Some people say that asking for help is the hardest step in confronting drug or alcohol addiction. While that may be true, each step in recovery brings new challenges and is difficult in its own right. For many people, leaving treatment is terrifying. Clients have a fragile hold on their sobriety, and now must learn to balance recovery and real-world challenges.
Luckily, there are certain steps that you can take to ease the transition, according to Susana S., a project manager with , which provides treatment for substance use disorder. Having a strong can help you maintain your progress and continue to improve your lives. Here are four
steps for establishing a strong aftercare plan.
Consider On-Going Treatment
When inpatient treatment has ended many people are keen to return to their normal lives. However, the sudden end to the many services available at residential treatment can leave newly sober individuals reeling. To ease the transition from full-time treatment, some people find an intensive outpatient program to be helpful.
“They’re able to come in and be treated while still maintaining their livelihoods and responsibilities,” Susana said.
Engaging with an intensive outpatient program for a few weeks is a healthy way to step down your level of care.
Connect with Sober Peers
One of the most crucial tools in early recovery is a network of people who understand the challenges of getting sober.
“The sober communities at meeting halls, online, and other places are full of people who have been through addiction and know what it feels like to come out and succeed on the other side,” Susana said.
People who are newly sober should connect with these groups, which can offer support, love and encouragement to help keep the person on track through the challenges of early recovery. Although this intimacy can be challenging for many people, it benefits sobriety greatly.
“When living in addiction, many get used to a life in isolation, with virtually no support system around them,” Susana said. “Recovery should be just the opposite. Recovery is a time where a person should reach out to the immediately available support systems around them. Recovery is a time to learn to live a new kind of life.”
Ask Your Family for Support
Just as sober peers provide an instrumental support system, family members can help ease the transitions in early recovery.
“While it’s not the responsibility of family members to do recovery for their loved one, there are certainly a few things that family members can do to help make things easier and to keep their loved ones in check,” Susana said.
Let your family members know how they can support you in your recovery. This might mean not drinking around you or taking alternative routes that don’t bring you past the bars you used to frequent. If you’re comfortable sharing your triggers with your loved ones, they can help you avoid those triggers or run interference if one arises.
“One thing the family can do is remember to be observant and considerate,” Susana said.
Define Your Boundaries
Early recovery is a time to integrate new, healthy habits into your life. However, it’s also a time to break with unhealthy habits and people. This often means establishing boundaries with friends and family members.
In order for boundaries to work effectively, they must be communicated. Let your family members and friends know where your boundaries lie—for example, if you will not be around anyone drinking. If they slip up, remind them about your rules again. If the pattern continues, however, you might need to withdraw from the relationship for the time being.
“Individuals in recovery have to know that recovery is not only about getting and staying sober, but about choosing to no longer engage themselves in unhealthy relationships, thinking, or lifestyle. All of the puzzle pieces fit together to create the big picture and the point remains that radical change in their lives is necessary to maintain recovery, and this includes their relationships.”
Adjusting to sober life outside of rehab can take some work. With the right support systems in place, your early recovery can be a bit easier.