You’ve decided to make the challenging decision to stop using substances and have recently completed a treatment program for your substance use disorder. Mission accomplished, right? Well, not exactly. Choosing to go into treatment and seeing it through is something worth celebrating. However, despite what some people may believe, completing a treatment program is only the beginning of your life-long recovery journey. If this sounds overwhelming, think of recovery as a process. Recovery is something that you choose each day. Recognize that you can successfully embrace your long-term sobriety by staying engaged in the recovery process.
What Is Engagement?
In recovery, engagement is defined as the process of sustaining participation in ongoing treatment. While seeking help for your addiction and receiving treatment are steps in the right direction, engagement can make all the difference in your long-term recovery success.
After you complete SUD treatment, you must stay committed to your sobriety by allowing yourself to be mentally and emotionally involved in continuing treatment. At times, it may sound like tough, grueling work. While it is not always an easy task, sobriety can be a joyful and rewarding process only if you continue to stay engaged with your recovery.
Engagement Reduces Risk Of Relapse
Relapse is a gradual process that occurs in three stages: emotional relapse, mental relapse, and physical relapse. The main goal of relapse prevention is to recognize and manage the early stages of relapse before physical relapse occurs. When you are engaged in the recovery process, you can recognize the warning signs of each stage of relapse more effectively in yourself and others.
The warning signs of emotional relapse may include:
- Not attending meetings
- Attending meetings but not participating
- Poor eating habits
- Poor sleeping habits
- Bottling up emotions
The warning signs of mental relapse may include:
- Cravings for drugs and alcohol
- Ruminating or people, places, things, and experiences related to using
- Minimizing and/or romanticizing past use
- Trying to come up with ways to control substance use
- Looking for relapse opportunities
- Planning a relapse
When you disengage from the recovery process, you run the risk of overlooking relapse warning signs. However, when you are staying attentive and emotionally involved in your recovery, you can better recognize and respond to warning signs of relapse. Staying engaged in treatment increases your chances of maintaining sobriety because you can actively make adjustments to your lifestyle when necessary.
Staying Engaged Begins With Mindset
How does one stay engaged in treatment without getting overwhelmed? It all starts with a positive mindset. Instead of perceiving recovery as dry and difficult work, try approaching it with a graceful and appreciative mindset. Some ways to do this include:
- Viewing your sobriety as a gift. It may feel a bit like all of these changes have turned your life upside down, and it is okay to feel this way. However, try to view the changes you have made as privileges instead of chores.
- Focusing on the positives instead of the negatives. Try focusing on what you are gaining rather than what you are giving up. For example, as you are improving your health, you are gaining more energy to focus on the things you enjoyed before using substances. You are also gaining the freedom from worrying about hurtful words you might have spoken while under the influence.
- Thinking about the harmful effects that substance use had on your life. Consider things like hangovers or crashes, possibly work or school problems, risk of legal repercussions, and even all of the time that you spent using or obtaining substances. You have given up these things. These thoughts can be helpful if you struggle with glamorizing past use.
Tips for Staying Engaged in Recovery
A positive mindset is a great foundation for helping you maintain engagement in the recovery process, but it is just the starting point. That positive mindset sets you up to take actionable steps to keep you committed to your sobriety and recovery. Some ways to keep yourself engaged in the process of recovery are:
- Getting in touch with an alumni program. If you went to a facility for treatment and they have an alumni program, try getting involved. These programs will provide you with opportunities to enjoy sober activities with other people in recovery and will help keep you engaged in the process.
- Become a sponsor or mentor. By becoming a sponsor or mentor, you are allowing yourself to hold someone else accountable for their recovery while they hold you accountable for yours. Mentorships can offer support, encouragement, and advice during challenging times in recovery.
- Try new hobbies that interest you. Finding new hobbies can keep you motivated to stay in recovery and provide a distraction from triggers and cravings.
- Attend group meetings. Group meetings help to provide new perspectives and insight on your recovery journey. If you are not comfortable with 12-step meetings, there are other types of support groups you can attend.
- Be mindful. Mindfulness can help you remain in the here and now when you start to feel overwhelmed by your lifelong recovery journey. Instead of worrying about the future, just focus on today.
- Stay in touch with yourself. Keep a journal, either paper or digital, to record your thoughts, feelings, and triggers as they arise.\
Recovery can be the most challenging and rewarding thing you do for yourself. While completing a treatment program is worth celebrating, it does not mean that the treatment journey is over. Recovery is a choice that you must actively choose every day for the rest of your life. This involves staying engaged in your recovery. Sober Life is a drug and alcohol treatment center that offers continuing treatment programs for individuals recovering from mental health and substance use disorders. Our HealthyU Alumni Program offers check-in meetings, sober activities, and other tools to help you stay engaged and committed to your recovery. The alumni program even offers opportunities to serve and help others who are new to treatment and recovery. For more information about our treatment options, or for more about the importance of treatment engagement, call us today at (619) 542-9542.