Establishing a New Normal After Rehab – Tips to Help Ease the Transition
Addiction doesn’t just disappear after your stay in rehab. It’s just as much a part of you as the color of your eyes or a pre-disposition to high blood pressure. The first few weeks, months or even years after rehab will be challenging – but rewarding.
Finding your new normal, whatever form it may take, can seem impossible, so it is important to take it one day at a time. The best way to successfully make the transition from rehab to a healthy, productive life is to know the importance of routine, have a safe place to live and work, and foster relationships with both people who understand what you’ve been through, and those who can provide a solid support system.
Be Sure to Return to a Completely Sober Environment
After rehab, you’ll need to come to terms with the fact that things will be different, and your living space needs to reflect that change. You’ll want to take a step back, perhaps with the help of a counselor, and evaluate whether your home is a safe place where you can transition back to normal life as smoothly as possible.
If you’re unable to make significant changes that are a fit with your new lifestyle, perhaps you can stay with a friend or relative that can support you during this challenging time. Surrounding yourself with people who make you feel positive, loved and supported is essential during this period.
Maybe you’ve burnt some bridges along the way, broken the bonds of trust among people that were once close before the addiction started to take its toll. That’s okay. Rebuilding relationships may take some time, but it’s all part of the road to recovery. If that’s the case for you, you may want to move into a transitional sober living arrangement, or to a new community that supports healthy living. For example, maybe there’s an affordable yoga studio down the street, access to the beach, great hiking trails or something else that could be part of a daily healthy routine.
If you don’t feel like certain friends fit into the sobriety equation, it may be time to take a break from those relationships. Often people who have come out of a drug addiction will face strong peer pressure from friends who are still using. This is even more challenging if you’re abstaining from alcohol, as most adults tend to socialize around the idea of grabbing drinks, going to happy hour, cocktail parties, etc. Drinking tends to go hand in hand with any barbecue, wedding, dinner party, birthday and so on and so forth. It’ll be a challenge to reenter the real world, and you’ll notice the looks when you order a Diet Coke at a bar or tell someone you aren’t drinking anymore. Reconsider relationships with those who give you a hard time. Your true friends will be supportive and empathetic.
The Benefits of Establishing a Regular Schedule
A regular schedule will seem regimented and perhaps a bit silly at first, but for a recovering addict, it will become both comforting, and the backbone of a successful recovery. Because you’ll already experience a lot of change and inner turmoil as you adjust back into the grind of regular life, creating a system that provides stability will help you feel in control, especially when the urge to use again rears its ugly head.
People, even those without addiction issues, stand to benefit from a regular schedule. When you get back into the swing of things, you may find you’re more productive than ever before, but without a plan, you may waste a lot of time or become overly anxious. There will be a lot to do — you’re restructuring your entire life after all. Without a schedule in place, it’ll be challenging to tackle everything in one fell swoop. If you become overwhelmed, the lure of drugs and alcohol could be too much to handle and the risk of relapse is high.
A regular routine means you’ll actually get things done. When people do not adhere to a schedule, they are more likely to procrastinate or become overwhelmed quickly. At first, plan your daily schedule. Make sure you don’t have large gaps of alone or idle time. Often, addicts will become bored without structure in their daily lives and the urge to use comes creeping back in. Build social time into your routine. Though you probably are anxious to rebuild your life, one of the biggest risks of relapse is feeling lonely. Surround yourself with friends old and new, and be open to meeting people of all stripes.
Establish a Day-to-Day Schedule
When you’re in recovery, the first few weeks might feel like time is just creeping by. You’ll check the clock every few minutes, and getting through a few hours might seem an unsurmountable feat. Establishing a daily schedule for a recovering addict is their best chance at staying sober for the long haul. For the most part, a routine will look like a set of tasks dispersed throughout any given day. Some of us may find the idea of adhering to a set routine day in and day out boring. Trust us, it’s well worth the work to make the transition from rehab to real life run smoothly.
To get started, talk with a therapist or staff member while you’re still in rehab. They’ll help you take stock of your life, and develop a plan that meets your needs. Start with the basics, just the things you know you can stick with, and write them in a daybook or calendar. Eventually, there may come a day where you’ll have to stray from the master plan, but you’ll be able to maintain some sense of structure like an old pro.
