Deciding to enter treatment for a substance use disorder is a huge, life-changing step. Making the decision to break free from addiction is not an easy one, as it entails a commitment to living a life in sobriety. Feelings of ambiguity always surround this monumental step, but with a solid rehab program and support network a life in recovery is achievable.
Entering a residential addiction treatment program offers a respite from the triggering places, people, or situations that have previously fueled the addictive behaviors. Rehab is a structured, supportive living environment where sobriety is protected. The outside stressors are not present, offering an opportunity to focus entirely on overcoming the addiction and becoming healthy.
Even an outpatient rehab program offers protection from relapse to a great extent, simply through accountability measures that are an aspect of an intensive outpatient program. Some individuals who are in outpatient rehab add an extra layer of support by living in sober housing for the duration of the outpatient program. So, whether someone chooses residential or outpatient treatment, there are built-in protection that can assist with staying sober.
What many are not prepared for is the difficulty of staying sober once treatment has been completed. Transitioning from rehab back to regular life can present daunting challenges, often unforeseen no matter how carefully a relapse prevention plan was crafted. Life is messy and full of surprises, so having aftercare resources available can be an essential source of support for navigating the potholes as they are encountered.
Being Prepared for Life in Recovery
In most cases, someone coming out of addiction treatment will be very pumped, grateful that they were able to survive detox and acquire some important recovery skills. They feel better, look better, sleep better, and generally feel much more optimistic about life. But without the right mindset when entering recovery after rehab these enjoyed benefits may not endure. Being mentally prepared for a new life in recovery can make all the difference.
While relapse prevention plans can be a helpful tool to access when encountering situations or cravings that threaten sobriety, attitude is another powerful tool in early recovery. Approaching newfound sobriety with an attitude of gratitude, being grateful for health and life itself, offers the foundation upon which to erect a new sober lifestyle. As opposed to feeling resentful or angry about having to avoid substances, seeing sobriety as a lifesaving gift can enthusiastically catapult the individual into recovery. Instead of dreading it, embrace it.
Relapse Prevention Planning
That being said, there are also the nuts and bolts involved in relapse prevention strategizing that are imperative for a successful recovery outcome. This is because when in early recovery there is a wily foe nipping at the heels, driven by the altered brain pathways that have resulted in deeply etched addictive behaviors. Outpacing that foe is essential in recovery, so having an actionable plan for avoiding relapse is of utmost importance.
During treatment individuals are guided in creating their own customized relapse prevention plan. This involves scouring the memory to identify all the things or situations that have acted as personal triggers to use or drink in the past. Once these are listed, the planning begins. What steps will one take when confronting this or that triggering situation? Who will you reach out to? How can you divert the relapse? All of the answers to these questions should be included in the relapse prevention plan before exiting rehab.
8 Tips that Help You Stay Sober
Being proactive is essential in early recovery. Constant vigilance—guarding sobriety like a precious gift—is required during the early months. In this way, staying sober is entirely possible. There are a variety of actions that can assist in sustaining sobriety, including:
- Support network. Everyone has their own definition of a support network in recovery. These are the individuals or organizations that you can access when feeling a bit wobbly and in need of active support. One’s sober network might include a best friend, a spouse, an A.A. sponsor, a pastor or priest, a psychotherapist, or an online SMART Recovery forum. It may even include all of these.
- Avoiding risks. Being cognizant of the risks to sobriety is only half the battle. It is necessary to also actively avoid any situations, places, or people who may introduce a triggering event. It helps to cull people from daily life who are associated with prior substance use, or those who are co-dependent. Also, be aware of HALT factors (hungry, angry, lonely, and tired) to avoid relapse risk.
- Engaging in a recovery community. There is intense value in belonging to a community of people who have a mutual understanding of the challenges associated with recovery. Finding a local recovery community that is a good fit is a protective factor against relapse. This might be Celebrate Recovery, SMART Recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous. Wherever it is that feels comfortable and welcoming, allowing for honest sharing and active participation.
- Set fitness goals. There is no denying the powerful benefits, both physically and psychologically, of getting regular exercise. Physical activity, when it is woven into one’s usual routine, can be a significant protective factor to help reduce the chance of a relapse. Not only will exercise improve mood, it also improves sleep quality and overall physical wellness.
- Improve sleep quality. Establish a healthy sleep routine by keeping a regular sleep schedule. This allows the body to adjust to a predictable sleep rhythm, which helps regulate the circadian cycle, and a healthy circadian cycle is positive for recovery Some ideas to enhance sleep quality include a warm bath, avoiding caffeine after 3 pm, avoiding heavy meals or exercise after 7pm, and shutting down electronic devices one hour before bedtime.
- Manage stress. While impossible to eliminate stress entirely, knowing techniques that can help you through stressful situations will help keep your mental health on an even keel, which can reduce relapse risk. These might include practicing mindfulness, deep breathing exercises, taking yoga classes, therapeutic massage, or keeping a journal.
