Life After Addiction Treatment: How to Fill the Void Left After Recovery

Life After Addiction Treatment

The first year of recovery is difficult to manage. Triggers lie everywhere and applying the skills you learned in rehab is easier said than done. When a recovering addict first begins life after their addiction treatment, they may discover a void left from their past life. Whether the void is their past experiences, low self-esteem, or avoiding bad feelings, addicts typically used drugs or alcohol to fill that void.

Now in the absence of those unhealthy “coping” mechanisms, addicts now face those voids alone. Maintaining recovery requires an addict to learn how to fill their life with positive things and not go back to their old ways.

Rehab isn’t the end of addiction, it’s only the beginning of recovery. Once an addict leaves treatment they soon realize that life and all the factors that brought them into their addiction are still there waiting for them.

Although you can’t change everything, you can learn how to handle things better and develop behaviors that’ll help you maintain your recovery.

Here is a list of recovery and coping skills in handling life after addiction treatment:

Learn to Mourn

As strange as it may sound, it’s important to begin your recovery by first mourning the loss of your past addiction. Since your past addiction had been with you for a very long time, it’s important you mourn the loss of it. This can require not only giving up the addiction but saying goodbye to bad friends, places, and the unhealthy habits that led to your addiction. From where you used to hang out to who you were with regularly and on, it determined a lot of your day.

It’s important you recognize that loss but also recognize that although it was something you did—it didn’t define you. Recognize that loss and move past it. Then you can move on and maintain your recovery day-to-day, drug-free.

Avoid High-Risk Situations and Triggers

Some common high-risk situations are described in addiction treatment as the acronym, HALT:

  • Hungry
  • Angry
  • Lonely
  • Tired

Recognize Your Emotions

Of course, you can’t always avoid HALT situations, but you can be more aware of them. If you take better care of yourself, you’ll be able to recognize your emotions before they send you spiralling. By developing healthy habits, use support groups, and more, many of these situations will be far and few between, rather than consistent occurrences.

Steer Clear of Boredom

For an addict, feeling a sense of boredom is dangerous. This is because it allows your mind to wander and not stay focused on maintaining your recovery. This can even go as far as triggering a relapse. For that reason, it’s important that you stay busy.

Fill your day with activities you enjoy. Find new interests. Keep busy. This will keep you busy and far from the feeling of boredom. It also helps you develop healthy habits. Remember: a routine is critical to helping you stay abstinent.

Fill Your Life with People and Love

A great way to start filling that void is to re-establish old friendships that may have been lost on your path of addiction. Surround yourself with supportive people both help you and make you feel cared for and loved.

Recovery is also a good time to mend fences with friends and family that you may have become alienated from. Doing this will also help make you feel better about yourself because you’ll be righting your wrongs and maintaining your recovery.

Healthy Habits and Activities Are Crucial

There are many activities you can pick up on the road to recovery, as well. Some of these healthy activities include:

  • Making a to-do list so you can feel a sense of accomplishment as you mark things off
  • Meditating to relax your mind
  • Reading
  • Doing crossword puzzles
  • Becoming more proactive by starting a blog or doing volunteer work
  • Playing sports
  • Practicing yoga to calm your emotions
  • Taking a class on something that interests you
  • Learning to cook

Other Coping Skills

Some other skills that are very helpful in maintaining your recovery include:

  • Stress Management
    • Learn how to handle your stress in healthy ways. Use tools listed above to help tackle your stress one day at a time.
  • Honesty
    • Make sure that you are completely honest with yourself and others. One of the key components of drug addiction is creating a culture of deceit – combat that by maintaining complete honesty and integrity in your life.
  • Therapy
    • Maintaining a regular schedule of therapy sessions can really improve your chances of staying clean – especially in the first year after addiction treatment.

No matter what you do, staying busy with some type of constructive activity and surrounding yourself with healthy relationships is a key component to staying sober and not letting old triggers creep back into your life. Maintain realistic expectations and remember: getting and staying sober is a process, a marathon; it’s not a sprint.

How to Prevent an Addict from Relapsing

Preventing a relapse is typically harder than it was getting sober. The reason for this is because maintaining recovery spans a lifetime. There is always a chance that a trigger lies right around the next corner and without support in defeating that trigger, an addict can start their former patterns all over again.

Tips for Helping a Recovering Addict

Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help. For example:

  1. Just being around for non-judgmental listening can help tremendously. If an addict feels they can go to you for help when they are feeling triggered will help them in more ways than one and usually helps avert any crisis.
  2. Finding a support group where the addict feels comfortable, can also provide a great deal of help. Being part of a group where members have gone through the same trials and tribulations helps an addict feel less alone in his or her struggle, and more like there is somewhere he or she belongs.
  3. Family support is also incredibly important. The family structure is one of the key ways recovering addicts maintain their recovery, but it can also be a trigger source for some. Making sure you’re being as supportive as possible can help them immensely.

Photo: Luke Pamer

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