Just because the abstinence model has been around for centuries does not mean that it is outdated or old-fashioned. On the contrary, it has been around for centuries because it is a model that works. Sometimes abstinence is confused with going “cold turkey,” which implies that addiction can entirely be overcome simply by not using substances. Understand that abstinence can sometimes mean refraining from the physical use of substances without doing the work to achieve “emotional sobriety” (Psychology Today). 

Abstinence involves many methods and approaches, both conventional and alternative. It is not as easy (or as daunting) as claiming “I will never have another drink from this day forward.” Recovery is a lifelong process that involves trial and error and it should never put so much pressure on you or your recovery from the onset. Achieving sobriety and maintaining abstinence is carried out by a process over some time. When you can manage and regulate abstinence, you will have attained freedom unlike any other.

Continuing Recovery Lifestyle

Recovery might begin in a treatment facility, but it does not end there. Any regimen that serves your recovery will account for your life after rehab. True Recovery is a treatment center that believes in finding the right tools that will help you maintain your recovery with confidence and motivation. While it is great to recognize your days of sobriety (30, 60, 90, etc.), you always need to refine the tools you learned from early abstinence to avoid relapse. This way, when you are no longer at a rehab facility, you will have a foundation to build upon. Remember, while you still have regular contact with your counselor or therapist, maintaining your recovery will be up to you. Some practices that you learned while achieving abstinence will help you avoid environmental triggers, recognize your own internal and emotional triggers, and help you develop healthy behaviors to handle life’s stresses. You could achieve this by practicing meditation or mindfulness – these practices help you observe thought without judgment. 

Vigilance Against Relapse

Often in early recovery–but really, it could happen at any point in your recovery–it can be tempting to let your guard down a bit. When you let your guard down, you are likely to become more lax or careless with your recovery – maybe take things for granted or convince yourself that you are capable of having just one drink or drug. Remember, when you have these thoughts, this is the addiction calling. Look beyond your impulse; while drinking might satisfy your needs in the immediate, ask yourself: how will I feel tomorrow? The power of addiction can be resisted and managed, but because this is a serious disorder, the urges never completely go away. Abstinence will help you maintain a recovery-oriented attitude. This includes continuing your counseling sessions, support group therapy, and tracking your progress with honesty and vigilance. If, at any point, a disruptive thought occurs that has you justifying a drink or drug, contact your therapist and counselor to help you through. Remember, just because you are in charge of your decisions out of rehab, being responsible does not mean that you need to go it alone. This is why you have support from family, friends, and professionals in your life. Let them help you in times of need.

Relapse Process

Understanding being vigilant is important because relapse does not often happen in a moment. It is a gradual process marked by negative changes in your attitude, feelings, and behavior. Think of your addiction kind of like a computer program that is always running in the background; you can ignore it, you can work around it and through it, but you can’t ever completely uninstall it. This is why it is essential to pinpoint the warning signs so you might develop a plan to correct your behaviors when you find yourself heading into negative thinking territory. It could take various exercises, like meditation, mindfulness, therapy, exercise, or a hobby to take your mind away from thinking about your impulse to drink or use.

Understand that warning signs always precede relapse such as: not meeting commitments – finding excuses not to attend meetings or not following up or responding to your counselor or sponsor. These behaviors might come on gradually, however abstinence, as a philosophy, will help you recognize these signs at the onset–and recognizing them is half the battle. Appreciate and show gratitude when you can identify the triggers and warning signs of potential relapse. Additionally, your therapist, doctor, or counselor can help you recognize the steps or phases in your own life that occur before a situation involving a relapse.

Developing a Healthy Plan

Knowing yourself, your triggers, following up, being consistent, and reaching out are the building blocks of abstinence. Develop plans that stem from knowledge and logic by setting reasonable goals with reasonable expectations. These plans should include strengthening the relationship with yourself and others. A good plan should also account for good sleep patterns, a healthy diet, exercise, socializing, and taking time for yourself to relax or enjoy other pursuits. Remember, you are building the life you want and deserve away from your addiction, and while you might never be free from your disorder, you can learn to live with it – which is freedom in itself.


Abstinence is not just saying yes or no to situations surrounding alcohol and drugs. Abstinence is a multi-layered process that instills in you the power to resist succumbing to addiction through various tools, kind of like a recovery utility belt. The recovery process should not be underestimated. It takes a great deal of work and it should be recognized that abstinence is an important part of recovery. Thankfully, True Recovery is here to help you get started with beating your addiction and maintaining a life of recovery. We offer a variety of different therapies and treatments available that range from conventional to alternative approaches. We will meet you where you’re at and work with you to find and tailor the treatments to suit your unique needs. Our goal is to help you achieve and maintain sobriety through recovery. Never wait to reach out for help. Call us today at (866) 399-6528