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"Ok - So You've Gotten Sober – Now, How Do You Stay that Way?"

Staying Sober

      At the Narconon Arrowhead drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Oklahoma, setting goals to be achieved after you return home is a critically important part of the rehabilitation protocol. But it can also help anyone who is working on long-lasting sobriety and even those who wish to avoid substance abuse.
     Nobody says that getting sober after drug or alcohol addiction is easy. It's one of the tougher challenges life offers. Every step of the way back to sobriety, the addicted person is faced with temptations, inclinations and cravings, but he or she who makes it anyway has shown enormous integrity of spirit.
      Staying sober for the long haul is another of life's major challenges. There's going to be invitations to use drugs or alcohol, maybe the same old crowd will come around. You're going to find yourself in a group of people who don't have problems with alcohol (or who do but have not faced it yet) and they are going to be drinking. Or you stop by a friend's house and someone there is using the drug you used to prefer. Or your old dealer comes by. He or she has got a little gift for you.

      Those who walk a sober path after addiction have found that each of these challenges require specific life skills that must be developed to meet them successfully and maintain sobriety. It's important to realize that these moments will come up sooner or later and be prepared for them. You'll be a lot stronger when they arrive than if you simply think you're up for anything and then get blindsided by cravings and temptation when you're in that old situation again. If you are prepared for the temptation you may feel and you expect the cravings to arrive, you'll know that's the moment to strongly say no, probably followed by leaving the area and finding a different activity or group where drugs are not being used.
      Drug rehab and recovery centers very often focus a graduating person's attention on their future goals for a very good reason. The idea of long-term goals and interests help people make short-term decisions that help them arrive at those goals, or reach success in areas of interest. Derry Hallmark, Admissions Director at Narconon Arrowhead, a non-profit drug rehabilitation center in Oklahoma, described ways that he had seen goals help those who were ready to graduate and go home after drug rehab. “Re-entering a normal life pattern after some months in rehab can be difficult for some people and knowing ahead of time what goals will you pursue can be a big help. Those first days back home, having a game plan you worked out while still in rehab gives a person a focus, activities to move forward with and an answer for those who ask 'what's next?"
      It's not even as significant what your goal is – mainly that you have one or more. You can decide to learn to sing or dance, like you've always wanted to. Or maybe you want to run a marathon, take up the piano, see Montana, become a tutor, sew your own clothes, complete a doll collection, join a book club, learn to do public speaking. Maybe you have wanted to change professions and need to train for that new career path. This is the time to start. These are your goals, not anyone else's, so you can be fearless about choosing. The worst that can happen is that you realize that you really don't want to be part of a bowling league so you change your mind about that. But this is important – you now set a new goal or choose a new interest.
      Having interests, hobbies and goals, particularly when you share them with others, helps structure your time and focus your attention. They give you something you enjoy talking about and sharing with others.
There were reasons you started using drugs or abusing alcohol in the first place. For many people, they had to do with boredom, lack of confidence, fears or feelings of not fitting in. Personal failures and stresses often contributed to the problem. Personal goals that are completely of your choosing or personal interests that you can share with others give your life more richness and enjoyment. There's less time to be concerned with the kinds of factors that contribute to substance abuse. And that means that you have a better chance to stay sober. One other benefit to achieving specific goals is that you may come in contact with other goal-oriented people sharing your interests. Goal -oriented people in general are less often drug abusers. Yes, for some people, the pressure of achieving goals and then trying to maintain a high-visibility position has led some people to drug use. Like Dwight Gooden and Steve Howe of baseball fame, and singer Amy Winehouse who struggled publicly with alcohol and cocaine abuse. Once they achieved their original goals, did they fail to set new ones? Did they allow others to draw them away from their own true goals? We'll never know quite what was in their hearts. While rehab can be from 28-90 days typically, staying sober is a lifetime process.
      Keeping your eye on the next goal can help guide you through temptation and maintain that healthy, drug-free lifestyle. It is a key life skill that enables one to make sobriety a reality, day after day and year after year. “Achieving goals and using drugs really don't mix, so the person who always has his next goal in mind and actively pursues it has built himself a structure that helps protect him from distractions,” concluded Mr. Hallmark. “It's a simple tool that people can also use in recovery or to prevent addiction in the first place.”

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