Getting sober is hard enough, but making a fresh start in life is in many ways an even more difficult task. Initially, you have to get through the symptoms of withdrawal and conquer the cravings that you feel for another drink or more drugs. Stepping back into the workaday world and resuming a normal lifestyle after spending years as an addict has been compared to coming out of a cave, and it is a process of transition which requires several steps, changes and resolutions to really pull off. If you have recently gotten sober, or are working on your recovery, and want to make sure that you are able to make things go right in your time after rehab, here are ten actions you can take to improve your chances of success:
Slow and Steady
It very often happens that a person who has recently recovered from addiction assumes that he or she is ready to charge back out into the world and take life by the horns, only to fall flat on his or her face. You may feel great, reinvigorated and recharged, and you should absolutely live life to its fullest now; but don’t take on more than you can handle yet. The pace of life is likely to be quite different now, and it is very well worth it to take some time readjusting.
Making Up Damage
There is a good chance that you did things to other people — or failed to do things that you should have — while you were an addict, and that these actions or omissions caused a certain amount of upset or animosity. However happy your loved ones may be to have you back sober and healthy, realize that as time goes on you might start to see the influence of old wounds in their behavior towards you. As soon as possible, find a way to repair any damage that you may have done and go above and beyond to make things right.
Find Out What Is Expected of You
Another step that you should take in regards to your relationships with family and friends is to speak with them and find out what they expect you to do, how they hope that you will behave in dealing with them, and what they need from you. If, for example, you got started drinking or using drugs as a teenager, and you are now in your late 20’s or early 30’s, life is very different now from how it was when you were last sober and a functioning member of the family, so it’s time to establish the roles and expectation in those relationships. This discussion is not only for your sake. They have gotten used to seeing you as an addict, and have grown accustomed to thinking of you within that framework and will have a tendency to keep acting towards you that way — or might expect too much now that you are sober and “everything is different.” Talking about expectations will help them to take a look at the situation in present time and form more realistic standards moving forward.
It’s enough work to take the time to discuss in detail what exactly is going to be expected of you by your family and friends, but now you have to actually follow through on it. You beat the habit of drinking or using drugs, and now is the time to change your other habits in terms of how you relate to people, how you handle your obligations, what you do for them and more. The people you spoke with may have been duly impressed that you were interested in what they thought and wanted to take their expectations into consideration, but what will really impress them, and help you cement stable relationships, is if you follow through on what you said you would do, now and in the long term.
Find Sober Friends
You cannot keep spending time with the people you used to drink or use drugs with. No matter how much they may say that they support you in your sobriety, the fact is that they do not. Some may be paying lip service to this, but even those who really do think it is a good thing that you have gotten sober do not really support it, because by the fact of their own continued substance abuse they are essentially headed in the opposite direction from the one you have chosen for yourself. Furthermore, even if your time with these people does not include times when they are getting high or drunk, there is a chance that being around these people will have a tendency to restimulate your own memories and make you experience cravings. No amount of sentimentality is worth your sobriety, your health and happiness in the years ahead.
Find New Activities
When you were an addict, your life most likely revolved around drinking or getting high. The times when you weren’t actually engaged in substance abuse were probably dominated by thoughts of how you would get your next fix, and you likely had everything arranged around making it possible for you to do so. What will you do with your time now? Addiction has left a vacuum in your life, and now is the time for you to fill that vacuum with something constructive, engaging and enjoyable. Find a new hobby, start volunteering, pursue education that will help you further your career, or do anything else which will set your new life on the right path.
How often did you work out while you were drinking or using drugs? You may be sober now, but are you healthy? Getting into a regular exercise routine can make a world of difference in improving your energy levels, your sense of well-being, and your feeling of self-confidence. Whether you take up running or cycling, start going to the gym, or join a team, you can take things to a whole other level by getting into shape. An added benefit of this is that exercising will tend to put you in the company of other people who are dedicated to living healthy lifestyles, which will help to support you in your new life.
Get a Good Diet
If you were like most people who have spent years drinking or using drugs, you likely did not have the best diet during that time. It’s true that you are what you eat, and your body may now be showing the signs of a long period of malnutrition. Cut out junk food from your diet, keep sugar and unhealthy fats to a minimum, and load up on fresh vegetables and fruits, fish and lean meats. Drink plenty of water, and avoid having too much coffee. The change won’t happen overnight, but with time your tastes will change, you will start craving healthy food rather than junk, and you will begin to notice remarkable changes in your energy level, appearance, immunity and overall health.
Get Enough Rest
Whatever your sleep schedule was while you were addicted, it was in all likelihood not one that was conducive to good physical and mental health. Sleeping all day and staying up all night, sleeping off and on through the night, going days on end without sleep and then crashing — these are only a few common examples of the kinds of schedules which characterize “rest” for an addict. You might be surprised to see what a difference it can make to get yourself into a rhythm of sleeping for eight hours every night. It can translate to higher energy levels, a far better mood, sharper mental alertness, less illness and more.
Find and Pursue Your Goals
Perhaps the most important step you can take following your recovery from addiction is to figure out what your goals are in life, and to set about following those goals. In fact, this will tend to make the other things happen, since once you are headed along a trajectory towards your goals, things like getting enough rest and getting along with your family will have to fall into line. This is especially important if you became an addict when you were in your teens, when you may not have already worked out the goals for your future. The future is a blank slate, and it is up to you to decide what you want to be, do and have, but you have to make that decision and carry it out.