What an accomplishment!
After completing initial treatment for a substance use disorder, the path to recovery is now open to you or your loved one.
Hopefully you’re feeling strong and determined, but you’re probably also feeling a little nervous about what lies ahead. You might also be worried about you or your loved one having to face the stress that may have contributed to substance misuse in the first place.
The first 90 days of recovery are the most important for preventing relapse. Research published in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors found that the risk for relapse was at the highest rate during the first three months.1 The study also found that a person in recovery who continues some form of treatment in these first three months had an increased chance of maintaining recovery for the first full year.
These early stages of recovery are challenging, but there are tips and techniques you can use to make it through. Relying on supportive friends and family will make the process easier, as will finding new hobbies, and continuing your treatment. Here are some suggestions to help you during the first 90 days.
Before you even arrive home, ask someone you trust to get rid of any drugs, pills, or paraphernalia related to your addiction. There should be nothing in your home that will remind you of drugs or alcohol or serve as a trigger.
Don’t go it alone.
Spending too much time by yourself can lead you to obsess about your worries for the future, about your finances, or about whether recovery is even possible. Being alone may also make it harder to resist cravings. Surround yourself with friends and family as much as possible during these early days.
Follow a schedule.
To keep yourself on track, set up a daily schedule that includes what time you’ll wake, general meal times, exercise breaks, doctor or therapy appointments, and any other obligations. Be sure to leave down time when you can pursue hobbies, meditate, or relax. By keeping yourself busy and giving your days structure, you’ll be less likely to find time or reasons to relapse.
Take care of your body.
Both addiction and detoxification have grueling effects on your body, and it will take some time to get yourself back to 100%. Try to eat healthy foods and drink plenty of water. An exercise regimen will have both physical and mental effects—as will getting at least seven hours of sleep each night.
Celebrate your success.
Every day that you remain on your recovery path is a cause for celebration. Every single meeting or therapy appointment you attend, every time you take a deep breath instead of taking a drink or picking up a drug, every choice you make that helps you avoid relapse is a milestone. Whether you put on your favorite song and have your own dance party or you treat yourself to a cupcake, do something to recognize each and every step you make in your recovery. Remember to be kind to yourself. This is incredibly hard work.
Avoid big decisions.
Adjusting to your "new normal" will be difficult enough without forcing yourself to deal with any additional changes. Unless it’s important for your recovery, don’t move to a new home or find a new job in the first few months of recovery. To keep your focus on yourself and your treatment, ease yourself back into your life, and leave the big changes for when you’re on more stable ground.
Stay in treatment.
As mentioned earlier, the study published in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors found that a person in recovery who continues treatment during the first 90 days of recovery increase the odds of staying substance-free for a complete year. Sticking with therapy or finding a 12-step program or support group can make all the difference in these first three months.
Stay away from triggers.
Unless you change your lifestyle, it will be very challenging to change your life. As much as possible, avoid seeing people with whom you used during your addiction. Stay away from places where you’re likely to experience triggers to use. If something does trigger your urge, call a friend or family member, a sponsor, or even a helpline to get support.
Focus on the future.
One of the best ways to ensure you stay on your recovery path is to give yourself a reason to do so. Imagine what you’d like your life to be in one year, five years, 10 years, and set both long and short term goals that can help you get there. As you start working toward those goals, you’ll give your life new purpose, gain confidence, and reinforce all the rewards of staying in recovery.