If you are transitioning out of rehab, you may be fraught with anxiety. Now that you’re clean, you’re stronger and better equipped to manage life’s challenges. But no matter how solid your commitment to sobriety might be it, it will undoubtedly be tested as you return to “real life.” For many, the world they left behind to seek treatment is filled with the very pressures that fed their addiction in the first place. And if there’s anything you’ve learned in rehab, it’s that addiction is about far more than willpower alone.
The choices you make in the tender, pivotal weeks after rehab are crucial, often determining the success—or failure—of your recovery. Preparation is vital; awareness and steadfastness are key. Here’s what to expect—and the five resources you’ll need:
Your first inclination may be to isolate yourself—a common feeling that’s borne out of shame in disclosing your addiction, fear of facing those you’ve harmed, or distress in navigating social situations sober. However, it’s critical that you aim for the opposite. Surrounding yourself with people who will support your sobriety and offer encouragement is crucial to lasting recovery. For many, such social support is found in 12-step and Refuge Recovery meetings, which provide compassion and connection in a nonjudgmental setting.
Treatment centers offer immediate and constant support, protection from temptation, and the comfort of structure. On the other hand, idle time often leads to an idle mind, which generates depression, anxiety, and boredom—all triggers to pick up where you left off. Creating a home routine that keeps you occupied and fulfilled will reduce the urge to use while also deepening your sense of accomplishment and self-worth.
Substance abuse doesn’t just wreak havoc on your relationships and self-esteem: it takes a serious toll on your physical well-being, leaving many malnourished. Nutrition plays an enormous role in recovery, repairing damaged organs and tissues while stabilizing brain chemistry. Commit to a diet that’s protein-rich and packed with antioxidants, monitor your sugar intake, and be judicious with caffeine—it can create mood swings that may serve as a catalyst for relapse.
Self-care is often neglected—if not abandoned entirely—when you’re in the throes of addiction. Sufficient sleep, proper nutrition, regular exercise, even personal grooming are often less important than the next fix. Enduring recovery and restored self-confidence rely on self-care. Consider these basics the primary components of your daily routine.
One of the biggest obstacles people encounter in recovery is coping with stress without turning to alcohol or drugs for relief. Nurturing the coping skills you were taught in rehab will dramatically impact your recovery. Whether it’s taking a brisk walk when angry, reaching out to a loved one when lonely, or delegating when overburdened, discover what works for you and nourish it. It may seem difficult to believe, but something as simple as taking a hot bath when anxious may be the small grace that saves you from a relapse—and perhaps your life.
Many drugs are abused because they alter feelings and emotions. For example, opioids, such as Vicodin, cause euphoria and diminish anxiety and stress. CNS depressants, such as Valium, cause relaxation and drowsiness, while stimulants, such as Ritalin, produce increased energy and concentration. For these reasons, it’s easy to see why they are so often abused.
Sobriety presents a number of challenges, but often one of the biggest hurdles the newly sober person faces is learning how to manage what feels like an assault of unfamiliar emotions. In truth, you felt these emotions before you took drugs, but the drugs.the drugs blunted them. Now you may feel overwhelmed. Indeed, many experts believe the inability to handle difficult emotions are what lead many down the rocky path of addiction in the first place.
According to AlcoholRehab.com, early sobriety is often described as being on an emotional rollercoaster ride. This refers to the way people can experience extreme highs and lows from one day to the next — sometimes even one hour to the next. The good news is that these emotional swings will begin to settle down after a few months. However, they may continue to pose a challenge for years.
You will relearn how to manage your emotions sober and you will genuinely feel your true feelings, perhaps for the first time in years. However, a failure to understand what is happening at this critical stage could jeopardize your sobriety. Let’s examine what is going on and what you can do about it.
Be sure to see your doctor regularly for check-ups. Pay close attention to your diet and exercise. According to Addiction Professional, substance abuse and poor nutrition often go hand-in-hand, with one issue exacerbating the other. These nutrient imbalances often can make cravings for alcohol and drugs intensify. They can also worsen depression and anxiety, especially in the early days. The magazine recommends a whole food diet and supplements. Read more about how to nourish your sober, albeit depleted, body here.
Whether you attend 12-step meetings, or any of the other secular support groups (such as SMART, LifeRing), it’s critical to make a commitment to regular meetings. Peer support will help you manage and understand the flood of often overwhelming emotions you are suddenly experiencing. Therapy is another excellent choice and an adjunct to group support. And while you don’t want to overwhelm family and friends, do reach out and try to discuss their lives and concerns (for a change!). Plan sober, healthy activities you can do together, such as seeing a movie or going for a walk.
Even if you can only drag yourself around the block, exercise remains one of the best ways to kickstart those “feel good” endorphins. Such endorphins increase a sense of calm and help with sleep, which is especially critical in the early days of sobriety. Why not try yoga? What was your favorite sport as a kid? Why not hop on a bike again, or pull out your old skateboard?
Listening to music or watching YouTube videos can be relaxing and distract you during times of heightened emotion. Coloring books for adults are the new rage. Such creative expression is a great outlet for your angst, and it is fun, too!