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How to Stay Clean: 12 Drug Addiction Recovery Tips

Drug addiction recovery is an ongoing process of growth and change that improves your functioning, your health, your wellness, your happiness, and allows you to fulfill your potential. It isn’t an activity that you start and then stop when you don’t need it anymore—it’s a new way of being in the world that you sustain through positive action throughout your life.

Detox is only the Beginning

Drug addiction recovery starts with detoxification, a process that allows your body to get addictive substances out of your system after you decide to stop using drugs or alcohol. Medical detox is a way of managing the physical withdrawal symptoms that accompany this process, to safeguard your health, and keep you as comfortable as possible in the early days of drug addiction recovery.

After detox gets you clean, it’s time to figure out how to stay clean. There are many addiction treatment tools you can use to accomplish this. Medication, counseling, co-occurring disorder treatment, peer support, and therapies like massage, art therapy, recreational therapy, and more, should be used in an integrated treatment plan that heals substance use disorder from all possible angles. A good rehabilitation program should work with you to develop the right treatment plan for your unique addiction experience.

Addiction is an illness with physical, emotional, and psychological components, and staying sober requires customized treatments for each, as well as a lifelong commitment to recovery.

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Inpatient Treatment Programs

Drug addiction recovery programs come in a variety of forms, depending upon the level of care needed for a person’s individual substance use disorder. Many people will benefit from starting off with an inpatient or residential program, which will remove them from the conflicts and distractions of the outside world, and immerse them in a structured environment that is geared towards recovery all day, every day.

Inpatient treatment allows you to fully detox and get through the withdrawal process while you have constant medical and psychological support available to help you. Every day of staying sober will make you stronger and more confident in your recovery, and the counseling sessions and additional therapies provided by your treatment facility will help you address the mental, emotional and behavioral issues that contribute to your substance use disorder.

What to Expect in the First 30 Days of Recovery

The most challenging phase of drug addiction recovery is often the first 30 days. Depression is common in the early stages, as the brain tries to heal and regain its equilibrium in the wake of repeated substance misuse. Many people in drug addiction recovery also experience insomnia or sleep disturbances, such as waking up with drug cravings or night sweats, or having vivid nightmares that feel so real that they wake up in a panic. Having a counselor to talk to, and a doctor to prescribe medication for you, if necessary, can be crucial to safely get through this time. Some people stay at an inpatient facility throughout their entire first 30 days of treatment, so that they can get through the most difficult recovery phase with as much support as possible.

Transitioning from inpatient detox or residential treatment to outpatient treatment means having to face your old environment, as well as schedule your own time after being protected and guided within a safe, structured program. People in recovery need to understand that this transition isn’t easy, which means they need to prepare for the challenge and not get discouraged.

Finding regular addiction support group meetings to attend is helpful at all stages of recovery, and finding a sponsor to help guide you through staying sober can be especially encouraging. Just make sure to remember that your sponsor is a wise friend with a little more experience and recovery success under their belt than you, not a therapist. You should utilize regular counseling to work intensively on mental health issues, while your sponsor helps you with more practical, day to day, recovery challenges.


Aftercare, or extended care, supports a person in drug addiction recovery after they are discharged from a treatment program. It’s important that everyone have a relapse prevention plan in place before leaving treatment. It’s also critical to understand that even though you may have officially left treatment, you are still in active recovery, meaning there are actions you should be taking everyday to make staying sober a priority in your life.

Addiction can also cause a number of social, financial, and legal issues that can be overwhelming to someone attempting to stay clean without help. Many drug addiction treatment facilities offer, or refer their patients to community organizations which offer, vocational training, legal consultation, employment coaching, behavioral counseling, alumni activities, and more. These services help former patients safely navigate these challenges after discharge.

People in recovery should never reach a point where they decide that they are “done.” Addiction is a chronic disease like diabetes. There are effective treatments, but a person has to use them to stay healthy. Drug addiction recovery is a lifelong process. Here are twelve addiction recovery tips to help assist in your recovery process.

12 Drug Addiction Recovery Tips on How to Stay Clean

1. Respect the present moment.

Drug Addiction Recovery

Focusing on the present moment will help you stay on track.

In drug addiction recovery, it can be easy to start focusing on the negatives and indulge in catastrophic thinking that fools you into believing that a single mistake represents impending, total failure. It can also be easy to focus on the past, beating yourself up for mistakes or brooding on traumas. Try to stay tuned into the present, and save the intensive focus on past or future for therapy sessions, where you’ll have someone to help you keep the process constructive. Remember that you can’t change what has already happened, and you can’t control what will happen in the future. What matters most is what you do today, right now.

