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Anyone who has ever battled drug or alcohol addiction knows the challenges to achieving long-term sobriety and the hurdles of long-term recovery.
It is no secret that the global pandemic placed a significant strain on people recovering from addiction. Rates of overdose and relapse increased, and more individuals struggled with stress, anxiety, and increased substance use.
Yet most of the world is returning to normal.
There may have been some missteps along the way, but if you made it this far, here are three more critical tips for maintaining your long-term sobriety:
First tip: your personal trigger warnings
A big part of preventing relapse and maintaining recovery is understanding your external triggers. It is safe to say the average individual was on edge during the pandemic.
Post-pandemic stress is real, and drugs and alcohol become an unhealthy means of coping. The most significant risk to you is not recognizing your own cues or triggers as aspects of your life return to a sense of normalcy.
Common triggers include the following:
>> Emotional distress
>> Relationship troubles
>> Job or financial problems
>> Pandemic related stress
>> Other people who are still using drugs or alcohol
>> Environmental triggers
Your risks are yours alone and may not be the same as the next person. Yet, once you identify them, you can create a plan to prepare for or avoid them.
Second tip: don’t be the deer in the headlights with relapse warning signs
If two years of global insanity have proven anything to a recovering addict, it is that relapse can sneak up on you. Usually, this is because we do not recognize our own warning signs.
A relapse occurs long before you pick up your first drink or use your drug of choice. Generally, there are emotional relapses, mental relapses, and physical relapses.
Common warning signs include:
>> A return to addictive thinking patterns and planning.
>> Seeking out situations involving individuals who use alcohol and drugs.
>> Returning to compulsive self-defeating behaviors.
>> No longer thinking rationally and engaging in irresponsible behavior.
>> Placing yourself in a situation where drug and alcohol use seems like a logical escape from reality.
It is important to remember that relapse does not mean rehab has failed. The nature of addiction means that some people relapse or return to drug use after attempting to stop.
Coming out of this pandemic and returning to normal will not be the same for every person. Pay attention to your changes in attitude, elevated stress, and any reactivation of denial. In addition, behavioral changes, a breakdown in your support network, and a loss of structure and routine are red flags.
Third tip: healthy relationships and support do not mean the local bartender
If you survived the global pandemic without returning to the black hole of addiction, part of it is attributed to your support network and healthy relationships.
Yet this does not mean the bartender serving you near-beer at the local pub. Maintaining long-term sobriety means building and keeping healthy relationships with other sober people.
In the past, you may have developed a codependent relationship with family members, friends, coworkers, or employers, enabling your addiction without even knowing it.
There are also toxic relationships with people who are doing you harm, making the situation worse.
It is crucial to develop healthy relationships by avoiding the following ones:
>> Toxic relationships—If you hang around the local bar long enough, you will likely have more than one drink. Avoid placing yourself around individuals whom you know increase your risk to use.
>> Codependent relationships—There are dangers to having a relationship with someone who exhibits excessive caregiving behavior. Generally, it promotes even greater dependency on your part.
>> Enabling relationships—Enabling can take many forms. The behavior includes individuals making excuses, lying, and covering up for you.
Developing healthy relationships and support networks begin with changing problem relationships and identifying supportive ones.
Great places to make new healthy friends include:
>> Support groups, such as 12-step groups like AA.
> Religious groups provide numerous support services, outings, and activities for people of all walks of life.
>> Community organizations offer volunteer opportunities, events, and activities where you can meet new people.
>> Hobbies and sports are excellent opportunities to stay healthy and meet new people. It also allows you to pursue something you’re passionate about.
Stay focused on the long-term.
People get into trouble when they let their guard down, especially during the early days of recovery. The pandemic was not easy for anyone. Yet focusing on these three tips will place you ahead and keep you striving toward your long-term goals.
Every day is not going to be easy; however, it becomes easier to stay sober over the long term. There will come the point where it no longer consumes your every waking thought.
Your daily routines become just that, and you’ve structured your life to achieve the goals you set.
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