The biggest challenge for alcoholics is not getting clean, it is staying clean. Someone battling a drug addiction has options that alcoholics do not. To protect their recovery, drug addicts are told to separate themselves from old people, places, and things. In other words, create a world with no triggers. After alcohol rehab, it’s nearly impossible for alcoholics to do that.
You can distance yourself from people you’ve gotten drunk with in the past, but then you will meet new people, and some of them may drink. Not only that, but alcohol is a legal substance that is not only socially acceptable, but, to some point, encouraged. No matter what you do, you are seeing alcohol everywhere: on advertisements, at restaurants, at events and concerts, at your friend’s house, at parties, and even at home – if your significant other still drinks. Unfortunately, you are not going to get away from it just because you struggle with alcoholism.
The Importance Of Rehab for Alcoholics
Because alcohol is the easiest drug to access, it can be one that people struggle with the most.
Rehab gives you that break from every reminder and every trigger that leads you to the same, broken path. It starts after your body has successfully detoxed from alcohol. This can be more than uncomfortable; it can be dangerous. The best option is a medical detox in a facility that can provide around-the-clock care.
Getting past the physical effects doesn’t do much to protect your sobriety, however. The same cravings, the same things that caused you to drink in the first place are still there. You have to deal with those before you go back to your everyday life. This is time you set aside for this specific purpose.
The best type of treatment has outpatient care built in. While you are still receiving intensive help for alcoholism, you are rebuilding a life centered on sobriety. The number of hours spent receiving counseling and other forms of treatment reduces, while your time outside, in the real word, increases. A full course of treatment can go up to 120 days or more. That’s a good three months of sobriety under your belt already.
Staying Clean After Alcohol Rehab
While alcohol rehabs are effective in getting you clean and making it through a critical time in early recovery, the failures start when people return home. They are immediately immersed in their old lives. Consequently, they start to fall back into the same old habits.
That’s where you may yourself that you can do things differently this time. In reality, the only way to make a difference is to actually be different. Here’s where to start:
- Attend meetings: Whether it is Alcoholics Anonymous, Celebration Recovery, or alumni meetings at the alcohol treatment center you went to, meetings will literally become your best friend. They are there for those moments when you are struggling and need real, experienced support. The people you will meet here have heard every trick, every excuse, and every reason you can think of to give up on your sobriety. They will also be able to shine a light on it, showing you how it is just your mind trying to trick you again.
- Be accountable: This is where the concept of having a sponsor comes in. Someone you can rely on to be there when you need them. A person you can call when things get rough. A trusted friend to be accountable to. If you are starting to slip, you can call this person and know they will help set you straight. It’s another piece of a strong support system.
- Work with friends and your job: You are only as sick as your secrets, the saying goes. It’s very true: People try to hide their addictions when the reality is, especially with alcohol, that just makes it worse. You need to be open about it – not just at meetings and with your sponsor. If you can let other people know your struggles, it will help keep you out of situations where relapse is easy. Just a simple “I am an alcoholic” can do the job. The reason is that others in your life then won’t be unintentionally harmful to your sobriety (such as offering you a drink at every social occasion). In fact, they can actively help you make it a priority.
- Build a new (sober) social network: Meetings are a great place to start. Nothing beats connecting with people who have been where you are. They can not only listen and understand what you are going through, they can offer advice on how to stay strong, avoiding the same bad habits they were also prey to, and more. They can give you an outsider’s perspective on how difficult it is, not just for you, but those around you… and just how devastating a relapse can be. Seek out as wide a network as you can of people who’ve been through it all before… and are still sober.
- Focus on today – AA tells you to take it one day at a time – and they are correct. Focusing on today is the only way to do it. Let’s say you are nervous about an event you must attend tomorrow where there will be plenty of alcohol. Thinking about it, you may start to get nervous and stressed about it… to the point where it starts threatening your sobriety today. However, today that’s not your concern. Today your concern is staying clean these 24 hours. Now, the night before you may have to do a little bit of preparation for that big happening tomorrow, such as getting your clothes ready, fueling the car, and making arrangements for pets. You should not sit and ruminate about all the temptations you will face in advance. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Additional Tricks Alcoholics Use to Stay Sober After Alcohol Rehab
One of the best things about connecting with other recovered alcoholics is learning about some of the other tricks alcoholics have used over the years to stay clean. Some of these can be done as you feel the need to drink, and others can be just interests you use to occupy your time and enjoy yourself. Here are things you may want to try:
- Get a new hobby: There are a kaleidoscope of activities apart from alcohol. It’s simply a matter of what you enjoy. Do you like working out? Playing basketball? Learning how to work on cars? Fishing? Cooking? Cooking the fish you caught? These are but a few examples of things you can do that will offer a pleasant distraction. Many people can also become immersed in video games, movies or binge watching because they offer temporary escape from the worries of life, occupying your full mind.
- Have backup plans: Your friends are going to a bar tomorrow night for one of their birthdays and you need to go. You know they will be drinking, and you are nervous. So, you call one of them, tell them how you feel, and ask for their help. Can they simply just be there for you to talk to and make sure you don’t order a drink during the birthday celebration? Very rarely will a request such as this one get refused.
- Host gatherings: If you want to see your friends but keep the alcohol out of the equation, why not throw a big dinner party yourself? It doesn’t even have to be a big deal; you can invite them over for pizza or Chinese food served with soda, water, or juice. These gatherings are great because they take a lot of the pressure off you and allow you to enjoy yourself.
- Start writing: Believe it or not, keeping a journal or diary can bolster your sobriety. Writing it out offers you the chance to see things more clearly, better think through decisions, and discover the best way to move forward. Sometimes, writing in a journal can also be relaxing and calm you down.
Sobriety is Worth It
We know it will be something to deal with daily. The key thing to remember is that real support is out there. Before launching yourself into the real world again, build up your strength with rehab, with concentrating on your sobriety, with smaller tests before the big ones.
If staying home seems like a better choice than going to the bar because you don’t trust yourself yet, then stay home. Some people never set foot in a bar again, and that is perfectly ok. You’re not missing much.
After alcohol rehab, it comes down to this: You must understand yourself and make the best choice for yourself. Sobriety is right up there. Yes, sobriety will require adjustments on your part, but millions of others have successfully done it. Use their experience and guidance to be in a healthier place.