10 Things To Do After Rehab
What about recovery after rehab?
For many addicts, one of the first steps they take to become sober is checking into a treatment center or rehabilitation clinic. These types of facilities help you detox from the drug and lessen the side effects of withdrawal – which, depending on the severity of the addiction, can be fatal. Rehab and treatment centers are invaluable resources for recovering addicts. They can help you get clean, but also help many addicts who feel the itch to relapse weeks and months later.
However, when you leave rehab there’s almost a naked feeling. You’re leaving the comfort of a structured, regimented facility. Suddenly, you’re without the guidance of a physical therapist; you’re without the drugs to lessen the cravings of addiction; you’re without a clear routine. This is understandably overwhelming for some people and it’s undoubtedly why many end up relapsing – which is not to say rehab is ineffective, only that for some people it can be challenging to break an addiction in 30 days with a strict, regimented routine, and then expect those same people to develop a brand, new routine separate from rehab and their former life as a drug addict. Two significant transformations on opposite sides of the spectrum is a lot.
For those on the precipice of completing their rehab stay and those who are feeling the familiar pull of addiction calling to them, try these ten things to kickstart your life after rehab.
1. Find Friends
Easily your top priority: find friends. It should go without saying, but by “friends” this does not mean people who are in active addiction or people that will enable you to relapse. Sober friends or genuine friends – who stuck by you during the tough times – are what you’re looking for.
Why? For starters, it builds a support system. If the people you spend your time with understand your struggle, then they’re less likely to put you in a situation that will trigger or tempt you to relapse, but there are two additional reasons.
Friends means events, activities & projects. Friends means you don’t have time to stew in your room thinking about how badly you want a fix. Instead you’re out bowling, attending a meeting, or jousting with giant paper mache lances in your cars at an empty school parking lot. The point is, friends keep you busy with sober activities so you’re not thinking about how badly you want to get high. The second reason echoes the first, friends leads to more friends. It enables you to network so that you can constantly have a stream of events to attend or things to do.
2. Attend Meetings
Recovery is a lifelong pledge as addiction is a chronic relapsing disease. It’s possible to be sober for 15 years and one bad day can cause some of the worst decisions of your life. Again, a 30-day program is helpful, but you need the discipline to start building your own continual support system.
In every city, there are myriad meetings for alcoholics and recovering drug addicts alike. Some are religious and others not, so you don’t have an excuse not to attend. Meetings not only help provide routine and increase your network of fellow recovering addicts, but it also serves as a constant reminder.
Many recovering addicts use meetings as a way to voice their struggles, their triumphs, but also their past which often ties into their current motivation. Addiction rewires the central nervous system and creates a chemical imbalance in the brain; this means there will be times where you’ll want the drug and your brain will try to trick you into thinking you can handle it – or that you deserve it. These meetings are a public and safe place where you can not only talk about this, but also hear others who are going through the same thing. Often, you’ll meet someone who can provide a first-hand account of what happened when they caved into a craving and their relapse can be your lesson.
3. Get Involved
Attendance is one thing, but getting involved is another. If it’s one thing recovering addicts are all too aware of, it’s that drugs make people selfish. Everything is a means to the next fix.
Now that said, dwelling on that selfishness is what causes that inner voice to berate, guilt, and shame you into a relapse. It’s a nagging voice telling you you’re worthless and you might as well relapse because being a junkie is all you’ve been good at.
What getting involved does is it shuts those negative thoughts up. You feel the instant gratification that comes from helping someone less fortunate than you and you’re quantifying your value. Your brain may start having rapid, negative thoughts telling you you’re worthless, but you can pull back from those thoughts and realize there’s a person on the street who has a dry pair of shoes and full belly thanks to you. Get involved and you will see your self-esteem rise.
4. Change Your Diet
No matter what your drug of choice was, chances are more money went to supporting it than your diet. Your diet is responsible for your general fitness, energy levels, and happiness. Treat your body well so that you can reap the benefits. Plus, you’ll want to satisfy your base needs if you want to avoid a relapse.
For instance, take Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. He developed a psychology theory regarding how people achieve self-actualization or personal development. For instance, physiological needs must be met before a person can focus on love, esteem, or self-actualization. Basically this means, a person won’t think about becoming a better person unless they have food, water, and shelter. If those basic needs are not met, they will not reach higher level needs. The term “hangry” would probably make ol’ Maslow proud.
