So, there you are - watching in awe as the addict in your local SMART Recovery or AA meeting proudly announces that he’s made it to yet another year of sobriety through drug and alcohol treatment. He seems so strong, resilient, and unwavering in his mission to stay sober. If drug and alcohol recovery truly is what we’ve heard, “a lifelong process,” why is it that some people seem to breeze through it, while others struggle immensely to get through one day without using?
Read on to find out what it really takes to deal with the urge to relapse and stand unwavering in your commitment to stay sober:
Thoughts To Ponder During Drug and Alcohol Treatment
Accept it. Recovery Means Cleaning Up Messes.
Don’t think that just because Johnny’s been sober for 5 years that abstaining from heroin or alcohol comes easy for him. He’s just like everyone else who’s trying to stay clean long-term.
You’re going to feel like a colossal failure (probably often) in the beginning as you try to navigate through your world that seems a lot different as a sober person.
After you leave rehab, there’s a good chance that you will experience post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS). These uncomfortable side-effects may occur up to a year after you stop using drugs or alcohol. PAWS results in physical ailments such as trouble sleeping, gastrointestinal issues, and headaches.
For many, the most difficult symptoms to manage are the troublesome emotional effects. Recovering addicts report, “not feeling like myself.” You’ll wonder why you’re having such a hard time doing things that once came naturally. Your friends will notice that you’re more forgetful. Don’t be surprised if names and routine tasks, (even your phone number) escape your memory.
Your work and personal life will feel like a complete disaster. When you went to rehab, life as you knew it went on hold. In a way, you hit the pause button. Now that you’re clean, the mess that you created while abusing drugs is still there.
Who has to clean it up? You do!
You need to apologize to the neighbor who is upset with you because you drove over her trash can. There is going to be disaccord between you and office-mates, in-laws, and even lifelong friends. Be humble and do what you can to make things right.
Your Friends Will Leave You.
You’ll undoubtedly lose contact with some of the people that may have been in your life for years, even decades. As the months go by, you’ll try to salvage relationships important to you. Some of them will remain intact. Others can’t be saved. Others still, shouldn’t be fought for, and doing so would be detrimental to your recovery.
For at least the first year after you stop abusing drugs or alcohol, you’ll wonder who your friends are. During this uncertain time, get out of the house and go to as many SMART and AA meetings as you can. There, you will find like-minded people at all stages of recovery. Many of them will want the same things as you - support and connection.
While some of your friendships seem to slip through your fingers and cannot be salvaged, if you push through the initial urge to recoil and isolate, you will meet new people in recovery support groups, and develop meaningful relationships that will last for years to come.
You’ll Doubt Yourself.
Every person in recovery has experienced self-doubt. “Am I strong enough to stay sober?” “Can I get my job back?” and “Will my kids still love me?” are only a few of the questions people ask themselves while trying to start over after addiction leaves their lives in shambles.
You’ll wonder if you have the guts to face some serious challenges that take every drop of courage and resilience you can muster. Take it from the millions of recovering addicts that were in your shoes for a year, a month, or even one day ago - you do have what it takes to stay sober.
What does it take to resist the urge to pick up the vodka bottle or hit the speed-dial button on your phone to call drug dealer?
You need a mentor.
Ideally, you should be connecting with experienced people in rehab that can serve to inspire and motivate you after you leave. However, if you’re a newly sober person without a mentor, you need to get yourself one, pronto!
Venture outside local groups once or twice a week to meet as many people as possible who share your common goals and unyielding dedication, and want to be sober for the long haul.
At some point, you’ll connect with someone who has a lot of insight about recovery. You’ll want to soak up the knowledge and insight that he or she has because it will be instrumental when facing triggers that seem to weaken your defenses. Mentors can be found in recovery support groups, and it’s a good idea to go to AA or SMART Recovery meetings every day.
You’ll Face a Crossroad
Regardless of how strong you think you are, you will encounter someone that tempts you into nearly believing - “It’s just one hit,” or “One beer with us will be fun!”
