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9 Simple Things I Do Every Day To Maintain My Sobriety

In the same way that heavy drinking was a sign that my life was in chaos, sobriety is my constant reminder that today, it is not.

I maintain sobriety daily by actively seeking to create and live the best life possible.

Before you gag, let me assure you I’m not about to come at you with hashtag platitudes and drivel. This will not be that.

It will be an honest list of how I live my life now that I’ve got about seven years of sobriety under my belt.

This brings me to a gentle word of caution. This is what I do NOW. Adopting all these things would not have been possible when I first got sober.

My brain would have exploded.

In the early days, you pick your battles and keep trudging forward, which is what this list is all about – my ceaseless mission to stay the course and never get complacent.

1. Create routines and stick to them.

Aimless free time has always been the biggest threat to my sobriety and overall mental health.

If I allow myself too much time to be inside my head, I’ll probably find a way to feel stressed about something or invent a problem.

Routines give me structure, which gives me purpose, which in turn, keeps me busy. They will do the same for you.

My ability to maintain sobriety is largely predicated on my ability to create stability in my world.

For me, that starts in the morning.

My mood and energy levels are 100% better when I exercise in the morning. Nothing crazy. I either go for a 30-minute walk or do a 10-15 minute low-impact HIIT workout.

I have a smoothie with bananas, mixed berries, spinach, almond milk, and chocolate protein powder (this one) for breakfast, which knocks out 3 servings of fruit and veggies right off the bat.

Then, I take a 10-15 minute walk around lunchtime.

Doing those three things consistently every day has worked wonders for my mental health, blood sugar, and waistline.

It doesn’t take much. It just takes consistency.

A happy, healthy woman closes her eyes and relaxes in her kitchen
how maintain your sobriety every day

2. Meditate.

Meditation is great for people who have just quit drinking.

Alcohol changes your brain in profound ways. Meditation is one thing you can do to promote healing.

What it will not do is get you instant results like those weird poop teas everyone sells for rapid weight loss.

Here are some things meditation can do for you:

  • Reduce stress
  • Control anxiety
  • Promote emotional health
  • Enhance self-awareness
  • Lengthen attention span
  • May reduce age-related memory loss
  • Can generate kindness
  • Fight cravings
  • Improve sleep
  • Helps control pain
  • Can decrease blood pressure

Source: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation#section12

The bigger benefits definitely take a longer time with sustained practice to achieve, but there are some immediate wins you can expect. For more on the science behind these benefits, I recommend this video:

Taking even a few mindful breaths whenever you feel stressed or overwhelmed is magic for the body.

There are so many different meditation practices you can adopt, and it’s honestly up to you which to choose.

Don’t worry about whether this practice or that practice is better.

Find something you like (or, at the very least, don’t hate) and do it for five minutes daily. Once you get that perfected, increase your time.

Even if all you accomplish is driving yourself mad for five minutes, I promise you it did some good.

Want to get started right now? Here’s a quick five-minute meditation you can do anywhere.

Here are my personal favorite meditation books:

If this subject interests you, the following books are some of my personal favorites on meditation. They’re the books I read when I first started my practice.

Three meditation apps I’ve used to help maintain sobriety:

  • Headspace – This is GREAT for beginners. The beginner course is free, and then you have to pay for a premium subscription to get the rest of the courses.
  • Insight Timer – This is another incredible tool, but it can be tough for beginners to sift through the options. If you’re someone who finds too many choices overwhelming, you may wish to start with a different app to learn what you like before moving here. Insight Timer is by far the most robust, free meditation tool out there. That being said, they are switching to a freemium model, but you still get a lot of good stuff for free.
  • Calm – I actually used this app a million years ago before they did their big makeover. They’ve done a fantastic job overhauling and updating the features. I don’t currently use it because you need a subscription to access most of the good stuff. If I were JUST starting out, I would definitely consider subscribing.

3. Start exercising. 

Exercise is a fundamental component of sobriety. It’s not just about getting fit or looking better in your swimsuit.

Exercise can help you improve your sleep and have more energy throughout the day. You’ll also start repairing some of the damage you’ve done to your body by drinking.

So many people in early sobriety choose the gym to exorcise their demons (pun very much intended).

There are several reasons for this:

  1. It’s a way to keep busy and distracted.
  2. The gym is a healthy way to get out some pent-up aggression.
  3. Exercise boosts dopamine levels in your brain, which is important because you’ve just eliminated your primary source of dopamine (alcohol).
  4. It’s an extremely effective coping skill.
  5. You’re likely to be surrounded by other people focused on health and well-being.