- Cultivate sober friendships. It is not always easy to start over with a new social group in recovery. It takes time to find new friends and to establish connections with people who share the same commitment to sobriety. Seek out opportunities to meet new sober friends, such as events hosted by A.A., sober gyms, sober travel groups, and sober MeetUp groups.
- Be productive. Find renewed purpose in daily life. Set some new professional and personal goals and go after them, one little step at a time. Hard work and accomplishing goals is important in recovery, as it keeps individuals moving forward into their new sober life as well as improving self-esteem and confidence levels.
The Role of Outpatient Services in Recovery
While it is a big deal to enter into a detox and recovery program, that first step is only the beginning of the lifelong recovery journey. Aftercare efforts during the initial six-month following treatment can significantly increase the chances of a prolonged recovery. One of these actions includes continuing on with outpatient therapy, support groups, and life skills classes.
Beginning a new life in recovery is seriously like starting life all over from scratch. There will be some messes to clean up, health to restore, relationships to heal, and a whole new social group to embrace. Engaging in ongoing outpatient services helps by providing a solid source of social support and therapeutic support in those tenuous first months after rehab. These might include:
- Individual therapy
- Peer-based group therapy
- Family therapy
- Employment skill-building classes
How Sober Living Can Reduce Relapse Risk
Not everyone has a supportive family waiting for them back home after treatment. Even if they do, the family home may still present certain challenges to maintaining sobriety. Just being back in familiar surroundings where prior substance use was the norm could trigger a relapse. But for some who are new in recovery, the home environment may be simply unfavorable to recovery, period.
Sober living housing is an excellent protective measure that can provide a substance-free living space during the early months of addiction recovery. A sober living home can help by offering a chance to practice the new recovery skills learned in rehab, such as conflict resolution and more effective communication skills, while living with housemates. Those housemates also provide some newfound sober friendships, which can help stave off loneliness in early recovery. Participating in the chores and being accountable to a house manager and fellow housemates is also beneficial to someone learning how to think of someone outside of just themselves. Mostly, though, sober living provides a deterrent to relapse through the regular drug and alcohol testing.
What to Do If You Relapse
Nothing is as discouraging as a relapse back to alcohol or drugs after receiving treatment. However, as defeated as someone may feel in that moment, it helps to know that relapse within the first six months post-rehab is extremely common. Understanding that the brain has had control over behavior for however long the addiction lasted, of course it takes time to rehabilitate the brain itself. Cravings are an ongoing threat that can sometimes simply overpower the will.
While tempting to beat oneself up after a relapse, that is self-defeating. Instead, see yourself as human, understand that you are imperfect. But then dust yourself off and shift that narrative to the positive. See yourself as someone willing to battle back and conquer whatever threatens sobriety. Realize that recovery exists on an ongoing continuum for life, and that this was simply a hiccup on the journey.
However, if the relapse was protracted and serious then revisiting rehab is often the best action to take. This provides an opportunity to examine what emotions or triggers may have caused the relapse, or why a better effort to fight it off didn’t happen. Recommitting oneself to sobriety by a follow-up stint at rehab may be the best response to a relapse.
Is there Hope After Relapse?
How a relapse is managed makes all the difference in the eventual recovery outcome. Use the setback as a launchpad for making a renewed commitment to succeed in maintaining sobriety. Some constructive steps to take after a relapse might include:
- Reflect about what may have led to the relapse. Think about the people that are in one’s life and ask yourself if these people are all supportive of your recovery efforts.
- Start a recovery journal. Chronicling day-to-day experiences may shed some light on a pattern that may have led up to the relapse. It can also help to identify emotions that are connected to a desire to use the substance, and could get you back into therapy.
- Be honest with yourself about your recovery efforts. Have you become lax in recent weeks, maybe not attending recovery meetings as much or getting enough exercise? An honest inventory of recent recovery efforts can yield important insights.
- Are you sabotaging your recovery? Are you comparing yourself negatively to others or talking down to yourself? Are you putting yourself in high-risk scenarios that could tempt you to use the substance? Are you not engaging in self-care and stress regulation?
A relapse is not the end of your recovery, not if you don’t want it to be. Proactive efforts to stay sober are the first order of business following rehab, but if there is a slip it is not going to end your desire to live a sober life if it is managed properly.
Next Level Recovery Provides Addiction Recovery Services Near Salt Lake City
Next Level Recovery offers the full continuum of addiction recovery services, including medical detox, outpatient rehab, residential rehab, and sober living housing. Staying sober is the most challenging aspect of recovery, and at Next Level Recovery our caring team will equip you for a successful and sustained recovery. We value and respect each and every client and are dedicated to providing them with the tools that will help them achieve the fulfilling life they each deserve. For more information about the program, please contact us today at (888) 759-5846.