“Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask yourself if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future.” −Deepak Chopra
Relapse, or the fear of relapse, is one of the most challenging parts of maintaining recovery from an addiction. Whether a person has stopped drug or alcohol abuse, smoking, disordered eating, or any number of harmful behaviors, the anxiety about starting up again can feel intense. Following any type of recovery treatment or after one or more periods of abstinence, the stress around wanting to stay clean can, paradoxically, sometimes drive people back to their old habits.
During treatment – especially if the treatment takes place in a safe environment away from the triggers and temptations of home – individuals are surrounded by supportive caregivers who offer positive reinforcement, a toolbox of coping skills such as relaxation and meditation techniques, physical exercise, healthy meals, and plenty of rest, as well as appropriate therapy to address the causes of the addiction. At the end of the treatment, recovering addicts leave with new ways of relating to themselves and others, a fresh perspective, and a plan to establish healthy new patterns in their lives.
The Challenges of Daily Life
Once back home, however, people need to be very focused and determined to continue establishing new patterns on their path to full recovery. It is necessary to nurture the new lifestyle routines in order to give them a chance to become fully ingrained habits. The first few months are usually the most difficult. Along with a positive approach to living a new life, the support and love of family and good friends are keys to success.
Those who participate in the four-week treatment program at the Chopra Addiction and Wellness Center automatically become part of the Center’s continuing care program supporting guests with weekly counseling in their community for twelve weeks. (Click here for more information on the continuing care program available through our Center.)
A Loving, Kind, and Gentle Approach
In some ways, long-term recovery is similar to getting over a bad cold. While overcoming an addiction takes longer, there is a common need for a loving, kind, and gentle approach. When you have a cold, you stay in bed, keeping warm, drinking lots of fluids, and resting to support your immune system and regain your strength. Then to successfully keep the cold or flu at bay, you return cautiously to work and family life, continuing to get plenty of rest, conserving your energy, and keeping warm. You avoid crowds, late nights, and people who might infect you before your body is strong enough to ward off further illness. You tell family and friends that you’re taking it easy for a while.
Similarly, to recover from addictive behaviors you get focused treatment and then you leave that warm, safe environment to go back out into the world. Like getting over a cold, when you return home, you need to take it easy. Give your body and your emotions a chance to develop and strengthen the new habits they learned during treatment. Tell your family and friends that you need their help and support. Avoid places that remind you of when you were using or that trigger the urge to use again. This can include not spending time with the people who were part of your previous circle or who participated in your addiction.
Here are some more strategies and tips to help you succeed:
- Share your feelings with someone you can trust.
- Stay focused on your intention to heal. Keep in mind that this is a long-term journey that won’t happen overnight. Challenges will arise but if you stay aware and hold your intention clearly in mind, recovery is attainable.
- Attend a twelve-step meeting or any supportive group meeting on a weekly basis or more often as needed.
- Exercise to refresh your mind and keep your body active – take a morning walk, play outside with your kids or the dog, go swimming or do any physical activity that you enjoy.
- Eat a healthy diet that incorporates the six tastes and includes all the colors of the rainbow. Focus on whole, fresh foods, eating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
- Practice daily meditation and yoga to integrate all the layers of your life – environmental, physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual.
- Keep your mind focused on activities that are fun and interesting. Get involved in hobbies, do some volunteer work,or take some continuing education courses. This will help you connect with other people, increase your self-esteem, and prevent you from experiencing too many feelings of restlessness or boredom that can lead to relapse.
- Get abundant rest to refresh your mind, cultivate positive feelings, and manage stress. Sleep is a vital part of the healing process and helps you maintain your natural state of balance and joy. Learn a restful sleep routine here.
- Connect with your health care practitioner on a regular basis for ongoing support.
To summarize, maintaining long-term recovery requires support, hard work, persistence, techniques for dealing with difficult situations, courage, new habits, and a change of environment.
Sound impossible? It’s not. It can be done. And you’re worth the effort.