That being said, don’t limit yourself to the gym. If you don’t like gyms, don’t go to them. Anything you do to get your heart rate up is exercise.

If you like playing basketball, go join a league. Interested in acrobatic yoga? Find a studio (and be careful).

Still not convinced? Check out this video:

How much exercise do you need?

Doing just 20 minutes of moderate cardio (a heart rate of around 112) can improve your mood up to 12 hours after exercise.

That’s your entire day instantly upgraded.

You don’t need to spend hours in the gym or hitting the pavement. Twenty minutes of moderate effort – that’s it.

Establishing an exercise routine requires building new habits, which isn’t easy. See my post on using habit stacks to develop healthy habits to learn more.

Be patient, and don’t set yourself up for failure by trying to do too much at once. If ten minutes is more your speed, start there.

4. Create an accountability and tracking system.

I am much more consistent when I’m intentional about what I want to do and how I will do it. Here’s a simplified version of what I wrote down in the early days to keep myself on track:

  • My big goals
  • Smaller goals that will help me get there
  • The benchmarks that will let me know I’m on track
  • Space or a tool to track how I’m doing

If your goal is to get serious about fitness, invest in a FitBit or use your smart watch and/or MyFitnessPal (I use both).

Tracking tools like these help you remain focused on (and committed to) your goal. The more you focus on your goals, the less time you have to worry about drinking.

Besides, every time you meet a benchmark, it boosts your confidence and encourages you to keep going.

Accountability and tracking tools are also great for doling out reality checks.

You might THINK you eat relatively healthy, but after a couple of days of putting everything into a food tracker, you could be in for a rude awakening.

Oh, THAT’S how much fat is in one slice of pizza? I just ate four.

I’ve even made a tracking sheet like they gave you in grade school for my refrigerator and put little star stickers on each day I stuck to my goal. Who doesn’t find stickers motivating? I call it my “Adult Chore Chart.”

Amazon has similar trackers for sale if you prefer a more polished look.

Figure out what visual reminder will motivate you and keep you on track. Then stick with it and see what happens. It’s a healthy distraction that will put you on the path to building better, sustained habits.

5. Focus on eating high-quality, nutritious food. 

Hippocrates famously said, “Let food be thy medicine.”

Adding healthier food to my diet has made a world of difference in my life.

Alcohol significantly damages the body; I don’t just mean the hangovers.

Tweaking your diet is one way to start the healing process. After years of heavy drinking, your body is most likely nutrient deficient and toting around some damaged tissue and organs.

Think I’m being hyperbolic?

Here are a few highlights of alcohol’s impact on your body from Alcoholics Victorious. You can read the full list here.

  1. Depletes your body of nutrients needed for healthy skin and hair (which is why you look like you aged 10 years after a particularly boozy weekend).
  2. Disrupts your kidneys’ ability to function properly, causing increased water output which means those much-needed nutrients are exiting your body before it can use them.
  3. Messes with your intestines which can lead to poor absorption of nutrients.

Additional damage from chronic, heavy drinking:

Source: https://www.alcoholicsvictorious.org/faq/diet

You need to eat nutrient-dense whole foods and proteins to repair your body.

Before I got sober, I was a vegetarian for about eight years. After my daughter was born, I slowly reintroduced meat into my diet. The difference in my mood and appearance has been life-changing.

Whether you’re vegetarian or vegan, you certainly do not have to eat meat to repair your body, but you need to be extra mindful of your protein intake and get a high-quality B-complex vitamin.

This is because heavy drinkers are often thiamine-deficient.

If you’re able, it’s not a bad idea to book with your general practitioner to do a full check-up to see which (if any) nutrients you are deficient in so you can make a plan to fix it.

Don’t replace alcohol with sugar.

It’s very easy in sobriety to substitute alcohol with sugar and bad food. I’m certainly guilty of it.

The problem is that going overboard has extremely detrimental effects on your mental health.

Eating fried and processed foods daily will negatively impact your mood and motivation. The last thing you want to do is make yourself feel lousy again.

Don’t get me wrong.

There have been times when ordering (and eating) an entire pizza with the works has been the difference for me between maintaining sobriety and relapse.

focus on nutrition to maintain your sobriety

But as you progress in your sobriety, you must take your diet more seriously. Once you change your food, you’ll notice your energy level and mood significantly improve.

