Whether you’ve just completed inpatient or outpatient opioid addiction treatment, you might just feel the surge of positive momentum. You’ve just taken a stand on your own health, after all. But what happens to you when that surge wears off in the coming months?
Your recovery won’t be finished or wrapped in a nice bow. You’ll have to choose your recovery each day, doing the things which help you continue and giving up those things that don’t. The changes you make should be firm lines in the sand.
After all, you might always face the risk of relapse. And because opioid relapse occurs nearly 40-60% of the time, that’s a clear risk to your chance at sobriety. Whatever you choose to do will have to withstand relapse long term.
But what could your recovery choices look like?
Everyone who’s recovering from opioid addiction would likely say, “I want to be opioid-free the rest of my life.” This goal is admirable, but unrealistic. Decades of sober living are so enormous that “the rest of my life” might seem unattainable. Sometimes even saying you’d like to stay sober for two months feels unlikely. If you’re craving opioids, ten more minutes can seem impossible. How could you handle the rest of your life that way?
Adjust your goals until they’re manageable for you. You can better handle the defined challenges of today, because they’re immediate. So frame your recovery one day at a time. Don’t worry too much about tomorrow until it comes. At least at first, shrink your worries to a more manageable size. If you think too hard about possible challenges or coming worries, the stress might be so outsized that it brings relapse.
So start with today. Add tomorrow when it gets here. Soon these days will add up to a week, then to a month, then to three, and so on. Recovery for “the rest of your life” has to start with recovery for today.
Because you’ve given up opioid use, you’ll have to fill the hole it has left in your time each day.
Enter productivity. The word is purposely generic: there are a thousand things you can do with your new time. What matters is that you select something that regularly challenges you. If you can’t make the activity a habit, then it may not stick with you for very long. And if it doesn’t fully engage you, you may not stick with it for long either. Develop a routine to support whatever you do.
Some would recommend a new job, which could also help you recover financial stability for your recovery. If you’ve managed to keep a job, perhaps don’t upset that constant by looking for something else. Just add an intensive hobby that will use the time and energy which drugs once demanded.
One common example is physical health. That could mean dieting with healthy foods, or regular exercise, or both. You can get a few things from physical health: consistent feel-good feelings, secure self-image, and well-spent time each day.
Once you’ve finished exercising, your body releases endorphins, the brain chemical that we feel as pleasure. And with enough time, physical health can make you feel confident as a stronger, more vital person (securing your own mental self-image). Minding your long-term health each day requires a regular routine — buying the right foods and finding time to exercise can help shape your new productive days.
Community may be the best support available to you. When you involve other people in your recovery, you receive accountability and fellowship that can prevent the isolation which risks opioid use. And if you’ve got a strong support group, you’ll find that your friends and family will want to come alongside you however they can. They’ll be priceless support.
Of course, returning to old friends and family for recovery support can be tricky. Some old friends or family members might still use the drugs you’ve shed. You might’ve hurt old friends or family members with your past opioid abuse. When you choose your recovery support system, choose carefully. Mend your relationships if possible, and disconnect with anyone who’s not fully behind your recovery.
Face-to-face support can help establish that routine. If you can regularly get together with someone you trust every so often, do just that. It might be once a week, or once a month. It might be one-on-one or a larger group outing. Just make sure that it’s regular enough that you can stay current on each others’ lives, and that it’s soon enough that you can look forward to the next visit.
Meeting with others doesn’t just have to be in-person. The Internet enables plenty of resources that can help you center your recovery each day. They’re convenient and varied, and in some places you’ll find digital community that can complement your in-person support group.
The site In the Rooms specifically supports online recovery communities through regular online meetings and live discussion forums. There’s a group for any addiction you can think of, including for those recovering from opioid use. There are regular peer support meetings through the site’s portal. All you have to do is sign up and show up digitally. It’s still support, even if you’re not quite in the room with your peers.
All of these activities can support you each day, whenever your life changes. They’re solid anchors to hold you emotionally steady. The more steady you can remain, the less necessary opioid use might seem.
However, there’s plenty that you can learn about opioid addiction, opioid treatment, and opioid response. Teach yourself about the things you’ve gone through and the things yet to come.
There are a few ways that self-education about opioid response could help you out. For one thing, it’ll fill out the productivity we’ve already mentioned. For another, the more you learn about something, the less frightening it might become. Educating yourself on what opioids have done to you and others might be distressing, but with the right mindset, you can make it into your own resolve to recover. It doesn’t have to happen to you again.
And lastly, learning about the opioid crisis and about how we address it can help you support others recovering from addiction. You don’t need to devote yourself to advocacy or public office. But you can learn enough to champion those in recovery to a public that doesn’t always understand them. Your testimony of ongoing recovery can be a powerful starting point, if you learn enough to move forward.
We hope you’ll take these steps to heart. Don’t worry about the specific examples, since you’ll choose them according to your own circumstances. It won’t be easy or immediate. Like any other life change, it’ll take time, patience, and resolve.
Take recovery one new day at a time. Choose productivity and the purpose it might give you. Explore your options for community and education, both in-person and online. Learn more about what you’re fighting against, and support those fighting that same battle.