Recovery provides you with a second chance at life. It allows you to gain an understanding of your addiction, to address what is holding you back, and to relearn to love yourself. The transformations that happen while in treatment are nothing short of amazing. By the time you leave treatment, you might not even recognize the person who walked in 30 days ago. You are now empowered, hopeful, and ready to take on the world. And while returning to the “real world” can be exciting, some aspects of it can be daunting. It is important that you take your time and prepare for all the changes ahead.
It is normal to be eager to go home ⎼ back to your house, your family, your friends ⎼ but sometimes what is familiar is not what is best. So, be honest with yourself about what you need to maintain your sobriety.
Avoiding Dangerous Situations
Most relapses occur during the first 30 to 90 days post-treatment, and environment plays a key role in preventing setbacks during early recovery. Surrounding yourself with support and staying away from triggers is crucial during this time, and if your current living situation won’t allow for this, then a change of scenery is best. Sober living programs are a great option if you are looking for extra support during the early stages of your recovery. In sober living, you will receive the structure and guidance you need to stay on the right path as you reintegrate back into society.
Making Home Your Foundation for Success
If you are fortunate enough to live in a safe, drug-free environment and have a strong support system waiting for you, then going back home can be a great step in your recovery. However, changes in the home do need to occur. Prior to returning home, you should have an open and honest conversation with your loved ones about what you need to stay sober. Perhaps you cannot be around alcohol and they will have to give up their glass of wine at dinner. Maybe you need them to keep you accountable by making sure that you go to meetings. Perhaps you are not ready to manage your finances yet and need them to do so. Know that your family and friends want to see you succeed, but they need you to tell them how to best help you.
It is equally as important that your loved ones share what they expect from you. For example, they might consider establishing a curfew or creating house rules. Setting boundaries and clear expectations will help build trust and avoid confrontations.
Returning to Work
Thinking about your financial responsibilities can cause fear to set in and send you into panic mode. You may start thinking that you need to get a job immediately. That you need to go back to where you were before you started using. And while financial stability is important, so is your recovery.
Returning to Your Previous Job
Before you call your boss and let them know that you are ready to get back to work, ask yourself, “Is this job going to put my recovery at risk?” While you have changed during treatment, your job has not. If your work environment was toxic prior to you going to treatment, it probably still is. Jobs where drugs and alcohol are prevalent, such as in the service industry, are not ideal for recovery. High-pressure jobs with long, unpredictable schedules can also put your sobriety at risk.
If you determine that going back to your job will not hinder your progress, then do so, but things cannot be business as usual. Even in a healthy work environment you will experience stress from time to time. To avoid feeling overwhelmed by your new responsibilities, consider going back to work part-time until you have fully readjusted. If that’s not an option, be sure to take extra precautions to safeguard your recovery by making time in your schedule to work on yourself, go to meetings, attend therapy, and practice self-care.
Finding a New Job
Searching for a new job is not easy, but it does provide you with a fresh start. Take this opportunity to think about what you are skilled at, what you enjoy doing, and what you are passionate about, then search for a job that matches.
The job market is competitive and your previous struggles with addiction might put you at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a job, but that does not mean you should give up. When embarking on your job search, these are some tips to keep in mind:
- Make Your Resume Stand Out: Employers get countless resumes that all read the same. Use your life experiences to differentiate yourself from everyone else. Have you learned something in recovery that you can apply to your resume? Did your treatment involve volunteering or taking vocational classes? Did you learn any relevant skills? If so, be sure to include these on your resume. You have overcome addiction which means that you are determined, resilient, goal-oriented, and hard-working – soft skills that are deeply valued by employers. Remember, this is not the time to be humble about your attributes, so go ahead and really sell yourself!
- Make Your References Count: Employers do not care what your mom or best friend have to say about your work ethic, so stick with professional references only. Think back to former supervisors, colleagues, or even professors and ask them if you can put them down as a reference. If you are struggling to find a reference, consider doing some community service. Finding volunteering opportunities is easy and could not only lead to gaining a great reference but will also add to your work experience.
- Prepare for Difficult Questions: No employer will ask you if you have ever been to treatment, but they may ask why there are gaps in your employment history, why you changed jobs so often, or why you left your previous job. Be ready for these types of questions so that they do not shake your confidence during an interview. How you answer them is up to you and what you feel comfortable sharing. Know that you do not have to share your struggles with addiction with anyone. A safe bet is to keep your answers vague, such as saying that you were ill and had to seek medical treatment which led to gaps in your employment. Or saying that you were dealing with a personal family matter and were unable to give your previous job the attention it deserved, so you decided to part ways. This allows you to answer the questions honestly without sharing more than you would like to.
Everyone needs love and support in their life, but for those in recovery, meaningful relationships are particularly important. Because having a strong support system can truly make all the difference, rebuilding relationships and forming new healthy connections is an important aspect of recovery.
What triggers a relapse varies depending on the individual, but a common cause is relationships. While it is true that you are your own person, if you surround yourself with negative people who are living unhealthy lifestyles, you are likely to follow the same path. Ending friendships and distancing yourself from certain family members is never easy, but it is often necessary. Cutting off toxic relationships, staying away from people who are currently using or those who don’t support your recovery is not selfish. It is self-care. So, take an honest look at the people in your life and decide whether they are helping or hurting your progress.
It is no secret that addiction takes a tremendous toll on relationships. The secrecy, lying, stealing, and other negative behaviors that may have formed as a result of your addiction likely compromised your relationships with your loved ones. But now that you are in recovery, you can begin working to repair these bonds. It will not be easy or occur overnight, but it is possible to put together all the broken pieces.
Honesty is key in strengthening your relationships, so start by having an open conversation with your loved ones. Allow them to express their feelings and fears regarding your addiction and recovery. Ask them what you can do to rebuild trust and earn their forgiveness. Your addiction has deeply impacted them and that they may still feel hurt or resentment towards you. Give them time to get to know the new you.
Encourage your loved ones to attend Nar-Anon meetings or other family support groups where they can meet others who are going through similar experiences. Speaking with other parents, spouses, siblings, and friends of individuals in recovery can provide them with different perspectives as well as support. You might also want to consider going to counseling as a family. The more you invest in your relationship, the stronger it will be.
As an adult, making new friends can be challenging. Everyone is busy with their own lives. Most people already have their own set of friends. But forming new connections is an important part of recovery, so you must put yourself out there ⎼ no matter how awkward and uncomfortable it might be.
It may seem as if every social event involves alcohol. As if everyone around you is drinking. But there are many opportunities to meet others that do not involve drinking. A great place to start is in a 12 Step group. At the very least you know you have something in common: you are all trying to better yourselves. Sober events are also great opportunities to meet others who share your lifestyle. But not all of your friends have to be in recovery. They simply have to respect your choice to not drink or use drugs. So, think about activities you enjoy ⎼ sign up for a cooking class, take up dancing, join a gym, start volunteering ⎼ and get to know others there. Sharing a common interest will make it easier to spark a friendship.
Because there are so many changes that come along with your new sobriety, it can be both an incredibly exciting and terribly overwhelming time. Recovery is not a race. Take your time as you start building your new life.