Developing a Drug-Free Lifestyle to Maintain Abstinence

At Home, at Work and During Leisure Hours

Family Picnic
Developing a Drug-Free Lifestyle. © Getty Images

If you are trying to maintain abstinence from alcohol or drugs over a long period of time, it is important to develop a drug-free lifestyle in all aspects of your life -- at home, at work and during your leisure hours.

If you sought treatment from a professional rehab program for your alcohol or drug problem, one of the most important objectives of your continuing or follow-up care is to help you learn to replace your previous destructive behaviors with more healthy and productive alternatives.

Supportive Friends and Family

One of the first steps in developing a drug-free lifestyle is to avoid those people who were directly involved in your former drinking or drug-using lifestyle -- those who helped you get drugs, use drugs or were your drinking buddies. Many addicts find that in order to develop a substance-free lifestyle, they must develop new friendships, social patterns, and leisure activities.

Your rehab counselor will try to help you identify drug-free supportive friends and family members and encourage you to improve those relationships and participate in recreational activities with them, to replace the time that you spent drug-seeking and using. If you do not have drug-free friends or loved ones, your counselor will encourage you to become involved in new social groups and make new, supportive friends.

Developing a Structured Schedule

Another important aspect of developing a drug-free lifestyle is to develop a structured daily schedule that you can consistently follow.

Structure and organization in your life can be your best friends in recovery, while a chaotic and disorganized lifestyle can be your enemy.

When you were in the early abstinence stage of your rehab program, your counselor probably worked with you then to establish daily and/or weekly schedule to help you begin to structure your time and to replace your drug-seeking and using activities with healthy alternatives.

In the maintaining abstinence phase of your recovery, it is important not to abandon that structured schedule or deviate from it on a regular basis.

Developing Larger, Expanded Goals

While maintaining your sobriety remains a high priority in your life, in order to develop a long-term drug-free lifestyle, it is helpful to identify larger goals for your future. Now that you have achieved more than 90 days of abstinence, you will probably begin to develop larger, long-term goals such as going back to school, changing career paths or saving toward financial goals.

Identifying other goals for your life and developing a plan to achieve those goals can play an important role in helping you develop and maintain a drug-free lifestyle. Your follow-up counselor will help you learn how to work toward these goals within the context of your new recovering lifestyle.

Developing Spirituality

If you have participated in a 12-step group as part of your rehab program, you have probably already been introduced to the concept of spirituality, which has nothing to do with religious practices or dogma.

Spirituality, as it relates to recovery, means developing values in your life and having altruistic goals -- reaching beyond yourself to find fulfillment and happiness.

Spirituality can be an important factor in any successful recovery program. It involves connecting to a power that extends beyond the concerns of daily living. Your counselor will encourage you to become involved in efforts "greater than yourself" such as doing service work for your support group, becoming more involved in your religious organization, doing community service or volunteering for charity work.

Your counselor will not try to define any "higher power" for you -- that will be left entirely up to you, but research has shown that developing a drug-free lifestyle can be enhanced by relating to a power that is transcendent and greater than yourself.

The Third Stage of Rehab: Maintaining Abstinence


National Institute on Drug Abuse. "Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research Based Guide." Revised 2007.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. "An Individual Drug Counseling Approach to Treat Cocaine Addiction: The Collaborative Cocaine Treatment Study Model." Accessed May 2009.

Continue Reading