5 Tips for Dealing with Addiction After Rehab
The National Institute on Drug Abuse describes addiction as a mental illness that “changes the brain in fundamental ways, disturbing a person’s normal hierarchy of needs and desires and substituting new priorities connected with procuring and using the drug.” Altered thoughts, emotions, and habits are not things that can easily be reversed during the time in rehab and so it is up to the individual to make appropriate lifestyles changes that support their recovery efforts once they leave.
Dealing with addiction after rehab can be confusing, frightening, or even feel as if you are at a crossroads between two real worlds. At one end of the spectrum, you feel more confident, healthier, and motivated to get back to the things you think you have lost while the other side of yourself is questioning, “why bother when there appears to be so many hurdles to overcome?”
Characteristics of Addiction
Addiction is a progressive disease that goes from the occasional use of drugs or alcohol to feel good, socialize, or experiment to the compulsive use of the substance to satisfy physical and psychological dysfunctions such as the adverse symptoms of cravings and withdrawals. The most common characteristics associated with addiction are:
- Uncontrollable cravings
- Relapse despite willpower and motivated efforts to quit
- Significant time or energy spent seeking and using the drugs or alcohol
- Continuing to use despite the negative consequences to self or others including neglect of health, family, work, or other social responsibilities
Addiction rehab can take place in a variety of inpatient or outpatient settings where atmospheres can range from intense supervision to less restrictive with diversified approaches that help the addict detox and heal from the acute effects of the drugs and the consequences of their use. Stabilizing physical and mental health, counseling, guidance, support, and behavioral therapies to help strategically prevent relapse are some of the key components that help addicts recover.
SAMHSA defines recovery from mental and/or substance use disorders as a process of change through which individuals improve their health and wellness, live a self-directed life, and strive to reach their full potential. The four major dimensions that help to support a life in recovery are:
- Health: Physical, psychological, and emotional well-being
- Home: Having a stable and safe place to live in an environment that encourages abstinence
- Purpose: Having purpose and meaning in life, being productive and independent, taking care of family, and participating in normal societal roles
- Community: Enjoying relationships and social networks that provide hope, support, friendship, and love.
It’s somewhat easier to sustain recovery motivations while in treatment and for that reason, typically, the longer a person remains in treatment, the more successful their recovery outcome will be. Taking what you gain there to the outside and applying it to the areas of your life where triggers to relapse remain high is where the true tests come in and the following are 5 tips for dealing with addiction after rehab.
1.) Remain Vigilant in Your Recovery Efforts
For most people addiction recovery is a life-long event.Just because you feel better and you’ve regained your self-esteem and confidence to refrain from using drugs or alcohol, addiction automatically “rewires” the brain to respond to cues and memories that could trigger a relapse based on the reward values of the addiction behaviors.
According to the Washton Institute, “Recovery can be achieved only when patients change their attitudes and behaviors that led to and/or were associated with drug use.” Leaving the past behind and staying busy and motivated toward an improved lifestyle free from substances is your best bet.
2.) Avoid Triggers
Don’t ever think that you can manage walking that fine line of abstinence without paying attention to the significance of moods, thoughts, emotions, people, places, or things. According to the Center for Studies in Behavioral Neurobiology, “Even when drugs are unavailable for long periods or when users are successful in curbing their drug use for extended periods, individuals remain vulnerable to events that precipitate relapse.”
Whether joyous or distressing, any event can trigger a relapse without consciously thinking about it and that’s why avoiding triggers, using the strategies learned in rehab to deal with these situations, and knowing how to suspend any maladaptive thoughts or stressful triggers until you can get out of the situation is crucial.
3.) Be Realistic
Don’t make unrealistic expectations of yourself. You never know what will happen day to day. You are encouraged to engage in the activities that contribute to motivations and healthy desires which will eventually overcome the dark side of your addiction, but, it can take a while for you to really maximize those benefits. Trying to do too much too quickly, may only lead to disappointment and thinking that you cannot fail, is totally out of your control. Remember, it is o.k. to take risks, but, remain flexible to change those circumstances when mistakes occur.
4.) Join a Support Group
After-care is highly recommended for anyone coming out of rehab and most advocates support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous as life-lines to long-term recovery. These groups are free and open to anyone who needs them with non-judgmental participants who can support each other in their common interests. Knowing that these groups are caring, resourceful, and equipped to care has proven to benefit individuals with a variety of problems.
5.) Have a Plan in Case of Relapse
Drugs like heroin, prescription painkillers, cocaine, and meth are able to produce intense euphoria that leads to the higher rates of relapse. While the cravings may diminish over time in abstinence, few individuals will just “stop using” and for some, the chances of relapse will be inevitable so, don’t panic when it occurs. Relapse should never be viewed as a failure, but, rather an opportunity to learn from your mistakes and get back into recovery with renewed vigor.