Coping With Daily Stressors Outside the Treatment “Bubble”
Treatment for substance use disorder (SUD) and related conditions can be ongoing for months or even years as you transition between inpatient and outpatient programs, sober living communities, and continuing care. If you experience a relapse, the cycle can repeat. However, over time you will complete treatment and be ready to maintain your sobriety independently using community-based resources. The freedom and lack of structure can feel disconcerting at first and might leave you uncertain about your ability to maintain sobriety long-term. However, you have plenty of tools available, and you can successfully cope with the change.
Living Outside the “Bubble” of Structured Treatment
The environment within rehabilitation programs and sober living communities can sometimes feel like a highly controlled “bubble” that encourages accountability and keeps you making healthy choices. Breaking out of that bubble can happen quickly or after years of treatment. The longer you spend in a structured and managed space, the harder it is to return to fully independent living because human beings find routine comforting. The transition might feel very stressful or destabilizing, especially during the first few weeks when you have to cope without immediate access to the following:
- Clinicians, counselors, and medical professionals
- Medication management
- Regular check-ins
You are accountable for maintaining your sobriety, and you can do it using the skills you learned in treatment. During rehabilitation, your therapist provided relapse prevention strategies and took steps to help you feel more confident in your ability to avoid substance misuse or backsliding. Common relapse prevention strategies include:
- Joining 12-Step or other support groups
- Individual or group psychotherapy
- Learning to identify and avoid triggers
- Practicing daily self-care
Recovery Does Not End After Treatment
You are not “cured” of substance use disorder once you complete your treatment programs and return home. Instead, you move to a new stage of recovery that involves increased self-accountability and self-sufficiency. Treatment will not fully heal you from SUD, and you will spend the rest of your life maintaining sobriety by building new healthy habits, behaviors, and thought patterns. Over time it will become easier to manage cravings and intrusive thoughts, but they never completely disappear. You need to be diligent about avoiding the cycle of substance misuse to stay on track.
How to Avoid Repeating the Cycle of Substance Misuse
Substance misuse is often part of a self-destructive cycle that can last for years. In some families, the cycle of addiction becomes multigenerational, making it even more challenging to break away from when you complete treatment. You might feel like you have no choice but to return to a toxic family environment where one or more close family members struggle with untreated mental health or substance use disorders.
Avoid repeating the cycle of substance misuse by doing the following when you complete treatment:
- Attend family therapy to improve relationships
- Avoid places and individuals that might threaten your sobriety
- Use preventative measures when faced with potential triggers
- Become an active member of the sober community
- Use resources like 12-Step meetings and your support system to maintain sobriety
- Find ways to encourage self-accountability
Decreasing Your Daily Stressors
Daily stressors and environmental or psychological factors can be high-risk situations when they cause significant distress. According to Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy, “relapse events are immediately preceded by a high-risk situation.” The paper goes on to state that “individuals who are struggling with behavior change often find that making the initial change is not as difficult as maintaining behavior changes over time.” Effective coping skills will increase your self-efficacy and lower the risk of relapse in the months after treatment ends. You may also benefit from making temporary or permanent changes to toxic relationships or environments.
Do You Need to Change Your Environment?
You may need to change your environment to stay healthy. The change can be small. You might choose to avoid certain social groups and locations that trigger severe cravings or intrusive thoughts. If you live in a home with other individuals with untreated mental health or substance use disorders, it could be safer to find somewhere else to live. You have a large amount of control over the things you have contact with during recovery, including:
- Who you spend time with
- Where you go
- What you allow inside your home
- The type of conversations you engage in
- Media and entertainment you watch
- How you treat yourself
- Your lifestyle choices
All of the things listed above can have a beneficial or detrimental effect on your sobriety, depending on your choices. Embrace your independence and keep yourself healthy and safe by making decisions that will improve your well-being and keep you moving forward in recovery outside the “bubble” of treatment.
Living independently after long-term residential or outpatient treatment can be challenging. You might feel uncertain about your ability to maintain sobriety. However, with the resources and coping skills you learned during treatment, you have all the tools you need to keep moving forward with your recovery. Relapse prevention is critical, and one way you can avoid sliding back into old behaviors is by limiting your interaction with people and places that trigger cravings or intrusive thoughts about substance misuse. At White House Recovery and Detox, we use a wide range of evidence-based methods, including psychotherapy and alternative treatments, to reduce your risk of relapse once you complete rehabilitation. You are in control of your future, and we can help you feel confident about maintaining your sobriety at home. To learn more about our facility in Los Angeles, California, and the services we offer, reach out today by calling us at (800) 510-5393.