A well thought-out plan can be the difference between starting a new sober lifestyle and being set back by relapse. As soon as the elation of completing an addiction treatment program ends, you may find yourself asking, “What do I do next?” The responsibility of making major life changes while working to maintain sobriety can seem overwhelming; be prepared with a post-inpatient addiction recovery plan.
10 Tips for Creating a Sustainable Addiction Recovery Plan
- Stay engaged with your recovery
There are countless local informal and formal aftercare programs available. Do some research to find out which are the best fit for you and commit to a program that will provide the support and care you need. If you found particular therapy sessions or therapeutic treatment programs useful during your inpatient treatment, that can be a great place to start. Continuing to attend these appointments can provide vital ongoing structure and formalized support that will help you maintain your recovery. You can also seek out regular support groups or twelve-step meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous, for example), for support and camaraderie from those also on the journey to recovery. No matter what structure you choose, staying engaged is crucial to creating a reasonable and attainable addiction recovery plan. This step should be the theme of every single objective throughout a personal recovery plan.
- Continue to pursue mental health treatment
There is a proven link between substance abuse disorders and other mental health issues. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration did a study in 2014 and estimated that around 8 million Americans are living with co-existing mental health and substance use disorders. The two disorders tend to feed off one another – mental health issues need to be managed in a healthy way to avoid exacerbating a substance use disorder. That is why, in recent years, physicians have made mental health treatment a standard part of the addiction recovery process. Make a point to explore mental health treatment and support options as part of your treatment and recovery process. If individual therapy was started prior to treatment, the continuation of those sessions is important. Personal therapy isn’t the only way to receive support for mental health. – twelve step meetings and support groups can also include a mental health element that works well for some individuals.
- Attend to the basics
Tackling some of the small, but necessary responsibilities you will be taking care of in the near future should be next on an action plan. Make a list of the basic responsibilities needed to feel more fully integrated in a healthy, sober, and productive life. Depending on individual situations, everyone’s list will look different, but here are some common first steps:
- Apply for or renew an ID card or driver’s license.
- Get a copy of your social security card or birth certificate.
- Look into possibly relocating to a new or better living situation.
- Begin searching for a job to pay for bills.
- Open a new bank account.
- Clear up any remaining legal matters.
- Purchase new insurance (home and auto).
- Have a relapse prevention plan
Making the transition out of rehab can be intimidating, and many people find themselves afraid of facing some of their old triggers again. Remember that a relapse should be considered a setback, rather than a failure, and that it is something to plan for, rather than fear. A relapse plan should ideally be a running list that gets updated, along with your situation or status, for months or years after leaving treatment. Create your plan by focusing on your recovery goals and identifying anything that threatens your success in those areas.
- Triggers to Address: First, you need to determine what some of your personal triggers are. These may include people, places or activities which increase the urge to use drugs and/or alcohol again. By figuring out what your most common triggers are, you can work to limit your exposure to them, making it easier to maintain your personal addiction recovery plan and sobriety. For the triggers that may be nearly impossible to avoid, take time to plan how you will manage those situations.
- Helpful Tools: Assemble a “toolkit” of ways to keep yourself grounded in highly stressful or triggering environments. Meditation and relaxation techniques are fantastic resources for maintaining one’s composure and/or emotional stability. These practices can be paired with stress management techniques; when you maintain lower stress levels, you are less likely to be triggered when unexpected situations do arise. Finally, make sure that wellness, both physical and mental, is a part of your tool kit. A healthy body and mind is best equipped to resist triggers and temptations.
- Support Network: – When you do find yourself in a situation that you cannot manage on your own, you will need a strong support network of friends, family members, and professionals to call on. Making a list of these contacts in advance can be instrumental for getting through tough cravings or stress when they do arrive.
- Post-Rehab Recovery Programs: Stay actively involved in your own relapse prevention through proactive post-rehab recovery programs. These may come in many shapes and sizes, but starting with the twelve step format is still very common. If you haven’t been through such a program before, some of the steps may already be familiar, as many therapists and treatment centers use variations on these common steps in their everyday practices. For example, a moral inventory exercise may be suggested by a therapist to encourage self-awareness and to make amends with those you may have wronged.
- Prioritize health and wellness
After a course of treatment for substance use disorder, it is normal for the body to be weakened by the physical stress. The process of detoxing and enduring withdrawal from a dependance on drugs and/or alcohol is draining, making it important to begin focusing on rebuilding and then maintaining your strength and health after leaving treatment.Some of the most common health advice is often the easiest to overlook. Eating three healthy meals a day, getting a full night of sleep, and exercising regularly can do wonders towards improving your mood, health, and energy. Make sure to build these simple practices into your daily routine to ensure your health isn’t compromised by something well within your control. Although it may be tempting to go right back to tasty, unhealthy foods that you weren’t able to have during treatment, it is especially important to maintain a balanced diet. Indulging in a high-carb or sugary diet full of processed foods combined with a sedentary lifestyle can actually delay your physical recovery, as well as add to your stress! Instead, aim for meals that include fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
- Make good friends
Think of your exit from rehab and entrance back into the world as beginning a new chapter. Use this opportunity to cut ties with the things and people that contributed to or exacerbated your substance abuse. Though it is never easy, it is necessary to limit your time spent with anyone who is not supportive of your recovery. One of the best ways to navigate this transition is to find a new hobby or friend group to hang out with. Though it can be difficult to make friends as an adult, there are sure to be a variety of local meetup or hobbyist groups in your area. Many of these gatherings are now posted online; you can start by checking Facebook groups for your local town. By finding people you share a common interest with, it is easier to get acquainted and develop lasting, meaningful friendships. It may seem strange to be consciously aware of purposefully developing friendships, but you should keep some things in mind when choosing who you spend time with, and what activities you engage in. Some basic questions to ask yourself:
- What do I want my life to look like now?
