As we probe states across the country that have been hit particularly hard with today’s modern heroin epidemic, one leads the way on many fronts: Massachusetts. In highlighting some of the more recent headlines, we hope to reveal the devastating, and crippling effects heroin, and other illicit drugs, are having on the residents and small towns in the commonwealth state, as well as to share what they are doing about the situation to help those affected. Continue reading Heroin Hits Massachusetts Hard in Wake of Highest Overdose Deaths In History
We’ve all been in this situation. Having to explain to someone else that you’re sober and working a program of recovery. Typically, it becomes easier to do the longer we are in the program, as naturally with time we not only become stronger in our sobriety, and more grounded in our recovery, but the stigma of our old behaviors begin to drift away, opening up space to show others our fresh, refined selves. Continue reading How To Tell Others You’re In Recovery
Early recovery is a time for self-exploration, growth, and discovery – a beautiful and often frightening time when you truly get to figure out who you are and what makes you tick. While beginning the journey towards freedom from the devastation and oppression of drugs and alcohol is exciting and liberating, it can also be extremely difficult. You will be coming into contact with feelings that you have been stifling and suppressing for years, and will undeniably need some solid emotional and mental support during this time. Here is a list of 3 early recovery musts – things that will, without question, be essential to maintainable and meaningful sobriety.
3 Early Recovery Musts
- Sober Support Systems
One of the most important aspects in maintaining sobriety is establishing a solid and reliable sober support system early on. The best way to go about doing this is to attend as many meetings as possible, showing up 15 minutes beforehand and staying late in order to introduce yourself to other program members and exchanging as many phone numbers as possible. If you are living in a halfway house or sober living facility, you will have a sober support system at your disposal already – an added bonus. Your sponsor will also be a key player in your support circle, so be sure to get one as quickly as you can.
- Knowing and Avoiding Personal Triggers
A trigger is a person, place, or situation that makes you feel like you want to use. Many recovering addicts and alcoholics have similar triggers – the loss of a loved one, a major change, and specific holidays in example. However, it is important that you understand and recognize what triggers you individually, and you avoid your triggers in order to prevent relapse. A specific group of old friends may be a trigger for one individual, while the sight of a martini may greatly trigger another. It is important not to test your own boundaries – if you feel unsure about something, stay away.
- Learning to Love Yourself
If you don’t learn to love and appreciate yourself early on, the likelihood that your sobriety will be fulfilled and lasting is relatively slim. It is crucial that you learn to place yourself first – if your own spiritual, mental, and physical wellbeing is not intact, everything else in your life will surely fall part eventually. Reward yourself with personally satisfying activities, explore potential new passions and hobbies, and truly dedicate your time to healing past wounds in order to pave the way for a brighter and happier future.
Let’s get honest about something for a second – if we could still get high or drunk without experiencing any of the innumerable negative consequences that go hand-in-hand with using, would we? There are times (though fewer and farther between nowadays) when I would love to hand in my “Get Out of Jail Free” card and feel a little shwasty without actually picking up. After all, we used because it was fun, right? At least in the very beginning. There’s no shame in admitting that no matter how terrible things got later down the line, we initially actually enjoyed getting high. Well, fortunately, we still can get high… high on life. I’m sure by now you’re rolling your eyes in bitter exasperation, recalling your 6th grade D.A.R.E. class (thank goodness for that program, right??). Well, it’s true. Take part in any of these 5 activities to experience a high like none other you have felt before.
Ways to “Get High” Without Drugs
- Hit Up a Theme Park
Rollercoasters produce an adrenaline rush that is essentially incomparable. Screaming at the top of your lungs while twisting and turning throughout the sky might seem like a weird way to experience the thrill of living, but the feeling you have while fearing for your life mid-air is definitely a natural high worth trying. Not all theme parks are insanely unaffordable, either. There is bound to be a crappy (but fun) water park somewhere nearby, or a family-owned theme park that might be creepy but could be more exciting than Disneyworld.
