Getting through rehab can be tough, and it’s certainly a satisfying accomplishment. The entire point of residential treatment is to give you a primer on how to get sober and stay sober – but it’s really just the first leg of your journey. As primers go, they’re meant to get you started for the rest of the process, and for drug recovery, the next “step” is simply maintaining what you’ve got.
Sobriety is not difficult to achieve. Stop using drugs for just a few hours and you’ll be sober. Most addicts get sober every now and again, even when they don’t want to, because maintaining a constant high is difficult, expensive, and dangerous. However, staying sober is an entirely different thing. Sobriety as a lifestyle rather than a consequence of time takes longer to get used to than the average length of a rehab program – so going over your first steps right after rehab is very important. Here are the key things you need to keep in mind after your first rehabilitation program.
Contrary to what might be popular belief, relapses are actually quite common. This is important not because it means most addicts don’t want to stay sober, but because most addicts can’t stay sober for long even after a rehabilitation program. It takes the brain much longer to completely adjust and get used to sober living before you can freely live around the temptation of drug use and face the challenges of regular life.
That doesn’t mean you should insulate yourself from life’s challenges and responsibilities, but it is important for addicts and families to acknowledge and accept that relapses commonly occur in the first six months of recovery, and an addict needs patience, compassion, and a dedicated support system to help them get back on their feet and get right back into recovery. The worst thing to do isn’t to relapse, but to relapse and lose hope in the idea of genuine long-term sobriety. It’s possible if you put the work in, but you need to spend the time needed for said work to take effect.
You can reduce the possibility of a relapse in several different ways. First, you can work hard to identify potential triggers. Figure out what makes you crave drug use more. Stress is a big factor, as are stimuli that remind you of previous occasions of drug use, from something as simple as a song or driving past a specific area, to something as complex and faint as a scent or a conversation with an old friend about the old days.
Avoid things that are more likely to make you want to get high as best you can and be sure to always have a friend or family member you can contact if you feel you’re close to making a big mistake. Another thing that helps is to spend the first few months after rehab being really busy, but not in a way that presents you with endless amounts of stress. Do something satisfying but do something that takes the hours of your day and makes them disappear, until you hit the hay, exhausted.
Getting Socially Situated
There’s a lot of things to do right out of rehab. Chances are you haven’t magically adjusted to regular living straight away. Get yourself situated at home first, by finding your place. If you live alone, make it a habit to keep your place clean. If you’re living with your family or with some friends, find ways to help out around the house. Do chores and do your part for the family.
Another thing to get used to is making a living. If you’re still going to school or need to go to school, enroll and get started. Otherwise, look for work if you don’t have any, or return to your job. If your job was a source of major unnecessary stress (and possibly a reason for your addiction), speak to your friends and family about seeking new work and doing something more fulfilling with your time.
Money is obviously an issue, and it can be difficult to get work after recovery, but with the right work history you might be able to pull a better job with better hours for yourself. It can be scary to give up a source of income, but if that’s costing you your sanity and can be a source of risk for relapse, it isn’t worth it.
Finding your place at home, at work, and in the community in general is a solid step in the right direction. It might sound “boring” at first glance but being part of society can be fulfilling if what you do and who you are actually matters to your family and your neighbors. If you commit to sobriety, you get the chance to build a better life for yourself without addiction getting in the way.
Learning to Be Sober
Most rehabilitation programs last a few weeks, up to about two months. That’s not enough time to get you situated with sobriety, and all the things you have to consider about it. Learning to be sober isn’t really difficult in hindsight, because we’re meant to be sober for the most part – but when you’ve spent enough time struggling with addiction, your brain’s notions of satisfaction and fun can be a little different from the norm. With time, a lot of these feelings fade and even reverse themselves, but until then, getting used to sober living might take a little continued help even after rehab.
While group meetings are one way to maintain the recovery journey, another alternative is to go from rehab into sober living. Sober living homes are facilities that specialize in providing a drug-free environment of tenants, while they live normal lives, attending to chores, seeking out work, spending time with their neighbors, and finding interesting hobbies in their spare time. If you’re worried about relapses or struggle with life outside of rehab, sober living can be a nice in-between step for rehab and regular sober life, so you can continue to adhere to a schedule and some rules, while gradually adapting to life without drugs.
Consider Continuing Care
Group therapy/support groups, one-on-one cognitive behavioral therapy, and regular check ups are just a few ways to continue your recovery treatment after rehab is over. Therapy is especially useful if your addiction was or is tied to other issues, like an anxiety disorder, or a mood disorder like depression.
It takes time to get used to the sober life, and professional help can make a serious difference.