One of the most important components of recovery comes after you have completed treatment. The challenge of remaining sober once you are away from the support network you developed while in treatment grows more difficult the longer you go without support, so it’s important that you are prepared to build and maintain a support network that can last the rest of your life.
Addiction is often an isolating disease, but with support from friends, family and professionals, it can become manageable in the long-term. Research has shown that people who regularly attend programs and engage in support groups after rehab have higher chances of staying sober in the long run. Here is how you can build a strong support network after you’ve completed rehab.
In a 2010 study by the Alcohol Research Group, participants who spent time in a sober living house had lower rates of drug and alcohol use than those not engaged in any form of post rehab support. Sober living homes are locations where recovering addicts can share living quarters with other people in recovery under the supervision of a live-in manager. Residents in sober living homes are required to work, volunteer or look for a job while staying in the house, as well as obey all house rules, which includes no substance use.
Support groups are available that cater to all sorts of different treatment methods. For those who follow 12-Step, there are Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, while for SMART Recovery followers, there are specific SMART Recovery meetings that are free to attend. Support groups provide an opportunity to give structure to recovery while increasing a recovering addicts exposure to sober, like-minded people. Not every support group is the same, so it’s important not to get discouraged by a bad experience. Support groups also provide a chance for recovering addicts to share feelings and stories that they might not be able to share with friends and family.
Substance abuse is often defined a “family disease” because of the far-reaching family dynamics and childhood events that we often link with addiction disorders. Your family can be a powerful source of inspiration and support for your recovery, but they should not be your only resource for recovery. Having close friends who are supportive of your recovery and will not enable your addiction or urge your cravings is of vital importance. Human beings are born to be social, so make sure to be open about your recovery with others.
There are therapists, counselors and other clinical professionals specially trained to assist those in recovery. David Bell, CEO of the national drug testing company USA Mobile Drug Testing, explains “While the abuse of opiates has increased in recent years, it has increased at a horrific rate in certain areas. Unfortunately, the adverse effects of this go far beyond just the addict. Drug abuse negatively impacts families, employers, and the local community as a whole. In fact, it costs the nation a staggering $740 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity, and health care.” Many debilitating addictions are strongly tied to physical dependence, but nearly all addictions have a root cause related to psychological factors, such as stress, depression, anguish, and anxiety. If you do seek out the professional help of a licensed therapist or counselor, it’s important to be open and honest with them about your struggles. The only way to maximize the impact of professional help is to share the truth.
There is always a need out there for extra help in your community. Find an organization that you are passionate about helping, and volunteer some time. Some options you should consider include the animal shelter, museum, food drives, and special events. Volunteering is good for exposing yourself to social situations in a productive, positive manner. Recovering addicts often find that helping others is a way to fight addiction cravings and boost self-esteem. Remember to stay away from events and organizations where they may be alcohol or drug use.
By Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle is the chief operating officer of Landmark Recovery drug and alcohol rehab and has been working in the healthcare space for seven years now with a new emphasis on recovery. Boyle graduated from Duke University in 2011 summa cum laude, then he went to work for Boston Consulting Group before realizing his true passion lay in recovery. His vision is to save a million lives in 100 years with a unique approach to recovery that creates a supportive environment through trust, treatment and intervention.