Your routine will be specific to your own set of needs, but here are some ideas of the types of things your schedule may include:
Sleep and Wake Schedule — Go to sleep at the same time each night, and wake up around the same time each morning. This helps your body get used to natural sleep cycles, which is important for addicts who haven’t listened to their body’s natural responses for quite some time.
Fitness — Establish an exercise routine, like going for a run each morning or a post-work trip to the gym. Having a fitness routine will help you set small goals you can achieve one step at a time, much like your addiction recovery as a whole. It can be a real confidence boost to to see your body change over time.
Meal Times — Try to eat meals around the same time — this can help control impulses to eat in order to fill the void drugs have left behind. You’ll get used to when you become hungry and learn to listen to your body’s natural rhythms once again.
Socializing — Schedule time to socialize with friends and family. We cannot emphasize this enough – your social ties will strengthen you. However, if there’s any hint of a bad influence, you should move on.
Hobbies — Find a few things you like to do to keep your hands busy and challenge your brain. Make these part of your daily routine.
Work — If you’re returning to work right away, try to keep to a regular schedule if your workplace allows. Don’t take any work home with you, if possible. Some addicts feel compelled to use due to feelings of stress, and feeling pressure from work may lead an addict back down the wrong path. Be careful.
Spirituality — You don’t necessarily need to find religion or start going to church if it’s not your thing, but many former addicts find it helpful to be part of something positive. If you aren’t religious, find solace in nature, or look inward. Practice meditation or write your thoughts down in a journal. If you take the time to nurture your spiritual side, you’ll find the path toward recovery is lined with insights and truths about yourself as a person.
Group — Join some kind of recovery group, and attend regular sessions. At first, you may need to attend every day or every few days, but eventually, you may be able to cut back. Budget time to connect with others that have been in your situation. They may be able to offer some perspective
Keep Your Home Clean — Keeping things tidy helps set the tone for the rest of the day. It’s easier to get things done when starting with a clean slate—you’ll feel more prepared and in control when life hits you with challenges.
Keep Yourself Clean — Establish a nightly routine where you take your time in the bath or shower. Buy products that smell nice and create a sense of calm. Wash your face and brush your teeth at the same time each morning. Taking care of yourself will help you feel calm and set you up for a more productive day. The small things really add up.
Reading — Books are good for the mind and for staving off boredom. Read to stay sharp or to learn something new. Self-improvement doesn’t stop when you leave the rehab center. Be sure to include some quiet time for reading into your daily routine. It’ll be a good time for you to reflect on your sobriety, connect with your spiritual side and help cultivate new interests.
Take a Step Back and Practice Self-Care
Now that you’re sober, and you can’t use drugs or drink anymore, you’ll look at life differently. Adjusting to any major life changes can be exhausting, and you need to know when it’s time to slow down and give yourself a break. You’ve already made it through rehab, withdrawal and the resulting side effects. You’re tough, but you don’t have to do everything at once. So, what happens when you feel overwhelmed? Or if your health has been neglected? Take care of yourself.
Often addicts will have trouble sleeping when they first get sober. Your routine will be key in the sleep department, as your body will get used to going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. Pretty soon, you’ll notice your body will come to expect sleep.
It’s perfectly fine to bow out of some social obligations simply because you don’t feel up for it. You don’t have to work painfully long hours to make up for the time you took off to get clean. You’re your own number one priority. Give yourself the time to adjust, so you can naturally find your limitations.
Additionally, as we all know about drugs and alcohol, they aren’t exactly great for your overall physical condition. Often people enter rehab in less than perfect health, and will need to start practicing healthier habits. Recovering addicts will need to make tweaks to their diet, making sure they are eating enough food and getting the right nutrients.
Find a Support Group
Newly sober with a fresh outlook on life? The first weeks and months after rehab will likely be some of the hardest moments of your life. While rehab itself can be challenging, the change of environment when you reenter your former life can be a hard thing to face on your own.
