Having gone through alcohol or drug rehabilitation is a major undertaking. Congratulations. Now you might be wondering several things. Where do I go from here? What do I do with my new life? What are the best strategies for staying clean and sober? The information in this article answers all of these important questions. It comes mostly from the experts: people, like you, who were once in a treatment center and have been in recovery for many years. Additional information has also been contributed from professionals that have helped recovering alcoholics/addicts after the alcohol or drug rehabilitation process.
Taking Action—The Process
* Create a plan for after you leave. Work with your therapist, counselor or the treatment center you attended to assist you in developing an after care treatment plan. These are designed to give you a strategy for staying clean. It’s a plan that will keep you on track in the recovery process. Lay person and professional experts in recovery know that an outlined plan detailing the things you can do to stay sober is valuable. Here are some of the most common, and maybe not so common, steps/actions/objectives that can be part of your plan towards a goal of staying healthy, sober and free from addiction.
* Continue with therapy. Follow up sessions with a trusted counselor or professional helps to address those issues or problems that are new for you. Life after addiction comes with new or confusing situations you will be faced with. For example, there was a man that after having been in a drug induced state for years did not know how to order his eggs at a restaurant. He would say, “I just let them throw the eggs on the plate, anything to get some food in my belly. I never paid attention to or cared how they were cooked”. When you are confronted with something you don’t know how to handle, frustration and desire to turn to what you know best (getting high) may become overwhelming. There is no problem too small or large that a trained professional can’t help you with. It’s better to seek their advice and look for solutions than to return to abusing drugs or alcohol.
* Keep your body healthy. This part of the after care plan should involve listing ways you can keep your body functioning at optimum levels. Some steps may include:
* Nutrition and eating right are essential. There have been studies recently showing that the right intake of calories, vitamins and nutrients, staves off the craving for drugs and alcohol. When your body feels good, the chances are you can better fight the cravings for addictive substances.
* Drink lots of water. Water hydrates the body and maintains your body temperature. Proper hydration allows for smoother waste elimination, and keeps the body emotionally balanced. Experts that work in the crisis industry (rape crisis centers, nurses in emergency or triage, etc.) have long known the power of water in regulating a person’s mood. It has a calming effect. An added bonus among many, water keeps your skin from drying out too.
* Exercise. Find an exercise routine and stick with it. If you like the gym or workout centers get a membership Take evening walks in your neighborhood after dinner. Use stairs wherever you go instead of elevators. Remember to find exercises that will bring your heart rate up (aerobic) and those that include warm-up, stretching and free-weights.
* Keep your teeth clean. One of the first things to not only put on your plan but to arrange is a dental exam. Drug use and alcohol abuse damage teeth and gums severely over time. Studies have shown that excessive plaque and tartar on the teeth carries through to our blood stream and creates a plaque build up in the arteries. This means potential heart problems and cardiovascular disease. Also, clean teeth means you will smile more and that alone will better your social life.
* Make social activities part of your plan. When you’re developing your after care plan, be sure to include activities that make you happy. Socializing will decrease depression and keep you from feeling isolated. On this note, make sure to not include former drinkers or drug using “buddies”. Chances are very high that if you begin associating with your former partying partners (that are still using) you will quickly begin abusing the substance again. Find people that have been in recovery for a long time or others that have never had a substance abuse problem. Seek new friends, return to favorite hobbies, whatever it takes to get you out and busy.
* Find your spiritual path. Whatever spirituality means to you, discover or re-discover what it is that gives you strength through the hard times. Returning to a spiritual place that made you feel connected, worthy or special will help.
* Find the creativity within. Do you draw, paint, dance or read? Bring the creative you back to life. Creativity gives a sense of self-worth and accomplishment. This is important for anyone recovering from an addiction. By the way, start your creative processes with your treatment plan. Give thought to the social activities you like. Outline some ideas to eat foods that will not only nourish you but make you feel good, alive and energetic. There are many healthy foods that can give this feeling. Bring your creativity to your plan and make it uniquely yours.
When preparing your after care plan, make sure it’s what you want. There is nothing worse than having a plan that fits someone else’s needs or expectations. Often in alcohol or drug treatment and detox centers we hear quite a bit about what we should do. Our days are planned with activities, counseling, meal times and social events. We become accustomed to what others think we should do to remain sober. Family and friends offer advice, your counselor or therapist may suggest items for your plan but in the end, the treatment plan belongs to you. It needs to be tailored with the purpose of achieving your goal. Your goal is to remain sober and clean. If the plan is one you want and can live with, the chances are you will respect it, follow through with the steps/objectives and stay sober for many years to come.