Recovery beyond treatment… what does that mean?

In my work with college students I had a realization. I saw student after student, coming to my office at the counseling center, returning to school after rehab, terrified that they would relapse again. Time and time again, I heard clients say staying sober in rehab was easy because all they had to do was focus on their sobriety. However, life outside of the treatment center involved stress, and they were faced with choices (sometimes too many choices). While their sobriety is a priority, clients shared that they were not fully prepared to deal with the responsibilities of life after treatment. Being warned about the challenges of sobriety after treatments is one thing. The struggle of living sober is another. Anyone who has completed addiction treatment and established a life free of alcohol and drugs knows the struggle is real. Returning to your home, community, and friends only to realize that the only thing that has changed is you can be overwhelming. Work, school, and family responsibilities without solid coping skills add another layer of worry. It is scary to realize that your addiction has hurt loved ones and destroyed trust, especially when you need support. What is even scarier? Needing to establish new and healthy relationships and not knowing how. These are just a few of the concerns I hear on a daily basis. Getting clean is the first step in establishing long term recovery…it is a crucial step, but the journey to long term recovery is long and most don’t have the support or knowledge to do it on their own. This is where connection comes in.

Connections in the early phases of recovery are crucial. When one is addicted they tend to isolate. Being in recovery is about connection…connection to self, family, friends, and other people in recovery. Unfortunately after isolating, connecting can seem like an impossible task, and assistance is often necessary to get connected again. For some that connection is found in a 12 step program (or alternative fellowship programs), others find help connecting in therapy, some seek connection in a religious community, yet others find a recovery coach is just what they need. Any and all of these connections can be helpful in establishing long term recovery, they provide support, education, and guidance in managing the daily stressors associated with living substance free. Recovery is rarely a path one can walk alone. Recovery is NOT a 30 day program. Recovery is a complete lifestyle change. Recovery truly begins beyond treatment.