“All progress takes place outside the comfort zone.”
– Michael John Bobak, U.S. contemporary artist and songwriter
The day I walked out of rehab had to be one of the most… confusingly emotional moments of my life.
How could I possibly feel so elated, proud, and hopeful, and yet so absolutely terrified at exactly the same time? The only way I can describe it is that my stumbling legs felt like they belonged to a newly-born giraffe from some wildlife documentary, and I honestly didn’t know if they would be able to carry me the short distance to our family car, where my Mom, Dad and little brother were waiting for me, let alone into the totally unknown future that was there waiting too.
Looking back, I remember just wanting to run (stumbling, obviously) back into the warm embrace of the rehab’s main entrance, close that door behind me, and ask politely if I could have my old room back.
In other words, I understand (or, at least, can sympathize with) the way you’re feeling right now – the hope you have being strangled by fear. Remember that very deep breath you took when you crossed the rehab’s threshold to begin your treatment for substance addiction? Take another one. And then another.
Surviving the first week after leaving there (which, for me, was a rehab in Nampa, Idaho), with all those emotions running around in your head when all you really want to do is “Keep calm, and carry on” like those old posters used to say, will be a new education in itself. When you combine this experience with everything you learned during your stay in rehab, you will truly begin to know and understand what your life will be like from now on. Like I said, I understand. I was there once too, and I survived.
You can survive too. Truthfully, you can. Since leaving rehab, I’m now over 8 years clean and sober. And my life is good too. Your’s will also be good. You’ve just got to give it a chance.
Here’s a little guidance to help during those first seven days – “5 Tips for Surviving Your First Week after Rehab.”
Immerse Yourself in Meetings
One of the most valid pieces of advice I received all through my stay in rehab was this… Immerse yourself in meetings. AA. NA. Any other support groups of like-minded people in recovery. Just immerse yourself. Not just during rehab, but for your future.
Being in a group of people that have experienced (or, like you, are experiencing) life after rehab is one of the most proactive things you can do, especially in the first seven days. I was able to hit two a day for at least the first month, and, boy, did they help. They’ll help you too.
Know Your Support
It’s not just fellowship meetings and support groups you need to focus on – it’s also the support network that you have put in place for when times get tough (and be under no illusions – you will have to endure those tough times). Family members, close friends, addiction professionals, and any others – they are your support, and they will be your lifeline. Your breath, if you like, when it’s getting difficult to breathe.
Schedule Your Day
Rehab was the best education I’ve ever had. Forget school, college, whatever. Learning about yourself, your capabilities, what makes you tick – it’s all good. One lesson I took to heart in rehab was the need to schedule your day, and we learned it again and again every day. Every day in rehab was full, a strict schedule we had to keep to, and it worked.
By doing the same once you leave, you will protect both yourself and your early-stage recovery. Recovery-based activities, such as meetings, hobbies, exercise, relaxation – all of these can be scheduled into your day. The devil makes work for idle hands, and all that.
Avoid Too Much Socializing
Now I’m not saying you should be cutting yourself off from the outside world (far from it), but by keeping your social schedule light, and centred on recovery-based activities when you do socialize, it keeps your recovery at the forefront of your thinking. Sober people still party, believe it or not, but try to stay within your trusted support network – family and close friends.
Use Your Recovery Tools
During addiction treatment, you will have learned various coping strategies and recovery tools. The first week after leaving rehab will certainly be time to put those things into practice to prevent any relapse – your number one priority.
Undoubtedly, the most important of these tools will be identifying any potential triggers, and how to deal with the cravings that follow. By practising what you have learned about relapse prevention, you will refine these skills, and give them a far better chance of working for you.
Knowing Your Happiness
I was watching an Icelandic crime drama on Netflix recently, and something on there stuck in my head. Probably because it’s so true. One character said,
“We never know when we’re actually happy, but we always, always know when we’re not.”
It is true, isn’t it? It got me thinking how I felt in my early recovery, those tentative first few days, and then the weeks that followed. Looking back now, I was really happy – happy to be sober, and to be living my life without the demon that is active addiction following me everywhere. Obviously, I didn’t really acknowledge this at the time…
So, there you go – your “5 Tips for Surviving Your First Week after Rehab”:
- Immerse Yourself in Meetings
- Know Your Support
- Schedule Your Day
- Avoid Too Much Socializing
- Use Your Recovery Tools
What experiences do you have of early sobriety? What worked for you? How did you prevent any relapse? Please feel free to share with a comment below. Lastly, be happy, and know that you are too.