By Kevin Repass
Coming out of a drug and alcohol detox or treatment center, stepping back into the real world and into recovery can be terrifying. There’s always the fear of what happens leaving an environment you knew you were safe and comfortable in. You wonder what’s next and how you can prevent yourself from relapse and change your old, unhealthy ways. Fear not, for there are many healthy habits and lifestyle changes you can make physically, mentally, socially, spiritually and emotionally to live a better life than before. It all starts with willpower and commitment. Just remember to focus, take care of yourself and your own needs first and foremost.
- Exercise– Getting yourself in an exercise routine at home or getting a membership at the gym is not only obviously better for health, it can also be an excellent way to stay occupied, relieve stress and make you feel better about yourself overall. It can help take your mind off the idea of drinking or using drugs. Yoga and martial arts are good alternatives if it appeals to you more
- Eat Healthy (or Healthier)– Eating better and getting sufficient vitamins and nutrients you need can make you feel better not just physically but mentally as well. I would advise trying to cut out or moderate any kind of addictive substances such as caffeine and sugar that could be triggers.
- Quit Smoking– I know it’s a lot easier said than done. Nicotine, along with caffeine, are two of the most addictive substances. Quitting smoking obviously reduces health risks but it also makes you feel better. Plus, there’s no better feeling than kicking yet another unhealthy habit out of your life. That should make you feel good mentally.
- Look Good, Feel Good– I know this may sound silly, but I found that dressing up nicely, maintaining good hygiene and making significant changes to appearance such as a haircut can make you feel better both physically and mentally. Shedding an old identity and creating a new one can help put the wreckage of our past in the rearview mirror.
- Seek Therapy – There is nothing wrong with seeking therapy after treatment. Visiting and speaking to a therapist on a regular basis can allow you to vent, relieve stress and stay focused on your recovery. It can be another shoulder to lean on in a time of need.
- Medications– Going on medications to help with any fear, depression or anxiety of going back out into the real world can be beneficial. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression are oftentimes linked to drug addiction and alcoholism.
- Identify and Avoid Triggers– Identify and avoid ANYTHING that you think is a trigger. Triggers are different for everyone and can come in the form of even the simplest thing. For example, I used to love mixing whiskey with Coca-Cola and drinking beer. As silly as it may sound, I try to avoid both the soda and alcoholic beverage sections of stores. Identifying and avoiding triggers can help you stay sober and mentally strong enough until they are no longer triggers at all.
- Alcoholics Anonymous & Narcotics Anonymous Meetings– Going to Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings is another essential part in recovery. These groups truly are a fellowship where nobody judges anyone. Connecting and engaging with the recovery community in your area will make you feel human and accepted. It is a place where you are welcomed regardless of age, race, sex, religion or background. Hearing other people’s stories and sharing your own can be a sobering reminder where you came from and why you’re there. These rooms can save lives, spread hope, inspire faith and produce positivity. It truly is a miracle. The program works if you work it.
- Meditation and Prayer– Meditation and prayer can help you focus, relax, relieve stress, anxiety and help you live in the moment. It can help you appreciate what you do have in life rather than what you do not. It can help you acknowledge that the worst is over and the best is yet to come.
- Church or Other Religious Sanctuaries– Depending on your religious values and beliefs, maintaining a strong spiritual and social connection with a church or any other religious sanctuary can be cleansing, inspiring and empowering. It can restore and maintain any hope and faith you lost. It is a positive environment with positive vibes that can keep you focused on your path to recovery.
- Cut Out Toxic People and Influences– After leaving treatment and continuing recovery, you might be tempted to hang out with your old drinking buddies or people you used to get high with. It is extremely important in recovery to pick and choose your company wisely. Cutting out people that can remind you of your past or tempt you into reliving it is vital. Cutting out toxic people and influences doesn’t always have to be permanent. For example, you want to hang out with a best friend you’ve known for years but drinks heavily. You can still keep in contact with this friend but it might be best to stay away from them in person for the time being so you’re not triggered or tempted. It’s all about assessing the situation and the risk versus reward.
- Avoid Old Stomping Grounds, Liquor Stores, Bars, Etc. – Severing ties to the past is a constant and essential theme in recovery. Avoid any location that is a well-known drug area or “stomping ground” where you used to buy, sell or use. Avoid the alcoholic beverage aisle in stores, liquor stores, bars and any other place that may trigger you or tempt you into drinking.
- Keep Good Company in Recovery– Maintaining a strong social support system is extremely important. You need people who are there to support, motivate and encourage you, not bring you down. Surround yourself with people who won’t influence you negatively or tempt you into relapse. Building a network with people in recovery themselves can be beneficial too. You have all “been there, done that” and are going through the same changes in life. You already know you have something in common which can help motivate and encourage one another. Being in recovery can be difficult for family and friends who love and care about you. It is important to keep in touch and surround yourself with family so they can tell or see how you’re doing. Making them feel better about your recovery will make yourself feel better about your recovery. They stuck by you through the worst of times but will always care and worry based on the life you used to live.
Follow these healthy habits in your recovery and you will be amazed at the results it produces.We may have one more relapse within us but we may not have one more recovery. A good friend I was in treatment with gave me the best definition of recovery I ever heard: “Recovery means uncovering your true essence.” Uncover yours.
Kevin Repass is a recovering drug addict and alcoholic. He is a writer for https://yourfirststep.org/ a south Florida-based company dedicated to providing resources and information to all those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.