For many people on the path of sobriety, receiving treatment is the easy part. It’s what follows treatment that can often scare people enough to stray from sobriety and back to their old lives.
The reason for this is that being in a rehabilitation facility provides a sense of comfort. Each day brings routine, and for those struggling with substance abuse, a routine can bring a sense of peace. Being in a treatment facility also means having easy access to support and others in the same situation, which may make it easier when it comes to overcoming cravings and obstacles.
However, after being released from treatment, there is often much less structure in one’s life, meaning more free time to manage. For some, free time is a scary concept and can lead back into old habits. It may also be hard for those coming from treatment to adjust to not constantly being surrounded by others going through addiction treatment.
When it comes to life after treatment, these are some of the best things you can do for yourself to ensure you stay sober and on the path to a healthy and happy recovery.
Have a relapse prevention plan
A relapse prevention plan is something that can be developed while in treatment, with the aid of a counselor or other professional. In short, it is a document that outlines triggers that may lead to relapse, and how each trigger should be handled in a healthy manner. This could mean that the relapse plan details what type of environment a person may feel comfortable in, who they may or may not want to spend time with, who they should call if they feel the desire to use alcohol or drugs, etc. Though not necessary, it is helpful to have your relapse prevention plan outlined in a physical document rather than just verbally discussed. This makes it easy to revisit and add to as time passes.
Consider sober living
Sober living, also referred to as halfway houses, provide an environment for support from peers while also allowing someone to adjust to life outside of treatment. Often these types of places are all male or all female, as to allow individuals to focus on their recovery rather than relationships.
The idea behind sober living is that residing with others going through drug and alcohol addiction treatment can allow individuals to gain support and strength from one another while continuing to gather tools important for recovery.
According to PubMed Central, characteristics of sober living include “1) an alcohol and drug free living environment for individuals attempting to abstain from alcohol and drugs, 2) no formal treatment services but either mandated or strongly encouraged attendance at 12-step self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), 3) required compliance with house rules such as maintaining abstinence, paying rent and other fees, participating in house chores and attending house meetings, 4) resident responsibility for financing rent and other costs, and 5) an invitation for residents to stay in the house as long as they wish provided they comply with house rules.” In other words, sober living caters to individual needs while integrating those needs with peer relationships.
Become active in aftercare
Aftercare refers to the way a person continues to care for their recovery even after treatment is finished. Some treatment facilities offer aftercare programs, meaning they have certain times during the week that previous clients can meet for programming. Aftercare can mean different things for different people. For some, it means attending 12-step meetings; for others, it can mean volunteering.
Engaging in aftercare may also mean taking part in counseling or continuing treatment in an outpatient program. In short, aftercare isn’t simply refraining from using drugs and alcohol. Instead, it refers to what a person actively does to better themselves and their recovery, since sobriety is an ongoing process.
Think ahead and avoid tempting situations
This may sound obvious, but it can be easy to end up in a situation where it may be tempting to use drugs or alcohol. This may mean that a person in recovery has to change their friends or the places where they spend time, which can be hard for some people to come to terms with. However, if someone with a substance abuse disorder returns to living the same life as they lived pre-treatment, chances are greater than they may relapse and return to relying on drugs and alcohol.
In order to avoid putting oneself in such a situation, it is important to think ahead each day. When making a decision about who to spend time with and where to go, think about the possible outcomes and whether or not they would build or break your recovery. If you think you may be putting yourself in a bad position, say no. Having the ability to say no is important to recovery.
Keep a journal
Journaling can be a great way to make sense of feelings and learn to deal with them in a healthy manner. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, “Journaling helps control your symptoms and improve your mood by helping you prioritize problems, fears, and concerns; tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that you can recognize triggers and learn ways to better control them; and providing an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviors.” Many people in recovery find journaling to be rewarding and helpful.
Though each person’s journey to sobriety is different, these four actions can lead to a greater chance of long-term recovery for individuals and help you stay sober.
Journaling for Mental Health. The University of Rochester Medical Center. Accessed 14 October 2016. https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=1&ContentID=4552
Polcin, Douglas. What Did We Learn from Our Study on Sober Living Houses and Where Do We Go from Here? PubMed. December 2010. Accessed 14 October 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057870/
Written by: Beth Leipholtz