Today is the day, and that long-awaited moment has finally come.
Stepping out of the front entrance, and actually leaving the drug and alcohol rehab centre where you have diligently been working towards a life of recovery and sobriety feels a lot like being handed a magical, mystical key to a second chance at life – a rare and precious opportunity, for anyone. More importantly, a second chance at your life.
You’ll feel different. Undoubtedly, you’ll be different. For many recovering addicts that leave the safe-haven of rehab, this time can be both an exciting one, full of motivation and a sense of empowerment, and, in the very same breath, a fearful one, too.
That’s hardly surprising, considering the physical, mental, and often spiritual changes that have happened to you since you initially crossed the threshold of the place you’re now leaving. Remember, addiction is a recognized, medical disease, and recovery from any disease can be a long process.
For one, you are now sober – possibly, for the first time in a very long time. Additionally, you’re feeling fitter, stronger, and with real clarity of thought and purpose. Chances are, you may have even forgotten the way that you are feeling right now.
This is life, your new, second-chance life, and you are now living it.
For many former addicts or alcoholics who have made it into recovery, you could add a little confusion to the excitement and fear. So… “What happens now? What should I do now?” In rehab, your deliberately structured and supervised life, an essential part of the beginning to any addiction recovery, has been a steady routine, a time-stamped schedule of learning, talking, sharing, eating, exercising, and sleeping.
However, the routine or schedule today is pretty much up to you. A little guidance? Someone? Please?
Best advice? Continue reading… Here are your “3 Ways to Begin Your New Life After Rehab.”
Let’s go with the holistic approach now used by the most forward-thinking of rehab centres, and offer up one each from the following – an improvement in your physicality, your mentality and, just as importantly, your spirituality.
Lastly, all reputable rehab centres will have given you their “Exit Plan Recommendations,” or, at least, their version of such advice. It’s also sometimes referred to as “Discharge Planning.”
This document is designed to help you achieve a lasting recovery after leaving treatment. The more professional centres will individualize the document too, taking into account your particular set of circumstances, including potential triggers. So, the first step, follow this advice to the letter.
1. Exercise & Nutrition
– An Improvement in Your Physicality
Did you know that only a small percentage of people are fortunate enough to actually attend residential treatment and given access to the help they need? In fact, the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NDSH) estimates that only 19% of people (only a fifth) who require such treatment actually make it to rehab.
Not only is this a second chance, and a new life for you, there is also a certain amount of good fortune in the circumstances you were in when the decision to go to a rehab centre was made. Many others are not so fortunate. So grasp it.
One of the ways for you to fully grasp this opportunity is to maintain and improve your level of fitness, and to keep as healthy as possible through sound nutrition.
For those in substance addiction recovery, there are many benefits to exercise, the most positive and healthy being:
- Stress Reduction: Regular exercise and physical activity is a brilliant and natural way to reduce stress – sadly, one of the main attributable causes of relapse. When you exercise, chemicals are released in the brain that naturally resolves unwanted stress.
- Improved Sleep Pattern: In early recovery, sleep is a real issue for former addicts and alcoholics. Unless you are exceptionally lucky, you already know this from personal experience.
Regular exercise will improve sleep both in the number of hours slept and the quality of that sleep. Once your entire pattern of sleep becomes more stable, you’ll feel more alert during the day too. However, this may take weeks, even months to achieve, so just keep at the regular exercise – better sleep will come.
- More Energy: You only enjoy higher levels of energy once you’ve expended all your energy right now. Fact. Daily physical activity will give you those natural energy boosts, and you’ll finally lose that feeling of “morning fatigue.”
- You’ll Be Happier: Exercise is perfect for improving your mood, and, therefore, your outlook – perfect for those in early recovery who may feel a little daunted by the prospect of life-long abstinence.
Furthermore, having an exercise routine is a healthy part of a new daily routine for you. And, please, don’t think it involves expensive gym memberships – try something new, like yoga or aerobics, or maybe team sports like a running club. These also have the added bonus of providing you with new and sober friends.
2. Your Support Network
– An Improvement in Your Mentality
An essential part of any Exit Plan Recommendations document will be your “Relapse Prevention Plan.” Relapse prevention needs to be an integral part of your life from now on, and your plan should include the following:
- Your maintenance plan for daily life
- Your specific triggers
- Tools for coping with stress/triggers
- Healthy lifestyle strategies
- Goals and accountability methods
So important is this aspect, if you have been in a full-on, residential treatment program, and you are coming out to nothing, ie. no further medical treatment, you should seriously consider moving onto an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) to ensure a continuum of care for your recovery.
IOPs are available to anyone (those currently in treatment, and those who are beginning their treatment), and highly advisable for someone leaving a residential rehab program. An IOP provides the ultimate support network, as you adapt to a new you, now living in the outside world, and returning to many of the factors that led you to abuse substances in the first place.
A fine example of a women-only rehab facility offering such programs is the aptly-named Women’s Recovery, an outpatient rehab in Denver, Colorado (where treatment is designed by women for women, with flexible attendance, supporting the areas of addiction, mental health and trauma).
If such a place is not a viable option for you, your “Relapse Prevention Plan” needs to include significant people as part of your ongoing support network, eg. professional addiction therapist or counsellor, close family and friends, sponsors, and support groups.
3. Mindfulness & Meditation
– An Improvement in Your Spirituality
Feeling calm – a state that many addicts and alcoholics will rarely find except when they are either high or drunk, and those moments are entirely false anyway. Calmness, a necessary, regular state for any person, addict, or not, maybe difficult to find in early recovery, and that, believe it or not, is entirely natural, as your brain needs to have time to re-adjust its levels and use of the natural chemicals it produces.
This is exactly where learning mindfulness and meditation so usefully comes in, allowing you to reach that non-judgmental, focused and balanced state. Apart from the wonders, it does for such clarity of thought, it is immeasurably useful for the soul. Being able to calm yourself when the events, people, and circumstances you find yourself in are threatening and stressful is a significant and valuable quality to have in your armoury against relapse.
So, as part of your new and improved daily routine, make it an integral part of your day – every day. Take classes, learn the various techniques, and then continue to live in the moment. You will find every aspect of your life more enjoyable and a far sight less stressful.
There you are – your “3 Ways to Begin Your New Life After Rehab”:
- Exercise & Nutrition, for your physical health
- Support Network, for your mental health, and
- Mindfulness & Meditation, for the spiritual health
What advice would you offer someone in a similar situation, eg. beginning a new life after rehab? Please feel free to drop a comment below and keep the conversation going.
Lastly, to any woman out there who’s looking for that second chance at their own life, because of the damage an addicted one has brought, please seek treatment. You’ll get better, and, just as importantly, you’ll feel better. We wish you only good things to come.