How to Stay Sober

Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

April 17, 2023

Table of Contents

How to stay sober has different meanings for different people.

Need help getting addiction treatment?

Maybe you want to discover how to help a loved one maintain their sobriety after they complete a course of addiction treatment. Addiction is a family disease with the consequences impacting all family members, not just the person abusing substances.

You might want to learn how to get sober and stay sober yourself. With 40 million people in the United States meeting the criteria for substance use disorder according to SAMHSA data, you are certainly not alone. When transitioning from active addiction to recovery and abstinence, consider the process as a lifelong and potentially non-linear process rather than a single event like detox or rehab. Data from NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) shows that between 40% and 60% of those in recovery will relapse before learning how to stay clean and sober long-term.

Alternatively, you may be looking for advice on how to stay sober when your friends are drinking.

We address all these issues in today’s guide, but before you can stay sober, you first need to get sober. While the recovery process might be challenging, it is also fairly straightforward. You can get started with your journey to sustained sobriety with some small but important steps.

Getting Sober

Learning how to stay sober from alcohol, prescription medications, or illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine must start with recognizing that a problem exists.

Regrettably, denial is a common symptom of both alcohol abuse and drug abuse. While it may appear obvious to others that you are grappling with an addiction, sustained substance abuse causes the structure and function of your brain to change.  As a result, you will compulsively use the substance regardless of adverse outcomes, potentially denying that you have a problem with alcohol or drugs.

If you can admit that you could have an addiction, it is worth consulting your physician. They can refer you for a diagnosis from a mental health professional or an addiction specialist.

The clinical descriptors for alcoholism and drug addiction are alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder. Both are diagnosed according to your responses to eleven questions in DSM-5-TR. This is the most current edition of the benchmark diagnostic tool published by APA, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Both alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder are diagnosed according to the number of symptoms present as follows:

  • Mild: 2 or 3 symptoms from DSM.
  • Moderate: 4 or 5 symptoms from DSM.
  • Severe: 6 or more symptoms from DSM.

If you are diagnosed with an addiction, you have the following three options of treatment delivery:

  1. Inpatient rehab: Also known as residential rehab, this is the most intensive form of treatment on ASAM’s continuum of care and ideal for those with severe addictions, a dual diagnosis, or an unsupportive home environment.
  2. Outpatient rehab: For those with mild or moderate addictions, research indicates that intensive outpatient treatment is just as effective as residential rehab. For those requiring more structure and support than an OP (traditional outpatient program) provides, IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) or PHPs (partial hospitalization programs) give you the most intensive form of addiction treatment outside of inpatient rehab.
  3. Virtual rehab: All those unable to access face-to-face therapy at a treatment facility can engage with remote therapy sessions using videoconferencing software. Virtual treatment ensures that everyone can get the help they need to get sober and stay sober.

To strengthen your chances of maintaining your sobriety, reframe the way you think about alcohol abuse. Rather than being reluctant to give something up, instead embrace removing a harmful and non-productive element from your life.

An image of two men running and learning how to stay sober

How to Stay Sober from Alcohol

NIDA and most experts agree that a supervised medical detox minimizes complications, risk, and discomfort during detox and withdrawal from alcohol. If you have been abusing alcohol heavily and long-term, you could be at risk of severe withdrawal symptoms including the potentially life-threatening DTs (delirium tremens).

Engaging with a clinical detox gives you access to FDA-approved medications and other prescribed medications. These medications can ease the intensity of alcohol withdrawal symptoms, minimize the severity of cravings for alcohol, and address other withdrawal symptoms associated with alcohol detox. Additionally, you will have clinical and emotional care available around-the-clock, with a team of professionals in place to intervene in the event of any complications like DTs.

After a week or so, your system will be purged of the toxins and toxic by-products accumulated by alcohol abuse. From here, you can maximize your chances of getting and staying sober by engaging with treatment at the appropriate level of intensity.

While some people find 12-step peer support groups like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) are a valuable component of recovery, others want to learn how to stay sober without AA. All addictions are unique, so all that counts is finding what works for you.

Without AA

Although millions of people worldwide attend local meetings of AA and SMART Recovery, and other mutual peer support groups, you should not feel obliged to include a 12-step program in your treatment plan.

If you need some assistance with accountability and you lack a strong sober support network, you may find attending AA meetings is beneficial, especially during the demanding early phase of recovery. If, on the other hand, you are not motivated to engage with Alcoholics Anonymous, you can engage with treatment and stay sober without AA.

