Maintaining Recovery in an Alcohol Saturated Culture

November 25, 2014

A woman holding a mixed drink.

When people decide to get help with alcohol addiction, they are making an important step toward regaining control of their lives. But, addiction rehab is only the first stage of recovery, as after it ends users must return to everyday life and remain alcohol-free. This task alone is challenging, but it can be even more difficult when people live in societies that encourage drinking, and societies that have alcohol almost everywhere. In this case, recovering alcoholics must learn specific ways to manage their addictions, despite being surrounded by alcohol consumption.

Alcohol in American Society

American culture often promotes alcohol consumption. And, since anyone over the age of 21 can legally drink alcohol, it’s easy to find people drinking in multiple public places, such as bars, restaurants and sporting events. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that, in 2012, nearly a quarter of the American population aged 18 and above had, in the month before the survey, engaged in some form of binge drinking, or consuming five or more alcoholic drinks in one day. Additionally, 7.1% reported engaging in heavy drinking, or drinking five or more alcoholic drinks, in a single day on five or more days in the previous 30 before the survey. The NIAAA also estimates that between 16 and 18 million Americans struggle with an alcohol use disorder, whether it be dependence or abuse.

Alcohol Addiction Recovery Process

The addiction recovery process consists of several stages. The first stage focuses on admitting that a substance abuse problem exists. The next stage is a combination of detox and active treatment against addiction. In this stage, people receive treatment at rehab centers and learn ways to manage addiction in the future. The final stage is sobriety maintenance, which lasts the longest, ideally for the rest of a person’s life. As Mark S. Gold explains, it’s in the sobriety maintenance stage that people must use all the skills they learned in rehab, “to rely on them to stay sober when life throws [them] the inevitable curveballs, both in crisis situations and in everyday problem situations.”

How to Maintain Alcohol Sobriety Long-term

Along with utilizing the skills they learn in rehab, another important way recovering alcoholics can stay sober is by surrounding themselves with supportive friends, family members and other people in the sobriety maintenance stage. Cindy Nichols lists the following benefits to strong support systems:

  • Being surrounded by positive peer pressure to make healthy decisions
  • Having a safe place to discuss struggles with recovery
  • Knowing that there are trusted people to turn to in difficult situations
  • Receiving encouragement to maintain a healthy, substance-free lifestyle

The most effective way to stay sober while surrounded by alcohol is to create a sobriety plan. To make this plan, recovering users should consider the following aspects of sobriety:

  • Which locations they are willing to visit
  • Which locations they will stay away from
  • What activities they will engage instead of drinking alcohol
  • Who they will call if they experience a difficult or emergency situation

In order to ensure success, recovering users should share their plan with their therapists, mentors or trusted loved ones.

Getting Help with Long-term Alcohol Sobriety

Staying sober in an alcohol-saturated culture can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be impossible. As long as people are willing to surround themselves with encouraging people, and they plan for maintaining sobriety, they can avoid alcohol consumption to lead healthy, productive lives.

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