The experience of spending weeks in a sober living community can be exactly what is needed during the initial stages of recovery. There will come a time, however, that you are ready to leave that comforting oasis. Once you have your sober feet under you, you will be expected to begin that long journey of exploration into the rest of the world that was avoided in your addiction. Before leaving on this quest, you will want to have your mental bags packed and your emotional supplies stocked. The following are some of the challenges of continued sober living that you will want to be prepared for.
Staying Mindful of Triggers
One of the most beneficial aspects of staying in a sober living facility is that of being in a novel environment. The scenery, routines, and socialization have all been specially created to provide you with the best tools for success. Once you are ready to leave this ideal environment you will need to be equipped with coping mechanisms that can apply in the real world.
Once venturing back out into the territories where your addiction began and was sustained, you are likely to encounter old, familiar, situations. These situations are likely to bring thoughts and feelings up that you were able to avoid while under the protection of the sober living facility. When a situation causes you to reconsider your choice of sobriety, it is known as a trigger.
Triggers for your temptation to relapse can come in the form of feelings, thoughts, sights, or even smells. They can occur when visiting certain locations or interacting with certain people. While the easiest tactic for reducing triggers is to not encounter them in the first place, this isn’t always realistic. You may be required to go back into the war zone, and will need to put your coping skills to the test. Recognize triggers for what they are, when they occur, and have a plan in place for how you are going to avoid acting on them.
Maintaining Healthy Habits
Many sober living communities provide participants with nutritious meals, exercise routines, and regular self-care activities. Once you are out on your own, it will be up to you to make sure that your daily routine continues to include these benefits to your lifestyle. An aftercare plan which you develop with your sober living support staff can be useful for this task.
The perks of eating healthy are often underestimated. When the body is supplied with proper nutrition, not only do we have more energy for tasks, but our overall mood can be increased. Studies have shown that integrating nutritional understanding into a treatment program can even reduce the risks of relapse. Staying on top of a healthy diet while in the home can provide similar benefits.
Those who exercise regularly increase their odds of living longer. It has been found that exercising just 15 minutes a day can increase life expectancy by several years. With your newly established sobriety, increased self-insight, and improved mood, you will want to stick around and enjoy life for as long as possible. Your loved ones will want you around, as well.
Chances are good that your sober living program placed emphasis on the importance of forming and maintaining healthy relationships. There is a strong tendency for people to adopt the attitudes and habits of those around them. You will want to make sure that the influences that you surround yourself with after leaving a sober living community remain positive. Many people will continue to rely on the friendships formed during the initial stages of recovery as a means of ensuring this.
Returning home to loved ones as a sober friend and family member can present a unique set of challenges. Those who have observed or been victims of your intoxicated behaviors may be skeptical of the changes that you are presenting. It is recommended that at least six months of positive change be extended before friends and family begin to trust that this new you is the real you.
Navigating New Situations
Unless you are one of the fortunate people who have a job waiting for you upon your successful graduation from a sober living program, you are most likely going to need to form a new, practical, game plan for sustaining yourself. This may involve returning to school for a degree, gaining new job skills through a training program, or hitting the pavement to turn in job applications.
You may also be required to find a new place to live, or may find yourself in the middle of relationship struggles as time progresses. Job stress, moving to a new location, and relationship problems are some of the most stressful situations one can experience. The more these type of situations pop up, the more temptation there can be to escape all of the problems through using drugs or alcohol. Along with maintaining your sobriety, you will need to actively be applying your new coping skills to any of these challenges that life throws your way.
Continuing in Counseling
Many people who end up in addiction arrive there due to having unresolved mental health issues. The presence of a mental health condition in tandem with a substance abuse problem is known as dual diagnosis. In these cases, it is not enough to only treat the problem of the substance abuse. Underlying factors can not only continue to impede your happiness, but can be the undoing of a resolve to stay sober.
Common mental health problems that are associated with substance abuse include depression, anxiety, PTSD, and schizophrenia. During substance abuse periods, it can be hard to discern whether the observed symptoms are due to the negative effects of the substance, or due to deeper issues. Once you have cleared out the possibility of the substances being the source of your problems, you will be better able to address any mental health concerns that continue to hold you back from becoming your best self. Exploring these issues with a good counselor can provide you with a clear path forward.