When Your Friends are Drinking

If you want to stay sober but find this challenging when you are around friends drinking alcohol, consider these pointers:

  1. Be honest about the issue: Tell your friends that you want to avoid alcohol and you find it tough to avoid temptation. True friends will not put temptation in your path and will be supportive of your decision to get sober.
  2. Think closely about where you go and who you spend time with: Consider declining any invitations where the event is liable to trigger you to abuse alcohol.
  3. Enlist the support of a trusted friend or family member: Confiding in a trusted loved one can help you to feel confident that you can reach out to a supportive sober friend in times of temptation.
  4. Get ready for questions: Be prepared for friends to ask why you are not drinking alcohol. Answer with as much or as little information as you feel comfortable divulging.
  5. Remind yourself why you are getting sober: Keep a checklist on your phone with some bullet-pointed benefits of staying sober to help you stay strong in the face of triggers and temptation.

Help an Alcoholic Stay Sober

SAMHSA data shows that 28.5 million over-12s in the United States have alcohol use disorder. This means there is every chance you might need to learn how to help an alcoholic stay sober.

If you have a loved one committed to sobering up after a period of sustained alcohol abuse, here are some simple ways in which you can help out:

The more you learn about addiction and recovery, the more effectively you can help an alcoholic loved one.

Understanding what causes addiction and how alcohol abuse brings about physical and psychological changes may make it less frustrating to deal with a family member who is abusing alcohol.

Learning about the most effective treatments and delivery methods can help you to connect your loved one with the help they need at the right level of treatment intensity.

Becoming aware of the common signs of relapse can help you intervene before an alcoholic loved one derails their recovery.

Relapse usually occurs in three phases: emotional and mental relapse are the precursors to physical relapse.

Look out for the following markers of relapse to help you take timely action:

  • Increase in irresponsible behaviors.
  • Engaging in negative and self-defeating behaviors.
  • Self-medicating other symptoms with alcohol.
  • Thinking less rationally and less clearly.
  • Expressing patterns of addictive thinking.

If your loved one relapses, this does not mean that treatment is ineffective, but rather that the treatment plan needs adjusting. Like all chronic conditions, alcohol use disorder has high relapse rates. 

If your alcoholic loved one is committed to staying sober, help them to create and implement a healthier and more structured routine.

Encourage your loved one to avoid the people, places, or things that trigger them to drink alcohol. Help them to build a reliable sober support network.

Show your loved one how to prioritize self-care, eat well, exercise daily, and start filling time instead of killing time. Relaxation techniques like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can be powerful stress relievers.  

If you make excuses for your loved one’s behavior, lend them money for alcohol, or tolerate unacceptable behaviors, you may be enabling their addiction and entering into codependency.

You should avoid in any way helping your loved one to perpetuate their alcohol addiction. At the same time, show them how they can get sober and stay sober…

Now you have a clear idea about how to get your loved one the alcohol addiction treatment they need, offer your unconditional support throughout the recovery process.

To help your loved one get sober right away, reach out to Renaissance.

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Getting Sober and Staying Sober at Renaissance Recovery

One of the most effective methods of staying sober is to ensure that you build a firm foundation for your sobriety. Instead of rushing into recovery attempting to complete treatment as quickly as possible, instead commit to recovery as a process.

Here at Renaissance Recovery, we offer treatment for the following conditions:

  • Alcohol use disorders (alcoholism).
  • Substance use disorders (addiction to prescription medications or illicit drugs).
  • Mental health disorders.
  • Dual diagnosis (addiction with co-occurring mental health disorder).

At Renaissance, we specialize in the outpatient treatment of the above conditions, giving you a more flexible and more affordable route to recovery than residential rehab.

If you have a more severe addiction or mental health disorder, a traditional outpatient program may not offer sufficient support for your needs. We offer more intensive therapy for addiction and mental health in the form of IOPs (intensive outpatient programs) or PHPs (partial hospitalization programs).

For anyone unable to access our beachside treatment facility, we also provide virtual therapy. Get the help you need to get sober and stay sober online.

All Renaissance treatment programs draw from research-based interventions combined with holistic therapies. Your treatment team will personalize a plan from the following therapies:

When you complete your treatment at Renaissance, we help you to stay sober. In addition to a robust relapse prevention plan, you will have access to an alumni program and the right level of aftercare for your needs. If necessary, you can shift to less intensive programming rather than transitioning straight back into sober living. Take the first vital step on your journey to getting sober and staying sober by calling Renaissance today at 866.330.9449.



At Renaissance Recovery our goal is to provide evidence-based treatment to as many individuals as possible. Give us a call today to verify your insurance coverage or to learn more about paying for addiction treatment.

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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