Residential treatment, or rehab, is a common step in the road to recovery from drug abuse and addiction. Yet it’s far from the last step.
To many, rehab signals the beginning of a long journey spent making continuous improvements in mind, body and spirit – and it’s the beginning that’s hardest to overcome.
Fulfilling Your Treatment Goals
As a part of recovery treatment, residential treatment entails any program taking place in a specialized facility designed to introduce someone into a drug-free life.
Residential treatment takes place away from the rest of life, giving someone struggling with addiction the time and space away from everything else necessary to gain perspective and focus on themselves.
Residential treatment centers offer different forms of therapy, from group sessions to individual one-on-one sessions, to art therapy and other alternative forms of therapeutic work. Clients spend time with mental health professionals who assess their state of mind, and typically work to create the ideal environment for improvement.
Yet any program eventually comes to its end – regardless of whether it’s a four-week endeavor or a six-month journey, rehab is always temporary and feeds into a life spent dealing with recovery and the memories of addiction out in the real world.
For many, that post-rehab period is far from a walk in the park – and for those who spent especially little time in residential treatment, dealing with life’s struggles while enduring the emotional pains of early recovery is a heavy burden to bear, sometimes becoming too much.
There are many factors that go into making post-rehab a challenging time.
First, it’s typically still within the first year of sobriety for those struggling with recovery. This early recovery period is rife with emotional instabilities and constant change.
Addiction often either hides or produces insecurities and negative thinking patterns, leaving you with a mounting list of personal issues dismissed with each high. Even with the proper help, it’s not an easy emotional burden to handle.
Beyond that, the freedom and joy of finally being free from addiction can create an almost manic state in many first starting to recover – which is offset by the crippling fear of failure and relapse, and an ebb-and-flow between these two states.
Learning to normalize, accept and balance out this rollercoaster is another early challenge for the first year.
Finally, residential treatment may help prepare you for real life, but that doesn’t change the jarring effect of switching from a rehab lifestyle to paying your own dues and either finding and holding a job or sticking to your daily responsibilities at school.
Life itself is already a challenge to a lot of people, and being in early recovery makes nothing easier.
Think of your former addiction not as a weakness, but as an additional burden adding difficulty to life. Difficulty isn’t a terrible thing, though.
Life isn’t a sport revolving around competition. It’s about living, and appreciating our own experiences in our own way. No one can live your life for you, and your challenges are what shape you. They’re what make you unique and strong.
And yes, there is strength in failure – if you don’t give up. That’s the only difference between a successful and unsuccessful addiction recovery.
The Truth About Relapsing
Most people who struggled with addiction relapse once or more during their attempts towards recovery. Few go stone-cold sober and stick to it for the rest of their lives.
That doesn’t mean that a relapse is the doom of you and proof that you’re incapable of staying clean. It’s a setback, but how much of a setback it really is, is entirely up to you.
That’s not to say that you can relapse as often as you want, obviously – relapsing is bad. Rather, face your relapses head-on.
Don’t open up to the danger of an overdose, and normalizes using addiction to deal with life’s challenges. It’s a sign that you haven’t gotten to the point where you’ve overcome an addiction.
However, it is okay to relapse as many times as you need to. It’s impossible to know how many times that’ll be until you’re at the other end of years of sobriety.
Managing Your Relapse
Another thing to note is why people relapse so often.
Besides the factors mentioned above, and the fact that physical addiction can become a chronic disease that takes years to resolve, relapsing is a sign that you’re still in a sort of mental state where addiction is a reliable, last-resort option to escape mounting stress.
Life hits us with curveballs more times than we’d like, and that leaves us vulnerable to making stupid choices. Typically, the worst times to deal with recovery are when you’re angry, hungry, lonely or tired.
If you can’t find a way to deal with these specific issues without resorting to anything maladaptive – whether it be stress eating or an excessive amount of alcohol – then a relapse may be imminent.
Learn to deal with the struggle, in a healthy way.
It’s Okay to Struggle
Struggling isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s what makes us stronger.
We learn and grow through adversity. There are few things as challenging and adverse as engaging in long-term recovery.
You just must learn to live with the fact that struggle will always be there – and that’s something to grow from, not resent and shy away from.
Too many people leave rehab imagining their perfect new life without addiction – only to realize that addiction helped them cope with stress in a way nothing else can, and now they must learn to internalize all the imperfections of life and live.
And again – that’s fine. That’s life, and to learn how beautiful it really is is something you just must do on your own time.
Rehab isn’t the end of treatment, and it certainly isn’t the end of recovery.
If you struggle with your life outside of rehab, and are desperate for help, then outpatient treatment programs are preferable. They help you adjust to life and continue the lessons learned from rehab. You’ll be prepared for living sober while you’re going through the motions of a regular, daily schedule.
They help you meet your responsibilities, go to your meetings, and encourage you to find that passion and purpose necessary to keep you sober – a higher purpose that keeps you from the drink or the needle, regardless of whether that might be religion, or family, or a dream.
It’s never wrong to ask help, and sometimes, help is the only way to truly succeed in recovery.