Just because you are sober does not mean you can’t go out dancing with a solid group of sober friends. As long as you have a support system in place and feel comfortable and safe, dressing up and heading to a dance club can potentially be a crazy fun way to spend your Saturday night. Dancing is great exercise and produces serotonin, and laughing with friends is always a healthy natural high.
- Go On a Run
Talk about producing serotonin! Exercise enthusiasts don’t talk about a “runner’s high” for no reason – it truly exists. The feeling one gets at the end of a long run is one of pure bliss… depending on how in-shape you are. If you’ve packed on the rehab poundage you may want to start off relatively slow.
There is literally no better natural high than sharing a hearty laugh with friends. Go see a comedy show, or organize a Ben Stiller movie marathon. Not a Ben Stiller fan? Try Adam Sandler.
Giving back in any way not only produces a natural high, it helps build self-esteem to a greater degree than nearly anything else. There are innumerable ways to give back to the community – volunteer, pick up trash, or simply make a goofy piece of art for someone close to you in order to show your appreciation. There are many ways to “get high” without using drugs or alcohol – experiment to find out which serotonin-producing activity is your personal favorite.
Being newly sober is truly one of the best gifts that any previously suffering drug addict or alcoholic will ever receive – and it is also the gift that is, by far, the most taken for granted. This is in large part due to the fact that although men and women who have suffered for years at the hands of substance dependency are now being given the opportunity to completely reverse their lives, early sobriety can be… boring. Devastatingly boring. I, myself, have tried literally every coffee concoction on the Starbucks menu – at least twice. My free time, when I first got clean, consisted of going to meetings, getting coffee, and laying on the couch in my halfway house playing Candy Crush for (embarrassing to admit) hours on end. And when I say hours, I don’t mean two… I mean heaps and piles of sad, lonely hours. If I had known then what I know now (being sober can actually be fun), I probably would not have taken sobriety for granted and would have reveled more in my newfound freedom.
I’ll Have A Caramel Macchiato With Extra Foam and Redundancy
A common misconception in early sobriety is that everything that you used to do that involved drinking to any extent, you can no longer do. Well, I don’t know about y’all, but I made literally everything in my life into a drinking game; folding laundry, work, taking showers, conversing with extended relatives over the phone somewhat uncomfortably – these were all super fun drinking games to me. If I stopped doing everything I used to do while drunk I would have no choice but to dissipate into thin air. If your favorite band is playing and you can round up a group of really solid sober supports to go with you to the concert, try not to let fear of “never having been to a concert sober” hold you back. I went to a concert within my first 4 months of sobriety with a group of sober buddies, and we all had the time of our lives with absolutely no inebriation of any kind. If I am at a weak spot in my recovery and don’t feel completely safe attending an event where there will be ample bottle and doobie passing, I am honest with myself about it. The key to successfully attending non-sober events in sobriety is remaining honest with yourself at all times.
Early Sobriety Can Actually Be… Fun
Don’t get me wrong; I still enjoy a nice Starbucks rendezvous now and again… though I try not to limit myself based on what I used to do. As I grow in recovery I grow in ability, and I no longer need the assistance of drugs or alcohol to enjoy things like music, beach days, or nature hikes. You can do anything in sobriety that you did while getting high or drunk. Aside from… getting high or drunk. Just be honest with yourself, and be sure you always have a solid support system on hand.
Setting boundaries and saying “no” is often a very difficult skill for addicts and alcoholics to learn, seeing as codependency to some degree frequently goes hand-in-hand with substance dependency. Unfortunately, unless a recovering addict learns to say “no” he or she will be faced with circumstances that may compromise his or her sobriety. If an addict takes on too much responsibility early on and neglects him or herself in any way, the risk for relapse increases significantly. Here are several negative repercussions of being a “yes man”.
