Your first days sober are actually the most critical days of your life in recovery. Find out how you can navigate this renewed chapter in your life.
When you get out of addiction rehab or complete your treatment program, does it mean you can claim victory over addiction? The answer—and the reality—is absolutely far from it.
Avoiding the Relapse Trap
This may be a tired story: fresh out of rehab after a “successful treatment,” the recovering addict is full of hope and promise. They tell their friends and family that they are sober and they are taking on a new life, which is of course well and good. However, after a few short weeks, they start to isolate themselves and keep silent. As it turns out, they have relapsed. Clearly disappointed, they and perhaps even their family, throw in the towel and give up efforts for treatment thinking that it’s all been futile.
Take Your First Days Sober One at a Time
Whenever there’s a challenge, however big or complex it is, it always pays to take it on one step at a time. In fact, future-oriented thoughts lead to anxiety and depression. Thinking about what’s ahead and looking into the unknown future can be a stress trigger and may lead a person to cope through unhealthy means.
So how can you tackle challenges in bite-sized chunks?
- Have a daily plan. Live in the present and focus on what you can do. Focus on your present, day-to-day goals to help keep you from worrying about what’s going to happen in the future.
- Practicing mindfulness. Train your mind to think about the exact moment you’re in. Whether you’re sitting comfortable or being active, you can be mindful of your body, your thoughts, your emotions. This exercise can help you avoid triggers that can lead to relapse.
- Recognizing triggers. Label and recognize the times when you experience triggering thoughts. Label your emotions as well. If it helps, you may write about them. Be aware of what you’re experiencing and this is the first step to help you snap out of it.
Start with Small Changes
When the person is in rehab, their environmental triggers were removed so they can focus on themselves and their sobriety. Therefore, people would find it hard to thrive and continue sobriety in their natural environment after being inside a rehab facility.
- Replace your triggers. Replace your old activities, which tend to trigger you, with new ones. If you have activities or if you’re in places or with people that make you start to have cravings, distract yourself with worthwhile activities. This may be easier said than done, but getting rid of mental and emotional clutter, even little by little, can help you in the long run.
- Modify your living space. Your mental health is impacted when you live in a disorganized space. Give your immediate environment a makeover and you can see just how relieved you can feel.
Build Healthy Relationships
People who go develop addictions tend to have a history of trauma. In order to build better and create an environment that helps support and sustain your recovery, you have to build healthy relationships.
- Cut off toxic and abusive people. The dysfunction from such relationships can be huge triggers to drug and alcohol abuse, along with potential behavioral or mental health problems.
- Limit contact when cutting off is impossible. If you have family members and you can’t completely cut them off from your life, then limit contact with them to avoid potential triggers. Keep conversations civil and avoid heightened emotional reactions.
- Repair relationships when needed. Part of your new life is also making amends and rebuilding relationships that have been damaged by a life in addiction. This may be a highly charged emotional moment, but part of your first days sober is actually mending old wounds and apologizing to people who have been wronged. This is a difficult, but also healing process.
- Form new, healthier relationships. While it’s not advisable to form new romantic relationships right away, it’s best to form new relationships with people who will support your sobriety. And in fact, even if that healthy relationship is something you form with yourself first, this is a crucial piece of your first days sober.
Even if your rehabilitation stay has ended in a treatment facility, it doesn’t end there. Early sobriety is tricky, but many have successfully navigated it to build for themselves fulfilling lives in life-long recovery.
Get started on the right path. We at Bridges of Hope are here to help.