In 2011, about 10 percent of American adults admitted that they were in recovery from a drug or alcohol abuse problem, according to the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids. Each and every person who moved from substance abuse to sobriety likely dealt with transition concerns. They probably wondered what they should do or say or think in order to ensure that the steps they made in recovery would really stick when they didn’t have the shelter of a rehab facility to rely upon.
So if you’re dealing with concerns about your own lasting health after rehab, you’re certainly not alone. In fact, there are probably dozens of people near you who can relate, and they might give you excellent advice and support as you walk this road yourself.
There are some tips from experts, too, and those might be helpful as well. These are just a few of the steps treatment professionals commonly suggest for clients who are moving out of a treatment facility and into the communities they lived in prior to addiction care.
Addictions can skew your point of view, leaving you feeling paranoid, isolated and misunderstood. Some of those feelings might persist when your addiction care is complete, and those lingering feelings might cause you to question your friends, family members, and coworkers. You might wonder if you can trust them, and you might wonder if you should conceal your thoughts about your recovery, because you’re worried about what they might say in response.
It’s important to remember that many people have new and innovative thoughts about addiction. For example, statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggest that about 75 percent of people think that addiction recovery is possible. People like this aren’t likely to blame you or criticize you for the steps you’re taking. In fact, they’re likely to be understanding and even helpful.
Finding those people you can trust might be as simple as being open about your struggles and listening for responses. You’ll quickly identify those who want to help and those who just don’t get it. And when you’ve found your supporters, you’ll have a team of people to lean on when times get tough. You’ll be able to talk with them, ask them for help, and draw upon their strength. That could be a key step that could help you to stay clean and sober.
If you simply can’t find anyone in real time that suits your needs, consider going online for help. According to an article in Social Work Today, there are dozens of organizations that run social media chat rooms in which addicted people come together to support one another and share recovery tips. If you can’t find anyone to talk to in your immediate circle of friends, and if your social support group (like AA) isn’t meeting your needs, an online group could be just what you’ve been looking for.
While it’s likely that your friends and family members will root for your recovery and do what they can to help, there are a few people who may not have your best interests at heart. These people might include:
Addiction can change brain circuitry, meaning that some things you see or experience can trigger chemical changes inside your brain cells, and that can result in a craving for the substances you once took. With counseling and coaching, you can certainly learn to overcome these triggers and the urge to relapse. But when your recovery is fragile, and you’re just learning how to live in the community in which you once used drugs, it’s best to avoid stressing your brain cells too much. And that means it’s probably best to avoid those people who can work as addiction triggers for you.
People with a vested interest in your continuing addiction might try to seek you out, and if they do, they might use high-pressure techniques that can lower your resistance. For example, as one marketing blog points out, people who sell drugs often give clients free samples. Those who get the samples feel obligated to do some sort of favor in exchange for the gift, so they often buy drugs. That allows the dealer to make money, and it keeps the addiction moving forward. It’s easy to see why dealers would continue to reach out like this, as it’s a step they can use to stay in business.
If known bad influences reach out, it’s best to be honest. A simple statement about your work in recovery, paired with a firm commitment to stay sober, might allow you to stave off future attempts at contact. And if you know where these people tend to spend time, you can make a plan to avoid those places and continue to keep the risk of an interaction low.
But sometimes, the people who worry you are inside your own home. For example, in a study about relapse rates among addicted people, published in the journal Clinical Psychology Review, researchers found that marital stress was a key prompt for a return to substance abuse among women. That link was due, in part, to the fact that the women in this study lived with men who abused substances. By living with people who continued to use, these women experienced a great deal of stress, and that stress prompted a relapse.
Finding a safe and secure place to live is a vital part of the recovery process, and that might mean you’ll need to make new living arrangements after rehab. Your old roomies might not have habits you’d like to replicate, and living with them could increase your stress. If that’s the case, your counselor or support group sponsor might be willing to help you find a new home, at least temporarily.
Since many of your old haunts might be off-limits as you return to your neighborhood, look for new spaces that fill you with a sense of joy. Consider spending time in:
Spots in which you can exercise your body, your brain, or both can help you to overcome a spark of a craving. And you’ll give your brain something new to think about. All of those new memories could come in handy when the next craving comes.
Work can also provide a good outlet for creative energy for some people. The Heritage Foundation suggests that about 6.9 million fewer people are looking for jobs in the United States now when compared to 2007. Some might not be looking for work because they believe there are no jobs available to them. You could be different, and that could help your recovery. A job gives you a place to go each day, and the money you earn could fill you with a sense of accomplishment and purpose. And work can also provide you with a new community of people that you automatically connect with. You can discuss your work, your clients, and your bosses. If all of your connections discuss sobriety only, this conversation shift could be a welcome change.
There might be jobs in the industry you’ve been trained to work in, or you might find that a completely different career path suits you a little better. Putting out applications, meeting people, and going to job fairs are all good ways to find work.
If you can’t find work or if the work opportunities you find leave you with a surplus of spare time, volunteering might be a good option. As the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration points out, one major factor that supports a life in recovery is a sense of purpose. People need to feel that their lives matter, and that they’re doing something good for someone or something else on a regular basis. A volunteering job could give you that feeling, and most organizations would be thrilled to get the help.
While finding safe spaces, understanding friends, and meaningful tasks is an excellent way to integrate into your community after treatment, you’ll also need to focus on the fundamentals of healing. Specifically, you’ll need to remember to work on the steps to recovery you outlined in your treatment program.
Medications might play a role, as the National Institute on Drug Abuse suggests that medications can amend altered brain chemistry and help to block a relapse, even when you’re facing serious triggers involving stress and people. When you’re living at home again, you’ll need to continue to take your medication as directed, unless your medical team works with you on a new treatment plan that doesn’t involve drugs.
Similarly, you’ll also need to attend your support group meetings and/or follow-up counseling sessions. You’ll likely have all sorts of lessons to share and questions to ask as you delve into a new and sober life, and keeping these appointments helps you to tap into a group of people who can help you to find the answers.
The first few months after recovery are exciting, and it’s likely that you’ll learn all sorts of things about your inner strength and resiliency. But if you’re struggling with your feelings from time to time, it’s perfectly acceptable to open up and let those feelings out. They are perfectly normal.
For example, a study in the journal Learning and Memory suggests that fear and addiction are controlled by the same part of the brain. It’s natural, studies like this suggest, for addictions to trigger shifts in emotion. The brain is working and healing, and that can have an impact on the way you’re feeling. Discussing things openly can help you to feel less isolated. And those discussions help to remind the people around you that your recovery is a vital part of your life, and that you value them enough to share that journey with them.
If you’d like to know more about the long-term healing process, please call the number at the top of this page. Our admissions coordinators are standing to answer any questions you might have and talk with you about how we can help you find lasting recovery.