So, you are ready to leave treatment and head out into the world. Now what?
Welcome the first installment of our three-part series on Life After Treatment. Here, we offer tools, tips, and tricks for thriving out in the world, beyond the safe confines of a treatment facility.
Countless people have experienced the safe, protective bubble of treatment. Leaving this comfortable environment can bring up serious anxiety and fear as the possibility of facing the world again awaits.
Many who struggle with addiction, alcoholism or behavioral health disorders have spotty track records and need a bit of help when it comes to re-entering their communities, armed with a new set of coping mechanisms.
So, this time you want to do it differently. Where to start?
Widely cited research has indicated that addiction is a disease of connection. It’s no surprise that when lonely and isolated, people are more likely to return to old habits and cheap thrills. Plugging in with a healthy community can give those re-entering society a vital lifeline and the support they need to stay the course.
Find a Group and Get Plugged In
Finding a support group, such as a 12-step meeting, can keep people connected to recovery principles and give them a place to be reminded of all they learned during treatment. Such groups are a great place to build friendships with people who have endured similar struggles, and offset loneliness and isolation. Moreover, they can keep people engaged with recovery, alongside others familiar with the ins and outs of sober living.
Now is a good a time as any to find yourself something to do. Yoga, hiking and the gym are all fantastic options for people fresh out of treatment. Exercise releases endorphins and dopamine, the feel-good brain chemicals associated with addiction. Getting regular doses can help fend off depression and anxiety. Moreover, fitness communities offer opportunities for socializing that don’t revolve around alcohol or drugs. Yoga studios, Crossfit groups, and rock climbing gyms are often full of health-minded people who are less likely to offer temptations.
Find a Guide
Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) the work doesn’t stop after treatment. For most people, a good treatment facility lays a foundation for lasting change and a new way of life. Although huge transformations often begin in treatment, to continue a life free from substances or destructive behavior requires ongoing maintenance. Finding a guide beyond the center can be critically helpful, as even the best of us need guidance and insight. A good therapist, mentor or 12-step sponsor can be a sane voice that keeps you moving forward towards the person you want to be.
Keep Up the Good Work
For many people that have struggled with addiction or behavioral issues, the brain is much like a rubber band—it will snap back to its old shape when left unattended. Chances are, you did good work in treatment and began to undo a lifetime’s worth of unhealthy behavior. To maintain this new state of affairs, it is vitally important to stay plugged into the solutions you discovered in treatment. Be it the 12-steps, a therapy modality, or the services of a good counselor, remaining accountable to your own healing process will ensure you don’t backslide after leaving treatment. It’s the surest way to keep yourself from repeating treatment again and again, following ever-worse relapses.
Life after treatment may seem daunting, but it is just the beginning of a whole new chapter. Keep on the path—a bright new world awaits!
Christina Rock is a Seattle-based writer and photographer.