Congratulations! You are finally done with alcohol treatment. After your successful rehab stint, you now enter the abstinence stage. This usually lasts for 1 to 2 years. Although you have managed to overcome a difficult part of your life, there are more challenges to come. There is still an abundance of temptations here and there.
If you want to keep on riding the recovery bandwagon, then make sure to heed these tips on how to maintain a sober life – even after rehab.
Create a Long-Term Recovery Plan
Recovery is a life-long process. Contrary to popular beliefs, alcohol rehab is not the last step to sobriety. It’s actually your first one. In order to progress to permanent sobriety, you need to establish a long-term recovery plan. This can help you, and your therapist, keep you on the right track.
A good alcohol recovery plan should include the following:
- List of alcohol triggers, and how to control them
- How to keep a safe environment
- How to build healthy relationships
- Attitudes and actions that need to be changed to prevent alcoholism
- How to cope with emotions
- How to make amends with family, friends, and loved ones
- Itemized goals for recovery, and how you can achieve each one
- Schedules of counseling sessions and therapies
- List of alcohol-free activities that you could participate in
- Schedules of local alcohol support group meetings
To get a detailed Recovery plan, you can access this file from the Washington State Department of Health.
Avoid Negative Thinking
Negative thoughts can lead to stress, anxiety, depression, and resentment. Any (or all) of which can lead to a dreaded event: relapse. With that being said, Melemis believes that cutting negative thoughts can help maintain sobriety. As such, he recommends cognitive therapy and mind-body relaxation. These therapies can help ‘rewire’ the brain, so old habits can be transformed into positive, recovery-fostering ones.
As mentioned, cognitive therapy is a tool that can help change negative thinking. It can help promote healthy coping skills. For many experts, it is one of the most effective ways to prevent relapse.
Cognitive therapy can help change the common mindsets amongst newly-recovered alcoholics, such as:
- “I am an alcoholic because of other people.”
- “I don’t think I can live a life without alcohol.”
- “My cravings for alcohol are too overwhelming.”
- “Recovery is too much work.”
Mind-body relaxation, on the other hand, is a way to influence the body’s physical activities. According to the Cleveland Clinic, it can help decrease anxiety and stress, which are known triggers for relapse.
Opt for Sober Friends
Yes, your drinking buddies might be the reasons why you have been an alcoholic. After all, your clique can dictate your alcohol use. Such was proven in a study by Miller et al. Results show that peers with higher alcohol blood concentrations do so because of group member/s who fancy getting drunk.
With that being said, one of the best things you could do is hang out with your more sober friends. If you could cut ties with friends that trigger your alcoholism for the time being, then do so. This may help save you from another expensive trip to rehab.
You May Need to Find a New Work
Did the stresses of your previous work push you to the brink of alcoholism? If that’s the case, then you need to find a new job that comes with lesser stresses. The pay may be lower, but it will keep you sober enough. Think: what will you do with more money if you end up drinking again? You are probably just going to lose it to rehab and whatnot.
The same can be said with a ‘negative’ work environment. If it triggers you to drink, then you need to find a new work setting. For example, if you previously worked as a bartender, then you might consider changing your job for the time being. That’s because the bar is full of alcoholic drinks which can potentially tempt you to drink again.
Keep in Touch with a Recovery Group
Yes, you may be done with rehab but now is not the time to abandon your support group. In fact, you are going to need them more than ever. According to Tracy and Wallace, groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) continue to be effective even after rehab treatment. After all, AA can help promote healthy coping and self-efficacy strategies.
Such a claim was proven in a study by Ouimette et al. According to the researchers, those who participated in 12-step groups exhibited the best results even after 1 year of treatment. Unfortunately, those who did not engage in AA (and other support groups) were found to be more likely to relapse.
Preventing relapse goes beyond maintaining the right mindset. You need to live a healthy lifestyle as well. One of the best ways to do so is to exercise regularly. Not only will this help you lose weight, it can help you maintain your recovery as well.
So how can alcohol keep you sober? Brown and his colleagues have cited several ways:
- Working out is a good, healthy alternative for alcohol. It can decrease your urge to drink again.
- Exercise can help control your negative mood. It can help prevent depression as well. Remember, loneliness is a trigger for alcoholism.
- Working out can keep you in a happy, pleasurable state – even without alcohol.
- Exercise can make boost your self-efficacy.
- Working out can make you less reactive to stress. It can enhance your coping mechanism – so you can maintain your sobriety for the years to come.
Remember, Recovery is a Continuing Process
Just because you are done with rehab, doesn’t mean that you’re cured for good. Recovery is a continuing process. In his WebMD interview, Dr. Jerry Lerner expressed that it is a ‘part of an ongoing healthier living process.’
Should you relapse – which is a natural part of recovery – know that your counselors will be there for you every step of the way. Remember, to err is human. Although this is the case, it’s no excuse to relapse. The above-mentioned tips can help you live an alcohol-free life, despite the temptations that lie everywhere. You are in charge of your sobriety, after all.
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