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Practical Ways to Sustain Recovery After Treatment

Recovery from any addiction is a difficult battle. Fortunately, there is always hope for a better life, even after the most difficult substance use disorders. Treatment and continued commitment after rehab can play a big role in a successful recovery.

All residential (inpatient) treatment programs should include some discharge planning. Everyone has unique goals after rehab treatment. Most aftercare programs focus on similar basic goals, including:

  • Sustaining abstinence
  • Building communication skills (including knowing when to ask for help)
  • Maintaining or obtaininga career or job
  • Learning more about recovery and staying proactive
  • Resolving family difficulties1,2

It’s easy to forget how important it is to maintain recovery practices. Studies show that it pays to remember how important recovery really is. People who take time each day to remember what a relapse might cost and what supports can help are more likely to reach their long-term goals.3,4 Group therapy, support groups, 12-step programs, and individual and family counseling all help with these goals.2

Tips to Keep Recovery on Track

Here are 15 simple suggestions that should help keep your recovery on track.5
Men clasping hands

  1. Be honest with yourself. You were addicted to alcohol and/or drugs and could be again, if you’re not careful.
  2. Continue complete abstinence. This isn’t a matter of moderation, of self-control, or adherence most of the time. Recovery calls for a commitment to total abstinence every waking moment.
  3. Prevent relapse. While minor lapses may occur (you’re not perfect, but you’re determined), you must avoid letting down your guard to surrender your power, your identity, to substances. Remember, people are more vulnerable to rash action when hungry, angry, lonely or tired (commonly referred to as H.A.L.T.); recognize the risk and be ready to cope positively.
  4. Test for other mental health conditions. Many people with substance use disorders also have other health issues; those other conditions may contribute to a substance use disorder. If there is a mental or physical health condition present, this is referred to as having co-occurring disorders, and you should be treated for a “dual diagnosis.”
  5. Seek and maintain a strong social support system. To stay the course of recovery, you need to have a positive, drug-free social network. This may involve family therapy or group therapy to build bonds, or individual therapy to help build boundaries.
  6. Find drug-free environment. Precautions must be taken to ensure your living and working situations feel safe to you, and do not lure you back into addictive behavior.
  7. Form a new, healthy lifestyle. Naturally, with alcohol and drugs out of your life, new patterns of healthy living need to be practiced until they become your new habit. This will take time, and it may feel awkward or uncomfortable at first. But it can be done intentionally and successfully.
  8. Submit to post-treatment monitoring. As a person with a history of substance use disorder (and possibly other complicating conditions), you should remain awareof the power of addiction. A sponsor or supportive sober person or program can help you remember your goals.
  9. Don’t overcompensate. With treatment hopefully behind you for good, you may have feelings of shame, guilt and sorrow for all that has been lost or damaged. Resist the temptation to setunrealistic expectations on yourself or overwork yourself; this might only lead to more frustration, anxiety and stress, which could pull you back into that old, familiar routine involving alcohol and/or drugs.
  10. Improve your attitude. You will find strength when you reflect daily on where you’ve been, what you’ve accomplished and the hopeful path you are now traveling. Expressing your gratitude will repair bridges that have been damaged and nurture a healthier mindset.
  11. Give more of yourself to others. It is incredibly healing to help other people. Your involvement in self-help or 12-Step groups will offer plenty of opportunity to give testimony, encouragement and advice. By getting your mind off yourself, you may gain the fulfilling satisfaction of giving useful service to others and, in return, receiving thanks, kindness and encouragement to faithfully continue your own journey.
  12. Educate yourself and loved ones. Everyone wins when you are able to assist or encourage significant people in your life to join you in learning more about addictions and mental wellness.Family therapy, parenting groups, and even support groups can help you and your loved ones learn more.
  13. Maintain hope and resilience. We are all human. You are a work in progress. The lure to relapse into old habits will always be out there; just hold your ground and keep doing your best.
  14. Embrace community and spirituality. Consider expanding your sense of meaning and purpose in life by being an active part of a local community or religious organization.
  15. Make wellness a priority. Maintaining an overall quality of life (well-being) and pursuing optimal physical, emotional and mental health is simply good advice for everyone.

Recovery from addiction is a lifelong, dynamic process — a process that, under knowledgeable, experienced guidance, can help an individual return to her authentic self. Skywood Recovery has been recognized in more than 10 federally funded studies. We take great satisfaction in sharing our proven approach to treating the whole person, one person at a time.

Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons with Co-Occurring Disorders. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 42.) 6 Traditional Settings and Models. Retrieved 7 Jul 2017.

2 Substance Abuse Treatment: Group Therapy. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2005. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 41.) 5 Stages of Treatment. Retrieved 7 Jul 2017.

3 Laudet, Alexandre B., Robert Savage, and Daneyal Mahmood. Pathways to Long-Term Recovery: A Preliminary Investigation. Journal of Psychoactive Drugs 34.3 (2002): 305–311. Retrieved 7 Jul 2017.

4 Clinical Issues in Intensive Outpatient Treatment. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2006. (Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 47.) Chapter 7. Retrieved 7 Jul 2017.

Treatments for Substance Use Disorders. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Aug 2016. Retrieved 7 Jul 2017.