So you’ve made it through treatment…congratulations. And that’s meant in a very sincere way. You need to look at your achievements and recognize what you’ve done for yourself. And you’re the one that did it… sure, you had a lot of help – and will continue to – but you are the one who did the work, and it’s no small feat. Don’t rest on your laurels, but do take a moment give yourself a pat on the back; you certainly deserve it.
While you’re doing that, remember where you were at when you entered treatment. If there is one strength that you’ve probably had to learn in treatment its patience. The rabbit indeed doesn’t always win the race, and this is a good thing to keep in mind. It took you a while to detox, and then to get in the swing of the treatment program… getting to know your therapist and/or counselor…the peer group that you were in group sessions with, etc. All of this took time, and the more time you spent developing these areas, the more you got out of it. And the same now holds true of the next phase of your life…
Everyone’s situation is different; be it economic circumstances, relationships that need to be rebuilt or re-defined, living situations, and on and on. Utilizing the patience you’re developed in treatment is key right now. Try not to jump back into your old life, because chances are the quicker you do, the greater chance for old behaviors and patterns to re-emerge, and that’s exactly what you don’t need right now.
Relapse is a familiar element of the continuing recovery progression. Just like asthma, high blood pressure or any number of ailments, addiction is a chronic disease. Managing it after you’re out of rehab involves lifestyle changes, regular doctor visits and, from time to time, adjusts in your treatment plan. A relapse could be a sign that it’s time for a new approach. Although relapse is certainly not expected or desired, it is a natural part if recovery, which doesn’t end when you leave the treatment facility. Recovery involves a lifetime plan, due to the fact it’s not a disease you can’t ‘cure’. It’s merely part of an ongoing process of living in a healthier fashion. Here are just a couple of steps you can take in order to build a stronger foundation:
Find sober friends that aren’t involved in using drugs. Not only people in recovery – although this is extremely helpful – but perhaps a group of ‘normies’ who’s lifestyle isn’t centered around drugs. These people can be an excellent balance to those relationships you’ve developed in both your treatment facility as well as 12-step meeting fellowships. Blending a new group of friends is akin to a recipe, and your friends needn’t all be from a recovery community.
Being aware of your work environment and the potential for triggers to relapse. Classic example would be an alcoholic who had a career as a professional bartender. On the surface at least, this is not a good idea for a stable ‘get-well’ job. Explore some new avenues…remember, you’re on a new adventure, and taking advantage of new opportunities is going to revolutionize your life. You never really know what’s around the corner… be open, take some chances. You took a chance on becoming sober, and although it’s not all sunshine and happiness 24/7, it’s probably worked out better than you’d thought.
Keep up with therapy and/or group meetings (12-step, etc). Your recovery, again, is an ongoing process, so continued work in terms of not only what’s going on in your life, but uncovering underlying issues that need to be explored and resolved is critical in your continued sobriety. The action of this work in and of itself is going to keep you occupied and engaged in your continued healing.
Helping others. It’s quite true; you can only keep what you have by giving it away. The more you help someone in recovery makes it less likely for you to relapse. In the end, successful sobriety is all about making the right choices; and that takes us back to the beginning of this article in terms of being careful and deliberate. Take the time to make informed, solid decisions that aren’t based on emotional reaction, but on unfettered logic and an underlying sense of doing the next right thing.