Addiction recovery is an intensive process. Depending on the personal circumstances, you may have had to undergo a full medical detox, or you may have relied on inpatient hospitalization to overcome the most intense stages of withdrawal. After that, you may have attended classes, therapy sessions, and follow-up appointments to stay clean.
In many cases, addiction treatments can get you through the worst stages of the process, relieving the symptoms of withdrawal while cleansing your body of the dependence that fueled your substance abuse. But unfortunately, even the best, most thorough treatments can’t keep you addiction-free forever – at least not by themselves.
If you want to stay sober for good, after your initial treatment, it’s on you to use the right strategies to preserve your sobriety.
How to Stay Sober After Treatment
These steps can help you stay sober after addiction treatment:
- Outline and avoid your personal triggers. First, it’s important to understand your personal triggers – the situations, feelings, and events that make you feel an urge to use your substance of choice. These tend to be different for everyone, with a handful of commonalities. Stress, anger, personal setbacks, and even specific people may trigger you to use again. But if you can proactively identify these triggers, and either avoid or learn to manage them, you’ll remain in firm control of your habits.
- Continue going to therapy. It’s a good idea to keep going to therapy, if you can, especially if you have comorbid mental illnesses that complicate your drug habit. Personal therapy sessions can be a great time to explore your thoughts and feelings, and get to the roots of your addiction, while group therapy sessions can be a way to meet new people and find others who can truly understand what you’re going through.
- Understand and manage PAWS. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) can last anywhere from 6 months to 2 years after you initially stop using. Depending on the length, severity, and type of addiction you’ve faced, PAWS can range from mild to intense – but it’s almost always unpleasant. PAWS can leave you feeling anxious, irritable, depressed, or unable to sleep. If you’re not prepared for this, it can catch you off guard, and compel you to use a substance to cope with the negative feelings. Instead, be proactive and make a plan for how to manage these symptoms.
- Stay away from old habits and routines. Relapse is common for people who re-enter the situation that spurred their addiction in the first place. If you go back to the same apartment, hang out with the same people, and hang out in the same places you did before, you’ll be much more likely to fall into the same old habits. Try to avoid these if you can and start fresh somewhere new.
- Put together a new schedule. Similarly, it’s a good idea to put a new schedule in place, complete with new habits and routines to integrate. Not only will this help you avoid old habits and behaviors, but it will also keep you regimented and focused on your current goals. This is especially effective if you have a steady job and plenty of activities to keep you busy.
- Repair your relationships. This may be difficult, depending on the nature of your addiction, but try to repair the relationships that were harmed during the course of your substance use. Doing so is an act of catharsis that can help you keep the past in the past and pave the way for a brighter future. Your friends and family members, once you reach out to them, will also be critical sources of support in your future recovery.
- Build new relationships. Old relationships are fantastic, but it’s also important to establish new ones. Consider reaching out to some of the people in your support group or finding people in new activities to connect with. They can help you construct a new life for yourself and have people on whom you can rely.
- Eat healthy and exercise. These are simple habits, but important ones; eat healthy food for every meal and physically exercise on a daily basis. If you do this, you’ll maintain a healthy weight, you’ll feel energized, you’ll be more confident, you’ll relieve stress, and you’ll be less anxious and depressed.
- Meditate and journal. Additionally, you should spend time meditating and journaling. These habits can help you identify and analyze your own thought patterns – and lead you to better mental health.
- Find new hobbies. Find new hobbies and activities to occupy your time. They can keep you active and distracted, while simultaneously introducing you to new people who can support you on your journey to permanent recovery.
- Recognize the warning signs of relapse. Next, recognize the warning signs of relapse – and respond to them before it’s too late. You might experience elevated levels of stress, a change in attitude, or a sense of loss of control. You might also experience intrusive thoughts about using your substance of choice. If you notice these signs, reach out to someone you trust for help and support – and try to muscle through this difficult period.
- Celebrate your achievements. Finally, take the time and make the effort to celebrate your achievements at different milestones. When you reach a month of sobriety, treat yourself to a fancy dinner or splurge on an indulgence. At 6 months, host a gathering of your closest friends. At 1 year, throw a party. These celebrations will keep you focused on the right track.
Going Back to Treatment
Relapse isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s not a personal failure. For some people, it’s just a small step back on the long journey to addiction recovery. If you relapse even after following some of the strategies listed above, it may be time for you to go back into addiction treatment. If you need some extra support on your journey to addiction recovery, contact Just Believe Recovery Center today!