Saying “No” Is An Important Skill In Early Recovery
- Your work will more than likely be poorly executed regardless of what it is – work-work, schoolwork, or work on yourself. Putting only half as much effort into what truly matters will inevitably hurt you in the long run.
- You may begin to take on the work of others rather than delegating properly. Overwhelming yourself with tasks that are not your responsibility to begin with will cause you to form resentments.
- If you say yes constantly to commitments you may not want to take on, you are likely to begin sacrificing personal goals.
- You may begin sacrificing sleep, exercise, and free time spent with friends or on personally fulfilling activities.
Fortunately, learning to say “no” in a polite way is not at all difficult, it only takes a little bit of conviction and an ample amount of sincerity. If you truly have too much on your plate and cannot take on any more responsibility, don’t be afraid to say so. There are kind and effective ways in which to reject people without hurting their feelings or causing any tension within the relationship. Here are several examples:
- “I really appreciate you thinking of me, unfortunately I am swamped and won’t have any real free time for quite awhile.”
- Unfortunately because of the point I am at in my own life, I don’t feel that would be the best idea for me right now. Possibly sometime down the line.”
- “I wish I could – I simply don’t have the time.”
Be sure to avoid apologizing excessively – stand firm in your refusal while remaining polite. Don’t make promises you have no intention of keeping. For instance, don’t say, “I can’t now, but next week…” if you truly do not plan on making time, or sincerely don’t want to make any future commitments. Saying “no” takes practice, but it is a practice that will pay off immensely in the long run!
There is truly no way to prevent a thought from popping into your head – many of our initial thoughts are unwelcome and tend to show up to the party uninvited. Thoughts of using coupled with intense, sudden cravings are potentially the most unwelcome thoughts and feelings a recovering addict or alcoholic will experience. While there is no surefire way to prevent cravings from happening (aside from doing the work on a daily basis, which still may not be foolproof) there are many ways to smash cravings as soon as they materialize. The key is distraction. Distraction will quickly become your best friend where cravings are concerned, seeing as most cravings only last for around 15 minutes or less. Of course, environmental cues also play a huge role in triggering cravings, thus it is important to avoid precarious situations in the first place. If you are a newly sober alcoholic, in example, hanging out at the bar with old drinking friends will probably not help your case. An overall lifestyle change is key in smashing cravings, though even if you are consistently doing the next right thing and avoiding triggering situations the likelihood of the occasional desire may bring you to your knees. Here are several effective tactics you may want to employ the next time you get a hankering for some heroin or a yearning for some yayo.
Eliminate Cravings As Soon As They Start
- Exercise! 15-30 minutes of intense physical activity has been proven to greatly reduce cravings, in many cases working them right out of the system entirely. If you can’t seem to get the thought out of your head, slip on a pair of running shoes and jog around the block. Exercise is actually a fundamental part of recovery as a whole, seeing as physical and mental fitness undeniably coincide.
- Call a sober support. This is where the necessity of the fellowship comes into play. It is absolutely crucial that the cell phone of every recovering addict and alcoholic is stockpiled with the phone numbers of likeminded men and women. You will most likely come to find that an acquaintance will save your life more than once. Ask for numbers at meetings, start a collection of phone lists. If you ever feel the urge to pick up, call someone who has been there to talk you out of it.
- Help someone. The best way to get outside of yourself is to help someone else in need. Take someone without a car to the grocery store, or volunteer at a local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Even picking up trash on the beach will likely alleviate cravings to some degree. There is always someone worse off than you, and being of service is a surefire way to feel less involved in your own troubles and more important to the collective.
Remember, the root word in distraction is action! Take action and smash your cravings into next Tuesday! And then when next Tuesday rolls around, go ahead and do the same thing.