2. Change everything in your life that needs to be changed.

If going back to where you were living before treatment will mean rooming with someone who is still drinking or using, or living two doors down from your dealer, or across the street from your favorite bar – you have to move. If your closest friends have problems with drugs or alcohol, but refuse to seek drug addiction recovery, you cannot maintain those relationships. Separate yourself with as much love and kindness as you can, explaining that you have to do this for the sake of your health and wellbeing.

3. Find a good, sober, support network.

Ending damaging relationships is not enough, you need to form new relationships with people who will have a positive impact on your life. Everyone needs to connect with others—for a shoulder to cry on, or to just laugh and have fun. Befriend sober people who know how to have a great night out without drugs or alcohol.

4. Don’t rush into normalcy.

Figuring out how to stay clean after detox can be challenging, so don’t expect too much out of yourself too quickly. Instead of packing your schedule with work, social events, and family responsibilities right away, believing you can handle it now that you’re sober, allow yourself to take baby steps. Don’t rush back to work and don’t take on more than you can handle. One day you’ll amaze yourself with everything you’re able to accomplish, but that day does not have to be tomorrow, next week, or next month.

5. Keep your recovery a priority.

It can be exciting living a new, drug-free life, and you may feel that you need to make up for lost time, but don’t get distracted and neglect your recovery. Continue to see a counselor and regularly attend meetings, and don’t miss any aftercare appointments.

6. Reward yourself.

When you achieve a goal, or reach a recovery milestone, celebrate with a healthy reward, like doing something special with a friend. Seemingly small things, like staying sober despite having a terrible day, are accomplishments that deserve to be celebrated, too, even if it’s just by singing along loudly to your favorite song while thinking how amazing you are.

7. Eat well.

People with active addictions aren’t known for taking good care of themselves, so in addiction recovery, you need to be sure to replenish your health and energy through regular meals and good nutrition. Make sure to get enough protein and fiber, to avoid processed foods, and try to eat as many different colors of produce as you can. Also drink plenty of water—hydration is crucial for a healthy body, and dehydration will make you feel tired and foggy-headed.

8. Exercise!

Exercise does so much to support drug addiction recovery. It can reduce anxiety and stress, help you get better sleep, improve your physical health, boost your confidence, and counteract depression. Because exercise produces dopamine, it can also help you stabilize brain chemistry that has been damaged by substances, as well as fight drug cravings. If you’ve never exercised before, start small. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator, going for a ten-minute walk, or doing some isometric exercises while watching TV can make a big difference to your overall fitness level, giving you the energy and inspiration to do even more.

9. Stay busy.

Staying busy doesn’t mean overscheduling and exhausting yourself, but it does mean staying focused on positive activities instead of letting yourself get bored or brood. Find a new hobby or activity, try your hand at something creative, or take an online class. You need new outlets to replace all the time and effort you used to expend on addictive behaviors.

10. Get good quality sleep.

Sleep 7 to 8 hours a night—more, if you need it. Good sleep will help your brain and body heal, and improve your mood, energy, and ability to cope with challenges. Avoid nicotine and caffeine late in the day and avoid bright screens close to bedtime. If you have insomnia, try a low dose of melatonin or magnesium. If you have sleep disturbances like night sweats, panic attacks, or bad dreams, get up and walk around to clear your head. Drink a glass of water, listen to music, write in a journal, or read. If you’re very upset, call your sponsor, a good friend, or a family member.

11. Plan ahead.

Don’t let yourself be ambushed by stressful situations, drug cravings, or conflicts at home or at work. Plan out strategies for how to deal with any issues you’re likely to face on a regular basis. Make a list of coping techniques. Practice what you’re going to say and do. Counseling sessions and support groups can help you do this. Also, find out where and when meetings are held near your home, work, gym, parent’s house—anywhere you frequently go. You want to be able to find the support you need whenever and wherever you need it.

12. Relapse is a common occurrence – never forget that.

Between 40 and 60% of people in treatment experience relapse at least once. For some people, relapse is a necessary step in their recovery journey. Learn and grow from the mistake, so you can emerge stronger than before. Also, knowing how commonplace relapse is can remind you that a person in recovery will always be in recovery. No matter how great your life becomes, you will never be “cured” of your affliction. But you can live a perfectly happy, and healthy life in recovery.

Always Remember that Recovery Equals Resilience

Your recovery journey will not always be smooth and easy, and setbacks should not be seen as failures. The key is to react well to setbacks, doing your best to overcome and continue growing in your recovery. Persevering in this way requires resilience—the ability to cope with and recover from challenges, and to change yourself or your circumstances when necessary. Resilience is a skill that can be learned throughout drug addiction recovery, getting sharper each day you abstain from using drugs. During dark times, resilience allows you to stay hopeful, and optimistic about the future, knowing that you have the strength to withstand anything.

For more addiction recovery advice, or for help finding a treatment program, call  800-996-6135(Who Answers?) today!

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