Now a drug creates a physiological dependence, meaning it’s not just food, water, shelter that need to be met, but the drug becomes as necessary as water. And like water, many times people can’t distinguish if they’re thirsty or hungry and make the wrong choice as a result.
5. Change Your Location
Rehab isn’t cheap and for many addicts, they’re leaving treatment with no place to live and no job. That is challenging and finding an apartment (or some form of housing) can seem paramount on your list of priorities. But move smart, not fast.
You can apply for unemployment, apply for Medicaid, and sign up for temp agencies that can find you work quickly. However, don’t jump at the first housing option you find that you can afford. Make sure it’s not in a neighborhood where you could relapse by knocking on your neighbor’s door. Assess your potential living situations – all of them.
For some people this means expediting confrontations and apologies by reaching out to friends they’ve wronged. Even if it’s a difficult phone call, it’s one that’s owed and coming out of rehab shows action behind your sincerity. Meanwhile, others are embarrassed to lean on their family for a place to stay, but if they’re willing (and your family isn’t a trigger), remember that sobriety is for you, not them. And besides, you can tolerate some judgement because chances are you did some real embarrassing things on drugs, but were just too high to feel anything.
The first time anyone works out, it feels awful. Sweat feels like your body is crying. However, you can’t knock the real, raw dopamine it provides. Dopamine is a huge reason why so many drugs are popular anyway, it’s a quick and easy “feel-good” high without any sort of effort. By exercising, you’ll get the high, and thereby crave the drug less.
It’s worth noting that in recovery, you’re more susceptible to depression and anxiety as well and exercise has been proven to ward those elements away. In addition, many recovering addicts struggle to sleep and if your body is exhausted you can bet sleep comes much easier. And while it is tough to start, that pain that comes from your first mile keeps your mind far from drugs and alcohol which is especially what you need in the early days.
7. Sobriety Tracker
Having a wide network of friends and family who will support your efforts to get sober isn’t just a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity. But sobriety is a 24-hour struggle and that does mean you may wake up in a cold sweat at two in the morning and need something to keep you going.
This is where having a multimedia support system is very helpful as it’d be unreasonable to continually call your friends looking for undivided attention and support. One of the reasons the I Am Sober app exists is so you can set a sobriety clock, make a pledge, or even journal so that you have a motivational companion with you no matter what time of day you need a little nudge in the right direction.
8. Adopt An Animal
Don’t expect an animal to heal you… but in regards to making a consistent routine that’s different from your former lifestyle, adopting a pet is a fast and rewarding way to go. The fact is, pets are motivational companions that offer us support in ways that – some would say – other humans can’t understand.
A dog for instance, needs to be taken on a few walks a day, needs to go outside to not make on your floor, and needs food and water regulated regularly to avoid overeating. A dog forces you to have a routine; it forces you to be cognizant of their time table and this will help you avoid staying out late or returning to old stomping grounds and even refuse to get high. A pet is not only emotionally supportive but they also become a dependent and you will want to take care of them.
9. Find Time To Relax
Don’t feel the need to do all these things at once. It’s important to stay busy, but not feel stressed and overwhelmed as that can lead to a relapse. You want to keep yourself busy enough to not get bogged down by the cravings of addiction, but not so busy that you’re struggling to balance it all.
There’s a world of hurt waiting for you after rehab, but the good news is you’re not alone. Others know what you’re going through, in fact, thousands do. As a result, if one person has some advice for how to battle boredom another might have advice for how to battle busyness. Go at your own pace.
10. Sober Living Communities
Of course, if these things still seem out of reach or overwhelming. There are more and more sober living communities opening up. Sober living homes are all structured differently: some like apartment homes, others like houses, and some like dormitories. Ultimately, they serve people who’ve recently checked out of rehab, but aren’t quite ready to make the transition to the day-to-day. These sober homes have been shown to be very effective as a kind of outpatient recovery program. It can help you network with more people in recovery and get involved in various sober communities.
If these ten things are to teach an addict in recovery anything, it’s that the best way to conquer addiction is through a wide network of support. You will be reminded daily, 24/7 that you have a craving that’s not being sated, but a hefty support system will keep you drug free.
Rehab is great for getting clean and sober, but it takes a multi-layered support system to stay sober.