Substance Use: Staying Alcohol- or Drug-Free After Treatment


Recovery from substance use disorder means finding a way to stay substance-free while changing your attitudes and behaviors. Here are some tips for staying substance-free after treatment.

  • Get support.

    An important part of recovery is being sure you have support. You may:

    • Continue with counseling or group therapy. These meetings can help you stay committed to a substance-free life.
    • Connect with family and friends who support your recovery. They can help you by encouraging positive steps.
    • Find a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who has been in recovery for a long time and helps you stay substance-free.
  • Have a healthy lifestyle.
    • Exercise and be active. This is good for your health, and it also can help reduce stress.
    • Get enough sleep to help your mood and to help you feel less stressed.
    • Eat a balanced diet. Whole grains, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, and protein are part of a balanced diet.
    • Find healthy ways to relieve stress. Stress can trigger a relapse. Try meditation or other stress-relief exercises. Meditation can help you feel calm and give you a clearer awareness about your life.
  • Find things to do.

    If you have something worthwhile to do, you may be less likely to go back to using substances. For example, you might:

    • Do volunteer work for a cause that you care about.
    • Take classes that interest you.
    • Join a club or play sports.
  • Identify your beliefs.

    If you start to question your own beliefs and values:

    • Talk to a family member, friend, or spiritual advisor.
  • Avoid triggers.

    Triggers are things that might cause you to have a relapse. For example, having friends and family members who use substances may be a trigger. A counselor can help you find ways to avoid your triggers. They may include keeping substances out of your house or spending time with friends who don't use substances.

  • Prepare for relapse.

    A relapse doesn't mean that you or your treatment has failed. It may mean that you just slipped up. You may need more treatment, another type of treatment, or more time in support groups such as Narcotics Anonymous.

    It's smart to plan for a relapse before it happens. Your doctor, family, and friends can help you make a plan.


Current as of: November 8, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Peter Monti PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Christine R. Maldonado PhD - Behavioral Health

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