You’ve just done something very difficult. You’ve confronted your addiction and entered the long process of recovery. Now you’re returning to a life both familiar and strange as you practice new skills and new coping mechanisms. Sobriety offers a richer, fuller life, but it may not always feel that way at first. Here are seven essential aftercare tips from those who’ve successfully walked the path before.
One: Change It Up
You’ve made a huge change by taking back your life from the bondage of addiction. Maintaining that freedom becomes much more difficult if everything else in our life still looks and feels the same.
It’s tempting to return to the places and people who were part of our addiction. You may tell yourself you can handle it this time, but you know it’s a bad idea. If you want different outcomes, start with different input – even with the little things. Take a new route to work. Shop at a different grocery store. Anything that emphasizes that this is a newer, better you.
Two: Get Organized
Many newcomers find it helpful to follow a schedule. Whether on a smartphone or using an inexpensive pocket calendar, record your work schedule, meetings or appointments, and any activities you have coming up. As with any other new habit, it takes a few tries to become comfortable and consistent, but the reduction in stress can be considerable.
Maybe it’s time to reorganize that closet or clean out that garage. Don’t take on a task you can’t realistically finish, but sometimes there’s nothing quite so fulfilling as getting your surroundings in order and eliminating unnecessary clutter and chaos.
Three: Try New Things
It can take so much energy to avoid, to resist, or to “don’t.” Try pouring some of that energy into positives instead. Go new places – parks, museums, zoos, or out-of-the-way diners. Be open to making new friends and building new kinds of relationships. Join something at your local library, learn to cook, or check out local sports teams who could use a few more fans.
Don’t build your recovery entirely on the “don’t”; find some “do’s” and DO them.
Four: Take Care of Yourself
Taking care of yourself and looking out for your own health and happiness is a sign of maturity and personal responsibility, not an indication of selfishness or weakness. This is doubly true during your recovery.
If you choose to get serious about fitness, that’s awesome – exercise is good for the mind and the soul as much as it is the body. But even if you’re not going into full Olympics mode, do the simple things. Drink more water. Take more walks. Whatever you see promised on TV or in ads for miracle products, most long-term improvements in health and happiness are evolutionary, not revolutionary. You can buy that treadmill if you want, but in the meantime, pick up some mixed fruits or a small veggie tray instead of chips and cookies on your next grocery trip. That’s where the most lasting changes begin.
Five: Prepare and Practice
It’s not just birthdays and doctor’s appointments for which you should plan. Eventually, someone or something is going to start pushing you backward, triggering emotions or thought patterns which threaten your recovery and your hard-won sobriety. It may not be intentional, but before you know it, here come those urges. Here comes that thinking. You may even feel a rush of panic as familiar fears or desires threaten to grab the reins.
Talking yourself through how you might respond ahead of time can greatly reduce the stress of those moments and improve your ability to make good decisions even when under pressure. What will you say if asked out for that drink? How will you respond if that family member does what they probably will? Having a plan doesn’t make it easy, but it does make it easier. The more you practice something, even in your mind, the more ready you are when it counts.
Our lives only work in one direction – forward. While the past may still affect us today, we can’t reach back the other way and change the past. Such is our reality.
If there are things you need to make right, and it’s possible to do so, then take whatever steps you can. But there may be things you can’t undo, or can’t repair – at least not quickly. Start where you are now. That’s the part we can still shape. Look back long enough to learn from it, but no longer. Then, Forward!
Seven: Accept Support
Go to group meetings. Talk to your counselors or others who’ve been through similar circumstances. Lean on others when you need to lean. Turn to others when you need to turn.
That’s not failure. That’s recovery.
Help is Available – Reach Out Today
If you are looking to overcoming addiction or alcoholism and are interested in developing a plan to help you achieve long-term, sustained sobriety, contact us today. We will be happy to take your call and discuss your options for recovery, including possible enrollment in rehab or outpatient drug and alcohol treatment as well as for aftercare and relapse prevention.