HOW TO STAY SOBER AFTER TREATMENT
Drug addiction is a process, not an event. The first drink, toke or injection does not determine addiction…nor does the second, seventh or thirtieth. No single event can determine whether an individual will become addicted to a particular drug or be able to normally discontinue their usage. Drug addiction occurs because every person desires homeostasis.
Life is a fragile balance that has to be maintained despite stress. Everyone develops coping mechanisms to this end. Unfortunately for some people those coping mechanisms are unhealthy and lead to addiction. The purpose of treatment is to teach healthy coping strategies that have nothing to do with taking a substance that dulls the pain.
Life has to be experienced as it comes; there is no shortcut. So, to stay sober after treatment, an individual must learn how to cope with the stress that occurs in every life without reliance on a situation altering substance. It is a difficult road, but like addiction itself it is a process and not an event.
Walking out the door of that facility is scary. A treatment center is a safe place that offers coping without the stressors of reality. Unfortunately, you cannot stay in that bubble forever.
Most treatment programs have a set time frame during which patients are expected to detox and learn the skills necessary to move on. This time limit is not a constant as every individual will require different levels of care to successfully begin recovery. But you do have to leave at some point and the continued success rate of those who exit treatment is not encouraging.
Research suggests that from 10% to 15% of people are successful once they leave treatment. This does not mean that those people have zero need for the substance or don’t relapse at some point, but they learn other coping mechanisms and despite occasional use are able to return to society successfully. This is not an encouraging statistic, but let’s look at why more people aren’t able to kick the habit.
Roadblocks to Staying Sober
An individual may start abusing drugs or alcohol with friends or because they just want to try them, but for most this doesn’t lead to addiction. People become addicted because they learn to use the drug as a way to cope with life (as was mentioned above). So, learning new coping mechanisms is essential while you are in rehab. Unfortunately, most return to a pattern after they leave rehab.
Another issue is people. When you leave rehab, most will be skeptical that you can succeed. They may not say anything but you get the feeling that they are just waiting for you to fail. Some will try to be positive and supportive, but they are still waiting for what seems inevitable. That is why many addicts, even those who return to a supposedly supportive environment, revert to the friendships they had while using after treatment. At least the old crowd recognizes you for who you are.
Then there is the issue of an effective aftercare treatment plan. While going through treatment, an addict is tasked with helping counselors and other treatment staff with writing an aftercare plan that will work for the individual. This may include a certain amount of 12-step meetings, using coping methods other than the substance of choice and finding a helpful support group. Unfortunately, thought these seem like good ideas during rehab, they are often discarded as too difficult.READ NEXT: How to do a Successful Intervention
How Can You Stay Sober Despite the Odds?
The individual who truly wants to succeed has to keep several key statements in mind first of all:
- Life is filled with stress. It is hard to live with reality day in and day out.
- Some people will remind you of how fun and pain free it was to use.
- Following a sober treatment plan is much more difficult than using again.
How many people become addicted to drugs? According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse there were 22.7 million people in America who needed treatment in 2013 (or 8.6 percent of the total population). Other research indicates that a 10 percent addiction rate is fairly constant. This isn’t that total number of people who use alcohol to excess or use illicit drugs one time or another (that number is far larger), these are the people who have so lost touch with reality, due to their drug usage, that they need help to recover from the effects of their drug of choice.
Unfortunately only about 10 percent of these people seek treatment and only 10 percent of those people successfully reenter society and do not need to enter a rehab facility again.
So, to stay sober an individual must first:
- Realize that they have a problem.
- Enter a rehab facility to correct that problem, and
- Successfully complete that program.
To be strong enough and wise enough to get this far is against the odds. Staying sober after that should be easy.
You stay sober by remembering what the staff in the rehab facility told you.
- Stick with your aftercare plan. Realize that unless you have a plan to follow every day, you will fail. This is true whether you are an addict or not.
- Get rid of your drug using friends and make new friends who can help you cope in better ways. One of the biggest problems people have after leaving treatment is that they go back to the places they used to do drugs and hang around with the same people. Build new, healthy, sober relationships.
- Realize your triggers and consciously seek to find better ways to cope with them.
- Keep in touch with the rehab facility. These are people who want to see you succeed and they love hearing success stories.
Staying sober is difficult because it is easier to use. But, your life will be immeasurably better if you don’t. Build a plan during rehab and stick to it afterward. You can have a life after substance abuse.