So, you have completed your treatment program! You probably feel better than you have for as long as you can remember. You feel excited to finally begin your new life in sobriety. But this may also stir up feelings of nervousness and anxiety. You may be wondering “What if I relapse?” “Will I really be able to live a sober life?”
Being able to complete your rehabilitation is a great accomplishment that is worth celebrating. But staying sober AFTER your time in rehab is the biggest challenge that you must prepare for. Sure, a 90-day treatment can resolve a lot of the underlying issues that led to your addiction in the first place, but you should think of it as having been a “warm up” for the coming days ahead of you.
Adjusting to your new life after rehab can be stressful, and unfortunately people do relapse during this time. So before you take your first steps out of rehab, make sure that you understand what is waiting for you so that you can do what you need to be a productive and healthy individual once again.
Draft your post-treatment plan
The very first thing you should think about is how you can manage your life after rehab. Making plans for life post-rehab is the best way to keep yourself on track. Whether you go home straight away or stay in a sober house to transition, it is important to develop a plan that can help you maintain sobriety.
Ideally, you will work with a treatment provider even before your time in rehab ends to discuss what you will need to be successful once you leave the facility or program. They will sit down with you and go over the skills you have learned while in recovery and how you can apply those to your life outside of treatment. When you leave the program, it is highly recommended that you find a long-term therapist/counselor to help keep you on track with your progress and reinforce those healthy behaviors you learned in the recovery program.
Connecting with healthcare professionals, family members, friends, as well as other people that you trust will form your very own recovery team, which is essential for your accountability. The hope is that you can count on these people to be there for you and keep you motivated and ensure you stay clean. You must also set goals to strive for a healthy lifestyle, and be able to identify the triggers which could lead you to use illicit substances again.
Tips on How You Can Maintain a Sober Lifestyle
About 80% of those who have eventually achieved long-term sobriety had at least one relapse prior. This is not surprising, as the road to recovery isn’t exactly a walk in the park. While setting goals is good, you must also have the willpower to continue striving for these goals. Oftentimes, relapse won’t come with a neon sign, but rather will sneak up on you when you least expect it if you’re not prepared. In fact, the first stages of relapse start in the moment you start thinking about using drugs and alcohol again! So if you want to avoid falling into this trap, here are some tips:
1. Learn to recognize an impending relapse.
Don’t feel discouraged if you’ve relapsed in the past, or are even in the process of coming back from a relapse. It’s not ideal, but it is completely normal. You could relapse more than once and still be able to achieve lifetime sobriety. Here are some signs that a relapse may be on the horizon:
High levels of stress. High stress is one of the leading causes of addiction, as there is a strong relationship between the two. Experiencing stress in one’s life is completely normal and even healthy, but too much stress can become overwhelming and too much for one person to handle.
Change in attitude and mood. If you notice that you are feeling hopeless about things you were once passionate about (i.e. going to recovery meetings, spending time with family and friends, etc), this could be an indicator of relapse.
Denial of change in mood. You find yourself experiencing the aforementioned changes in mood, but are continuously denying those feelings or attempting to pretend that you are fine. Because of this, you may prevent yourself from reaching out for help, which in turn could leave you even more susceptible to relapse.
Recurrence of withdrawal symptoms. It is possible to experience withdrawal symptoms, even after your detox period has “ended.” These are called post-acute withdrawal symptoms, and they can resurface during times of stress.
Behavior changes. You may notice yourself slipping back into old behavior patterns that existed when you were in the midst of addiction.
Decline in socialization. Avoidance of social situations and isolation can be a sign that you need help.
Change in routine. Having a routine post-detox can be extremely helpful in staying sober. But if you find that your new routine is starting to break down, this will make it more difficult to maintain your sobriety.
Poor judgment/making poor decisions. This is where things may really start to break down. You may begin having trouble making decisions or find yourself making unhealthy decisions. These decisions may be spurred from irrational anger, confusion, stress, irritation, etc. After making these choices, you may be unable to manage the consequences, causing things in your life to spiral out of control.
Thinking of going back to your addiction. Feelings of hopelessness may cause you to entertain thoughts of “just having one drink” or “just spending $50 at the casino” in an attempt to make yourself feel better. You may think you can control it, and you won’t become addicted again.
2. Build a strong support network.
Addiction can be one of the loneliest experiences one can face. The nature of the illness creates rifts between family, friends, and relationships. However, during recovery, having a support system to lean on is one of the biggest contributing factors to success (Boisvert, et. al). A strong support system greatly reduces your chances of relapsing. There’s a reason why peer support groups are implemented in almost all recovery programs across the country. They provide a variety of benefits to a person who has made a commitment to achieving lifelong sobriety. Here are some ways to rebuild or build your support system:
– Apologize to the ones you have hurt.
– Educate yourself and others about what you need to heal.
– Let people know how they can best help.
– Stay responsive and update loved ones on your progress when you can.
– Show your gratitude.
In addition, finding a peer support group can really help hold you accountable in your sobriety. If you’re in a treatment program, you likely already meet with a peer support group, but if you don’t have access to this resource, there are plenty of locally organized groups for people struggling with addiction. Check out this site to find a support group that best fits your needs, and you can locate a meeting in your area from there. For a full guide, check out this article on Finding a Support System in Recovery.
3. Make some changes.
If you are still feeling hopeless and lost in your current routine, it may be time for more changes. You’ve likely already made major changes like giving up your addiction, cutting toxic people out of your life, going to therapy, etc, but it may be time to slowly add more positive things into your life. You can do this by sitting down and thinking about what you want out of the next week, month, year, and so on. Then, consider what needs to happen in order for you to achieve those things, then make a list of attainable goals to work toward. Even little positive changes can make a big impact. There’s no such thing as too small a goal.
4. Stay active.
Exercise and physical activity boosts endorphins to make us feel good and eliminate stress. You don’t have to do anything too crazy at first, just adding a handful of brisk 30-minute walks into your weekly routine will be a huge benefit to your mental and physical well-being. You can slowly increase your activity as you feel stronger and more motivated. This will also help you develop more structure in your daily and weekly routines.
5. Find a meaningful hobby or activity.
Developing a passion for something can help you fight away thoughts of hopelessness. The more healthy, happy relationships you form and the list of things you are excited about grows, the more you will feel you have to live for. This is a great fallback for when things get rough. Just knowing that you have healthy, fun activities to immerse yourself in when you’re in a bad mental space can really help pull you out of it and prevent you from turning back to your prior addiction. This can also help you make new friends to replace those who may have enabled your addiction in the past.
6. Develop healthy coping skills.
Going to individual or group counseling can really help with this one. Healthy coping skills can be the difference between relapse and not. Counseling does a number of things. It:
– Addresses flaws in thinking and teaches the person to productively modify them
– Helps the person combat negative thoughts and behaviors
– Provides coping methods and skills
Having the ability to accurately assess what you’re thinking and where those negative thoughts are coming from (and subsequently understanding what you need to do to combat them) is essential to lifelong sobriety.
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