of that behavior without knowing themselves. It is hard to solve any problem when you don’t really know what is happening. This is why all of the recovery fellowships strongly encourage their members to learn more about themselves. Each fellowship has a framework and tools to facilitate this exploration, and there are many living examples of both how it is done and the resulting benefits through the more experienced members.

5. Get help in working with what you find.

While self-exploration is vital, it is not enough all by itself. It is equally important to work on the things you discover, both healing and changing the negative while appreciating and reinforcing the positive. This is best done with help. This is in part because it can be easy to fool ourselves when it comes to our own thinking. It is also best to have help because many people in early recovery find they have a lot of negative self-talk, guilt, and shame. This can feel overwhelming, which can create danger of relapse if left unchecked. This risk can be averted by talking to someone who is professionally trained, has recovery experience, or both. Some people in recovery fellowships say their mind can be like a bad neighborhood, so they try not to go in alone. One more reason to have someone help process self-reflection is that both professionals and those who have worked successfully on their own recovery can provide insights and feedback that the person in recovery could easily miss if trying to do it all by themselves.

Needless to say, there are many actions that can help in recovery, so our Top Five list is not meant to be all you need or do. What we can say for certain is that anyone who does all five and sticks with them will find their chances of living a great life in recovery go up quite a bit.

The Bottom Line

Recovery from addiction is difficult and takes hard work. Doing the things on our Top Five list consistently will give anyone who is in recovery the best chance of getting the life they want.

About The Author

P. Casey Arrillaga is the Team Leader for Education at Windmill Wellness Ranch, and he is the author of books including “Realistic Hope: The Family Survival Guide for Facing Alcoholism and Other Addictions”.

Sign up for our FREE Family & Friends Course

Created specifically for those who have loved ones that struggle with addiction.