In the first few weeks after leaving a rehabilitation program, most will agree that one of the most vital elements to continued success is to keep away from old friends who will continue to drink, use drugs and steel from them. While of course you may feel a special bond because you certainly shared your low times with these people, in addition to good feelings while being high or drunk, in truth, without these substances there is no depth to the relationship when you are not under the influence. It will be an incredible temptation to use or drink again simply to fit in. After treatment if you begin using again it will be even harder to quit, detox and remain clean a second time. Just one time is a relapse and can lead to not only a set back in progress and a step backwards from the real progress you’ve made, it could also lead to you spiral out of control once more. Hopefully you won’t even have to see these friends again to realize that there really is no bond without the use of drugs and alcohol.
While you may feel incredibly lonely and ostracized from your family and the community after admitting to a substance abuse problem, in addition to the continued out-patient rehabilitation programs and weekly meetings, there are many progressive steps you can take to integrate yourself back into the community instead of shrinking back into the shadows of drug and alcohol abuse.
Join a Health Club
A health club is a place where people go to invigorate their bodies and cleanse their mind. Learning how to value your body through exercise is also a fantastic way to combat the desire of relapse. Starting a daily routine of light exercise at a local club will not only give you something to look forward to each day, but is also a great way to get out of the house and stay busy. You can enter into new circles, or meet new, clean and sober friends by joining an aerobics or yoga class, tennis team, or even a basketball tournament. Even if you’re worried about not knowing anyone, this is also a major plus since it means that no one knows your past with substance abuse, rehabilitation or the struggle you face each day; they will just know you as the fun new member who is catching on quick. If you prefer just weights or cardio, take a parent or sibling as a gym buddy and push each other to lift more weights each day, run longer, or play an extra set of tennis. Once your body is moving and sweating, you’ll remember what it was like to feel a runner’s high, or wake up incredibly refreshed.
Improve Your Nutrition
To continue the nutrition regiment that you went through during rehabilitation, go shopping with your parent or sibling and buy fresh fruit, vegetables and lean meats to keep your mind alert and happy. To go with your exercise regiment, make your own fruit smoothie before the gym, and have a big salad with your favorite chicken afterwards. Many drug addicts and alcoholics have lost their enjoyment and pleasure that they once got from food so it can be a great reward to sit down to dinner with family. You can even make it a plan to buy a recipe book and try out new foods and desserts on your family members. Learning to cook, just like learning any other skill can be a terrific way to feel a sense of accomplishment and receive praise from family members who just months before may have made you feel judged or looked down upon.
Pursue Your Education or a New Skill
While speaking of learning another skill, moving forward with your education, even just out of a rehabilitation center can give you the motivation and perspective to stay clean and sober. Though you may not be ready for a full-time class load your first few weeks or months out of rehabilitation, you can start small. Many who have abused drugs have not pursued their education beyond high school, or dropped out of college as a slave to their substance. But even though you may not know what you want to study, or even if you want to pursue a degree, you can still enroll at a local community college for a simple creative writing or drawing course. These artistic mediums can help you release much of your inner struggle in a positive and healthy way. If you are more motivated to continue with a degree, consider taking introductory online classes in business or science that will transfer to a four-year university and go towards a degree. Completing assignments and receiving grades for them will help you realize that you’re capable of more than you may have though, even a degree that could put you on a terrific career path.
These options will keep you busy, away from your old friends and introduce you to new friends, talents and skills that will give you a sense of accomplishment both within your family, your academics, and your own body.
Lucy Markham worked as an academic and career counselor for three years while earning her B.A. in English from the University of Florida. She is currently pursuing her M.A. in Education from the University of Utah.