My experience confirms that addiction rehab can be a valuable stop on the recovery journey, but it is only part of it. Just like asthma or diabetes, addiction is a chronic disease. There is no cure for addiction. Recovery is ongoing and will have to be pursued for a lifetime.
There are things that will help your effort to get into and stay in recovery, and there are things that can hinder it as well. It may be shaky at first. Rehab, or addiction treatment, is like a comfy bubble. No real-life responsibilities, work, old friends, bars, drug dealers, significant others, and so on and so forth. Upon leaving treatment, I needed to consider certain aspects of my life after rehab, and whether or not they were conducive to my recovery.
Here are some things that were helpful for me to consider:
Many of my friends did what I did, used what I used, and went where I went. I believed our friendships were based on mutual care and respect. I found out, much to my dismay, that once the going got rough and I decided to get sober, they were nowhere to be found. This is not always the case. Sometimes it is because of a caring friend we agree to seek help. However, having to make new friends after rehab is more often the rule than the exception.
Sometimes employment prior to rehab was either nonexistent, highly stressful, or contributing to an unhealthy lifestyle (for example: a bartender at a nightclub). It was suggested to me to take a less stressful job and not return to the clubs or bars in life after rehab.
A strong support system is invaluable. Twelve-step groups such as AA allowed me to meet people with long-term experience staying sober and living a happy life in recovery. I found friends, confidantes, friendly acquaintances, and most importantly a sponsor who guided me through the 12 steps. My sponsor had experienced addiction as I had, but they were happy, sober, and free. If you’re looking for a 12-step group, there are numerous resources to connect with nationwide!
Help & Service
I found that through my addiction I was always focused on my wants and needs. This changed as my mind and body straightened out. Through helping people by some sort of service work I began to feel useful and was less concerned with myself. Once I did the work, it became my purpose to show others the way to freedom!
Life after rehab is ultimately what you make of it. When I’ve taken short cuts and tried to do things “my way,” I have failed. After I surrendered to the fact that I had no idea how to live, never mind stay sober, things began to work out. Mostly it was because I was willing to work. I’ve heard it said in many 12-step fellowships, “If you want something you’ve never had…you’ve got to do something you’ve never done.” How very true I found that statement to be.