How you respond to these critical crossroads will serve to set you back if you succumb to the illusion that recreational drug use is okay, or pivotal confrontations will make you a “recovery champion” as you come out unscathed from enticing situations.
You’re not just going to meetings to build a support network. You’re going to build a wall of armor that protects you when you run into an old girlfriend who wants to reconnect over a glass of wine.
The tools gained in rehab and ongoing recovery groups will help you believe that your life is important and worth fighting for. Additionally, you’ve heard the tried and true catchphrase, “fake it until you make it.” Recovering addicts know that they have to keep going through the motions, even when they feel like their just spinning their wheels and heading nowhere.
By dragging yourself out of bed every day to engage in routines and simple tasks that reinforce abstinence principles, you are making yourself resolute and uncompromising when your college buddy leans over and says, “want one?”
You’ll Learn Who You Are
Is it hard to imagine where you’ll be in five years or what you’ll be doing? When you were using drugs or alcohol, your curiosity about life began to trickle away slowly. Your interests, hobbies, and passions took a back seat to heroin, painkillers or alcohol, that consumed every waking moment of your existence.
When you check into rehab, you will start to remember things you once did that brought happiness and purpose, and made you feel like the real “you.” These are celebratory moments to be cherished - savor them!
Do not brush off previous ambitions as a distant dream. These memories serve to remind you that your life’s work is not yet done. Why not begin making some short-term goals on how to get a better job, start the business you once started (but never finished), or even embark on a new challenge?
What’s the best part of sobriety? Everyone has a different answer. Undeniably, every addict you encounter will tell you how incredible it is to live life on their own terms. No longer a slave to opiates, street-drugs or alcohol, every recovering addict will bask in aspirations of who he wants to be, who he can be - who he will be.
Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA, is remembered for many inspirational messages that provide strength and encouragement to millions in recovery. He’s noted for the following statement that is fervently recited during meetings every day across the entire world:
- “How dark it is before the dawn! In reality that was the beginning of my last debauch. I was soon to be catapulted into what I like to call the fourth dimension of existence. I was to know happiness, peace, and usefulness, in a way of life that is incredibly more wonderful as time passes.”
As you go through your day-to-day walk, remember that recovery from drugs and alcohol is a lifelong process. You can’t get there overnight, or even in a year. You’ve got to establish routines, and execute them every single day, even when you think sleeping in to miss the 9:00am SMART meeting isn’t a big deal.
You need a support group that you can lean on when curveballs threaten to throw you off course - sabotaging everything you’ve worked so hard for. Don’t forget to be patient with yourself, and then watch as little steps take you further and further until through tireless endurance, you’ve climbed an entire mountain.
Are you an addict?
Is your life consumed with drugs or alcohol, leaving you hopeless and on the verge of losing everything?
The first thing you need to do is say - “help me.” Go ahead, wherever you are; in your apartment, car, local bar; say the words that have the power to save your life: “I need to stop using drugs and can’t do it alone.”
Saying the words is a major accomplishment because it means that you’re finally willing to stop denying the truth. In reality - you lost control of your life however many months or years ago that substance misuse turned into substance abuse. Now, it’s time to turn the reins over to professionals that can lead you through the dark mine of addiction so that you can take charge of your life, your health, and your recovery.
Soak in Bill Wilson’s enduring message of hope that applies to every individual, regardless of their background or circumstances:
- "I have seen hundreds of families set their feet in the path that really goes somewhere; have seen the most impossible domestic situations righted; feuds and bitterness of all sorts wiped out. I have seen men come out of asylums and resume a vital place in the lives of their families and communities. Business and professional men have regained their standing. There is scarcely any form of trouble and misery which has not been overcome among us.”
Landmark Recovery is a drug and alcohol treatment rehabilitation center in which addicts stay 30-45 days to learn sobriety skills that empower them after discharge. Therapists, doctors, and nurses provide support, education and a safe environment. They don’t judge you-they care about getting the help and support you need. Call one of our dedicated admissions consultants today for more information.