Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

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Strategies for remaining drug or alcohol free

3/20/2017 by Kileen Smyth, LICSW, and Sean Haggerty, LICSW


It's one thing to stop using or drinking, but it's another to be actively involved in recovery to remain drug or alcohol free. This also usually involves addressing emotional and mental health. In addition to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and mindfulness techniques that we use to help individuals strengthen their sobriety, these 10 strategies can help. 

  1. Get rid of all alcohol, drugs and paraphernalia. Create a safe space for your body, mind and spirit. 
  2. Remember your disease. It's alcohol-"is"-m, not alcohol-"was"-m. Addiction is very persistent and patient at waiting for people who think they've been "cured."
  3. Don't forget your last use/drink. Remember and recognize what you've been through to help deter you from doing it again. 
  4. Remember that "one is never enough." Once you start, one is never enough and a thousand is too many. 
  5. Think the use/drink through to the end. If you're tempted to use or drink, think about where it will lead you. 
  6. Use the 24-hour plan. Stay sober today, this hour or this minute. Don't worry about the rest of your life. 
  7. Recognize urges to allow them to pass. When you feel the urge to drink or use drugs, rather than deny them, practice noticing them, accepting them, naming them and talking with someone about them. 
  8. Postpone drinking and using. Addicts and alcoholics tend to be excellent procrastinators, so use that strength to put off the drink until later. Keep a list of things you can do to procrastinate. 
  9. Use the telephone. Get the number of others who can be and are supportive. Practice calling them daily. If you call people before you need them, then you'll be able to make the call when you're struggling. 
  10. Examine how decisions will affect your recovery. When making life decisions, whether it's getting a new apartment or changing jobs, ask yourself, "How will this affect my sobriety, my recovery, my ongoing health and wellness?"

Kileen Smyth, LICSW, and Sean Haggerty, LICSW, are licensed clinical social workers in Employee and Community Health (ECH). Both have worked with Mayo Addictions Outpatient programs. They currently are researching ways to help clients use CBT and mindfulness strategies to make healthy choices for managing their recovery.