Preparing for Aftercare: A Checklist for the Newly Sober
Once formal addiction treatment programs are complete, is all the hard work of recovery also complete? Can you rest and relax, knowing that you have locked your sobriety up tight? Not quite. In fact, there is a great deal of very fun and very positive work to be done that begins when formal treatment ends. These are the things you will need to do to prepare for that work and your sobriety success:
Checklist for Aftercare
- Find A Sober Living
- Take Relapse Prevention Courses
- Use Support Groups & Sponsors
- Know Your Alumni Options
- Get a Life Coach
- Find Family Support
- Utilize the 12-Steps
- Have Clear Goals
- Learn New Skills
- Find Meaning in Life
- Seek Meaningful Work
Find a sober living home.
Moving out of the safety of an inpatient facility and into the relative danger of the community can be stressful. It could be especially stressful for people who have active drug-dealing or drug-using friends. Maintaining sobriety against constant assault can be hard. A sober living home provides a safe and strictly enforced sober environment with no such dangers. According to a study in the journal Qualitative Health Research, the connections people make in sober living homes can be like family. People can form tight and sober bonds that can support them through the tough times. If you do not have this connection with your family and your community, a sober living home could be ideal for you.
Take a relapse prevention class.
Each person’s reason for relapsing to drugs is unique and based on that person’s history, chemistry, and personality. But there are some universals when it comes to relapse, and those universals can be taught in a class or a series of therapy sessions. Attending these sessions can help you understand how a relapse typically unfolds, and that can help you to take action when your sobriety is in danger.
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Find a support group.
Support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, have the proven ability to help you stay sober for the long term. For example, in a study cited by American Psychiatric Publishing, researchers found that people who attend self-help group meetings were more likely to stay sober than people who did not attend the meetings. Support group meetings are held in communities large and small all around the country. Some meetings are even held online. Your treatment program might link you with a program in your community, or you can seek out your own group online.
Find a support group sponsor.
Support group meetings follow a specific format, and often, there is lingo to learn and rules to memorize. That learning is easier to do when you have a mentor. In support groups, that mentor is called a sponsor. A sponsor can introduce you to the rules of the group, and that sponsor can work as added support in a crisis. Feel like you are about to relapse? Talk to your sponsor. Feel like you need to work the steps but don’t know how? Chat it over with your sponsor. It can be a vital part of your recovery.
Determine your facility’s alumni program offerings.
Many addiction rehab facilities offer ongoing support in the form of alumni meetings and learning opportunities. When your addiction program is nearing completion, your team may tell you more about that program and how you can enroll. Be sure to understand what is available to you, and mark your calendar so you can take advantage.
Hire a life coach.
A life coach is a bit like a mentor. Typically, this is a person who also has a story of addiction recovery to share, and this is a person who has a number of tips you can use in order to preserve your own sobriety. A life coach might meet with you in a series of appointments, or a coach might live with you and watch over you during the early days of your recovery.
Line up family support.
Connections with your family can be key when things go wrong in your recovery. As an article in GoodTherapy.org points out, the whole family can change when an addicted person chooses to change. Every person’s role in the family can shift, and the whole family’s communication patterns can bend. You can deal with these changes by participating in family therapy sessions when your addiction treatments are about to come to a close. That will allow you to discuss how you have changed and how your family can support you as you grow.
Study the 12 Steps.
Many addiction treatment programs offer 12-Step programs as part of the care package they provide. So it might be likely that you have seen the 12 Steps of recovery made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous, but your relationship with the steps might be different now that your treatment plan is complete. You might have completed some steps already, and you might want to revisit a step or two based on your new knowledge.
Come up with goals.
Having goals gives you a sense of purpose, and there are all sorts of goals you could set. For example, in a study in the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity, researchers found that 71 percent of people who enrolled in an addiction treatment program were not also enrolled in an exercise program. These people might not be accustomed to things like running, jumping, and lifting weights, but goals like finishing a marathon or lifting 20 pounds could fill them with a sense of accomplishment when they are completed. It could be a smart step to take.
Pick up a new skill.
When you do not have to spend your time nurturing an addiction, you may find that you have a great deal of time to fill. You could spend that time worrying about your addiction, or you could spend it on activities that soothe your soul and help you to cope with stress and discomfort. One good activity to try is knitting. According to an overview in Psychology Today, the rhythmic action of knitting can be soothing to worn nerves, and it can be a communal activity if you join a knitting group. If knitting is not something you are interested in, you could consider learning a new language or trying your hand at painting. The idea is to find an outlet for your creativity and your brain. Anything that helps you to do that could be a good thing to try.
Find meaning in everyday life.
It can be hard to stay positive, day in and day out, but looking for what is good in the decisions you make every day can make a big difference. Some people accomplish this by spending a few moments every day in mindful meditation. They sit in a quiet space with a quiet mind, and they think about what they are grateful for in the moment, right now. They focus on the positive, and they push the negative away. They home in on the sensations of the body and the accomplishments of the day. Even if the gains are small that day, the act of being grateful can do wonders for your mental health.
Seek out meaningful work.
As Mental Health America says, working on something that seems meaningful to you will anchor your recovery. As you accomplish things at work, you will feel your sense of self-esteem start to rise. Work gives you the opportunity to meet people in sober situations, and that could also be a key part of your recovery. Look for ways to apply the skills you already have. If you struggle to find work, ask your counselor to connect you with a jobs program that can help.
Completing your treatment program is a big accomplishment, and it is one to be proud of. By following these steps, you will be honoring that work and ensuring that it continues in your life. You can do it!
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