Therapist, dr. Carder Stout, works with clients to overcome addiction, anxiety, depression and trauma. He himself has been sober for fifteen years – you can read about his path to sobriety an excerpt from his first book here. Below answers one of the most common questions we’ve gotten about addiction and sobriety over the past year. (Do you have a question for the therapist? Send us a line at [email protected].)
During the pandemic, I developed some new substance abuse problems that I hadn’t had before. It started out as a way to get by. But it went too far. I’m working on sobering up and I’m doing well. How do I make sure it lasts? —Izabel M.
First, let me applaud you for doing well with your sobriety. This is quite an achievement. I hope you feel good about it.
The pandemic was the perfect storm for addictive behavior. Substance abuse is often encouraged as a way to escape boredom, repetition, claustrophobia, isolation, fear, or overcoming. But substance abuse is not a healthy cure for these problems.
Basically, substance abuse progresses where there are harmful and limiting beliefs about ourselves and our circumstances. The voices in our head tell us that we are not good enough or we cannot succeed. Let’s replace those messages with a new narrative. Every time you set a small goal and achieve it, your more precise perception of yourself will help you stay sober. So agree with yourself that you will not drink or take substances for that day, and when you reach this milestone, enjoy its success. Yes, you can succeed, and yes, you are good enough.
If you stumble, forgive yourself and move on. You’re not perfect, and sobering is messy. Back is part of the process, so don’t be too strict with yourself. Shame and guilt are often fuel for drinking, taking pills, and smoking; forgiveness will be an integral part of maintaining sobriety.
Here are some tips to help you stay sober. Creating a daily routine that includes diet, exercise, and connection with others will be an integral part of your success.
Remove the temptation. For now, take all the alcohol, narcotics and weeds out of the house – or any substances you might be struggling with. Give them to a friend or just throw them in the trash. Removing from your environment will help eliminate the immediate risk of recurrence.
Set small goals. When you wake up in the morning, set a goal for the day: “I’ll be sober.” If you achieve that, amazing. If not, forgive yourself. Say something like, “I forgive myself for all the things I was up to yesterday and I’m not proud of.”
Be responsible. Let your friends and family know that you are trying to be sober and be honest with them about your progress. Don’t feel shy, embarrassed, or wrong if you repeat yourself. Connect with someone every day on a personal level. Substance abuse loves deception and isolation – so be careful and be honest.
Feed yourself. Be sure to eat healthy, nutritious foods. When you sober up, consider what you put into your body as a reflection of your feelings for yourself. Eating well is one way to practice loving yourself.
Get out in the open. Put your feet on the ground. Literally: Sit on the grass in your yard, in the park or on the beach, bottom of your feet on the ground. Imagine all your limiting beliefs being loosened into dirt.
Be optimistic and positive. Your sobriety is the search for a deeper, happier, more authentic part of yourself. This is a noble quest. Remember your motives. Be clear to them. You deserve this.
Dr. Carder Stout, is a Los Angeles therapist with a private practice in Brentwood, where he treats clients for anxiety, depression, addiction and trauma. As a relationship expert, he is skilled at helping clients become more honest with themselves and their partners. He received his PhD in psychology from the Pacific Graduate Institute in August 2015.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if it contains advice from doctors and physicians. This article is not and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are those of the experts and do not necessarily represent the views of the goop.