If you have just completed an inpatient program to conquer a substance use disorder...Congratulations! And now you're headed home, and you find yourself wondering, "Now what?" Completing rehab is a huge accomplishment, but the hard work has only begun. To keep your recovery process going, follow these tips:
1. Get Busy
It has often been said that idleness is the devil’s playground. One of the most important things a person in recovery can do for themselves is to keep busy. Get back to work as quickly as possible. Find somewhere to volunteer. Make certain each day is packed with as many activities as you can handle, particularly during the time of day when your substance use was the greatest.
2. Find Multiple Sources of Accountability
Accountability is a key to success with any major lifestyle change. Accountability can come in many different forms and from many different sources including family, sober friends, sponsors, and counselors.
A common mistake people new to recovery make is to rely on a single source of accountability. A probation officer, for example, may do a great job of random urinalysis when you first leave rehab, but what happens if one day it occurs to you that he is testing every Monday? When your cravings set in, will you start using every Monday night? Multiple sources of accountability help you to avoid pitfalls and ensure your success.
Meaningful relationships with healthy, sober supporters can help prevent relapse. The first connection to make is with a substance use counselor. If possible, have an appointment scheduled prior to leaving rehab. A peer coach is another connection that should be made early. Call supportive relatives you have not spoken with in a while. Email your old co-workers, as long as you know they are sober. Get to know your neighbors.
It may be wise to wait on starting romantic relationships as those relationships can be more complicated and full of potential pitfalls. However, other forms of social engagement with a network of sober, supportive people can build a sense of community, foster self-esteem, and help you to stay busy.
4. Manage Your Stress
Life is tough. If you are accustomed to handling life’s stressors with the assistance of a substance or unhealthy habit, your everyday stress triggers may become overwhelming when you are sober. In addition, when you are stressed, you probably won't be able to turn to the friends and family you did in the past if they are not living a sober lifestyle.
Many things change while you are in rehab. It is normal for there to be a lot of stress after leaving rehab as you get reintegrated into daily life. Meditation, exercise, talking with someone you trust, attending a meeting, and "journaling" are all common ways to manage stress. What coping skills did you use in rehab to combat stress? Try applying those on your own in your daily life.
5. Get Healthy
Emotional and physical illness can trigger relapse. Take better care of yourself now. Get a physical exam. Take your medications as prescribed. Eat right. Drink water. See a dentist. Take care of your mental health, too. See a mental health counselor in addition to a substance use counselor, if needed. Monitor your thoughts and be mindful of media influences. Entertain yourself with inspiring music, positive movies, and television programming.
6. Create a Relapse Prevention Plan
A relapse prevention plan is a written, comprehensive list of the things you need to do once out of rehab to decrease the likelihood of relapse. It will likely include a list of supporters, pre-scheduled appointments, people and places to avoid, coping skills, and the like. It is a standard part of discharging from rehab, but your outpatient substance abuse counselor can assist you in creating it.
Once you have it, share it with your supporters and anyone providing accountability for you. This is important because your true supporters will be careful not to invite you to a place that will trigger you or encourage you to spend time with someone you are trying to avoid.
7. Get to a Meeting
Many people have found support groups, and the 12-Step format in particular, to be a crucial part of the recovery process. It is often recommended that those leaving rehab attend a support meeting everyday for up to 90 days. Alcoholics Anonymous may be the most famous of these recovery support groups, but there are groups for almost every addiction imaginable.
In addition to traditional face-to-face groups, there are groups meeting by telephone, text chat, and video chat. Living a sober lifestyle can be hard, but it is definitely possible. Quickly embracing these steps is a great way to start.