For many former substance abusers who have achieved sobriety, the world feels a little bit lighter. Maintaining relationships is easier, keeping a job requires less effort, and home life is calm and comfortable. Unfortunately, even in the best of times, addiction is always lurking, threatening to interrupt personal, familial, and professional successes. The desire to use doesn’t go away easily, and going to treatment doesn’t mean the crisis of addiction is over for good.
Addiction is a disease without a cure, a lifelong struggle that doesn’t end with rehabilitation. While professional intervention is certainly a benefit in learning healthy habits and coping methods, it’s no surprise that relapse rates hover around 40% to 60% for recovering drug and alcohol abusers. For many in recovery, the risk of relapse is highly worrisome. One moment of weakness can be all it takes to unravel years of progress, putting everything you have accomplished in jeopardy. While there’s no true way to completely eliminate all risk of relapse, taking these steps can help you reduce temptation, today, tomorrow, and for years to come.
Create a Game Plan
Even if you’re comfortable now, the desire to use will return sooner or later and you may struggle to stay strong when that time comes. If you’d like to stack the deck in your favor, however, a game plan made early can assist you in seeking help before it’s too late.
Take time now to map out how you will act when the urge strikes. For example:
- Who will you call to help talk you off the edge? Many organizations, like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, utilize sponsors to help guide those in recovery. If you have one, your sponsor could be this point person. If not, you could choose a family member or close friend.
- Where will you go if the cravings become too strong? If you are alone or can’t tap into your network, you may need to remove yourself from a situation that is causing a desire to use. For some, this can mean going to a relative’s home to calm down, while others need to visit a rehab clinic or attend an outpatient meeting.
- What action will you take in the moment to distract your mind from the compelling power of drugs? Overcoming a strong craving can be handled in many ways, from long walks to a favorite movie. Prepare yourself with an activity or occupier you can use to distract yourself while waiting for feelings to pass.
When you have a plan in place, the pull to use becomes much easier to manage.
Continue With Aftercare
Rehabilitation isn’t a one and done kind of activity. When you’re recovering from an addiction, you’ll continue to do so for the remainder of your life.
Recovery is much easier when you’re consistently engaged, so the more active you are in the sober community, the less likely you are to let drugs take over once again. Instead of leaving rehabilitation and assuming your task is complete, make time for support group meetings, 12-Step groups, or even recreational activities with others in recovery. Many people also find volunteer work to be a healthy way to spend time, especially for those who required the help of others to get back on track while in the midst of addiction.
No matter how you choose to proceed, do your best to make time to dedicate to recovery. When you are engaged in furthering your goals, you are far more likely to see long-term success.
Your body’s health is a big part of leading a long and happy life. In fact, many studies have identified links between overall health and quality of life, demonstrating the importance of always making positive life choices.
Drugs and alcohol can take a nasty toll on the body, from damaging skin and teeth to causing serious organ failure. The longer use perpetuates, the more likely it is that you cannot fully return to your old self. However, this is no reason to put healthy habits aside. One study indicated that even those with health challenges were happier overall when symptoms subsided and making responsible health decisions can do a great deal in minimizing pain and discomfort. Furthermore, the happier you are, the less likely it is that you will feel the need to return to drugs to cope with life.
In recovery, do your best to eat a healthy diet, get frequent exercise, and see medical professionals regularly for both preventative care as well as to address any more urgent complaints. When your body feels better, you feel better, decreasing your overall chances of relapse.
Build a Support System
In recovery, few things are quite as important as the loved ones you have by your side. These are the people you will turn to when times get tough, who will help you find your inner strength when you need it most, and who will help you get back on your feet again. Without a strong network, you’ll find it much harder to move forward.
If you find yourself struggling after rehab, you’re not alone. It’s normal for relationships to deteriorate when your drug use interferes with the lives of others, but that doesn’t mean these ties are lost for good. When you are ready, begin making amends to the people in your life who may have been harmed by addiction. Over time, you can rebuild trust and strengthen bonds once again, helping you to find a connection to your pre-addiction days.
Your support system can include as many people from as many different places in life as you would like. This can mean longtime friends, family members, and even friends from rehabilitation, 12-Step groups, or sober activities you have started since returning from rehab. Remember, the more allies you have on your side, the more likely you are to win the war.
Change Social Habits
When in the midst of addiction, it’s not uncommon for most things in life to revolve around drugs. The people you spend time with, the places you go, and the things you do are usually centered on obtaining, using, or recovering from illicit substances. After rehabilitation, it’s natural to want to fall back into old habits, even if you plan to commit to sobriety. You may have missed your friends and fellow users while in treatment, or you might be nostalgic for the fun times you used to have.
Once sober, however, it’s important to avoid the people and things that were once connected to drug use as the temptations are often too intense to bear. This means saying goodbye to friends that you used drugs with, skipping drug-heavy events, or avoiding places that have ties to drug culture, as hard it as it may be. As a newly sober individual, drugs have no place in your life, and that means actively avoiding the kinds of individuals and situations that can trigger a relapse.
Strive for Growth
No one is perfect, especially in recovery. It is okay to stumble or even fall, as long as you are willing to get back up and keep fighting. Throughout your sobriety, do not push yourself to achieve perfection and let failures drag you back into your addiction. Instead, focus on the positives in your life, and strive for growth each and every day, even if the going gets tough sometimes.
If you or someone you love is facing drug addiction, professional help can make all the difference. Please contact Outpatient Services today at (844) 211-7944 to see what we can do for you.