When you graduate from a substance abuse program, that’s a HUGE accomplishment. No one can ever take that away from you. But spending 30 days (or four months) in rehab and expecting all of those triggers to be gone isn’t realistic. To maintain sobriety after rehab and live your best sober life, you need a plan and tools that help you reach your recovery goals.
Sustainable recovery is possible. Here are seven tips to help you accomplish that.
1. Keep Working the Process
“It works when you work it,” as they say in Alcoholics Anonymous. Completing the 12 steps of a 12-step program can take years of dedication and hard work. And no one can do it for you. Rehab gives you a safe place to start this important work.
To maintain sobriety after rehab, stick with your commitment to finishing what you’ve started. You have so much to see, and do, and achieve! With each step, you’ll develop, grow, and learn more about who you are and what you want to make out of your life. For example, in Step 10, you continually take inventory of your life, own up to mistakes, make amends, and correct course.
2. Stick With the Addiction Treatment Plan
Drug addiction treatment is a “step-down” program for a reason. As you progress, you get stronger, healthier, and more capable of managing triggers and life.
You need less supervision and full-time support with each stage of the plan. That means more time to apply what you’ve learned in real-life situations. Going from the 24/7 compassionate care of a residential treatment program in Orange County to almost no support would be a jolt to the system.
The addiction treatment plan that you developed with your doctor helps you take baby steps and grow as a person to experience sustained recovery.
This plan may include:
- Levels of care (Residential rehab, Intensive Outpatient, Outpatient, Aftercare)
- Ongoing mental health treatment, which is critical to maintaining your brain health
- Working through all 12 Steps
- Regularly attending a 12-step or addiction support group
3. Listen to Your Emotions
In rehab, you always have someone to talk to about tough emotions. And you learn skills to listen to emotions and manage them in real-time. But once you’re back on in the real world, it’s important to continue to identify what certain emotions are trying to tell you.
Are they signaling that you’re not establishing clear boundaries with a loved one? It may be time to have a heart-to-heart with that person. Are they warning you that you’re slipping into old patterns? Be mindful and process emotions to keep meeting your life goals and living your best sober life.
And don’t forget to focus on the good stuff in life. When you recognize all you have to be grateful for, you’ll begin to see a lot more joy in your life.
4. Build a New Social Life
As you embarked on this journey of self-discovery and a life in recovery, you’ve undoubtedly had to get rid of toxic people and places that trigger you. But that doesn’t mean giving up having a social life. On the contrary, sober life opens up boundless opportunities to meet and spend time with people committed to a healthier lifestyle and spending their weekends doing something other than using drugs.
You can meet new people and socialize by getting involved with:
- Team sports
- Adventure groups
- Dance, acting, music, or art classes
- Conventions and seminars on topics of interest
- Video games (But always in moderation — skip this one if you have a video game or similar technology addiction)
- Boardgame clubs
- Religious group if you identify with a certain idealogy
You can often find groups that share interests on Meetup or Google it. Start meeting people and building new relationships. This should also involve staying involved with a support group, so you always have people around you with whom you can speak candidly about your struggles and your successes.
5. Volunteer for a Good Cause
Giving back to the community is a great way to avoid too much idle time. And it helps you stay connected to people and build new friendships. Choose a cause that matters to you, whether it has to do with homelessness, animals, the environment, or reading.
6. Recognize Relapse Warning Signs
When you’re committed to maintaining sobriety, it’s important never to let your guard down. It’s so easy to dismiss warnings or think you’ve come far enough that they no longer affect you.
Be on the lookout for:
- Self-sabotaging behaviors
- A return to old patterns you worked on in rehab
- Compulsions to visit places that were once triggering. You have nothing to prove to yourself by going there. Just stay away!
- Burying emotions rather than managing them
- Stopping mental health medication unless advised by your doctor
- Wallowing in misery around a recent loss. Find someone to talk to now!
7. Practice an Overall Healthy Lifestyle
In rehab, you learn the importance of whole body, mind, and spirit health. It’s all connected. So keep on striving to:
- Eat healthy foods and avoid ones that make the body and mind sick
- Exercise regularly
- Get good sleep
- Practice relaxation techniques
- Keep doing meditation and yoga
- Keep your mind engaged with constructive activities