There were numerous occasions in early sobriety during which my friends and I would find ourselves sitting in a parked car, bored out of our minds and cursing the day we ever got sober. There’s no question – early sobriety can be painfully boring. After all, we are becoming accustomed to a social life lacking drugs and alcohol for the first time. This is often a hard adjustment to make, especially for young adults aged 18-27. If we can’t party… what the heck are we supposed to do? Fortunately, I’ve compiled a list of 10 tried and true sober activities for you and your friends to participate in on nights you feel like maybe jumping off of a cliff is a good option.
Being Sober Is So Much Fun!
- Cards Against Humanity
This is an essential for early sobriety – this card game will inevitably save you and your friends on countless nights of potential death-by-boredom. Order it on Amazon.com to save a few bucks.
- Truth or Dare
What are you, 12? I know, it sounds pretty juvenile. But when you’re sitting around with nothing else to do, reverting back to middle school can actually be quite entertaining.
- Movie Marathon
Hit up a Redbox, grab snacks, and throw on some sweatpants. There’s nothing wrong with lounging out for a day, especially in the company of good friends. Try to get a trilogy if possible, or a television series – simply to occupy more time. Don’t forget, it’s okay to relax! You deserve a break. Staying sober is no easy task.
- Go Bowling
Bowling is for losers, right? Actually… no. Bowling can be pretty fun. Especially when you’ve literally got nothing better to do. Bowling is also relatively inexpensive. Place bets – loser has to buy a round of chicken wings.
- Go Miniature Golfing
Along the same lines as bowling, this activity may seem to be one reserved exclusively for awkward first dates and adolescent birthday parties. However, anything done with the company of friends you enjoy can be way more entertaining than you ever imagined. Again, play for bets. Winner buys a pizza after the game. Loser has to strip down to his skivvies and run down the street screaming, “The British are coming”.
- Beach Volleyball
I promise you, I am the least athletic human being known to man. I have never had as much fun as I did randomly playing beach volleyball on one “what is there to do” afternoon. A perk to this activity (besides the exercise) is the fact that you will be at the beach… when you get worn out take a dip, frolic in the waves, or catch a seagull merely for sport.
- Make Up Characters and Walk Around the Mall
Try to convince as many strangers as possible that you are a Goth named Zeltar and you are looking for a store that sells darkness. Don’t do this alone – be sure that you have at least one friend brave enough to play dress-up and act like an idiot with you. If you aren’t a fan of the mall, dress up in your finest gown or tux and head to Denny’s for an upscale date. Being weird is fun. However, it isn’t for the faint of heart.
- Take an Art Class
Painting pieces of ceramic isn’t typically that expensive. But if you’re on a super tight budget and can’t afford to custom-color a mug or a paperweight, try hitting up Michael’s and grabbing some art supplies. Art is therapeutic, and you can make stupid little things to give to your family members who will probably blindly cherish them.
- Take a “Tour”
Every town has “tours”, you just have to put in a little research. Some have historic tours (yawn) while others have ghost tours, culinary tours… whatever! Take a tour!
10. Go Yard Sale-ing
Now that you can wake up at 9 am on a Saturday without instantaneously vomiting beer into your boots, you can participate in fun early-morning activities such as sunrise walks on the beach, and (my personal favorite) yard sale-ing! Drive around and look for signs or premeditate with the help of Craigslist. After all, you’ll soon need to furnish your new apartment… you little sober success story!
Sobriety is fun – you just need to be creative.
So you’ve come to the decision that you need help with your addiction and are preparing to leave for treatment. Congratulations! You’ve already defeated one of the hardest challenges of getting sober; you’ve admitted that you need help. You’ve already picked out a treatment center or detox location, if you need one. You might find yourself asking questions like, what’s next? How do I prepare? Am I going to be safe? How am I going to get through this?
Calm your fears and take everything one-step at a time. Use these few helpful tidbits to prepare yourself and suitcase before you leave to get sober:
• Don’t pack like you are headed for vacation. Pack comfortable clothes that you will feel relaxed wearing multiple times. You won’t need to dress to impress so don’t worry about designer jeans or jewelry. Also, know that a lot of place won’t allow clothing with string, belts or shoelaces. Find this out ahead of time and pack accordingly.
