The road to recovery from addiction and getting sober and drug-free is never precisely the same for any two people. However, anyone looking to find out more about rehab and recovery – either for themselves or their loved ones – will recognize some familiar steps, particularly when it comes to inpatient treatment programs. These steps are usually similar whether you’re looking for private alcoholism treatment or a drug addiction recovery center.
To start with, getting sober and drug-free requires the desire and determination to get clean, and having both of these is crucial. If you’re looking for help for a loved one or a friend, know that they’ll need to be “on board” with the idea of recovery if they are going to have a solid chance of getting clean. If they have not yet recognized their problem, an addiction intervention may be necessary. During the beginning phases of your road to recovery from addiction, an alcohol and drug detox is always required to remove any unwanted chemicals from the body. Detox is followed by intensive addiction recovery therapy. Addiction treatment may take 30-90 days, but completing the program provides all the tools needed to stay substance-free.
The First Days on Your Road to Recovery from Addiction
The first 90 days on your road to recovery from addiction are the most critical because that is the time when relapses are most likely to occur. You’re still so new to being clean and sober that you haven’t yet become comfortable in practicing your recovery skills or dealing with everyday life without your “drug” of choice.
If you’re just returning home from treatment, there’s so much that gets thrown at you — your home, family, job, and friends. Sometimes it can feel like too much. When you give up an addiction, you give up more than a substance or behavior. You give up on the method you have used to deal with stress. Without structure, routine and consistency, you’re likely to find your road to recovery from addiction far more difficult to travel, and it may even collapse.
Avoid High-Risk Situations on the Road to Recovery from Addiction
Some everyday high-risk situations are described by the acronym, HALT:
You can’t always avoid situations that make you feel those ways. Being aware of your feelings and your surroundings means they won’t catch you off guard and you can prevent little cravings or situations from becoming significant urges. Take better care of yourself. Eat a healthier lunch, so you’re not as hungry at the end of the day. Learn how to relax so that you can let go of your anger and resentments. Develop better sleep habits so that you’re less tired.
Avoid your drinking friends, your favorite bar, and having alcohol in the house. Avoid people who you used to get high with. These are all things that increase your chance of relapse on your road to recovery. Many in recovery find it helpful to make a list of high-risk situations that could cause a relapse and keep it with them at all times. Sometimes you won’t see a high-risk situation until you’re in it. Taking the time to write a list will help you be more mindful of potential risks and how to spot them.
Create a Schedule and Stick to It
Making a daily schedule is much more than busywork. As you travel on the road to recovery from addiction, it’s essential to have a clear list of what to do and when to help keep you on track. In fact, you’ll probably need to schedule most literally or even all of the hours of the day to accommodate what’s essential during early recovery. This schedule includes the times you wake up, eat, exercise, work, go to doctor or therapy appointments, take medication, spend time with family and friends, and sleep. There should also be scheduled time for meditation, reading, and hobbies. When you always know what’s next on your schedule, you’ll be less likely to have idle time to let your thoughts wander back to using again.
Make a List of Goals
Every recovery journey is conducted in the here and now but also must include a focus on the future. To do that, start by writing a list of the things you would like to achieve in the next 30 days, 90 days, one year and five years. Those time-frames are important. Starting with immediate goals gives you a short-term accomplishment and feeling of pride in yourself while setting longer-term goals gives you something to work on long-term. When you first start creating your goal list, it may be somewhat vague. Don’t worry; you’ll fill in the blanks as you progress toward them. That’s why it’s important to put down short- and long-term goals as you travel down your road to recovery from addiction.
Relax as You Travel This Road to Recovery from Addiction
Most people use drugs and alcohol to escape, relax or reward themselves. Often, it is used to relieve tension. The first rule of recovery is that you must change your life. One of the first and most important changes you can make is changing the way you relieve stress and tension. Everyone needs to escape, relax and reward themselves. Those are essential coping skills for a happy life. But addicts don’t know how to do those things without using. If you manage to stop using for a while but don’t learn how to relax, your tension will build until you have to relapse just to escape again.
There are many ways to relax ranging from simple techniques like going for a walk to more structured techniques like meditation. Meditation is very beneficial in recovery because it allows you to center your thoughts and focus on yourself, your feelings and your goals. The key is to do something every day to relax, escape and reward yourself.
Create a Safe Environment for Yourself
Equally as important as relaxing is feeling safe. The healing process requires that you feel secure at home. This means that you need to clear out anything that’s related to using drugs or alcohol such as bottles of liquor, pills or illicit drugs that are around you or are accessible to you. If you don’t trust yourself to do this, ask your spouse, a trusted loved one or a friend to clean out your stash so that your environment is free from any temptation to use.
Focus on Your Diet, Sleep, and Physical Activity
Try to get back to that feeling of being in top shape. Part of your new, structured environment in early recovery involves taking care of your nutritional needs and getting adequate rest and regular exercise.
Begin by stocking your refrigerator and pantry with healthy foods including:
- Whole foods (including fresh fruits and vegetables)
- Lean Meat
- Whole-grain cereals, bread, rice and pasta
If you’re not a cook and you don’t have anyone to prepare meals for you, buy a good cookbook or research recipes online to create menus filled with nutritious, easy-to-make meals. In fact, you may find that preparing tasty dishes can be a form of therapy and relaxation, besides being good for your overall health.
In addition to healthy eating, you should work toward getting eight to nine hours of sleep each night. This will help your body recover, give you more energy each day and keep you on a regular schedule. Also, try to schedule some time each day to be active. Start with a simple 20 to 30-minute walk and increase your activity as you are able. Regular exercise builds your body back up and gives you a healthy way to release difficult or pent-up emotions, including anger, sadness, and frustration.
Be Honest With Yourself and Others
You have to lie about getting drugs, using them, hiding their consequences and planning your next fix. Addiction is full of lies. After a while, you become so good at lying that you end up lying to yourself. The problem with lying is that you can’t be yourself or respect yourself when you lie. Lying traps you in your addiction. The more you lie, the less you will like yourself and the more you will end up using.
You must be completely honest with yourself and with the people who are helping support your sobriety. If you can’t be honest with them, you will likely fall back into your old habits and increase the risk of relapse. When you are sincere you don’t give your addiction room to hide. Honesty won’t come naturally in the beginning. You’ve spent so much time learning how to lie that telling the truth won’t feel natural. You’ll have to practice telling the truth before it comes more easily.