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Early Sobriety: The Power of Time & Consistency

Early sobriety is different for everyone. Yet most people share one common experience. Their first 90 days of being free from drinks and/or drugs are critical times during which they stand the greatest risk of relapsing.

Early Sobriety: The Power of Time & Consistency

Giving up an addiction means relinquishing your way of coping with life

During this period, people are still new to living clean and sober and haven’t had much practice using recovery skills—much less facing everyday life without their drug of choice. Those returning home to San Diego after attending treatment may face a blizzard of other challenges—namely home life, family, job and friends. Regardless, it can all feel overwhelming. That is perfectly natural. Remember: giving up an addiction means giving up more than a substance or behavior. It means relinquishing your way of coping with life. Using gave your life direction, albeit in a toxic and twisted way. Take away the drugs and alcohol, and many people find themselves lost at sea.

Finding a safe harbor may be easier than you think. The solution lies in finding structure, routine and consistency. Understanding the power of time and consistency is also helpful. To learn more, read on.

Don’t Rush

Healing takes time. You didn’t become an addict overnight. Recovery will take time, too. Just like treatment for other health conditions, the healing process cannot be rushed. Slow-and-steady wins the race, according to myriad scientific reports, most notably one funded by the National Institutes of Health[1] in 2009. This study produced conclusive evidence that people required to spend several weeks during rehab withdrawing physically typically require extra time following detox in order to address underlying issues and emotional problems.

Experts warn that detox itself does not constitute recovery. Only extended therapeutic care aimed at healing the psychological roots of addiction is proven to yield successful outcomes and longer lasting sobriety. In fact, an article published by the American Journal of Psychiatry[2] revealed that chronic addicts do not begin healing neurologically for three months after getting clean. Before then, their judgment is still clouded by drugs and drinking. Only at the three-month mark do individuals regain the capacity to think clearly—a skill critical for avoiding relapse.

If your treatment team recommends that you stay in rehab longer, consider the suggestion with openness and a willing spirit. Staying longer expands opportunities to practice healthy coping skills within a protected environment, making it easier to develop positive communication styles and relationships.

Be Consistent and Committed

Set a zero tolerance policy for yourself. Most people have no problem focusing on the idea of not using drugs or alcohol as a general principle. Deciding that you will never return to the habit under any conditions makes things more specific—and daunting. Often, this pledge to abstain “no matter what” is the most important part of a strategy to stay sober. Consider putting pen to paper and creating a formal “no matter what” document. Promising yourself that no person, mood, circumstance or problem will cause you to drink, then sign and date it at the bottom. Helpful phrases to add may include the following:

  • I will not use drugs or alcohol today no matter what.
  • Maintaining abstinence will be my number one priority in life
  • Even family, relationships, religion, and career pursuits may get bumped down a notch to make room for my new, most important mission: to avoid using drugs or alcohol no matter what, one day at a time

Setting a zero-tolerance policy does more than prevent relapse. It changes the trajectory of our lives. Each day, we completely write off the potential for using. This firm commitment to abstinence frees up time and mental energy that might otherwise be spent needlessly obsessing. Quality of life improves because positive action becomes our main focus; we simply do not have time to deliberate over whether we might take a drink or a drug that day.

Make no mistake. This is not a matter of willpower. Science has proven that willpower alone is typically not enough to overcome a real addiction. Rather, being consistent and disciplined is about reprogramming your mind. One day, the mere thought of relapse will scare you like poison. The notion of having a glass of wine will feel about as alluring as touching a hot stove.

The best way to get to that point is through practicing discipline. Set rules for yourself. Then follow them ruthlessly—“no matter what.” Let this mantra become your guiding principle.

See a Professional and Practice Self-Care

Seeing a medical professional, ideally one working within a professional facility, is the best way to kick off sobriety. Toughing it out alone can lead to relapse—or worse, since withdrawal carries health risks. One way to acquiring the stamina you need to go the distance is through holistic approaches. Meditation, yoga, and aerobic exercise all boost brain chemicals linked to positive thinking and wellbeing. But even when you’re “doing everything right,” times can get tough. Do not be discouraged. Healing and feeling better takes time.

Help for Addiction in San Diego

If you or someone you love abuses drugs or alcohol in San Diego, help is available. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can guide you to wellness. You never have to go back to a life of addiction. Please call.


[2] Association of Frontal and Posterior Cortical Gray Matter V volume With Time to Alcohol Relapse: A Prospective Study. (n.d.). Retrieved from