Life After Rehab
by Henk Nagel
When a client has finished treatment and arrives back home, reality then kicks in. Their environment, with all its triggers and difficulties, can be experienced as a major challenge for a lot of people in early recovery.
One thing the client will notice is that everyone at home is still the same and that they are the only one who has changed. Rebuilding trust can take time, and it is important to give your loved ones the time for their trust in you to grow back again.
‘After rehab, you need to rehab yourself’ is an expression regularly used in treatment. People can become very vulnerable without the 24-hour support they have in treatment. When clients are committed to keep using the tools they have learned in rehab (Cognitive Behavior Therapy, support groups etc.), they can overcome the difficulties they experience, and learn important life lessons from dealing with these difficulties.
Boredom is a challenge too for a lot of people. Most addicts spent a significant time of their days being intoxicated from their drug of choice. Getting drugs/alcohol and using it can be very time-consuming and after rehab, we can be left with a lot of time on our hands, and if we don’t know what to do with it, boredom then becomes a pitfall. Why should you stay clean if staying clean is boring?
In treatment, we learn how to deal with boredom and discover that boredom is a choice – we need to stop rejecting everything we can do and take responsibility for our lives and our choices. Finding hobbies, doing sports, going to support groups, doing a course or a study etc. are extremely beneficial in helping us create a satisfying way of life where we can get the necessary fulfillment humans need to feel happy.
Taking responsibility for your life and your choices can be very hard for some people. Never learned how to do it, fear of responsibility, self-doubt, insecurity etc. can create huge blocks. In rehab people learn how to cope with this, taking little steps at a time, breaking the old cycle of negative habits and stepping out of their comfort zone.
‘Filling the void’ refers to the inner emptiness people can experience when they stop using their drug of choice. There are a lot of pitfalls and addicts in early recovery need to be aware of to keep themselves safe. This has to do with the stimulation of the reward pathways in the brain. The human brain responds to every reward and causes addictive behaviors. Especially in early recovery this needs a lot of work because it can keep people in the addiction because there is a change of ‘drug’ where there is abstinence needed. Shopping, gambling, dating, internet porn etc. are all stimulating the reward pathways and could become a problem. Strong boundaries around negative things to prevent substituting the addiction combined with healthy ways to fill the void is the most recommended way to build a balanced, satisfying and fulfilling way of life in recovery.
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