Recovering from a drug or alcohol addiction is a long process that takes time, perseverance, and a willingness to change. If you’re in recovery, you’ve already undertaken one of the biggest steps, admitting you have a problem and seeking out help. If so, then you’re well on your way towards a better and happier life. Unfortunately, addiction does not end when your physical substance dependence is gone, and many former addicts face cravings, stress, triggers, trauma, and relationship problems for years to come.
Knowing what you are facing will allow you to plan to make the best decisions, so you can maintain your recovery and stay clean or sober.
1. Financial Issues – Substance use often facilitates financial problems. If you spent money you did not have, indebted yourself, engaged in behavior resulting in fees and fines, lost your home, failed to pay bills, failed to pay taxes, or otherwise neglected your finances, you will likely face the repercussions of those decisions for a long time to come. This is especially important if you have an arrest or a felony record, which will make it more difficult for you to find a well-paying job. For example, as an addict you may have wrecked a car, resulting in a lawsuit against your person. You may have failed to pay your mortgage, resulting in your home being repossessed. Or, you may have dropped out of college and now face college debt with no way of repaying it. While financial issues do not affect every recovering person, they are a very common problem, and one that you should approach with care.
Manage your money. Many people attempt to use spending as a way to get back control after leaving rehab. However, you should work to create a savings plan, take care of debts, and manage your money to prevent stress. If you have significant debts, consider seeing a financial advisor who may be able to help you consolidate debts, create a savings plan, or help you to determine the most logical order to pay debts off. In most cases, you should prioritize financial expenses you need to maintain your home, food, and transportation, and then divide your remaining income between bills and payments.
- Consolidate Debts – Debt consolidation allows you to reduce payments so that you can manage them. If you have considerable debts, a bank or credit body may be able to reduce them to a single loan, which you can pay off at a more manageable rate. While you will pay interest on this, it will likely be less than the interest you would pay by paying off each individual payment.
- Plan to Save – While saving may not be possible, especially if you are on a minimum wage job, it is important to plan so that you will be able to in the future, or so that you can now if you can. Having financial savings in case of an emergency will reduce stress so that you are less likely to have problems.
- Don’t forget yourself. – While spending all your money wisely can a be a good thing, you do have to reward yourself periodically. Plan to spend a small percentage of your earnings on things that make you happy, such as nice food, a gym subscription, clothes, etc.
- Get Help – If you need financial help, go to a professional and get it. Trying to manage debt, bills, and finances on your own can be overwhelming. It may also be a bad idea to ask family for help, especially if you have abused their help in the past for substances.
2. Relationship Problems – Most substance users find themselves returning to their old lives with little to no idea of how to pick up and repair damaged relationships with friends and family. In many cases, you will never get your old relationships back, and you shouldn’t try. However, you can work to build new relationships with people you love, build their trust again, and work to be a person that they can be proud of. If you have hurt someone, it is important to recognize that and to take the time to make amends before building a new relationship.
- You come first. Fixing yourself should take priority over relationships and friends.
- Social activities such as volunteering, going to group meetings, and even helping in your community can help you if you have trouble making friends. Most will also work to build your self esteem, so that you are better at making friends.
- Have honest discussions with your old friends and family and decide where you want them to be in your life, and then work towards that.
3. Cravings and Triggers – Cravings and triggers are problems that you may face on and off for the rest of your life, but which will be worse in the first year out of rehabilitation. Your goal should be to develop coping strategies, to recognize your triggers, and spend time ensuring that you have the tools to stay clean, even in the presence of the substance you were addicted to.
- Go to group meetings. 12 Step and non-12-Step groups can be very helpful as an outlet, while providing accountability and motivation to stay clean.
- While going for a run or doing yoga may not be your top priority, it will help you to avoid stress, reduce cravings, and feel happier. Exercise releases dopamine in the brain, which helps you to relax, feel more energetic, and provides a small amount of the stimulant that your brain is craving.
- Recognize Your Triggers – If you know what is likely to cause you to want to drink or use, you know how to prepare for it and what to avoid. Many people have triggers like stress, being around the substance, exposure to traumatic events, positive events that make you want to celebrate, locations where they used to use, peer pressure, negative emotions like guilt, and so on.
4. Mental Disorders – Anxiety, stress, depression, and guilt are very common in addiction, and they can directly cause you to relapse. While not everyone in recovery will suffer from one of these problems, they are very common because substance abuse can directly cause them. For example, opiate use can cause an imbalance of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, resulting in potential long term depression or anxiety. Most people suffer short term anxiety following recovery, which typically goes away within a year. Going to a treatment facility will likely involve cognitive behavioral therapy or another similar therapy to help with these problems, but you may need ongoing care. If you feel constantly stressed, depressed, tired, anxious, ill, despondent, lethargic, etc., it is important to seek out help form a doctor.
5. Lack of Change – Most of us go into rehabilitation with the idea that we will immediately get our old life back and everything will change. This never happens. You will never be the person you were before your addiction, you will never get your old life back. A lack of change can be a huge problem in recovery, because it can convince you that things are hopeless. However, they aren’t. You cannot go back where you were, but you can move forward, and as someone in recovery, you are in charge of where you are going and what you will do.
- Make goals for yourself. – Where do you want to be in a year? Five? Ten? Do you want a new job? A house? A degree? Savings? Create an achievable goal or goals that make sense for you.
- Create a plan that will allow you to achieve those goals. – Remember, breaking large tasks down into small, achievable steps will help you to achieve that plan.
- Develop outlets and hobbies that will allow you to relax and de stress, so you can focus on your goals. – Failing once isn’t total failure. If you aren’t meeting your goals, decide why, restructure your plans to be more doable, and keep going.
Recovery is a long process, and it will require continuing work and dedication on your part for years to come. However, by planning to meet obstacles, expecting problems, and working to solve problems logically as they appear, you can maintain your sobriety and move forward to build a better life for yourself.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction to drugs or alcohol, please contact Lighthouse Treatment Center today for help. One of our experienced treatment advisors will be happy to provide a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Contact us today.