- Who is around to help me achieve this goal?
- Is this person allowing me to make sobriety an important part of my life?
- Should I retain a friendship that in any way threatens my goals?
- Cut out negativity
Self-awareness is important, and you’ve probably already thought a lot about what has triggered your desire to drink or abuse drugs. Now it’s time to start purposefully changing paths and habits to avoid these negative triggers. For example, if the bar where you used to drink is on the way home from work, take a different route. Avoiding these locations can help to eliminate temptations associated with them. Also be on the lookout for things that offer comfort, but are in their own way vulnerable to abuse. For example, comfort eating is a habit that can be very easy to slip into, but very hard to quit, and can lead to avoiding feelings that should be processed. Likewise, getting lost in video games, television, or browsing the web can be a refreshing distraction from your day, but they need to be kept in moderation. Avoiding your feelings is unhealthy and will set your back in achieving your addiction recovery goals. Replacing drugs or alcohol with another crutch to support avoiding your real problems is not progress at all. Find ways to infuse positivity into your life every day. One of the best ways to do this is to surround yourself with overtly positive and supportive people. Use exercises, meditation, yoga or other practices to calm your mind and lift your mood. Make time each day to indulge in something healthy and positive to boost your mood and brush off any negativity.
- Consider your career
Many people need to find a new job once they leave treatment. Job markets can be difficult to deal with no matter what kind of work you are looking for, and sometimes even more so for someone with prior drug or alcohol offenses. Keep in mind while you are searching that your goal should be finding a position that does not hinder your recovery.Take time to plan out possible options for career directions. Ask for advice from friends, family members, counselors, former co-workers, and anyone who can give some insight on what kind of work suits your skill set. Many communities even host job fairs or other similar events to help promote local business in need of skilled workers. At the same time, keep in mind your own personal goals, and find where they cross with your available options.
- Compose a resume, and keep it up to date: If you have never created a resume before, there are many templates available on the web. Be detailed without being long winded, and don’t be afraid to be proud of what you have accomplished! Be sure to document your experience, training, skills, education, etc., as well as your professional goals.
- Consciously network to make connections: This can be done in person or online, and there is now a large number of local sites or social networks that have a job listing section. You never know when an exciting opportunity may pop up, or from where, so keep a current resume on file so that you are not caught off guard. It is also okay to reach out to a specific company you would like to work for and ask if they have any positions available, you might be amazed where a personable conversation may lead.
- Consider furthering your education as a way to advance your career: Research your local options and try to find students who have studied at those schools to find out about their experiences. Trade schools or other vocational training can be a great way to invest some time and give yourself a better chance at finding work. Whatever it is you choose, be sure it is something you are passionate about, and can imagine yourself doing as a long-term career.
- Stay positive! It can be discouraging getting turned down from a position you really wanted, or never hearing back after an interview. Don’t take it personally, and always maintain the proper perspective. You have skills that make you a valuable asset, and you are interviewing employers as much as they are interviewing you. Even if it takes time to find the right fit, it will be worth the effort to be working towards a career that aligns with your long-term life goals.
- Set personal goals
No matter how small, accomplishing a goal you had set for yourself feels good! You can stay feeling positive about yourself and your recovery by setting personal goals and taking steps towards them every day. Try learning a new instrument, craft, language, or another hobby. Each small success adds up, and you may be amazed at how quickly complex or time-consuming things can be accomplished. When writing an individual addiction recovery plan, be sure to include some possible steps towards achieving personal goals. Do not try to take on the weight of the world, but instead include some external support for making your plans a reality. Turn to community support or the love of friends and family, and you will find that people are more eager to help you succeed then one may have imagined.
- Check in with yourself regularly
One step that cannot be overlooked is the importance of self-evaluation. You will need to often and honestly assess your progress and your emotional state. Don’t get caught in the habit of focusing on external circumstances and losing sight of your own feelings.
Before anything else, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I doing what I want to be doing?
- Do I have a plan in place and the support to succeed in this new chapter of my life?
If the answer to either of these is ‘no’ then there is still work to be done on shaping your addiction recovery plan. If you find yourself stuck, find time to reach out to your local addiction recovery centers and ask the staff for guidance. Even if you underwent rehabilitation at another location, support centers typically welcome clients at all stages of the recovery process.
Contact Futures Recovery Healthcare now to learn more about sober living options, aftercare programs, and other therapies available for people in need of some support while getting back on their feet and building a new sober lifestyle in recovery.