The transition from drug or alcohol rehab back to everyday life can be challenging. Rehab programs offer a controlled environment, away from the triggers and stresses you experience in daily life. Re-encountering these triggers can be difficult, and you need to have the skills, strategies, and resources to overcome them and stay sober.
Here are five tips on avoiding high-risk situations, overcoming any challenges you face, and achieving long-term sobriety.
1. Attend Support Group Meetings
A recent scientific review of numerous studies found that attending support group meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous helps you stay sober in the months and years following an addiction treatment program. Support groups are a chance to learn from others’ recovery experiences and renew your commitment to your recovery goals. They are also a place where you can help other people in recovery, which can significantly reduce the likelihood of relapse.
Support group meetings are self-organized, free, and accessible. Alcoholics Anonymous, SMART Recovery, and many other meetings are also held online, so you can participate wherever you are in the world. Support groups are also a great place to make sober friends, so you spend your free time with others who share your recovery goals.
2. Practice Self-Care
Relapses often happen when you’re in a difficult emotional place, stressed, or struggling with mental health. Practicing good self-care can help maintain overall well-being and avoid falling into negative thought patterns that make you want to turn back to drugs or alcohol.
Self-care practices include:
- Eating a balanced and nutritious diet
- Maintaining regular sleeping patterns
- Yoga and meditation
- Establishing a structured daily routine
- Maintaining healthy relationships with loved ones
3. Spend Time With Sober Friends and Take Part in Sober Activities
At the beginning of your recovery journey, avoiding situations where you encounter drugs or alcohol is helpful. Instead, surround yourself with sober friends and engage in hobbies that don’t involve drinking or substance use.
If you have struggled with addiction for a while, you may find that most of your previous activities involved drink or drugs in some way. However, there are many fulfilling ways to have fun and keep your mind occupied while remaining sober. These might include:
- Joining a sports team
- Starting an online course
- Learn a new language
- Planting a garden
- Starting a new hobby or picking an old one back up
4. Avoid Triggers
Research shows that repeated substance use causes long-term changes in the brain that connect certain environmental cues with drugs or alcohol. When you encounter these places, people, feelings, or situations, your brain produces urges or cravings to use the substance associated with them. These urges can be very strong, especially in early recovery.
To make recovery easier, you can modify your environment to avoid some of these triggers. Make sure you don’t visit the pub where you used to drink or see a friend you used to take drugs with. It’s also helpful to ask a loved one to remove all objects you associate with drug use from your home before you return.
5. Prepare Yourself Before Attending a Party or Social Event
For many people, it is best to avoid social situations where there will be alcohol during the early stages of recovery. However, if you find yourself in a situation where encountering alcohol is inevitable – like a family wedding – you can take steps to prepare yourself.
To help avoid the temptation to drink, you can:
- Go to the event with a sober friend or companion to keep you on track
- Ask for non-alcoholic beverages to be provided for you or take your own
- Only attend the event for a short time
- Leave as soon as you begin to feel uncomfortable
Moving back into the world after treatment can be a daunting prospect – it can seem like you’re on your own again after the intense insulation residential treatment offers.
However, you don’t have to go it alone. You’ll have noticed that most of the above strategies involve other people – so, remember to remain connected. When you develop a strong circle of people you trust and can speak to honestly and openly, you’ll be bolstering your recovery more than you realize!