After finishing alcohol or drug rehab, hopefully you feel prepared to start your road to long-term recovery. However, no matter how prepared you feel there are many aspects to addiction recovery that many addicts do not expect, and these can throw them off balance. To help you stay on track we have compiled this list of 21 things you should know about addiction recovery from the start.
21 Addiction Recovery Tips and Facts
1. Addiction is a brain disease.
It is helpful to remember that addiction is a disease of the brain, like asthma is a disease of the lungs. Addiction is not a moral failing. You are not a bad or flawed person. However, the reality of most diseases, including addiction, is that they require ongoing care to manage. Being in recovery is a lifelong commitment that will not always come easy.
2. There is no “cure.”
Attending a drug and alcohol rehab centre is not a cure. These places provide people with the appropriate tools to manage the disease and set them on the right path, but after that it is in the addict’s hands to remain sober and in recovery. This is why many people choose to refer to themselves as “recovering addicts” — the term serves as a permenant reminder that they are never fully cured, but simply in remission as long as they continue to use the tools necessary to remain clean and sober.
3. Getting sober and living sober are not the same.
Getting sober, or stopping the use of drugs and alcohol, is only the first step to living sober. Living sober requires making lifestyle changes that promote personal growth and long-term addiction recovery.
4. Substitute addictions can be sneaky.
If you attended an addiction treatment centre then you are probably aware of the dangers of substituting alcohol for another drug of choice or vice versa — which is why complete abstinence from all substances is recommended. As well, it is important to be aware of the less talked about process addictions such as gambling, food, shopping, sex, or love that can also be used to fulfil the void of your previous addiction.
5. There is no “one way” in addiction recovery.
While there are many suggestions as to what will help, the fact is there is no one way to achieve recovery. At first it will be beneficial take advice from those in long-term recovery, but use it then to find what works best for you. For example, some people find meditation is a crucial aspect of their recovery, while others find that it does not help at all.
6. Be prepared to grieve.
Addiction recovery is wonderful and it will feel that way eventually, but be prepared to initially grieve the loss of your addiction. You cannot expect to make positive change and simply forget the many years you spent tied up with your drug of choice and that lifestyle. You are making the wise choice to give it up, but it is still a loss that will likely need to be emotionally and mentally processed.
7. Recovery requires actions rather than intentions.
Happy thoughts will only get you so far. Positive affirmations and intentions can be helpful, but addiction recovery requires actions. Taking small daily actions to improve your lifestyle and work towards your goals, such as walking for 15 minutes, or signing up for a new class to keep yourself busy is the only way to move forward.
8. Recovery requires lifestyle changes.
If you think you can live the same lifestyle as you did before addiction treatment while simply abstaining from using drugs or alcohol you are on the fast track to relapse. Addiction recovery requires a lifestyle overhaul — including the activities you participate in, the people you hang out with, and the way you think.
9. Changing people, places, and things is not enough.
While it is a good start, simply changing the people, places, and things that were prevalent while you were actively addicted is not enough. Inner change – changing the way you think and deal with emotions – is what will truly lead to long-term recovery.
10. Find your own path outside of meetings.
Attending an addiction recovery group is vital, especially in early recovery, but you will eventually need to find your own path outside of meetings. This means developing your own ways, other than meetings, to support your own recovery. Activities such as volunteering, exercising and attending classes are great options.
11. Work on mastering one positive change at a time.
Addiction recovery requires change — this is clear. However, the amount of change necessary can be overwhelming. Focus on mastering one positive change at a time, as slowly or as quickly as you can handle.
12. Quit smoking.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), more addicts who enter addiction treatment programmes die from tobacco-related issues than from the drug which initially pushed them to get treatment. If you are scared of relapsing while trying to quit smoking, or do not know how to quit, speak to a specialist – you do not have to do it alone.
13. Form friendships that include people in and out of recovery.
Of course making friends who are also in recovery is important — but some of these friends will relapse. Forming friendships with stable people outside of recovery will help to create a balanced life. Make time for family and long-term friends who understand what you have been through and are supportive of your new lifestyle.
14. Gratitude is powerful.
Gratitude can be one of your most powerful recovery tools. Being thankful for what you have will make you a more resilient, positive, and happy person. Practice writing down one thing each day that you are grateful for before bed each night and see what a difference it can make.
15. Overall health is important.
Diet and exercise are important in addiction recovery. Taking care of your overall physical health will lower your chances for relapse. A healthy mind and body goes a long way in addiction recovery.
16. Be wary of lesser known relapse triggers.
Some relapse triggers are common and obvious, but others such as becoming over confident or having more money in the bank, can catch you off guard. Thoroughly prepare yourself for a wide range of potential relapse triggers.
17. Recovery requires lifelong commitment to personal growth.
Stagnation can be the first step towards relapse. While the longer you are in recovery the lower your risk for relapse, some people do relapse even after 10+ years sober. If you are not working on personal growth on a regular basis, you could be headed towards relapse.
18. Your idea of fun will change.
Addiction recovery does not doom you to a dull and boring life. You can and will have fun sober, but your ideas about what is fun will change – and trust us – that is not a bad thing!
19. Help others.
If you find a way to help others your chances for success increase. Helping others through volunteering, becoming a sponsor, or simply being there to help a friend move or care for their children will benefit everyone — especially you.
Forgiving yourself and others can be a huge part of recovery. If you continue to hold on to resentments from the past, then your risk for relapse is high.
21. Relapse does not equal failure.
Let’s say that again: relapse does not equal failure. We hope to never relapse. We hope our loved ones never relapse. But the fact is, it does happen to some. And if it does happen, it is important to remember that relapse does not mean you are a failure — even if it feels like it. Just be sure to take steps immediately to get back on track with your recovery.