Therapist Carder Stout, PhD, works with clients to overcome addiction, anxiety, depression and trauma. He’s fifteen years sober himself – you can read about his journey towards sobriety in an excerpt from his first book here. Below, it answers one of the most common questions we’ve had about addiction and sobriety in the last year. (Do you have a question for a therapist? Send us a line at [email protected].)
Over the course of the pandemic, I have developed some new problems with substance abuse that I have not experienced before. It started as a way of dealing. But it has gone too far. This works to be sober, and I’m fine. How do you make sure it lasts? —Isabel M.
First, let me applaud you for doing well with your sobriety. This is a great success. I hope you are feeling well.
The pandemic was a perfect storm for addictive behavior. Substance abuse often comes as a way to escape from boredom, repetition, claustrophobia, isolation, fear or overwhelm. But substance abuse is not a healthy remedy for these problems.
At its root, substance abuse thrives where there are harmful and limiting beliefs about ourselves and our circumstances. Voices in our heads tell us that we are not good enough or we cannot succeed. We replace those messages with a new narrative. Every time you set a small goal and accomplish it, your most accurate perception of yourself will help you stay sober. So, make an agreement with yourself that you will not drink or take substances for the day, and when you reach this stage, take success. Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either.
If you stumble, forgive and move on. You are not perfect, and becoming sober is messy. Falling is a part of the process, so don’t be too hard on yourself. Shame and guilt are often fuel for our 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 incorporates nutrition, exercise and connection to others will be integral to your success.
Get tempted. Take all alcohol, narcotics, and weeds — or any substance you may struggle with — out of your home for now. Give them to a friend or just throw them in the trash. Removal 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 realized it, amazing. If not, forgive me. Say something like “For all the things I did yesterday that I’m not proud of, I’m sorry.”
Be accountable. 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 guilty if you fall behind. Connect with someone every day on a personal level. Substance abuse loves deception and isolation – so make sure you reach out and stay honest.
Feed yourself. Make sure you eat healthy and nutritious foods. When you are sober, consider what you put into your body as a reflection of how you feel about yourself. Eating well is a way for you to practice self-love.
Get out. Put your feet on the ground. Literally: You sit on a piece of grass in your yard, in a park, or on the beach with the bottom of your feet on the ground. Imagine all your limiting beliefs being released into the earth.
Be optimistic and positive. Your sobriety is a search for a deeper, happier, more authentic part of yourself. This is a noble pursuit. Remember your motives. Be clear about them. You deserve this.
Carder Stout, PhD, is a Los Angeles-based therapist with a private practice in Brentwood, where she treats clients for anxiety, depression, addiction and trauma. As a specialist in relationships, she is adept at helping clients become more truthful with themselves and their partners. He received his doctorate in psychology from the Pacific Graduate Institute in August 2015.
This article is for informational purposes only, although and regardless of whether it presents the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should never be invoked for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.