While achieving abstinence is a crucial component, it is not the be-all and end-all of recovery. Recovery is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process of growth, self-change, and adjustment in attitude, thinking, and behavior to create a new way of life that supports sobriety, good health, and overall well-being. A person with AUD needs to overcome numerous obstacles and continuously learn how to deal with these challenges to stay on their path of recovery.
Principles of Recovery
To foster a better understanding of what recovery means for people suffering from alcohol use disorder and similar addictive behaviors, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) postulated the following guiding principles of recovery:
Recovery Starts with Hope
The recovery process starts with the belief that overcoming alcohol use disorder is possible, regardless of the circumstances and gravity of addictive behavior. Essentially, hope is the driving force that encourages people with AUD to seek help and get better.
Recovery Means the Individual Has Power to Change Their Life
The process of recovery is grounded on the alcohol-addicted person’s determination and direction. They have the power to define goals, make informed decisions, start their journey of recovery, and use their strengths to regain control of their life.
Recovery Happens through Various Pathways
Every recovery journey is unique and personal. Each person has distinct backgrounds, needs, strengths, preferences, and goals, that impact their road to recovery. At the end of the day, there is no single foolproof path to alcoholism recovery that benefits everyone.
Recovery Involves Every Aspect of a Person’s Life
Recovery does not merely focus on the person’s addictive behavior, but also involves their whole life—mind, body, spirit, and community. As such, recovery should include a wide variety of services and support programs that will address family, housing, self-care, education, employment, and other life concerns.
Recovery Means the Support of People Going Through the Same Challenge Is Crucial
The assistance and support of people suffering from a similar condition are crucial in the recovery process of an individual. Peer support makes the journey more bearable as the person knows that others are experiencing the same struggles and concerns. The recovery journey of others also offers encouragement and inspiration for the person to keep going.
Recovery Is Supported through Relationship and Social Connections
An integral part of recovery is the support and involvement of people who offer hope, support, encouragement, and resources to ensure that the person can get their life back on track. These people usually include family members, friends, faith groups, and members of the community.
Recovery Is Based on and Influenced By Culture
Recovery services and support initiatives should be grounded and attuned to the person’s cultural background (values, traditions, and beliefs) to meet the individual’s unique needs.
Recovery Is Supported by Addressing Trauma
Given the strong relationship between exposure to traumatic events and substance use disorder, recovery services and support programs should take trauma into account to ensure safety and effectiveness.
Recovery Involves the Strengths and Responsibilities of the Individual, Family, and Community
While the person with substance use disorder is accountable for their actions and recovery journey, their family has the responsibility to support and assist them. The community, on the other hand, should offer opportunities and resources to ensure that the person will not be socially isolated and discriminated against.
Recovery Is Grounded on Respect
The community and society should accept and appreciate the efforts of the person with alcohol use disorder to take steps toward recovery. Protecting the rights of people with addictive behaviors against discrimination and oppression is a critical component in the recovery process.
Creating a Long-Term Recovery Plan
Perhaps you have completed a formal treatment program in one of the many reputable rehabilitation facilities in the country and your brain and body are already getting used to functioning without alcohol in your system. You are less anxious and enjoying the company of family and friends. You are also getting better at coping with the normal day-to-day issues that life throws at you.
While everything seems to be going well, it is best to start working on your long-term recovery plan so that you can stay on track and not just leave the rest of your recovery journey to chance. A recovery plan will help you to move forward and stay sober. After all, it is easy to advance if you have a clear idea about where you are going.
While it does not have to be detailed, a recovery plan should include the following:
You may have forgotten about your goals in life as you suffer from years of alcohol misuse. Now is the time to recall them or set new ones if you have yet to think about the goals you want to accomplish.
Make sure that your goals are not only doable, but also clear and rewarding. They could be as grand as completing a course or as mundane as opening a savings account. What matters is to develop goals that will help you stay away from alcohol since you have something to do every day.
Break down each goal into steps and set a timetable. For instance, if your goal is to get certification in a particular skill, you could try to search for available programs and learn more about them in three days. Your next step could be planning on how you can finance the program costs and exploring your options in the next days, and so on.
