One of the biggest concerns most addicts have as they approach the end of rehabilitation is how they’ll manage back on the outside. Somewhat acting as a protective fortress — especially for residential inpatients — the walls of a treatment center serve to make recovering addicts feel safe from their own urges and compulsions to use. Recovery is a lifelong process that requires ongoing support, so a strong aftercare plan is important post-treatment. With proper planning and support, those who leave treatment can embrace their new sober life with vigor.
Motivation is a great prediction of how well you’ll fare in the world of drinkers and drug users as an abstainer. This is why motivational interviewing works so well for recovering addicts. In one Journal of Addiction study, alcohol use disorder patients with hepatitis C were split into two groups, only one of which received motivational enhancement therapy (MET). The MET group fared better overall by more than doubling their rate of abstinence, jumping from 34.98 percent days to 73.15 percent, with the control group only increasing from 34.63 to 59.49 percent.
In rehab, you’ve set some realistic goals for yourself, and you now must have the courage to work toward them. Everyone will have setbacks. It’s important to look at your failures as learning opportunities and not flaws in your character. More importantly, recovering addicts are notorious for looking for reasons to drink and use, and failures and disappointments are common reasons.
Avoid your old haunts. No more stopping at the corner bar after work or Sunday beer fests while you watch the game. You’re likely going to lose some friends, too. Addiction is a powerful thing, and it bonds many. During your time in treatment, it’s quite possible you found yourself thinking of your drinking buddies and identifying many of them as problem drinkers and alcoholics. Likewise, anyone you abused drugs within the past potentially has a substance abuse issue of their own. This isn’t a time to approach those friends with your concerns. This is a time to take care of yourself, and that may very well mean cutting ties with some people.
Unfortunately, the addict is generally a self-serving person, and while your friends at the bar may love you dearly, they don’t have your best interests at heart. As the saying goes, misery loves company, and truthfully, there are no truly happy alcoholics or drug addicts.
Make a commitment to yourself to commit to others. Keep attending support groups and therapy at the treatment facility where you completed rehab. If you haven’t found a local Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous chapter, ask for a referral from an admissions counselor, therapist, or doctor. Go to meetings as often as you feel they are needed. If you’re religious, commit to attending services regularly. Determine which of your friends you can trust not to tempt you to break your commitment to sobriety and lean on them for support.
Work with a sponsor and spend time strengthening the bonds you have with family members, too. A strong support system will always boost your chances of long-term sobriety, but those without relatives to hold their hands have other options. WebMD notes the recent development of mobile phone apps geared to do the same thing – serve as a support system for the addict, with users being 65 percent more likely to remain sober in the first year post-treatment.
Believe it or not, a lot of people find themselves wanting to celebrate hitting the one-year mark with a cocktail or two. Remember that you’re not cured. A year is a long time and it’s a wonderful achievement you can be proud of, but there is no cure for addiction. You can still tailspin right back to where you used to be easily, and it all starts with your first sip or hit after a prolonged period of sobriety.
When it comes to health issues, you may have found some have been rectified in the absence of alcohol and drug use. Conditions like cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis aren’t going to disappear completely, but they serve as reminders for many of the reasons to continue to abstain.
You may have suffered from depression during this first year, but the clouds should start to lift by this point. If they haven’t, it would be wise to seek the help of a mental health professional for further treatment. By now, you likely have a good handle on coping with and treating your mental health problems, should you have any. You aren’t alone; in fact, 37 percent of alcoholics have at least one serious mental health disorder, and 53 percent of drug addicts suffer from at least one co-occurring condition, per the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
In fact, a Harvard study article noted that recovering alcoholics who remain sober for five years are not likely to return to drinking. Psychology Today reports that alcoholics who maintain sobriety for five years are at a less than 15 percent risk of relapse.
Start your journey to sober living today
The Recovery Village can be the first step on your journey to sober living. Here, you’ll meet people from all walks of life who are fighting the same battle you are. You’ll form friendships with your peers that can last a lifetime. The people sitting next to you during group therapy can serve as your support down the road when you’re going through a tough time and struggling with the urge to have a drink. Call us today and we can be there as well. We can be by your side for the next year, five years, 10 years, or more, offering you ongoing support and encouragement as you continue your sober life.