The road to addiction and alcoholism recovery is the most complex overall health challenge the human race has ever confronted. So, to give five action steps is like taking the first step on climbing Mt Everest. But with any climb from the bottom, one has to begin with the first step and especially for those individuals, transitioning from a program where you are surrounded by a support group that is consistently striving to help you achieve long-term success in your recovery, to an environment that forces you to navigate a new, sober lifestyle can be overwhelmingly challenging. These are some tips to help you stay sober when you’re feeling tempted.
Develop your own support system
It is essential to surround yourself with people that also maintain a sober living style or that respect and understand what you are going through to help you maintain your own. Keep in touch with friends and family that love you and have your best interest in mind. Having at least one person to call when you are feeling tempted will do wonders for your sobriety. If you are searching for more, find a local support group for addiction. Turning to nature and immersing yourself in the outdoors can be extremely therapeutic as well. Be courageous and stay away from old relationships that are only landmines for your recovery. Remember the difficult truth…these decisions are on you. Others can’t force you to make good decisions. AA is, of course, a free and effective outlet and offers a powerful fellowship and community. However, it is not a treatment.
Adjust your environment
The failure of over 90% of individuals entering an expensive 30-day treatment center is primarily due to the unrealistic environment of poolside massages, Equine therapy groups, and other luxury retreat elements of many of these facilities. (I will address the outrageous business of recovery in great detail in future blogs and media outlets). To give yourself a fighting chance of not having a recurrence right after leaving rehabilitation and before you return home, make sure your support system has removed any alcohol, drugs, and paraphernalia. Try to avoid any places that trigger the desire to use. Instead, explore new places and try new things. Removing anything that may spark the interest to use will help keep you on the path of sobriety.
Create new habits
“A study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology shows that it takes more than two months before a new habit becomes automatic, so find a new, positive habit you enjoy doing and stick with it.” Start doing things you may not have previously engaged in. Get active – it engages your mind and body and leaves less room for cravings to occur. Quiet your mind and center yourself by meditating. Fuel your body with nutrients by eating healthy. Engage in creative activities, like writing, drawing, painting, sculpting, photography – anything inspiring and get creative juices flowing. As an example, if you began your drinking at 5 pm every day, begin a workout program at that time or go for a long walk with a friend that supports your recovery.
By setting goals, it will be easier for you to control temptations and stay on track. When you understand the purpose as to why you want to stay sober, as well as remembering the benefits it will bring to your life, it will be more manageable to continue your sobriety. If you don’t have goals or something to live for then you will relapse. It’s that simple.
Be mindful of your mental health and take action with MAT (Medically Assisted Therapy)
Mental health challenges are profoundly connected to addiction and alcoholism. When those seeking treatment, or family members looking to help a suffering loved ones, the first call should not be to an “800” number with some low-paid actor wearing a doctors costume, but rather a qualified physician or psychiatrist that has a focus on treatment of addiction and/or alcoholism. Unfortunately, there a shortage of these doctors around the country but if you put forth the effort with your family to find one, go to this site to help you locate a physician in your area that specializes in medically assisted treatment for addiction and mental health. Also, I believe 12 step programs, although 100% well-intended, have done and continue to do a disservice to those suffering who are in true need of medical intervention. AA is a powerful and loving community but still many of its members, I believe, judge people using Naltrexone to decrease or eliminate the cravings as “cheating” or not really following the “program”. This is unfortunate, as even in the “Big Book” the bible of AA actually recommends medical intervention when the program fails those trying to get through the 12 steps but keep relapsing. There is no data tracking these people leaving AA that simply can’t get sober by just giving over to God.