Anyone fresh from drug rehab knows the importance of putting her recovery first. In all things, no matter what comes up, there is nothing more important than staying sober after addiction.
Staying actively engaged during recovery includes attending therapy, maintaining a medication schedule (if necessary) and continuing to pursue the most beneficial treatments. In most cases, especially for patients who attend a residential program, people new to recovery have a list of referrals and a therapeutic treatment plan to help them transition into independent living.
With the broad strokes of recovery firmly in place, what are some other ways to ensure long-term recovery success? Here are 10:
1. Know Relapse Triggers
The better someone knows his personal triggers, the things that bring on a desire to drink or get high, the better he’s able to plan in advance for ways to deal with the triggers. For example, if being around people who drink makes someone want to drink, then it’s time to leave the party, take a walk, etc. when others start breaking out the champagne or cracking open a beer. Taking time to really think through the emotions associated with using – anger, depression, irritation, anxiety, and discomfort – is an important first step in managing a desire to drink or use.
2. Join a Support Group
Many people think of 12-Step meetings when they think of support groups, but there are other groups that meet a variety of needs. LifeRing Secular Recovery, Women for Sobriety and SMART Recovery are just a few. Each offers non-religious support for different recovering populations with in-person meetings or online options.
3. Make Positive Lifestyle Changes
Avoiding relapse starts with decreasing overall stress levels, improving mood and cultivating wellness. This means eating healthy, getting good sleep every night and incorporating regular exercise into a daily schedule. The better someone feels, the easier it is for him to manage frustrations and unexpected emotions gracefully without turning to drugs and alcohol.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Staying in the moment without judging it good or bad and focusing on just one thing at a time reduces stress. Another good way to tackle a rough moment: take a minute to focus on breathing in and breathing out, noticing feelings and considering a next to feel better (e.g., leave the situation, get a snack, take a nap, etc.).
5. Find Stable Employment
Financial stress often triggers relapse, and the best way to manage this is to find employment. At first, it may be necessary to take whatever legal job option is available in order to pay the bills. Once settled into a job with the ability to set a budget and get some savings, it’s easier to explore more interesting job options.
6. Make Goals
Career goals, personal goals, goals to accomplish with family or close friends and recovery goals are important. People who know what they want in any area of life learn to avoid stagnation, boredom and depression. Once someone has a clear idea of what he wants to accomplish, it’s important to create an action plan that breaks the goal up into manageable pieces. Keep track of progress with a calendar or other schedule and celebrate every victory.
7. Hire a Recovery Coach
A recovery coach or a life coach helps someone organize the details of a sober life. For anyone unsure of how to fill time, recovery coaches offer help figuring out goals and making a plan to achieve them. Coaches also help clients track down documents, get a job, find a place to live, or buy a car. They also offer support for going to a stressful family event or managing a situation that could bring on a relapse.
8. Be Grateful
Anyone who survives addiction knows the act is worth gratitude. But staying sober means avoiding thoughts that bog a person down or trigger a desire to use. Rather than ruminating on past wrongs, reliving past choices in addiction or drowning in sadness, it’s far more productive to focus on the beauty of life.
9. Take Some Me Time
While it’s important to attend therapy sessions, support groups and maintain mental health, these healthy activities also take up time. Everyone, even extreme extroverts, needs time to do something special alone. Yes, it’s important to find a job, go back to school and spend time re-connecting with family and friends. But time for relaxation is just as important: write it on the daily schedule and don’t forget to do it.
10.Learn How to Say No
In an effort to make up for past poor choices, many people in recovery feel obligated to say yes whenever someone asks for help. While it’s a good idea and part of building strong relationships to give to others and be supportive, it’s not good to be a doormat. If someone asks for favors over and over or helping certain people ends up sapping energy and creating stress, it’s time to say no.
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 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). The Next Step . . . Toward a Better Life. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2017 from https://store.samhsa.gov/shin/content/SMA12-4474/SMA12-4474.pdf.
 Reardon, Christina. (2013). Alternatives to 12-Step Addiction Recovery. Social Work Today. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2017 from http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/111113p12.shtml.
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 Ehrlich, Steven D. (2013). Relaxation techniques. University of Maryland Medical Center. Retrieved Apr, 21, 2017
 Killeen, Melissa. (2015). Behind The Scenes with a Recovery Coach. The Fix. Retrieved Apr. 21, 2017 from https://www.thefix.com/content/behind-scenes-recovery-coach.