You’ve probably been told this in rehab, but joining a support group is a really important step on your journey to sobriety. Groups like Narcotics Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART, are key in establishing relationships with people who have been in your very shoes, and can help provide some tips for establishing a new normal after rehab. While in rehab, life moves at a different speed. You may think you’re ready to face sober living and its many challenges on your own, but it’s easy to feel lost or overwhelmed. Be sure to make meetings a priority, and connect with people who can provide insights on how to get through the darkest of days or who just understand that life as a sober person is different — friends and family may just “not get it.”
Know that there’s Risk of Relapse
As someone going through the process of getting sober, you know that relapses are sometimes an unpleasant fact. Relapses happen about fifty percent of the time in recovering alcoholics or drug addicts. This seems grim, but if you look at addiction as a disease, and recovery as the treatment, then it seems comparable to the relapse rates of other illnesses. Take it all in stride, the fact is, whether it takes one, two or ten tries, getting clean may be a treatment that takes some time to stick. Be good to yourself.
Though the risk of relapse looms heavy, take heart. These numbers should make you feel empowered and motivated. Know that getting clean is an ongoing battle. Everyone going through the process faces pressure from friends, acquaintances and, of course, themselves.
One of the hardest things to face as an addict is knowing that you have damaged your relationships with those closest to you. Understand that your loved ones have gone through a lot — their trust in you may be badly broken, or they’ve grown weary of watching you hurt yourself. Start doing the work to repair your relationships right away, by letting your loved ones know that you’re aware of the damage you’ve caused to their lives and that you’re truly sorry.
After rehab, you must start to do the work to improve your relationships that have suffered, because loved ones know too well that you have spent a long time putting your addiction first. Start a dialog with friends and family, and apologize. Then, just wait. Not to be a cliché, but time will be the best thing for healing these deep wounds.
Give family members a chance to express how they feel — acknowledge their feelings, and know that you won’t like some of what they have to say. Watching someone’s life spiral out of control, and the guilt, anger, sadness, etc. that goes along with not being able to step in and help are heavy things to experience. Respect those feelings, and let them know you’re taking big steps toward change — you’re sober now, and that’s no small feat. One thing we should mention is that you may find what your loved ones have to say difficult to swallow. If that’s the case, call your sponsor or therapist and have them help you address these painful feelings.
While we strongly encourage you to repair relationships with loved ones you may have hurt or disconnected from, friends and family members should never make you feel pressured or harp on the negative things you have done in the past. Yes, acknowledge the difficulties getting clean entails, but your sobriety and well-being takes top priority. If there is someone in your life that threatens what you’ve worked so hard for, reevaluate that relationship and take a breather. As a recovering addict, your well-being comes first until you’ve found your footing.
Find Hobbies That Are Both Healthy and Fun
You probably haven’t thought about this in a while, but try to think of the things you thought were fun before your addiction got the best of you — and make them a part of your routine. Try to plan some activities a few times a week both to reinforce the routine, and to give yourself something to look forward to.
Try taking dance classes, join an adult kickball league, do yoga or Pilates or a fitness boot camp — anything that gets you out of the house and moving around. Or, if your more artistically inclined, get your paints out and start creating something. Or sign up for an adult learning class, either at a college or a local community center — painting, woodworking, pottery. It doesn’t matter what you choose, but making something that taps into your creative side will bring you a sense of joy and accomplishment.
Aside from structured “play time,” allow yourself to laugh. Often, addicts will be tempted to use again when they feel like things are out of their hands, or when they get down on themselves over small problems. Remember, you’re human, life can be funny and weird and incredibly sad, but we ultimately need to be able to laugh at these things to get through the tough stuff.
Where to Get Help
At 12 Keys Rehab, we realize the real work begins once you leave our facility. We know all too well, many of us being former addicts ourselves, that transitioning back to our old routines can be both daunting and dangerous. We’ll arm you with the tools you need to take on life’s challenges head on and sober. At 12 Keys, we take a practical approach to treatment, weaving in elements from the outside world to ensure our clients are fully prepared for the next steps when they leave.
If you, or someone you love has an addiction, we can help. Give us a call, and we’ll help you with information on how to start the rehab process. Whether you’re seeking help for alcoholism or drug addiction, our staff is there to make sure the transition to a sober lifestyle goes smoothly.