• Write down contact information of family or immediate support. You likely won’t be allowed to have your cell phone on hand but there will be phones. Make sure to have a copy of phone numbers of the people who make you smile to use as needed.
• Learn to love literature. Pick out some books that interest you and bring them with you. You’ll likely have a lot down time to yourself and books are a great way to escape some of the seriousness of recovery. Self help books may be great while in treatment but try to keep your reading material light and enjoyably relevant to your interests. Avoid any material that glamourizes use, sex and violence.
• Take a pen and notebook….and use both! Write down your feelings and thoughts as often as possible. Write down what hurts, your fears, what’s happened in the past or each day. The notes you make now will be instrumental in your recovery moving forward.
• Don’t over-think anything and stay focused on your immediate tasks at hand – Recovery and Staying Sober. Your new responsibility and first priority is to stay sober. Leave your fears and worries about your home life, job or finances at the door. Focus on your new goal of sobriety now and you’ll work the rest out later. You’re on an express train to being given a lot of suggestions, recommendations and information about addiction and recovery. So, just keep an open mind.
So as you’re about to leave, The Hope Center wishes you success your journey. The road to Recovery is not easy but will set you free from your addiction and lead you to a new way of thinking, a new life and new happiness.
What questions do you have about leaving for recovery? What are your thoughts?
You’ve just graduated from a 90-day drug rehab – been “coined out” by a group of peers who wish you well and remind you they’re there if you ever need help. Your plane leaves tomorrow – you can’t wait to return home and see your friends and family. You’ve missed them, and you want to show them how far you’ve come in just several months. Therapists and counselors have warned you about the temptations that will likely await you at home, but you aren’t worried… after all, you’re cured! You will no longer want to drink and use drugs, for you’ve uncovered underlying causes of your addiction and addressed them with the assistance of a professional. Right?
Drug Rehab Is Just The Beginning!
Very, very wrong. It is very likely that one has not engaged in any sort of aftercare after inpatient will relapse within a short period of time. The vast majority of inpatient drug rehabs will strongly recommend a comprehensive and extended aftercare program effective immediately after one graduates from residential treatment. In most cases, such programs will include attendance at an IOP (intensive outpatient program) for a period of time, as well as continued daily attendance at a 12-step meeting such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Usually continuation of one-on-one therapy sessions is recommended as well in order to address underlying emotional issues as well as the addiction itself.
It is a common misconception that completing a stay at an inpatient rehab facility is about the extent of treatment – that once your inpatient stay comes to a close you are essentially cured of your addiction, free to return to your old life and pick right back up where you left off; without the use of drugs and alcohol, of course. In fact, graduating from a residential drug rehab program is only the beginning of your journey into recovery. It will be strongly recommended that immediately upon graduation that the newly sober addict or alcoholic maintain sobriety by entering a halfway or sober living house. This will allow him or her much more freedom while still managing accountability by means of frequent drug tests and a set of strict rules (curfew, cleanliness, etc). A careful transition from inpatient to halfway and finally back into total independence has been proven most successful in prolonged abstinence from drugs and alcohol.
Recovery Begins “In the Rooms”
It is often said that real recovery begins “in the rooms”. This refers to the fact that it tends to be difficult for addicts or alcoholics to maintain meaningful sobriety without getting involved in a 12-step program of their choosing. Regular attendance at meetings is usually essential to sustaining sobriety based on several differing factors – one of the most important is being surrounding with sober supports, friends who can relate to the struggle and are available to help if need be. 12-step meetings tend to be a crucial aspect of every aftercare plan, as does continued one-on-one therapy in order to continue resolving emotional problems and underlying causes of addiction. Don’t be fooled by the common misconception that rehab is the end of the road! Recovery is a lifelong process, and sobriety requires continued maintenance. But there is no question that all of the hard work you put in will be more than worth it in the end.