You just feel better!

I’ve eaten like an a-hole for years, even before I started drinking my weight in hard cider.

Because I used to have a highly active metabolism, it never mattered. Now? Not so much. I’m jiggly and programmed with years of terrible food habits.

Imagine my joy when I first realized that there are foods in this world that make you more energized after you eat them! I’m mostly accustomed to wanting to sleep after I eat.

It also didn’t happen over night. I slowly added more healthy food into my diet. Focusing on taking things out didn’t really work for me. Instead, I made myself add better food in. And it helped!

It’s about more than just your diet.

Diet is just one piece of the larger puzzle.

Maintaining sobriety means understanding the relationship between the various aspects of your life and how best to optimize each component.

Starting with a strong morning routine sets you up for a healthy breakfast which sets you up for being productive and getting work done, which makes you feel good and want to do more.

The opposite is also true.

Ever tried to get serious work done after eating a Whopper or hitting the snooze button ten times? It’s not ideal.

6. Prioritize your mental health. 

Like many folks with drinking problems, I struggle with anxiety and depression.

Those problems do not go away when you stop drinking. If anything, they intensify because you’re no longer drowning them out with booze.

If you do not take care of your mental health, you will increase your risk of relapse. There are several ways I manage this in my life.

Everything I’ve listed above is part of my mental health maintenance plan. Meditation, movement, and diet are critical to keeping me well.

Additionally, I do counseling which helped me learn tools to manage my anxiety and see my depression differently.

Those are the more obvious ways to support mental health. Here are some less apparent things I do.

I stay vigilant about managing stress.

Have you ever noticed how sometimes, when you hop on social media to check a message from someone, you get distracted by something else, and before you know it, your heart rate is up, and you’re feeling pissed off?

That was my whole relationship with Twitter (or X or whatever we’re calling it) at one point, and it was NOT healthy.

Now, you can approach social media from the perspective of “it’s just the internet. Don’t get so worked up.”

In theory, that sounds right.

But we aren’t wired to brush off threats to our identity and values so easily, even when we know it’s coming from an online troll.

Take a look around at the state of our world. We are more fractured and stressed out than ever.

A two-year study tracked 5,208 Americans between 2013 and 2015.

It found a direct correlation between Facebook usage and mental health. The more usage increased, the more future mental health decreased in participants.

If you want to learn more about what your phone does to your brain, I highly recommend this video. It’ll make you want to chuck your phone in the bin (and then you’ll probably be digging it out seconds later in a state of panic).

I had to give my entire digital life a makeover.

Life is too short, so I’m constantly evaluating what impacts my mood and adjusting accordingly. 

My personal motto for maintaining sobriety is “If you can’t control it, don’t bother with it.”

It’s why I don’t buy BBQ Pringles and also why I deleted my personal Twitter account.

If there is a nonessential aspect of your life causing you stress, get rid of it. Life is stressful enough without intentionally exposing yourself to more of it.

I say “NO” easily and with confidence.

I have to. I’ve got a limited social bandwidth and a kid at home. If I’m at capacity, I have no problem leaving a party early or politely declining an invitation to do something.

Of course, I make exceptions for special occasions. If I’ve made a commitment that requires me to “show up” for a friend, I will do it even if I’m not feeling my best.

But those are rare.

I know myself and when I need to stay home. The beautiful thing is that it requires no explanation on my part. That’s the magic of a confident “no.”

Friend: “Hey, do you want to grab some dinner later?”

Me: “Sorry! I can’t.”

End of discussion. And you know what? I’m a better friend for it because I’m not being wishy-washy by feeling pressured to go and then flaking on them at the last minute or being bad company.

I give myself space.

I’m an introvert, so I require a lot of “me” time to function properly. Having a little one only makes me value that alone time more.

I am very strategic about organizing my social and work calendars so that I’m not maxed out. As a result, I’ve gotten good at knowing my boundaries and employing them as needed.

The more self-aware you become in sobriety, the more you’ll know when it’s time to pull back and give yourself room to reset.

Because, let’s be honest, if your mental health starts to slip, it can become a one-way ticket back to drinking.

Nobody wants that.

Protect your “me time” in sobriety

7. Stay connected to your sobriety support groups and systems.

I have an entire online family of sober people I’ve never met in person but have enormously impacted my life. When I felt lost, they embraced me with open arms.

