Completing an alcohol or drug treatment program is a huge accomplishment – one that very few individuals battling severe substance dependency are even able to do simply because the desire to use is so great. However, while graduating from a rehabilitation program is undoubtedly a great accomplishment, it is by no means the end of the journey into recovery. Rather, it is merely the beginning
In order to maintain sobriety for years to come, it is crucial that a newly sober individual implement a comprehensive and highly personalized aftercare plan. In most cases, each client will sit down with their addiction counselor before graduating from the program and formulate an inclusive list of future recovery goals and attainable objectives. In addition, the client must recognize the great benefit to adding regular self-help groups and fellowship into their day and week. For many, this is where they build up the social networks that keep them sober and balanced for good.
Listed below are several components crucial to sustained momentum in sobriety, and essential elements that will lead you closer towards maintained sobriety and farther from potential relapse.
Create A Solid Circle Of Sober Supports
Surround yourself with healthy and happy individuals who are content in their sobriety and who are emotionally available. You’ll find them at self-help group meetings mostly. It’s important to “stick with the winners” as they say, as they’ll be the best source of advice, information and support. We mimic the behavior of those we look up to, so make sure you surround yourself with the types of people you want to be like; mainly those with long-term sobriety, success and serenity.
Join A Fellowship Group
Time and time again, we’ve heard a common thread in the story of those who have reached long-term sobriety. Many share that they visited different groups until they found one that made them feel at home. After joining, they kept coming back to the group, picking up commitments and making lifelong friends. The purpose of joining a home group is to feel like a member somewhere, surrounded by people you get to know and trust. Meetings are meant to be “safe zones” where you can feel comfortable and confident in sharing your story and your struggles, which helps you move past the trauma of addiction. By committing to the weekly meeting, you also develop accountability. It feels amazing to hear people greet you by name, invite you to coffee or ask you to participate within the group. It’s usually after joining a group and staying loyal to that commitment that the individual begins to really understand the steps, and grow in their comfortability in sobriety.
Work A “Safe” Job
While attending rehab may be a reprieve from your chaotic lifestyle, leaving rehab also means, for most, getting a job and recommitting to life’s responsibilities. But for many, it is their old lifestyle, job or commitments that may have fueled their addiction. Also, adding too much responsibility too early can really throw the recovery process off balance, thus precipitating a relapse. Maintaining sobriety must become your number 1 priority, followed by your other responsibilities. It is highly recommended that you think carefully about your commitments and discover ways to achieve them with the least amount of stress possible. If you have a longstanding career, you may consider consulting to start with or taking a lesser role than you previously had. Although it can feel demeaning, many financially successful and sober professionals will tell you that taking baby steps in the beginning made a world of difference in the long run as they far outpaced their expectations by keeping things more manageable to start. Others may consider taking a well-paying cash job, like bartending. However, like the career professional, managing risk and triggers is key in this phase of decision making. Bartending is full of threatening circumstances, so one might rather consider serving instead to start.
Say “Yes” To New Experiences
Newly sober, many people are quite startled with how much time they now have to live their life without the interruption of using. This is also a catch-22 as idle hands may lead to triggering thinking and even a relapse. Use this gained time to your advantage. Try out new hobbies or activities. Say “yes” when a friend or someone from your fellowship group invites you to a meal. You will start to notice that you have lots of time to do the things you may never had time for before, while expanding the things you like to do and your social circle. Many of us defer to saying “no” to invitations simply because we “don’t feel like it”, but one of the most amazing parts of being sober is stumbling upon new, wonderful experiences. This happens without warning and is always a treat. It can only happen though when we say “yes” to things like attending a meeting, grabbing a meal with friends and trying out new activities.
Continue With Ongoing Therapy
Just because inpatient treatment is over, it does not mean your therapeutic process has come to an end. In fact, you are most likely just beginning to scratch the surface. If you cannot continue with your therapist from treatment, find a new one and meet for weekly sessions. Therapy can help you not only to better navigate your sobriety, but will also help you to work on the things that caused you to use to begin with. Many agree that while the 12-steps and fellowship groups are the glue that holds us together in sobriety, it is 1-on-1 therapy that mends the brokenness that causes us to turn to substances. Even after achieving long-term sobriety, continued therapy sessions are immeasurably helpful for the psyche as life continues to “happen” whether we use or not. Having a trained therapist that works with you as you “deal with life on life’s terms” is one of the healthiest things you can do to remain committed to your sobriety while working through life’s ups and downs.
Work The 12-Steps With A Sponsor
If you take nothing else from this article, please consider this tip very seriously if you want to garner any length of sobriety. Work through each of the 12-steps with a sponsor that you trust and look up to. As you complete them, ensure you have done each step thoroughly. You will intuitively know whether you have or have not. If you’re going through the steps and nothing is “clicking”, then you may need to work with a new sponsor. But know that until you’ve completed the 12-steps in their entirety, you are considered highly vulnerable to relapse. Just as you will know if the steps are not working, you will also know when they are. Be thoughtful about picking a sponsor and work with them on a weekly basis, checking in daily with a phone call. This is one of the best global suggestions we have for anyone trying to maintain sobriety after rehab.
No Matter What, Don’t Pick Up
The unfortunate reality is that a high percentage of people who graduate from a rehab program will relapse. This is not because the program doesn’t work, it all really has to do with where the individual is at. Some haven’t reached “rock bottom”. Others are still being enabled by friends and even family. Some have a mental obsession so severe that they can’t employ the tools of relapse prevention to stop them from using. This is why aftercare planning is so critical to client success. Consider living in a transitional community where accountability and sobriety is key to your success there. Make a mental note to pick up the phone and call a supportive friend when you want to go for a drink or score your drug of choice. Many of us find out that at some point our drug and/or alcohol use becomes uncontrollable once we pick up. For many of us, this is the important realization that our drug of choice is “more powerful than ourselves”. Once this “powerlessness” is fully comprehended, it actually becomes easier to avoid picking up, knowing that we will lose all self-control.
If you have questions about the rehab process, or about the importance of aftercare planning, please call us anytime to discuss your needs. We’re available 24/7 to take your call at 844-766-1458 and would be happy to discuss some of our success stories with you.