Therapist Carder Stout, PhD, works with clients to overcome addiction, anxiety, depression, and trauma. He himself has been sober for fifteen years; You can read about his journey to sobriety in an excerpt from his first book here. Below, answer one of the most common questions we’ve received about addiction and sobriety in the past year. (Have a question for a therapist? Send us a message at [email protected].)
During the course of the pandemic, I developed some new problems with substance abuse that I did not have before. It started as a way of dealing with it. But it went too far. I am working to stay sober and I am doing well. How do I make sure it lasts? —Isabel M.
First, let me congratulate you on getting it right with your sobriety. This is a great achievement. I hope you feel good about it.
The pandemic has been a perfect storm for addictive behavior. Substance abuse often arises as a way to escape boredom, repetition, claustrophobia, isolation, fear, or overwhelm. But substance abuse is not a healthy remedy for these problems.
At its root, substance abuse thrives when there are harmful and limiting beliefs about ourselves and our circumstances. The voices in our heads tell us that we are not good enough or that we cannot succeed. Let’s replace those messages with a new narrative. Each time you set a small goal and stick to it, your more accurate perception of yourself will help you stay sober. So agree with yourself that you will not drink or take substances during the day, and when you achieve this milestone, enjoy success. Yes, you can be successful and yes, you are good enough.
If you stumble, forgive yourself and move on. You are not perfect and being sober is difficult. Relapse is part of the process, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Shame and guilt are often fuel for drinking, taking pills, and smoking; forgiveness will be an integral part of staying sober.
Here are some tips to help you stay sober. Creating a daily routine that incorporates nutrition, exercise, and connecting with others will be an integral part of your success.
Eliminate the temptation. Get all alcohol, narcotics and marijuana, or any substance that you may have problems with, out of your home for now. Give them to a friend or just throw them away. Removing them from your environment will help eliminate the immediate threat of relapse.
Set small goals. When you wake up in the morning, set a goal for the day: “I’ll be sober.” If you can, amazing. If not, forgive yourself. Say something like “For all the things I did yesterday that I’m not proud of, I forgive myself.”
Be responsible. Let your friends and family know that you are trying to stay sober and be honest with them about your progress. Don’t feel shy, embarrassed, or guilty if you relapse. Connect with someone every day on a personal level. Substance abuse loves deception and isolation, so be sure to reach out and be honest.
Nourish yourself. Make sure you eat healthy and nutritious food. When you are sober, consider what you put on your body as a reflection of how you feel about yourself. Eating well is a way of practicing self-love.
Get out into the fresh air. Put your feet on the ground. Literally – Sit on a patch of grass in your backyard, in a park, or on the beach with the soles of your feet on the ground. Imagine that all your limiting beliefs are released on earth.
Be optimistic and positive. Your sobriety is the search for a deeper, happier and more authentic part of yourself. This is a noble quest. Remember your reasons. Be clear with them. You deserve this.
Carder Stout, PhD, is a Los Angeles therapist in private practice in Brentwood, treating clients for anxiety, depression, addiction, and trauma. As a relationship specialist, he is adept at helping clients be more honest with themselves and their partners. He received his Ph.D. in psychology from the Pacifica Graduate Institute in August 2015.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it includes the advice of physicians and medical professionals. This article is not a substitute for, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the expert and do not necessarily represent the opinions of NEWS BLOCK.