Addiction is a brutal disease, and one that many people never defeat. If you’ve admitted that you had a problem, and sought the treatment to get through it, you’re to be commended. Unfortunately, whether you went to rehab, sought therapy, or managed to recover on your own, your work past addiction isn’t the final finish line.
Relapse is a serious threat. Among addicts and alcoholics, only one-third of people who are abstinent for less than a year will remain abstinent over the coming decades. For addicts who make it to a full year of sobriety, less than half will eventually relapse, and for addicts who remain sober for 5 years, your chance of relapse is a mere 15 percent.
Getting over the hurdle of those first few years is going to be difficult, and even then, the chances of relapse will remain. So what strategies can you use to keep winning the battle against addiction?
Establish a Routine
One of the best things you can do for yourself is creating a daily routine. If you don’t have enough to do, or if you aren’t sure what to do, you could wind up with an excess of idle time—and it’s in those idle moments that you’ll be most tempted to return to the call of alcohol or illegal drugs. If you have a firm routine in place, driving your daily habits and occupying your time, that threat becomes much less powerful. Try to get a job that keeps you busy most of the day, most days a week, and develop a firm schedule to adhere to; for example, you might wake up early, meditate, go to work, exercise, eat dinner, and enjoy a movie before bed. The more consistent you are with this routine, the harder it will be to break.
Rely on Your Friends and Family
You don’t have to go through this alone. Your friends and family members all want you to get better, and will likely be willing to help you in any ways you need if it means furthering your recovery. Don’t be afraid to lean on them for support.
In addition to that, research shows that your social identity is an important pathway out of addiction. The closer you keep to your social circles, and the more you learn to identify with them, the harder it will be for you to go back to your addiction. Just make sure you aren’t associating with the people who led you into addiction in the first place.
Keep Getting Treatment
Addiction treatment shouldn’t be something temporary. Many recovering addicts end treatment when they feel they’ve reached a major milestone, but ideally, you’ll continue treatment indefinitely. Even if you don’t feel like you need it, it’s a good idea to attend therapy at least a few times a month; checking in with the therapist can be an important part of your routine, an opportunity for self-reflection, and a constant motivation to avoid going back to the substance you struggled with.
Find a Release
Regardless of your career or family life, you’re going to face significant stress in your life moving forward, and every stressful moment you face could present a temptation to return to your substance of choice. If you have a healthy way to relieve that stress, you’ll be far less likely to give into that temptation. The trick is to find something that serves as a release for you; for some people, that may be running or biking. For others, it might be a hobby like archery or making music. Whatever it is, it needs to be something you can get lost in and engage in regularly — even better if it’s a hobby that allows you to meet new people and make new friends.
Explore New Things
As important as your routines are, it’s also important to explore new things on a regular basis. Go out to new venues, meet new people, try new foods, and experiment with new hobbies. This will keep your mind stimulated, and may introduce you to even more hobbies to occupy your interest. As an added bonus, new experiences tend to be more memorable; so as you encounter more new experiences and new opportunities, you’ll feel like your life is more enriched, and you’ll be less likely to experience boredom or depression. Say yes to new invitations you get, and challenge yourself to break out of your comfort zone.
You’ve come this far; if you can lead a sober life for just a few more years, you can substantially increase your chances of remaining sober for the rest of your life. You have the full support of your friends and family, and countless resources available to you, so put these strategies to good use and keep striving for those long-term milestones.