You have a problem. You know you do, but you hide it. You start burning money, selling items and keeping secrets in order to keep the problem going because you feel like you’re in too deep to stop. Then, inevitably, your family and friends confront you on it and call you out. You admit you have a problem and you go into rehab for help.
This is the story that every addict knows all too well. It’s the one that they start off with when they enter their rehabilitation program and share among one another.
As they move through the process of healing, and start to reclaim their lives from the addictions that took it away, another fear begins to crawl up their spine that says, “What do I do after this?” There are a variety of elements that you should keep in mind when you are in recovery.
One of the major factors that can trigger a relapse is the people you have in your life. There’s a saying that goes: The people that surround you are a reflection of yourself. When you leave treatment, you are no longer the person you once were, but are instead a brand new version of yourself. If you go back and hang out with the friends or family members that got you into trouble in the first place, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Your environment is another factor. Multiple studies, and years of treating patients, have shown that your living space is another contributing factor for relapse. Most former addicts lived in an area that had easy access to their substance of choice. It is highly recommended that you move into a sober living house or transitional living home for a short period of time. These places will not only help you adjust to life outside rehab, but they will give you a support group of like minded individuals who are trying to stay the same course.
Another factor that puts you at a higher risk for relapse is the lack of a support structure. When you’re in treatment, you are held to a tight schedule, and not many people can deal with life after rehab because their lives lack direction and accountability.
There are two ways of going about making your own support structure. The first is getting a counselor that you meet with on a regular basis, the frequency of which is entirely dependent upon your needs. The second path is looking for a support group. This is the more casual route to take since you can have a support group be a group of well grounded friends or a spiritual center like a church, temple or mosque. In fact, many spiritual centers have support groups designed specifically for people like you who are looking for accountability. There are also long standing support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous who have a great track record and a great mentoring program.
Being involved with a sponsor or mentor in your first year of sobriety is crucial. Having a support group around you to keep you accountable is one of the most powerful tools for you to use in recovery. Knowing that you have a team that is rooting for you can help in keeping your cravings in check and keep your mind focused.
Your mind is a powerful tool in the battle with addiction, but it is an instrument that needs to be maintained. Returning to work can cause a great deal of stress and anxiety over time, and your mind will wear down to the point when it cannot hold back your former cravings anymore. In order to keep yourself sharp, you should participate in some mental exercises. This can include mediation and physical exercise, and while that may seem like an odd pairing, both have been known to release dopamine and serotonin into the brain that allow your mind to relax. These chemicals come naturally, and when combined with the rush of endorphins, can create a potent package that will help heal the damaged portions of your brain. The more you do these two things, the better off you are going to be over time.
Keeping yourself busy in work that not only fills the time but the soul is very important while you are in recovery. Volunteering your time can be one of the most rewarding experiences because you are actively helping to improve the lives of others. Going to your former clinics and support groups can help you not only deal with your daily struggles, but help others see what recovery can look like and know that they are not alone. If you want an extra incentive to stay the course, choose to work at a low bottom or indigent recovery center. These places will show you the worst of the worst and remind you about how far you’ve come in your journey. Also, check out conventions and events for AA, NA and NAMI to further educate yourself and reach out to other former addicts like yourself.
Knowing who you are is the best way to combat addiction. To know how you are doing, whether you are happy or sad means you can tell when you are having trouble keeping yourself on the straight and narrow. Relapse occurs when you allow certain behaviors to slide. You’ll fall into habits you shouldn’t do anymore and you will soon be hitting the bottle or your drug of choice again. Keeping yourself in check and knowing when you’re slipping is important because you can get help before a relapse occurs.
Being active in your recovery is vital. Thinking that you are able to maintain a sober lifestyle without any work being put into it can end in relapse. You must be diligent about your new lease on life and protect it from the demons you know all too well. If you are able to work on this, and keep doing it, you’ll find that you’ll be the experienced one at the group meetings with years of wisdom under your belt. The road to recovery never truly ends, and success is a war without end, but the little victories will add up and pay off every time.
Nick Mazmanian is a Content Writer for Sovereign Health Group. When he isn’t writing about addiction, mental health and dual diagnosis, he is writing fiction. To learn more about Sovereign’s addiction treatment program, read more of Nick’s work and to read patient reviews, visit www.sovehalth.com.