For many people on a journey to sobriety, the road is rarely straight and never smooth; in fact, believing so often leads to relapse and further troubles. Preparing yourself mentally not only for rehab, but what comes next is paramount to assuring your long-lasting recovery and sober lifestyle.
One common trait among people who continuously relapse is not recognizing how their actions can lead to relapse- directly or indirectly. Sometimes we act without thought or without fully considering the consequences. It’s part of a superman complex: despite all the things we have lived through and experienced, we continue to believe ourselves above the ramifications of our actions.
To help you stay on the sober path, here’s a list of 5 things you do that sabotage your sobriety.
#1: Holding On To the Past
Pain and unaddressed wounds from the past certainly plays a large role in addiction and the healing process, which is why including therapy and counselling is a determining factor of success. If you don’t address the feelings you have been self-medicating for, relapse is just around the corner.
But there’s more to it- have you wondered why your counsellors urged you to evaluate your family and friend circles? Why they said you should stop frequenting your old haunts? It’s more than avoiding your former dealer: memories and mental associations with certain people, places, or events can be just as triggering as being presented with drugs or alcohol. While it may be understandably hard to sever these ties, don’t sabotage your chance at a brighter, happier future by clinging to memories.
#2: Not Following Your Aftercare Plan
So while you were in rehab you faithfully attended all of your group and private sessions. You took in all the teaching you learned and even sat with your case manager toward the end of your program to figure out a detailed aftercare plan to keep you on the sober path during those first shaky months of sobriety outside of a controlled environment.
But then you were released and things fell apart so quickly- like a child on a slide, you found yourself hopeless to stop yourself from relapsing. What happened?
Well, it all goes back to that aftercare plan. When we don’t take the initiative to continue caring for ourselves after rehab, the chances of relapse are higher than ever before. Addiction is a chronic disease, just like cancer; and, much like with cancer, we must remain constantly vigilant to the threat of relapse. Cancer patients do so by continuing to get regularly screened for new signs of the disease; people in recovery for substance abuse disorders do so by adhering to their aftercare programs. Neglecting to continue attending therapy or support group meetings can loss motivation, disconnection, and ultimately, relapse. Don’t interfere with your own progress.
#3: Not Properly Treating Mental Illness
This is much like not following your aftercare plan, as if you continue to allow any potential mental disorders to go unchecked, the likelihood of relapse increases exponentially. Undiagnosed and untreated mental disorders are a leading cause of substance abuse, as people suffering the effects often seek means of self-medication for relief. If one elects to continue neglecting medical and psychological treatment, one will only end up back at the beginning: suffering silently and desperate for something to ease the pain.
Stigmas against mental illness often lead to people being afraid to admit they have them, much less seek treatment for them. However, hiding in the shadows is not the answer; prove to yourself and society that it is possible to live a healthy, happy, fulfilling life with a mental health disorder. Do it for yourself and all those still living in fear of the stigmatization; no one deserves to suffer just because society can’t get over it’s preconceived notions.
On the other hand, many people in recovery who neglect their mental health do so out of fear that taking their prescribed medication may trigger relapse itself. This is especially true of those who abused prescription medication in the past. If that is your concern, talk to your doctors. If they are aware of your history with addictive substances, they may be able to find alternative medication for you which does not pose a danger of causing dependency or relapse. You can also take your medication under supervision of a trusted friend, family member, or medical personnel until you are comfortable enough in your sobriety to manage your medication yourself.
#4:Letting Your Recovery Become Stagnant
This typically happens months or even years after rehab is over. People who have managed their urges and avoided triggers suddenly find that it is more difficult to do so; they begin to reminisce on romanticized memories of using- back when “life was fun.” This is like a mid-life crisis of the sober journey: you hit a wall and with nowhere to go from there, it seems like relapse is inevitable. It’s not.
A common mistake people make about dealing with sober living is thinking in terms of restrictions. Rather than looking at the new opportunities one can find in sobriety, they focus on the things they can no longer do. When you view life this way, it’s easy for things to get stale and stagnant, and we all know that boredom can be the devil when it comes to staying sober. The challenge of leading a sober life is to find new ways to add some spice to it.
There are a thousand ways to have fun without turning back to alcohol or drugs: Travelling, dance classes, artistic pursuits, volunteering, concerts, karaoke, outdoor adventures, and so much more! Now is the time to find your passion and pursue your dreams! With the new life skills you learn through rehab and your experiences to strengthen you, your only limits are how far you are willing to reach for your goals. Defeat starts from within- but so does success.
#5: Testing Your Boundaries
Probably more than anything else on this list, testing your boundaries leads to more relapses than anything else- especially in early recovery. Emboldened by the new coping skills and life tools one gains in rehab, sometimes people believe themselves invincible to the lurking triggers which threaten one’s resolve most in the first few months of sobriety. They falsely believe themselves “cured” and as such, neglect to avoid triggers for urges and exposure to illicit substances.
Then there are others who actively try to test the boundaries of their new lifestyle. They want to see just how far their new resolve can carry them; however, we know now that attempting to endure triggers rather than avoiding them is unwise. This is part of the reason your therapists and counselors advise you to cut ties with people active in addiction and avoid the places you frequented while in active use- triggers can derail your sobriety in a matter of seconds. Strength and endurance can only care you so far before vulnerability sets in. Vulnerable moments in the journey to sobriety are okay- they’re to be expected- but being smart about the things you allow into your life and the situations you find yourself involved in can drastically reduce your chances of relapse.