You’re just out of a treatment center for substance use disorder. Now what? Rehab is often referred to as a “bubble” for a reason; it’s a protected space where you’re removed from the stressors of everyday life so you can detox and abstain from substance use behaviors. You feel safe, but the reality is, you’ll need to return to your old life, where you’ll face a number of issues head-on. It’s entirely possible to build a strategy to cope with these life stressors to maintain your newly discovered sobriety.
So you leave your treatment bubble, the place where you’re told when to get up, eat, go to a meeting, attend therapy, exercise, and go to bed. And now, you have to re-enter the world and fend for yourself — a daunting process for sure. Many rehab centers will prepare you as best they can for life outside of treatment, and that helps take the edge off of the experience, but it doesn’t mean it won’t be stressful. After all, lifestyle stressors often lead to substance use disorders in the first place.
The thing is, addiction isn’t something that can be cured. It requires ongoing life maintenance. This could include regular support group meetings, therapy, doctors’ visits, and finding ways to cope with life, such as stress-relieving activities. Although these activities can be beneficial, there may be posttreatment problems that individuals may experience, even if they have an effective maintenance plan. The good news is, there are ways to solve them.
Dealing with Posttreatment Issues
Some of the most common posttreatment issues that some people face while in recovery include:
- Transferring your addiction. While your brain chemistry evens out, it’s common to seek substances that give you the same feeling that drugs and alcohol did: nicotine, sugar, processed foods, candy, cakes, energy drinks, etc. The best solution to this problem is to try and moderate these foods, or — if you can’t moderate — exclude them altogether. Eating foods like these can cause a sharp rise in blood sugar levels, followed by a drastic drop, making you feel like you’re on a rollercoaster. Try to eat a diet full of fruits and vegetables, and high in protein, and drink plenty of water. Your body and head will thank you for it.
- Changing your playground. Your drinking and using buddies may not adjust well to the sober you. If you want to keep these friends in your life, you may need to change where you meet and what you do. It’s no use meeting friends in a bar, because that may tempt you to relapse. Try going to places that aren’t triggering, like a coffee shop or somewhere for a walk. If your friends truly care for you, they’ll stick around and want to see you well. It may just take time. They may also find a support group useful.
- Maintaining relationships. If you’re in a romantic relationship, it may be worth investing in therapy to help you both come to terms with how to move forward, now that you’re sober. Like your friends, your partner may struggle to adjust to the new you. They can also attend support groups like SMART for family and friends. If you’re not in a romantic relationship, it may be worth trying to consolidate a period of recovery first, before entering into a new relationship. Recovery can be hard enough without adding the stress of a new relationship.
- Dealing with lifestyle stressors. If you return to a stressful job, one that you used substances to deal with, you may find that it feels just as bad — if not worse — when you return. Try to speak to your boss about the factors that led to you feeling stressed, and see if you can come up with a plan. Alternatively, you could try to look for a different job.
These are just a few of the most common posttreatment problems that some people in recovery encounter. What’s important is that you have a strategy to deal with life stressors and sufficient support. Feeling connected with other people in recovery — understanding people who you can reach out to — makes all the difference in your newly sober world.