Making Good Decisions
As discussed above, recovery is a process of growth and adjustment in attitude, thinking, and behavior. To stay on course, you cannot continue thinking and behaving as before. You need to renew your thinking pattern to make good decisions.
You can ask your family, friends, and counselors for strategies on how you can handle difficult situations so that you will not end up drinking your troubles away. Participating in self-help groups can also give you valuable ideas.
You can also think through stressful and challenging situations that you often encounter, your common responses to these happenings, and the consequences of your reactions. By scrutinizing how you behave, you can identify the reactions that usually lead to drinking and avoid them.
Whether you realize it or not, you are more prone to drinking alcohol if you are bored and idle. As such, you must fill your days with activities that will keep your mind off alcohol. Get a notebook or small calendar, and write how you intend to use your free time every day.
You can set a date with friends who will keep you in check. You can start working on projects or interesting hobbies that can keep you occupied. You can also do leisure activities or play sports. While you do not have to be busy every minute, the important thing is that you are moving forward and learning how to live your life without alcohol.
Managing your relationships means taking control of your attitude and reactions as you deal with the people around you so that you will not end up drinking. Keep in mind that your family and friends are also adjusting to the new you.
If they do things that hurt you, make sure that you respond differently from how you used to. Apply the coping strategies you learned or simply walk away and do something else when you get upset. Do not let the actions or reactions of other people cause you to suffer and trigger a relapse.
Detecting and Preventing a Relapse
While you may have effectively used healthy coping mechanisms on a few occasions to avoid drinking, you cannot let your guard down. Keep in mind that alcohol use disorder is a chronic relapsing illness, which means consistency and persistence of behavior are crucial.
When you find yourself thinking that drinking in moderation is acceptable since you are already in control—or when you start daydreaming about how much fun you had before—it is time to take precautionary measures to prevent a relapse. For instance, you can call a sponsor or counselor, make a list of all the good things you experienced after suffering from alcoholism, take a walk in the park, or engage in healthy activities like reading a book.
Recognizing the Stumbling Blocks
Be wary of people, places, time, and situations that can trigger a relapse. Make a list of ways that can make you resort to drinking and what you can do to handle them. Keep the list with you at all times so that you can refer to it whenever you get tempted. Remember that while you may look and feel better physically, you can be one drink away from misusing alcohol once again.
Benefits of Staying Sober
Staying sober takes a lot of work and requires careful choices, but staying in recovery provides incredible benefits that make all the hard work worth it. Below are some of the advantages of living a life free from alcohol:
- Improved memory and cognitive skills
- Reduced risk of heart diseases and some forms of cancer
- Better immunity
- Improved sleep quality
- Improved mental health
- Healing of the liver, especially if you quit drinking early
- Improved relationship with family, friends, colleagues, and other people
Tips to Stay on the Recovery Path
Maintaining sobriety can be challenging, but doable. Apart from preparing a long-term recovery plan, here are other things you can do to stay on the recovery path:
- Build a support network of family, responsible friends, and sponsors who will help you stay sober.
- Stay away from people, places, situations, and happenings that could tempt you to drink.
- Find a peer support group like Alcoholics Anonymous and attend their meetings regularly.
- Exercise, eat a healthy diet, and get enough sleep.
- Make use of available alcohol recovery apps to keep you inspired and motivated to stay on track.
- Since too much stress can result in alcohol relapse, try to learn different strategies to relieve stress, such as yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, breathing exercises, and music.
- Volunteer for a good cause, like serving at a homeless shelter or children’s hospital. These can make you feel good, happy, and content about yourself.
Starting Your Alcoholism Recovery Journey
If you are struggling with alcohol use disorder and you desire to get your life back on track, early intervention is critical. Do not wait for circumstances to become ideal before starting your recovery journey. You can count on Better Addiction Care (BAC) to help you find the most reputable rehabilitation centers that specialize in alcohol treatment near you. Ourthird-party information service gives you access to an expansive network of leading treatment providers in the country.