Working through alcohol and addiction recovery is a complex process. It’s a period of change and growth that can be challenging to navigate. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, some fundamental skills and guidelines apply to most people on this journey.
As you navigate the recovery journey, keep these baseline dos and don’ts in mind to improve your chances of success.
Do: Create a Support System
Having people to lean on during recovery is essential. Many people experience substance misuse and substance abuse disorders related to mental illness and challenges with emotional processing. As you learn more about addiction recovery, you’ll learn how to communicate and rely on others as an essential part of the process.
Talk to your closest friends and family about your experience and tell them when you’re struggling. Be clear about what you need during these periods, whether it’s feedback and encouragement or just a listening ear.
Having a group of peers navigating similar experiences can also be beneficial. Set a habit of going to meetings and connecting with others, even when you don’t feel like you need it.
Maintain an ongoing relationship with a professional therapist or counselor specializing in addiction. This individual can provide an unbiased, informed third-party perspective that will help you stay the course of your recovery. Working with a professional is especially important as you re-enter the world post-treatment or have potentially triggering events on the horizon.
Don’t: Let Toxic People In
Ending contact with people who put your sobriety at risk is crucial for your recovery. When considering who those people are in your life, the first thought goes to friends who are in active addiction. However, other people in your life may also have a negative influence on your recovery.
Individuals who don’t understand that your recovery is a top priority may struggle to respect your needs or boundaries. Similarly, toxic people in your life who exacerbate your guilt or cause you undue stress are a risk to your recovery.
It’s challenging to look at long-time friendships and relationships with family, then decide to cut them off. However, if that person puts your recovery at risk, it’s necessary— regardless of the relationship.
Do: Try New Things
Trying new things is another essential part of the recovery process. Addiction is a habit, wired into the brain. When you remove one habit, replacing it with something else helps ease the transition. In this case, you’re replacing it with a new activity, passion, or hobby that promotes your ongoing health and wellness.
Brainstorm some things you’d like to try. Explore activities that can further your recovery efforts, such as physical exercise or creative endeavors. Don’t hesitate to try new things you haven’t considered before, like dancing or painting. You may discover a hidden talent!
Don’t: Take on Too Much Too Soon
Keeping busy and filling your time is a must, but you don’t want to overdo it. Stress is one of the leading causes of relapse. As the saying goes, too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing at all. Trying to overbook your schedule with social events, new hobbies, work, and appointments could derail your progress.
Take some time to reflect upon how you feel and if you really have the bandwidth to take on more commitments. Don’t hesitate to say no to things that don’t serve you or adjust when you feel overwhelmed.
Do: Remove the Temptation
One of the best ways to reduce your relapse risk is to avoid exposure to triggering places, people, and events. Minimizing your exposure to substances mitigates the opportunity for relapse. In other words, it makes it less convenient and thus less likely to occur.
Don’t: Isolate Yourself
There’s a fine line between removing yourself from temptation and isolating yourself too much. This issue is why it’s vital to find other social groups and activities separate from your active addiction.
At some point, triggers will become unavoidable— even with continued efforts on your part. For example, if a loved one is getting married, attending their wedding could be incredibly important to you. You know that there may be people or substances present, but you also know that missing the occasion would be detrimental to your mental health.
Work with a professional to create an exposure plan. This process can help you prepare for known exposures, like the example above. It can also help you create a response plan for unexpected encounters, like running into an old friend who encourages you to relapse. Working with a professional and leaning on your support systems will help you stay engaged in the world around you.
Do: Acknowledge Your Wrongs
People in the throes of addiction hurt other people. Acknowledge that you’ve played a part in someone else’s pain. Accept your part in what happened, apologize, and respect the boundaries of those hurt by your substance use disorder.
It may take time to repair and mend relationships with loved ones. Remember that your recovery is your top priority, but their feelings and needs are also valid.
Don’t: Beat Yourself up Over Them
Give yourself grace. Sometimes the person who finds it hardest to forgive is the person apologizing. It’s normal to feel sadness, anger, regret, and shame for your choices, but they’re in the past. Forgive yourself and work on moving forward and focusing on the future.
Alcohol and addiction recovery is an ongoing process. Some days are harder than others, and some feel downright impossible. However, by setting clear boundaries, engaging your mind and body in positive activities, and surrounding yourself with love, you’ll make the road to recovery smoother and easier to navigate.