Coming out of rehab for drug or alcohol abuse, co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorder, or multiple addictions is a time that many who are new to recovery either look forward to or fear. After being in the safe and nurturing treatment environment where assistance with any difficulties is readily available, being on your own and trying to maintain and foster continuing sobriety can seem scary and uncertain. While the importance of a solid network of support was likely repeatedly stressed during rehab, it still may be helpful to learn further how to establish a recovery support network.
Maybe you’re not quite ready to resume normal living, returning home to the same environment you left to enter treatment. Your treatment professionals in rehab may recommend that you transition to a lower level of care to help you gain the skills and confidence you need to live in sobriety. These transitional treatment programs include outpatient treatment and sober living arrangements.
Tip: Recognize that recovery is an ongoing process. Transitioning to a lower level of treatment offers you the opportunity to gain strength and confidence while you continue to avail yourself of professional care.
If you’re continuing to experience problems and difficulties as a result of a co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorder, such as alcohol abuse and anxiety, you may still need support from professionals and peer support groups. Why continue to worry and face sleepless nights where you’re plagued with anxiety over not feeling up to dealing with the challenges and stresses post-rehab? A psychiatrist or a professional therapist can help you learn to manage this period of healing that is so important and critical to your continued sobriety. Similarly, peer support provides an additional level of assistance during recovery.
Tip: Continuing counseling is a smart decision that can help you become better equipped to embrace recovery. You’re not alone. You have allies and professionals who are there to assist you.
Most newly sober individuals have a need to establish and maintain a relationship with their primary care physician. This is because there’s a need for assistance with any physical problems that may remain as well as addressing any damage brought about as a result of the addiction.
Tip: Talk with your primary care physician about the doubts and fears you have. If you need referrals to continuing professional treatment, your doctor may be able to help.
While you were in drug rehab you learned about and likely participated in 12-step or self-help groups. These support groups are integral to the overall healing process, especially when there are multiple addictions, cross-addictions, co-occurring or dual diagnosis (substance abuse and mental health issue), but also for any addiction that you’ve received treatment for. Now is the time to use these 12-step and self-help group meetings to create a new social support system. These groups consist of people who are serious about their sobriety and in helping the newly sober members gain their footing, recognize that they’re among friends who encourage and support their efforts, and provide a safe and nonjudgmental place in which to discuss and share concerns, successes, fears and strategies.
Tip: Learn the times and locations of various 12-step or self-help support groups and keep the list handy at all times. That way you’ll always have a group meeting you can go to, whether you’re taking your lunch hour at work, going to a meeting right after work or school or carving out time in your day to attend a meeting near home or elsewhere. This ready-reference list can prove invaluable in that you clearly know where you can go when you are in need of support.
Besides sitting in on 12-step or self-help support groups, another important part of establishing a recovery support network includes getting a sponsor and working the steps. If 12-step group participation is part of your overall recovery plan, the one you worked out with your therapist prior to completing treatment, to gain the maximum benefit you need to not only secure a sponsor but also begin work on the steps of the support group program. As you interact with your sponsor, you’ll have the opportunity to do a deep-dive into any recurring issues and difficulties you encounter. He or she will offer suggestions and coping strategies based on his or her experience as a sponsor and as a person who is in longtime sobriety. While sponsors are not counselors or therapists, they have valuable insights that can help you in this period of early recovery. The more you work the steps, the stronger and more self-confident you will feel about your ability to live a productive life in recovery.
Tip: Take the time you need to find a sponsor that you trust and believe will be the best for your recovery-oriented work. While this is an important decision, if it doesn’t work out with one sponsor, you can always secure another one. This isn’t a contract or a legal obligation. Your healing and progress in recovery is what’s important. Your intended sponsor knows that and is fully supportive of it. A sponsor’s purpose is to help you navigate your way in sobriety.
For some in recovery, continuing drug urine screens or other testing is necessary to maintain accountability. This may be a requirement of certain programs, especially physician health programs, ordered by a court, or a condition of continuing employment. Submitting to the testing and remaining clean not only satisfies the requirement for accountability, it also can prove helpful when you have strong cravings. Remembering that you want to come up clean on your testing can help you resist the temptation when cravings strike — as they so often do in early recovery.
Tip: Instead of viewing required urine drug screens or other testing as a nuisance or something you’d rather not do, recognize that this is a key part of your overall recovery journey. It isn’t forever and it is helpful for your continuing journey in recovery.