I’ve worked with lots of people in recovery who’ve gone through an intensive workshop, and others who’ve been in treatment / rehab. These experiences are incredibly powerful … but relapse is still all-too-common. Workshops and treatment centers are only life-changing if the person who goes through them implements a solid program of recovery after they leave.
Adam Cook writes about recovery, mostly from substance abuse. He curates addictionhub.org, a go-to site for addiction resources. He writes here about how to set yourself up for success after being in treatment. Although he’s writing mostly for drug and alcohol addiction, and for those who’ve been in weeks-long treatment, I still think it’s worth thinking about for readers of this site. Much of this is applicable for people dealing with sex addiction, and also for those who’ve gone through shorter-term intensive workshop experiences.
But keep one thing in mind …
In recovery from addiction, you’ll often hear contradictory advice. Sometimes you’ll hear people say that you shouldn’t make major life changes in the first year of recovery. I think this is solid advice … but sometimes even this conventional wisdom needs to be challenged. Some of Adam’s suggestions below really are major life-changes. They make sense in the lives of people who’ve been deep in addiction, and have gone through an intensive intervention (such as rehab). For these people, major life changes are probably needed if they’re going to make their recovery stick. (Even so, notice that Adam concludes with the reminder to start slowly, even with major changes like some of what he’s suggesting.)
Read what Adam has to say, and reflect for yourself whether or not your life needs more drastic changes in order for recovery to stick.
Enter Adam …
Getting off drugs — or addictive behavior — is the easy part; it’s staying sober and finding the courage to start your new life that’s a challenge. While the first days and weeks are focused on the initial issues, such as getting through withdrawal symptoms, you’ll eventually have to use your newfound sobriety to build a life for yourself and your family, even though it feels like the world is against you. Here are a few ways to tilt the odds in favor of success.
1. Give yourself a blank canvas
While you can’t hide from your addiction, you can give yourself the opportunity to distance yourself from the past. Moving to a new location is like hitting a reset button, allowing you to start over on a new playing field, where no one has any preconceived notions about you. Don’t just settle for anywhere; US News & World Report lists lifestyle as one of the top five considerations when looking for a new neighborhood. If you rush into a move without making sure the area will enhance your sobriety, meaning it has the amenities to keep you on track, then you may be setting yourself up for failure.
2. Start your dream job
For many people in recovery, returning to work is one of the hardest aspects of transitioning back to daily life. However, rejoining the workforce can actually support your sobriety. Since you’ve already taken steps to give yourself a fresh start, recovery might be the perfect time to launch your own small business. There are all kinds of business ideas that don’t require a lot of startup money to get going and that are in high demand in the marketplace. Working for yourself allows you to set your own rules, your own hours, and your own goals, which can all be extremely helpful and encouraging as you navigate your new life in sobriety. Just be sure to take things slowly, especially in the beginning, so you’ll avoid feeling burned out or overwhelmed in your new venture.
3. Use your addiction to your advantage
You have experiences that can make a difference to other people, so don’t let them go to waste. As hard as it is to relive the worst parts of your life, it’s very healing to use those dark days to help someone else avoid the pain and suffering you endured. A career as a drug and alcohol abuse counselor is an exceptional way to continue your own recovery while encouraging others to follow your path. According to Study.com, a substance abuse counselor must have compassion for their patients, which is something you can offer since you’ve been where they are.
4. Re-enter your community (with your pets)
It took time and repetitive negative actions to earn a reputation as an addict. Likewise, you’ll have to work to regain trust from your loved ones as well as your community, and pets can help. If you’re an animal person, get a dog or another pet or open up your home as a pet sitter. Not only will this give you the chance to expand your social network and earn an income, but the act of being around pets has been proven time and again to have a positive effect on mental health. Specifically, pets can help you push aside stress and anxiety, which are integral emotions within many common relapse triggers. Having pets also encourages socialization outside of your comfort zone and serves as an inspiration to take care of your physical health; dogs love to be outdoors and love to stay in motion. They’ll motivate you to do the same.
5. Establish and actively pursue goals
Setting goals for yourself is a life-changing action that doesn’t have to involve grand plans. All American Healthcare asserts that the simple act of establishing personal goals will give you something to focus on and drive you forward. Goals make you look for the good in yourself and can help you live your best life. You should set both short- and long-term goals and think of a new goal each day. This could be simply to avoid negative thoughts or remove one bad influence from your life. No matter the goal, the reward for completion is a boost in self-confidence and a step in the right direction.
Whatever you do, start slowly. Jumping headfirst into any change is overwhelming and could invite bad habits back into your life. When moving, for instance, take the time to research the area and talk with people who live there. Remember, it’s not going to be easy, but each day you make the decision to stay sober is one more challenge you’ve accepted and completed. One day, you’ll look back at 365 days of victories.