Top 10 Tips for Recovery

1. Get into treatment

If you are not already attending a treatment service, then ask about referral. 

patients sitting in a waiting room

Being in treatment is strongly associated with positive outcomes (i.e. things getting better). Your GP can refer you. Ask about the options for treatment. And stick with treatment. Dropping out is associated with relapse. A link to services in Lothian can be found here.

2. Ask for help

This recovery journey is much easier if we do it in the company of others. Get help. Asking for help can be difficult but it will make the road smoother.  Find peer based support, a counsellor, service user groups, a recovery coach, or a support worker. Use their support and keep using it.

3. Move away from using/drinking friends

​Friends you have previously drank or taken drugs with are not the right kind of support for recovery. Stay clear of old buddies and find family and friends who are able to support you in your recovery.

4. Avoid new romantic relationships early on

The ‘love’ and infatuation with a new partner can act very like a drug and the relationship can become the focus of life. This can mean that positive activities, and in particular recovery-oriented activities, may suffer. When the relationship goes wrong then relapse is a very real danger.

5. Don’t hang out in old haunts

Events and places that you associate with drinking or using can be powerful relapse triggers. There’s an old recovery saying: “if you sit in the barber’s chair long enough, you’ll get a haircut”. Going into pubs and clubs, concerts or houses where you used or drank before is not advisable. Even the booze aisle in the supermarket can be dangerous. It’s best to find new places to go to. In Lothian we have the Serenity Café (LINK) and there are many mutual aid meetings every night. There are recovery choir, women’s, guitar and drama groups in Edinburgh.

6. Avoid testing yourself with a drink or a drug

For most people with serious dependence, being able to go back to controlled using or drinking is unlikely to be successful and can be dangerous. It’s a common thought after a period of stability, but don’t follow it.

7. Don’t isolate

Isolation is a common trait in people who suffer from addiction. 


​The antidote lies in connecting to others. That’s what helps many to move forward with their recoveries. 

Connecting to others allows us to deal with stress better, we lead happier lives and we both help and are helped. In one study, just adding one sober person to your social network reduced relapse rates by 27%.

8. Get connected to mutual aid

Hard on the heels of number seven. Get plugged in to mutual aid and recovery communities. Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and SMART Recovery are examples of mutual aid groups. If you go to a 12-step fellowship, get a sponsor; research indicates you are much less likely to relapse if you do.

9. Find something to do

Meaningful activity is a predictor of sustained recovery - things like volunteering, getting some qualifications or training or a job, getting to the gym or for a swim, join a leisure or social group. 

father and son swimming

Engage with Transition. Meet regularly with recovery friends and supportive family members. Make plans and keep them.

10. Deal with stress in healthy ways

Now that you have stopped using alcohol or illicit drugs, you’ll need to find healthier ways to deal with stress. Cognitive behavioural therapy can help, but so can the simple process of setting up a support network and talking about what’s going on for you. Lift the phone rather than lifting a drink or a drug.

These top 10 tips have been provided by Dr David McCartney, Clinical Lead for LEAP (The Lothian and Edinburgh Abstinence Programme) based at Woodlands House, Astley Ainslie Hospital, 74 Canaan Lane, Edinburgh EH9 2TB.  Telephone 0131 446 4400. 

Last Reviewed: 19/02/2015