Treatment programs do not last forever. You have spent a certain amount of time surrounded by like-minded people, learning hard lessons about yourself and tools to help you in the future. Your confidence and strength is at an all time high and you have a plan in place. You can do this.
Then the big day comes – the front doors open and you are finally free to move through life on your own, making wiser choices than you did before. You step out and realize you are all alone, figuratively speaking.
Transitioning from being an addict to being in recovery is scary. And it is a lifelong transition. And the life you previously had known is not going to be life you have today.
This means that your life must change. It is not enough to just abstain from the substance – you must not even want it!
You must make changes in your life that will fill the void that the drug was once attempting to fill. You have been armed with skills and you know how to use them – you just need to keep moving forward to avoid slipping backward.
Old habits die hard, they say, and boy were they not joking.
Find Friends and Build Broken Relationships
Everyone will tell you to find sober friends. Yes, that is extremely important. But finding sober friends isn’t enough.
There are plenty of people in the world who are sober and miserable, looking to bring those around them down, too. Fresh out of treatment, negativity is a big no-no and something to avoid.
Instead, search for positive, sober, and supportive friends. You may already have some or you may have to find new ones. Maybe you left behind when you turned down your path to addiction.
Either way, find them – you need them. Let them show you that there are ways to get through life while feeling fulfilled, without turning to a substance. And make sure you are honest with them so they can be the support you need. They may not fully understand your struggles, but they can still be there for you.
Recognize those individuals who are bad influences or those who are enablers. Look for them and disassociate yourself with them.
While we are on the subject of friends, it is also important to mend broken relationships.
You likely, at some point, have broken trust or wronged a close friend or family member. You may not have meant to, but were caught up in your addiction. Now is your time to correct those mistakes. Reach out to the hurt loved ones and slowly start to seek forgiveness and rebuild trust.
This will take time or it may not even work at all. But, it is worth a try.
Find New Interests
Idle minds and idle hands lead to nothing good. In fact, for someone in recovery, boredom can be extremely dangerous.
After treatment, you are going to want to seek something to keep you focused on your goals. Whether it is a new hobby, a new sport, or any new interest, a positive focus for your time leaves no time for anything else.
Brainstorm with your likes and dislikes and see what you can come up with. Think about the things that you used to like to do or enjoyed before you were gripped with addiction. Find something that will give your life a positive meaning and purpose.
If you are stuck, here are a few ideas to get your mind churning:
- Exercise: Not only is exercise healthy for your body, it is also healthy for your mind. This is a great habit to pick up after treatment.
- Writing: Holding feelings and thoughts in is never a good thing. Writing can be an outlet for you, as well as give you a chance to share your story and your struggles with others.
- Arts: Photography, painting, sculpting, drawing, craft projects, knitting.
- Volunteering: Helping others can make you feel wonderful. What better way to fill your time? Whether you prefer the elderly, animals, the sick, children, the homeless – many, many people could use your help. You have the power to make a difference.
Secure a Support System
Let’s face it – you need a support system.
You need to make sure that when find yourself at a speed bump or a complete road block that you have someone to turn to. Having a sponsor who knows and understands what you are facing is an excellent idea.
Having that friend who is brutally honest, full of empowerment, and loving support can make the difference between staying clean and relapsing.
Once you complete your treatment program, make sure you seek therapy. Even if it is just once per week, every other week, or once each month – it can still make a difference.
Therapists can help you with goal setting and help with ways to attain those goals. They can also help you work through various emotions, feelings and behaviors. With the high percentage of dual diagnosis situations, it also gives therapists a chance to make sure there is no underlying disorder that could hinder recovery attempts.
And, let’s not forget that therapists can also be part of your much-needed support system.
Know the Signs of a Relapse and Have a Plan
A relapse can occur at any time after treatment. In fact, 40-60% of people will relapse at least once after treatment is completed. According to National Institute on Drug Abuse, the biggest triggers for a relapse are stress, exposure to drugs, and people, places, things and moods that act as cues or reminders of one’s drug use.
Know what your triggers are and understand your feelings and responses. Have a support group or person on standby at all times in case you feel yourself falling.
Finishing treatment is not the end of the road – contrary to popular belief, the buck does not stop there. You will forever be in recovery and you must, therefore, always be prepared to encounter anything that comes your way.
If you stay busy, surround yourself with positivity and good support, as well as be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, you can grow and go far. You can do it.