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Dealing with an addiction is a lifelong process of learning to manage what is essentially a chronic illness. Individuals must learn the basic skills for managing their condition and then be prepared to intervene with additional therapeutic measures if the condition should worsen. Research indicates that a number of steps can help to minimize relapse risk and provide tools for successfully maintaining lifelong sobriety.

Learn Triggers for Relapse

A professional substance abuse treatment program can provide individuals with the therapy they need to understand themselves and the triggers that lead to urges to use drugs or alcohol to manage emotions or deal with past trauma. This knowledge can help them recognize the people, places and emotional situations that create a risk of substance use.

Developing a skillset to deal with these triggers can help with maintaining lifelong sobriety. Individuals who make it to five years of sobriety have a less than 15 percent risk of relapsing; the longer a person is able to manage their triggers and cravings, the greater their ability to resist them.1

Set Up a Structure for Healthy Living

Building a life that does not rely on substance abuse in order to function requires creating a positive lifestyle to support sobriety. Learning to care for themselves may be a new idea for some individuals. They must establish structures and routines for eating healthy foods, getting sufficient exercise to deal with stress and surrounding themselves with friends who are engaged in exploring the positive aspects of life. This upbeat structure can help individuals feel better about themselves and their efforts to rebuild their lives and their futures.

Locate Local Support Groups

Individuals in recovery can benefit from the experience and understanding of other people who are also rebuilding their lives after addiction. Finding 12-step groups in the area provides a support system to tap into whenever someone feels uncertain about their ability to maintain their recovery.

Deal with Anger Problems and Mental Health Issues

In many cases, substance abuse was a way to manage mental health problems, anger and chronic anxiety that made life difficult on a daily basis. Proper diagnosis of these problems can be an important part of building a life of sobriety. Appropriate therapy can help these individuals learn coping mechanisms, and in some cases, receive medication that can help them manage mental health problems.

Restore Relationships

Many individuals who have recovered from substance abuse credit the support of their families and close friends for helping them with maintaining lifelong sobriety and staying focused on building a normal life.2 These close relationships offer the genuine understanding, compassion and positive energy that helps individuals in recovery weather the powerful cravings and difficult moments of rebuilding life after addiction.

However, many individuals have to work to rebuild relationships that have been damaged by addictive behavior. Family therapy can be helpful in restoring a functioning family dynamic. The difficult work of rebuilding trust requires concentrated effort, but the rewards are significant.

Millions of people have been able to rebuild their lives after substance abuse and go on to live healthy, productive lives. Professional treatment can help people begin that journey, so they can learn the steps that help to maintain abstinence from substances throughout life.


  1. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/craving/201402/how-often-do-long-term-sober-alcoholics-and-addicts-relapse
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1852519/
Important Steps in Maintaining Lifelong Sobriety
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