The first few months in recovery are especially difficult for patients who have successfully completed a drug and alcohol rehab programme.
At Castle Craig, we prepare patients for a new sober life through targeted therapy as well as through our therapeutic community setting. We teach them how to manage their recovery by practicing coping skills and relapse prevention mechanisms while still in treatment.
Early recovery involves adopting the new habits and behaviours learnt during therapy on a daily basis and keeping oneself in check for relapse triggers.
We teach patients helpful techniques for building a sober social life after rehab.
11 Ways to Build a Sober Social Life
1. Accept the reality of the situation
Recovery from addiction is like awakening from a long sleep: people in recovery from alcohol or drug addiction need to learn to handle the world and their old social environment in new ways. Recognise the reality and build a social life with recovery as your declared priority.
American poet Allen Ginsberg, a former drug user, put it like this:I never dreamed the sea so deep The earth so dark, so long my sleep. I am become another child I wake to see the world go wild. (An Eastern Ballad).
2. Be Open to New Ideas and Behaviours
Simply removing alcohol and other drugs from your life is not enough. Be open to new ideas and learning new habits. Don’t get upset by the thought of having to learn new things. You are building a new, drug-free life.
3. Cultivate a Positive View Towards Change
Starting afresh can be seen as either frightening or exciting. People with an alcohol or drug addiction history tend towards the ‘glass half empty’ view of things, so be aware of this and look for the positive instead.
4. The Power of Example
When we see someone enjoying life, we want the same and we become prepared to do what they are doing, in order to get it.
Move-in recovery circles and you will see how some people glow with serenity. Use them as your role models and learn from them. In AA it’s called ‘Sticking with the winners’. The power of example is hugely important.
5. Find and Join a Support Group
During a rehab treatment programme, support is generally available round the clock, but the world outside is different. The reality is that very few people out have time to consider your needs.
It is therefore essential that you locate and use the few people who can and will support you. First among these will be the fellowships of AA, NA and the like. However there will probably be other groups in your area that might help too – maybe religious, maybe self improvement generally or maybe semi-social. All are worth checking out. A social network that helps your recovery will contain many people from such groups.
6. Attend Aftercare regularly
Apart from the obvious therapeutic benefits of re-engaging with the procedures of the rehab programme you attended, there are social benefits from re-connecting with other ex-patients on a regular basis. We at Castle Craig like to stay in touch, we organise regular continuing care meetings, we offer teletherapy and we ask ex-patients to join our Friends group. Stay in touch with us, with fellow ex-patients and attend our reunions.
7. Make Sensible Choices
Recovery from any kind of illness is a gradual process of strengthening steps. Do not put yourself in danger or test yourself to ‘see how you will get on’. Going to a party where alcohol or drugs are present or the pub, is unlikely to be a wise decision in early recovery, unless very carefully planned. Learn to say no.
Everyday life presents us with many choices. In recovery you must check each choice you make, however trivial it may seem, by asking the question: “Will this be good for my recovery?” Eventually, this becomes a habit. This is particularly important in social contexts because peer pressure from old drinking buddies, who do not understand that one drink can cause you to relapse, may otherwise lead into danger.
8. Keep Yourself Busy
Doing nothing is not generally helpful in any walk of life, but in early recovery it can be fatal. See your new life as an empty book to be filled with new and interesting things. We all have regrets – try asking yourself what your regrets are – what are the things you wish you had done – and see how you can now rectify the situation. There may be many activities that we never considered in the past, because our focus was on drink and drugs, that we can now try.
9. Reconnect with Family and Loved Ones
Addiction is a family disease and those close to us will have been affected by our behaviour. However, openness and a constructive attitude from family members can be extremely helpful. Seeing addiction as ‘not their problem’ or something not to be talked about can make family dynamics much more difficult to handle.
Family therapy and family support organisations such as Al-Anon and Families Anonymous can be a very positive influence in restoring relationships and are highly recommended.
10. Take Care of Yourself
Recognise the needs of your body, mind and spirit and make sure that you meet these needs. Aim to establish healthy diet, sleep and exercise patterns; occupy and challenge your mental processes and explore your spiritual side.
This of course is a lifetime recommendation but if you start with the attitude that this is what you want to do, then slowly it will happen and you will find yourself attracted to other people who are doing the same.
And Remember… Recovery is to be Enjoyed, not Endured
New friends, interests and activities are part of this. Restoring damaged or neglected relationships and interests from the past are another aspect. By steadily working on both together, confidence and self-esteem are built. Quite soon, you will be saying to yourself: ‘This is good – this is better than the old life’.By therapist Chris Burn
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | September 9, 2021