What Does Long-Term Addiction Recovery Look Like?
Going through rehab for addiction is a giant first step to freedom from substance abuse. However, it’s just the start of a lifelong process.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, someone who stays clean for five years is likely to stay clean for life. That milestone must seem light-years away now, but plenty of addicts in recovery have reached it. Jill, a former alcohol abuser who has been sober for more than 30 years, has some great advice for those who are just starting the journey to addiction recovery:
“You’ve already made the best decision you’ll ever make. Rehab was the right thing. For now, focus on doing the next right thing. Don’t worry about weeks and months and years right now—just make the best choice here in the moment.”
Every day, we’re inundated with stories about drug-related crimes and overdoses. There’s always news about injury and death resulting from DUI. What we don’t run across much are stories of people like Jill, and that’s a shame. A fulfilling, productive life is within reach. Keep reading to see what long-term recovery looks like.
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Stay Positive in Recovery
It’s discouraging when you do everything right and still have nothing go your way. Shouldn’t you be rewarded for your commitment and hard work in rehab?
Unfortunately, you may not land a great job or meet the love of your life straight out of rehab. Your family squabbles, boring job and unpaid bills will all still be there when you get back to your life. Your circumstances might even seem worse to you now that the haze of alcohol or drugs has been lifted.
Consider this a blessing in disguise. Recovery is about slowly building tolerance to distress as each new problem arises. If you face tough circumstances early on and apply all the coping skills you learned in rehab, you’ll grow and build up strength internally every day. You’ll learn to live and thrive whether external rewards come your way or not. Like virtue, sobriety is its own reward.
Set a simple, obtainable goal each day. You might commit to work out for thirty minutes or start a journal. You could resolve not to tell a single lie or argue with a family member or coworker. You may promise yourself to attend a 12-step meeting or stop walking past the inviting little neighborhood bar. Your goals may seem mundane in this moment, but if you achieve them, you’ll rack up successes and see what you’re capable of. Start small, and work your way up to bigger challenges.
Good, bad and indifferent times are ahead. Responding to them without drugs takes practice, so stay positive.
Stay Connected in Recovery
“It’s not just about not drinking, but about living sober.”
Joe is in his 70s and has now been sober for more than half his life. He still has moments when he’s tempted to drink as a means of escaping his problems, but he manages to avoid relapse. What’s Joe’s secret? “I talk to another alcoholic,” he says.
At first, he dreaded going to Alcoholics Anonymous, but he soon saw the value in meeting regularly with his peers. His personal motto is “Progress, not perfection,” and meetings reinforce it. Millions of Americans just like Joe are taking sobriety one day at a time.
Like many in addiction recovery, Joe recommends trying several different forums for staying connected. To give up on recovery because you don’t like the 12-step model would be a mistake. Many other organizations provide a network of support, and you’ll need it. There are peer groups organized by neighborhood, faith, gender, age, occupation and every other category imaginable. You’ll get more out of meetings if you enjoy the fellowship.
Stay Committed to Your Recovery
You’ll probably feel your commitment to long-term recovery wane from time to time. Everyone does, but it’s important to recommit when that happens. Don’t let your feelings blind you to what’s best; even when your heart’s not in it, follow Jill’s advice. Continue to do the next right thing.
This is a time to be good to yourself physically, emotionally and spiritually. Here are some ways you can keep your commitment strong:
- Eat healthy, stay hydrated, exercise and get plenty of sleep.
- Follow the rehab’s recommendation for individual therapy.
- Stay in contact with sober peers.
- Attend group therapy and mutual-help meetings such as AA or Women for Sobriety.
- At all times, be honest about your progress and struggles.
- Meet obligations such as keeping the house clean, maintaining the car and paying the bills.
- Don’t engage in gambling, viewing pornography, online bidding or other addictive behaviors.
- Nurture healthy relationships.
- Practice your faith or otherwise nurture your spirit.
- Be involved in your community.
At Ocean Hills Recovery, we’re in it with you for the long haul. If you have questions or need resources for recovery, don’t hesitate to give us a call.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.