Recovery is not just something you can decide to do once, and then forget about. Many people do sincerely want to grow in their recovery, but struggle with maintaining their sobriety.
Stressful events in particular can make a dormant addiction creep back, leading to a relapse, as old habits and patterns die hard. The fear of relapse should not hold you back from working towards your recovery one-day-at-a-time.
Here are some of the factors that can make a successful recovery stick.
Knowing when you're in a high-risk situation, and having a plan
Sometimes, you might be able to go through your day in a mostly good mood, enjoying things, and getting a taste of being truly free of your addiction. You may be so into truly enjoying and loving life that the thought of going back to your substance of choice seems unattractive.
And then, your feelings change, and it may feel like all your hard work is crashing down. There will be moments where stress, worry, fear, anger, sickness, or other hard feelings will creep up and prey on your vulnerabilities, increasing the temptation you will go back to using as a way to cope.
Everyone has different things likely to set them off, and make a relapse likely, but some frequent one are recognized by the acronym HALT – hungry, angry, lonely, and tired. Also, be careful of "people, places, and things" that remind you of your past of addiction.
The way to move forward and stay stopped is to think about these high-risk situations ahead of time, so you are not caught off guard. A sponsor, close friend who you can talk to, and a regular schedule of exercise, sleep, and enjoyable activities can all be good ways to help you avoid and cope with high-risk situations.
Time for relaxing and self-care
Although it may seem that the decision to stop using is about one big decision, in reality, it is made up of hundreds of daily little decisions – that all lead to a commitment to take care of yourself and value yourself. Rather then focusing on just avoiding substance abuse, think about what it would mean to live a lifestyle of freedom and healthfulness. Give your mind and your body space to rest and be refreshed.
Find ways to teach yourself that, contrary to what your addiction was telling you, true happiness and fun can come from looking within yourself, and out at the beautiful and exciting things in the world.
Honesty with yourself and others
Addiction thrives on denial, on repressing your true feelings, and on sugarcoating the truth about yourself. You tell yourself that you don't have the hard feelings you really have, that you aren't harming yourself when you are. This self-deception helps to maintain your addiction, and dismantling it is one of the hardest, and one of the most essential parts of recovery.
Practice speaking to yourself and becoming aware of your own thoughts and willing to look at your truth without the need to cover it up. Journaling can be a really good way to figure out what your true feelings are. Also, find a group of people you can trust, who are willing to be understanding and supportive, and practice being as honest as you can with them.
With your support group in particular, do not make things seem better then they really are, but tell them everything about your recovery.
Are you surrounded with people who understand your addiction and support your recovery?
All of these other habits can best be supported by being a part of a community of people who care about you, will offer you support and let you learn from their example. Under the throws of addiction, you may have isolated yourself, lost in a sense of shame, falsely believing you were too messed up to be saved.
Now is the time to step out into the light, to truly enjoy being with people, and make that human connection.