The addiction treatment experience is different for everyone, but for those who chose to be open and honest with themselves and the staff at the program it was likely a significant moment in their lives, full of excitement, fear, anger, sadness, remorse and most importantly, hope. Many people leave treatment hopeful about the future, perhaps for the first time in years, yet most also feel some concern about what they might expect to experience in the coming days, weeks, months and years ahead. This article is written in order to lay out some suggestions that we believe will be helpful for those fresh out of treatment. Remember, these are suggestions and this list is not designed to substitute or replace your Continuing Care Plan that was designed specifically for you prior to leaving treatment, and should serve as a supplement or reminder regarding action steps you can take to help insure success in early recovery. The following are not in any specific order, but are considered essential for recovery.
GET CONNECTED! One of the great evils of addiction is how it DISCONNECTS the person from everything they love and hold dear; family, friends, career, interests, spirituality, values, morality, etc. Getting connected or re-connected will give us the chance to feel supported, cared for and loved as well as give us accountability for our choices and actions in early sobriety. Accountability is one of the most important elements for a positive outcome in recovery. This means finding places and resources that will put you in direct contact with others who are trying to do the same thing you are; recover and change. 12-step meetings are an ideal place to begin; find a meeting where you feel accepted and welcomed and make them your Home Group. Make a commitment to attend that meeting every week, same time, same place, and let people get to know you and you them. Get a sponsor, ask him or her how you can get involved in the Fellowship and follow their suggestions. Remember, “God”, in our program, is “as we understand him”, however, if you are a member of a church or other religious institution where you feel accepted and supported continue attending and participating (this should not replace 12-step meetings).
CHANGE PLAYMATES AND PLAYGROUNDS! When people are struggling with addiction they ultimately surround themselves with relationships, environments and conditions that facilitate and support the use of alcohol and drugs. No one wants to compare themselves to “normal” people when using, it makes our use even more obvious, so we look for and blend in with others who use like we do so we don’t feel as bad about our own use. But once we leave treatment it is unhealthy and extremely dangerous to return to that same environment or to surround ourselves with the same people and circumstances that fostered our use of substances. Committing to change “people, places things and conditions” in our lives and being willing to ask for help from others to assist us in doing so is very important. Having an Aftercare Plan that includes a safe place to live (no drugs or alcohol in the immediate environment), surrounded by people that support lifestyle change, access to 12 Step meetings, transportation, jobs, etc., these are all things that need to be discussed, explored and planned for prior to leaving treatment.
FOLLOW THIS CHECK-LIST FOR RECOVERY! The following five things are widely considered to be utterly essential for recovery. Make a check-list and put it on your refrigerator, by your bedside at night, give a copy to your sponsor and other people you trust and ask for accountability in periodically checking with you on whether or not you are incorporating them into your life:
- Do not drink or use (all necessary psychoactive medications should be prescribed and taken under the guidance and supervision of a qualified addiction informed provider).
- Get and use a sponsor (this sponsor should be someone who has worked thru the Steps, attends regular meetings and is active in the Fellowship).
- Work the Steps (with your sponsor).
- Attend meetings regularly. It is suggested 90 meetings in 90 days and after that at least 3-5 meetings per week for the first year.
- Get involved with the Fellowship (get there early, help set up chairs, stay a few minutes afterwards and talk to people, etc.)
In all my years of working in the field of addiction recovery I have become certain of this truth: If you make these five elements the centerpiece of your life you will not only remain clean and sober, you will RECOVER, and your life and your relationships will be enriched beyond anything you’ve ever imagined.
Many blessings on you as, together, we “trudge the road to happy destiny”.
Lewis Clymore, CACII, NCACII, CCS
Crossroads Centre Antigua