What Is Recovery From Alcoholism?
You’ve done it. After years of struggling with addiction to alcohol, or an alcohol use disorder (AUD), you’ve completed a treatment program at a rehab facility. A combination of detox, therapy, medication, classes, and community support has helped you reach an incredible milestone that once seemed impossible. You haven’t had a drink in weeks or months and you’re sober. Now it’s time to get back into normal life, but how do you live life after rehab? When treatment ends, recovery continues.
While treatment is a time-constrained process, recovery is a lifelong endeavor. Once you’ve left the treatment center, you will have to work hard to avoid relapse, practice the skills you learned in rehab, develop healthy routines, and stay committed to your sobriety goals. In other words, recovery is a way of life that you will have to live every day. Luckily, there are many benefits to recovering from alcoholism, such as better health, enhanced memory and focus, stronger relationships, fewer legal and financial problems, more success, and greater confidence. Most people who complete treatment and actively undertake the challenges of recovery stop drinking long-term and achieve a happier life.
The Best Ways To Maintain Sobriety After Rehab
To achieve recovery, it is important to stay engaged in your battle to stay sober. The risk of relapse will always exist and you will have to fight it. Here are some strategies that characterize a successful recovery from alcohol addiction.
Enter A Sober Living Home Or Halfway House
A sober living home or a halfway house is a residential facility where some people choose to live after rehab. They are similar, but halfway houses are often more structured and may offer more staff support. There are safe and comfortable sober living homes and halfway houses in every state and most major cities. Sober living homes and halfway houses are important for people who lack a supportive, alcohol-free place to go once their treatment is over. In a standard sober living home or halfway house, residents agree to live by a set of rules, such as curfews and mandatory drug testing, while they receive counseling and vocational training. Both transitional housing arrangements also usually host 12-step programs.
Living at a sober living home or halfway house can provide an important transition from full-time rehab to regular life. In fact, sober living homes and halfway houses significantly increase the likelihood that a person will stay sober and find a job. Ultimately, either housing arrangement gives people in recovery more time to be sober and further adapt to an alcohol-free life.
Join A Support Group
The people you know will exert a tremendous influence on your recovery. That’s why it’s important to join a support group and consistently attend meetings, ideally for several years after rehab. Recovery is more difficult when you’re alone, so sharing your thoughts and experiences with others in recovery in a setting dedicated to that purpose can provide you with a valuable social support system.
There are chapters of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon throughout the United States and worldwide. Many churches also host 12-step programs for people who want to involve religion in their recovery; for example, Celebrate Recovery is a Christian-based 12-step program located throughout the US. Furthermore, there are support groups specifically for men, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. A rehab center, sober living home, or counselor should be able to refer you to a support group in your area.
Therapy and counseling are part of rehab, but once rehab is over, you might benefit from continuing to talk to a mental health expert on a weekly or monthly basis. While you’re in recovery, a counselor can help you evaluate your goals, manage your alcohol cravings, and even navigate a relapse.
Family therapy can also be beneficial. Before treatment, people who struggle with alcohol addiction often strain their relationships with friends and family. To maintain sobriety, it is important to have love and support from those closest to you. A family therapist can help you and your loved ones better understand addiction, communicate more effectively, forgive one another, and work together for your recovery.
Work And Volunteer
During recovery, keeping busy can be the best way to counteract cravings for alcohol. Getting back to work and helping others will not only take your mind off your desire to drink, but it will also make you feel more positive and fulfilled, an important mindset for relapse prevention. Whether it’s tending a community garden, making sandwiches for a homeless shelter, or getting involved in a charity, doing something good is a simple and highly effective method for staying sober after rehab. After all, if you’re busy working and volunteering, you won’t be spending your time drinking or thinking about alcohol.
Common Challenges In Recovery And How To Overcome Them
Recovery is not easy, so it’s important to be aware of the common challenges to sobriety in life after treatment. First and foremost, people in recovery tend to relapse because they spend time with friends who do not support their recovery and encourage them to drink. Although it can be challenging to end friendships, your health and happiness may depend on your willingness to separate from people you used to drink with. One great way to help ease the loneliness that occurs when you let go of old friends is to make friends who are sober and supportive of recovery. It may also be necessary to avoid places where you feel tempted to drink, especially bars, liquor stores, and even some restaurants. If you go to a place where alcohol is served, bring along a supportive friend or family member to hold you accountable to your recovery goals.
Alcohol at home can also threaten your sobriety. When you return home from rehab, ask your family to discard your alcohol supply and refrain from bringing more alcohol into the house.
Additionally, people in recovery should be alert to the possibility of addiction transference, or developing a new addiction to something else in place of alcohol. Sometimes former alcoholics develop problems with gambling, sex, relationships, pornography, drugs, smoking cigarettes, working, shopping, or eating. If you notice that you’re substituting alcohol with other substances or activities that you rely on to get through the day, you should attempt to use what you learned in rehab to control your cravings and stay in control of your life. An addiction counselor can help you recognize addiction transference early and take action to stop it.
Lastly, stressful and unexpected events may cause you to relapse. These events could range from a hard day at work to the death of a loved one. Many people stay sober until something life-changing happens and shifts their focus away from recovery. In many cases, people in recovery start drinking again to manage grief or anger. Since recovery is lifelong, it is almost certain that something will happen in your life that will tempt you to drink, but your strategies for staying sober should help you weather the experience.
I Relapsed. Is My Recovery Over?
Most people in recovery will relapse at least once. Although it may seem counterintuitive, relapse is a normal part of recovery. If you start drinking again, you shouldn’t lose all hope. A relapse is a setback, but it’s also an opportunity to learn, try again, and succeed. It’s important to examine the process of relapse to learn from it. Remember, picking up the drink or the drug is the end of the relapse- the thinking behind the action occurs first.
A small relapse with one or two drinks doesn’t have to become a full-scale relapse with several nights of binge drinking. If you relapse during recovery, do not give up. Instead, discard the alcohol, admit your relapse to your friends, support group, and counselor. Start the next day determined to keep moving forward.
Get Help With Achieving Recovery Today
If you or your loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, there are treatment centers throughout the country where help is available. Contact a treatment provider today to get answers to your questions about rehab and recovery.
Author: Krystina Murray | Last Edited: June 6, 2022
Medical Reviewer: Deborah Montross Nagel