These relationships are important whether you are part of an in-person sober community like AA or SMART Recovery or an online one.

Many people abandon their sobriety network prematurely. They think they’re all better now, so there’s no need to attend meetings or participate in their groups.

A lot of those people wind up drinking again.

I prefer not to be one of them.

You don’t have to figure this out on your own.

Soberish is proudly sponsored by BetterHelp. If you have tried (and failed) to find a qualified therapist who gets you, try BetterHelp. Get 10% off your first month when you click the link below.

8. Be selective with friendships and romantic relationships.

The great revelation of my sobriety has been that I actually don’t have to be friends with everyone. Drinking “me” placed way too much emphasis on other people.

Do they like me? Am I invited to this gathering? Why didn’t I get added to the group chat?

Sober “me” doesn’t care about those things one bit.

On some level, I think I forced friendships on people in my past because I was lonely and needed social validation.

Let’s be honest. I also wanted people to go out drinking with me. I rarely formed genuine connections with anyone.

How could I? I was either drunk or hungover all the time.

Human beings are innately social creatures. The impact of social isolation on our mental and physical well-being can be tremendous, even causing early death in the elderly.

So as much as you want to, you can’t just say “screw everybody” and go it alone forever. Believe me, I’ve tried.

the importance of relationships in sobriety

You need people in your life.

The key to maintaining sobriety is picking the right ones.

Besides my husband and family, I have 2 or 3 friends I am extremely close to and a few additional folks who are more like solid acquaintances.

That’s it. And I couldn’t be happier.

There are plenty of people I like and have fun with but wouldn’t consider a friend necessarily, and that is okay.

I have neither the time nor the desire to cultivate several deep relationships.

My circle is small, and it stands on a solid foundation.

Until I got sober, I don’t think I knew what it was like to enjoy someone’s company without drinking. That’s why my current friendships are so valuable.

They feel much more genuine.

9. Prioritize quality sleep.

One of the best things you can do for your sobriety is to get to bed at a decent hour and wake up at the same time every day (yes, even on the weekends).

The connection between sleep and mental health is very clear.

Sleep deprivation can contribute to mental illness. The flip side is also true. According to Harvard Medical School, between 50% and 80% of people with mental illness also have sleep problems.

It’s very chicken and egg.

If your sleep is constantly disrupted, your entire body takes a hit.  The effects of impaired sleep include:

  • Impaired thinking and emotional regulation
  • Health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, and more.
  • A weakened immune system
  • Risk of depression -people who do not get adequate sleep are four times more likely to develop depression.
  • Resistance to mental health treatment – depressed people who suffer from insomnia are less likely to respond to treatment than those who do not
  • Risk of anxiety disorders – In a study of teenagers with mental health issues, sleep problems preceded an anxiety disorder 29% of the time and depression 69% of the time.

If you want a happy, healthy life and maintain your sobriety long-term, you have to get a solid 7-8 hours of sleep every night.

I’ve added a white noise machine (I use this itty bitty one) because without white noise, I would probably go insane trying to sleep and weighted blankets because they are extremely calming and worth the investment.

There’s no magic recipe for maintaining sobriety long-term.

It really comes down to the basics. I don’t have a mantra or visualization that will get you there any faster. There’s no special breathing exercise that will make cravings disappear altogether.

It’s about consistent, daily practices done repeatedly, even when you don’t feel like it. 

You don’t need to be struggling with alcohol addiction to benefit from these things.

They’re all standard components of any good life.

But when you’ve been drowning your existence in alcohol for a long time, they’re all things we must relearn.

It’s part of starting over.

And that ultimately keeps your sobriety intact – creating a good, healthy life that you no longer feel compelled to escape.

You just have to want to do it.

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  1. Great article! Thanks I’m coping with 8 years unsuccessful fertility treatments and no kids. I do have a therapist but it’s a rough one. I am in one foot in front of the other mode. A toddler would be good motivation.

  2. I am struggling with the death of my husband – in part due to his alcohol use. Now I want a drink more than ever so I enjoyed your tips and your honestly Many things you said hit home for me thank you

  3. Alicia, I’m still struggling in starting the journey but I need to say thank you for your blog. You’re inspiring and I’m just gonna absorb whatever I can and believe that I can through your words of knowledge and understanding.

  4. Thank you for your blog. I’m just starting my journey to sobriety and need all the advice.