Life After Rehab
Completing a rehabilitation program is a major accomplishment, give yourself a pat on the back. Becoming sober is one of the toughest challenges someone can go through, however staying sober is not a walk in the park either. Staying sober is a lifelong process. You will have to make a combined effort at maintaining sobriety.
Assuming the 28- or 60-day treatment program that you attend will fix all your problems immensely underestimates the severity of what you have and will be going through. It takes a little time, patience, and hard work to get back to where you were before your addiction. Don’t be discouraged; there are so many people who want to help you make it through life after rehab.
Sustaining a Sober Life
Once you have completed detoxification and inpatient rehabilitation, you, a recovering addict, will return to normal life. This includes going back to work or finding work, seeing family and friends and starting new hobbies or picking up old ones that were forgotten. All of these daily stimuli might trigger cravings and cause relapses.
Research suggests most relapses occur in the first six months after treatment. When you understand your triggers, you can better guard yourself against them. To overcome the triggers, you have to have a game plan for continuing care once you leave the treatment center. It will be easier to integrate back into regular life and the next phase of treatment if you already know where to start. Remember – you are starting a new life for yourself and Rome wasn’t built in a day!
Get Started on the Road to Recovery
The road to recovery is a long arduous journey. Setting up a plan for post-treatment and sticking to the plan will help with the road to recovery. There are many programs out there for recovering addicts. Some of the treatments are broad, others are specific, based on the type of addiction you had.
Types of continuing care:
- Check-ups- To be successful you will have to have an accountability partner or team. It is important to have regular check-ups with a mental health professional. This ensures you are making progress and staying on course. You have the choice of how often you need to check in and check-ups can be as infrequent as four times a year.
- Individual therapy- A good therapist will recognize that addiction is not just chemical dependence. It is often based on a lifestyle that included stress and other triggers which led to drug abuse. Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy will help the recovering addict understand their underlying issues. Having the understanding will help address the addiction holistically.
- 12-Step meetings: This has been the long the standard of addiction treatment support. 12-Step programs are available in both general and substance-specific formats. It originated with Alcoholics Anonymous but have grown to include many other drugs, from nicotine to crack cocaine as well as gambling and shopping/debt addictions. The 12-Step method relies on admitting powerlessness and relying on a higher power, often these are held in churches or in community centers.
- Alternative support groups: It is important to find a support group of some kind, one that you feel comfortable going to, often. You will want to have the safety and security of the group so you can have somewhere to turn to when you start to have cravings. Whether it is based on the 12-Step model or not, finding a support group should be a priority. If the 12- Step model doesn’t seem to fit your personality there is Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART). SMART is one of the most popular alternatives to 12-step groups. SMART is based on research-proven methodologies for recovery. It teaches people that they can take control of their addiction.
The 12 Steps were created by Alcoholics Anonymous founder as a way to establish guidelines for overcoming an addiction to alcohol. Since the program gained enough success in its early years, other addiction support groups to adapt the steps to fit their own needs. Although the 12 Steps are heavy on spirituality, many have found the program immensely helpful, regardless of their spirituality. The language of the program emphasizes the presence of God as each participant understands him, allowing for people to have different interpretations and religious beliefs.
The 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:
- We admitted we were powerless over alcohol–that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings
- Made a list of persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
What is Self-Management and Recovery Training? (SMART)
Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) is a support program for people with addictions and behavioral disorders. It teaches addicts how to control their addictive behavior by focusing on underlying thoughts and feelings. Participants in SMART learn skills to manage their cravings and urges for long term success. SMART continuously updates its methodologies based on emerging scientific evidence in addiction recovery.
How Does SMART Work?
In contrast to the 12-step programs that require participants to admit powerlessness over their addiction, SMART is consider a self-empowering program. Volunteers are trained to help participants to examine specific behaviors. Participants will discover problems that need to be addressed and will decide what needs the most attention. Participants are then taught self-reliance, they are in control of their addictive behavior. SMART uses techniques from cognitive behavioral and motivational enhancement therapies to teach the skills to help recovering addicts. Participants will learn these skills by following the 4-point program.
The 4-Point Program
In the SMART Recovery Handbook, it details each point in the program. It also provides tips and exercises to maintain a sober life after treatment.
The 4-point program is not a step program, in the way the 12-Step program is. Participants can tackle a specific point in any order based on their needs and is decided through self-examination.
- Building and maintaining motivation- Having the proper willingness to stay sober is an important part of reaching long-lasting recovery. Participants may make a list of priorities and weigh the costs and benefits of using versus being sober.
- Coping with urges- Addicts will examine what triggers a craving. Participants learn how to suppress cravings through methods such as distraction techniques. They also identify and overcome irrational beliefs about urges to use.
- Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors- Participants will learn how to prevent relapse by examining thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that lead to drug use. Participants learn self-acceptance and how to manage difficult feelings like depression.
- Living a balanced life- Deciding to be sober is a drastic lifestyle change. Learning how to live a sober life is important for a successful recovery. Participants take an inventory of what’s important to them and are also taught realistic goal setting and planning for the future.
Similarities and Differences to 12-Step Programs
SMART has some similarities to the traditional 12-step programs. Both consists of recovering alcohol and drug users working through a series of endeavors to beat their addiction. Both programs are private, the identity of each participant is anonymous. People have successfully overcome their addiction when using both programs.
A few difference between 12-step programs and SMART is how each program defines addiction and handles the future of the participant. SMART does not label participants as “addicts” or as having a “disease.” They see these labels as discouraging and unproductive. Recovery is not a lifelong process in SMART; participants can “graduate” from recovery and begin a new, healthy life. Participants in the SMART approach view recovery as taking charge of their own lives instead.
Both 12-step programs and SMART provide helpful support for all people struggling to overcome addiction. It’s up to the individual to determine which is best for him or her. It best to view the journey of recovery as pointed out in the SMART Recovery Handbook, “What works for one person in one situation may not work for another in the same situation.”
Building a New Social Life
During rehab, new possibilities will open up and achievable goals that may have once seemed impossible are now attainable. As changes will start to shift in your life and lifestyle, recovering addicts have to prepare for it and how it will affect them. At first, entering a sober life often means coping with boredom, loneliness or helplessness, as the group of “friends” you once had won’t be an option to spend time with. Activities that once centered on using drugs or alcohol will no longer be available since you are trying to avoid triggers and temptation. There are many drug- and alcohol-free activities that can provide a mental and social outlet, some drug-free hobbies include:
- Going to the movies – finding not just box office hits, but look for an indie film
- Taking a class- completing your GED, learning new skills, or continuing education
- Volunteering – helping others gives you a different outlook on your own life
- Playing sports – allows focus to be on competition, but also search for sole sports which allows for inner reflection.
- Playing video games – There are many places to get video games without breaking the bank, but you can also get group card and table games (Monopoly anyone??)
- Learning how to play an instrument, speak another language or learn a new skill.
Building a daily routine will provides structure, which prevents boredom and thoughts about using. Going to bed at a regular time, attending support groups and making time for new hobbies creates stability and something to look forward to.
While the struggle of relapsing is something to be aware of, surrounding yourself with positive influential friends and family will help when old habits start to come back. It might be scary to start a new life or pick up where your old life ended prior to addiction, however, having a plan to help with continued recovery is going have helped you to be sober successfully. No matter which method you prefer to use during your life after rehab, having support is important.