Almost any recovering addict will tell you that the most difficult days are those early days, which is why many folks in recovery choose to get sober with the help of an inpatient treatment program. But what happens when you leave the safe confines of your recovery center and are faced with sobriety in the real world?
Leaving treatment can be very scary, and for good reason. In treatment, the temptation to drink or use is lessened by the fact that you no longer have easy access to drugs, alcohol, your old stomping grounds, and various other “triggers.” You’re also constantly under the care of counselors and exposed to a program that’s geared toward keeping you sober. While inpatient treatment programs are wonderful, they’re simply not sustainable over the long term, nor should they be. The primary objective of any good treatment program is to prime the recovering addict for life in the real world, sans drugs and alcohol. While being free from our addictions is very rewarding, sobriety maintenance requires diligence. The good news about this? Well, the list of good things is endless–sobriety rules. But we’ll just start with a handful of sobriety’s biggest highlights:
- Hangover free mornings: Hooray!
- Improved memory retention: Jazz hands!
- Gone are the days of fearing those sobriety check points when you’re driving around late at night: “Hey, officer, check out my groovy 30-day sobriety chip keychain!”
- You will most likely grow mentally, spiritually, and emotionally: Namaste, brothers and sisters.
- Improved relationships: One love.
- Better work performance: Did somebody say job promotion?
We’re just throwing out some examples. Everybody’s journey into sobriety is different, and it doesn’t always include cash, prizes, and promotions (and it’s not ALWAYS easy, either), but in general, your life will likely improve in some pretty profound ways. So, just how do you maintain that sobriety of yours that you’ve worked so hard to achieve in treatment?
Surround yourself with a Supportive Network of Family and Friends
When you leave treatment, your first several days are likely going to be very scary, or at least a little weird. Make sure that wherever your first stop is post-rehab, that you’re surrounded by people who understand how vulnerable you are, and who are supportive of your recovery journey. If you have a large group of drinking and using buddies, you may want to take some time to evaluate those friendships. Do these friendships have any depth beyond the bar, club, or your Aunt Ingrid’s basement where you used to get high? If the answer is yes, talk to those friends. Explain to them that you’re newly sober and that you’re not going to be engaging in any old behaviors. If they’re supportive and understanding, they should respect the fact that they should no longer be drinking and using around you. Suggest fun, wholesome activities like hiking, rock climbing, bowling, and going to the movies (we promise this stuff gets fun once the desire to drink and use is lifted.). If they don’t understand and are not ready to give up drinking and using while you guys are hanging out, then it might be a good idea to let the friendship go. At the end of the day, only you know what’s right, but do listen to your intuition, and remember that maintaining your sobriety is your number one goal. Any friend worth keeping in your life should understand and will want to support your journey.
You’ve likely heard us singing the praises of the twelve steps, and while we’re not formally affiliated with any twelve-step programs, we’re hyper aware of the benefits. The twelve steps have been around since the 1930s when the book of Alcoholics Anonymous [https://www.aa.org/] was first published. They’ve since been adapted to work for a wide variety of other addictions, and the success rate of twelve-step programs is relatively high compared to that of other sobriety maintenance programs. We find that a with a combination of regular meeting attendance, being of service in program, working with a sponsor, and actively working the steps, most people are able to keep up with their sobriety. It’s a one-day-at-a-time endeavor, and relapse can and does happen, but one of the coolest things about twelve-step programs is that you will always be welcomed back with open arms. Oh yeah, and it’s free.
Meditation is a big part of many sobriety maintenance programs, and for good reason. It works to help quiet our overactive, self-sabotaging brains which have historically been responsible for our drinking and using. Meditation allows us to get in touch with our emotions and our drinking and using triggers, giving us the opportunity to pause, recognize these triggers, and redirect our thoughts in a more positive way. Observing the thoughts that caused us to drink and use in the first place can help us find success in sobriety. Not only can they help us to gain a better understanding of the root cause of our addiction, but by understanding ourselves better, we’re able to connect with other addicts on a deeper level. This can be a profoundly healing experience.
Eat a Balanced Diet and Stay Active
Proper nutrition and regular exercise are two other keys to keeping our bodies (and our minds) in a positive state (and helping us to stay sober). Both are responsible for increased levels of dopamine – another subject that we’ve discussed at length. Dopamine is a chemical in the brain that, in layman’s terms, is responsible for making us happy. Healthy, monounsaturated fats, fruits and veggies, dark chocolate, nuts such as almonds and walnuts, among other things, all have a positive effect on our dopamine levels. Regular exercise like jogging, swimming, yoga, Pilates, and other sports can also positively affect our dopamine levels. By incorporating healthy eating habits and exercise into our daily routines, we’re increasing the same chemical (dopamine) naturally that drugs and alcohol act on. The best part? We’re not harming our bodies. Oh yeah, and we get to have hangover free mornings (our fave)!
So, there you have it – some tips for maintaining your recovery once you’ve left your inpatient treatment program. Of course, there are so many more habits that you can pick up in order to keep on the straight and narrow. Check out this recent post on the Kembali blog, Getting Through the Early Days: Tips for Maintaining your Recovery in Early Sobriety, which goes into a little more detail on some of the above, along with a handful of extra tips.
Serenity Awaits at Kembali Recovery Center:
Do you, or does someone that you love, struggle with addiction? Kembali Recovery Center is Asia’s Premier drug and alcohol treatment center, and we’re here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our 28-day treatment program.