Now that you have worked hard to get clean and stay clean for months or even years on end, you want to do whatever you can to maintain it. Relapse prevention is of the utmost importance in long term recovery. You should develop habits in your recovery that help you avoid the risk of relapse. This involves a list of things to do to ensure you are on the right track. Of course, everyone’s recovery journey is different, and what works for some may not work for others. Even so, you should consider these general habits for long term sobriety.
Educate Yourself on Relapse Warning Signs
Relapse is perhaps one of the biggest enemies of your recovery. People often think that relapse happens out of nowhere, but this is untrue. There are many warning signs leading up to a relapse that are often overlooked simply because the individual is unaware of what they look like. An important aspect of relapse is that it typically occurs in three phases: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. Warning signs of relapse often involve:
- Behaving in an irresponsible manner that is not conducive to one’s recovery
- Engaging in addictive thinking and behavior patterns
- Acting more compulsively
- Hanging around people and places where drugs or alcohol are available
- Thinking that drug and alcohol use is the only way to cope with pain
- Glamorizing drug or alcohol use
- Not going to support group meetings
Know Your Triggers
Everyone has triggers in their recovery that may remind them of their past drug and alcohol use. Triggers can be internal (thoughts, emotions, feelings) and external (people, places, things) and vary from person to person. Making a list of your triggers will help you be more prepared for them in the future. You can avoid them, but you should also include on your list coping mechanisms for if you come across said triggers. Some common triggers in recovery are:
- Interpersonal relationship problems
- Problems with work or school
- Environmental factors that cause cravings
- Being around people using drugs or drinking alcohol
Don’t Fall Back Into Old Habits
The life you live now as a clean and healthy person will not reflect what life looked like before treatment. You will need to change your daily routines and habits to be successful in your recovery. For example, you should not hang around people and places you used to use drugs or drink alcohol with. It can be hard to let go of old friends, but it is ultimately necessary to maintain your sobriety. You will also need to change anything that may cause you to come across your triggers. For example, if you pass the bar, you used to drink at on the way home from work, consider taking a different route home. This way, you can give yourself the best chance at recovery.
Engage in Healthy Living
You may have been eating healthy and exercising while you were in rehab. It can be easy to fall into unhealthy habits once you get home, but you need to continue these healthy habits to encourage long-term recovery. Think of it as self-care -- you are taking care of your body to make sure it is healthy, clean, and in shape. Some examples of healthy habits to include in daily life may be:
- Getting enough sleep to ensure you are well-rested
- Exercising regularly
- Eating nutritious, well-balanced meals
- Practicing mindfulness such as meditation or yoga
- Setting aside time to engage in your favorite sober hobbies and activities
Have a Structured Routine
You should develop a structured daily routine for yourself, including getting enough sleep, exercising, eating three meals a day, going to support groups, and engaging in other sober activities. Having this routine will help reduce stress and fill your free time. It is a good idea to avoid boredom, a common relapse trigger. Suffering from boredom may cause you to think about using drugs or alcohol to fill your time. A structured routine will help you gradually progress in your sobriety as the days go by.
Celebrate Sober Milestones
Celebrating milestones in your recovery is crucial for maintaining it for the long term. At each milestone, you can reflect on where you were versus where you are today. You are better able to appreciate the life that sobriety has given you, as well as the opportunities you now have because of it. You are also reminded to thank those that got you to this point each time you celebrate a sober anniversary or milestone. Celebrating keeps you motivated to keep going in your recovery.
Recovery is difficult, but there are ways to make it easier over time. Adjusting to life outside of treatment may seem intimidating at first, but creating and sticking to healthy habits that encourage your sobriety will help you more than anything. Habits that make sure your body has the strength and energy to continue in recovery are necessary. These can include educating yourself on warning signs of relapse, knowing your triggers, having a structured routine, avoiding old ways, practicing healthy living, and celebrating your milestones. All of these are conducive to healthy, long term recovery. At Northstar Transitions, we can help you form these habits and make them fit in your personal life. We understand that every recovery journey looks different and are specially trained to help you stay sober even after you leave treatment. Call us today at (303) 558-6400 to learn more about forming healthy habits in recovery.