While most drug and alcohol rehab programs last less than 6 months, the actual recovery period for substance use disorder (SUD) typically takes much longer than that.
Many people who pass rehab with flying colors will occasionally find themselves confronting cravings. This means that good post-rehab aftercare is critical for people with SUD.
To keep cravings and relapses from being too much of a problem, seeing your therapist and attending group sessions regularly is a no-brainer.
However, there are some proven self-care methods you can use to further improve your relapse management and achieve a more comfortable and sustainable recovery. Here are a few methods recommended by Boston rehab centers.
New experiences can help build new connections in your brain. Notably, the compulsive behaviors associated with SUD are largely a result of dysfunctional brain connections.
There is evidence that the simple act of traveling can remove your brain from set patterns, signaling it to grow more connections. This growth occurs all over your brain and may help sleep up the healing process, allowing it to bypass the “bad connections” sooner.
The caveat, though, is that you want to choose your travel destinations wisely. Party towns and places known for serious drinking or drug culture may be less desirable, or at least, require more caution.
2.) Learn to prepare healthy meals
Healthy eating is an underrated way to boost your recovery.
Your brain and the rest of your body need optimal nutrition to heal. Without the right nutrition, healing is slowed down and your mood can easily deteriorate. Neither of these situations will help your long-term recovery prospects.
Of course, you can easily facilitate this healing by getting the services of a nutritionist or meal planner. However, this can get expensive and may be unsustainable for many recovering individuals.
The better, more affordable, and more enjoyable solution for most people is to turn healthy meal prep into its own hobby. This will have the bonus of allowing you to make meals more in line with your specific tastes, culture, or beliefs.
3.) Exercise daily
Exercise is one of the oldest effective SUD therapies known. Moderate activity floods the body with feel-good hormones, helps build confidence, and when done in sufficient quantities, provides a natural high that can substitute those from harmful substances.
The key to gaining these benefits is to keep at it. Contrary to popular belief, the total amount of exercise tends to be less important than consistency.
Generally speaking, it’s easier to get in 10-20 minutes on an exercise bike or treadmill each day than it is to do a full two-hour workout. Over time, you will find your own motivation to do more. This strategy generally nets better results than attempting full workouts before you’re ready.
4.) Meditate regularly
Meditative practices like mindfulness, prayer, or even focused practice on a musical instrument can help stimulate your brain. When done consistently, this can help with the growth of new connections, which is key in healing from SUD.
Meditation can also help regulate mood, which can reduce, though not eliminate the need for psychiatric drugs. However, the difference can mean the difference between taking a small dose only during emergencies and needing to take daily doses.
5.) Stop doing all-nighters
People recovering from SUD often experience sleep problems for a variety of reasons. The lack of quality sleep can do a lot to ruin your mood, which isn’t good if you’re trying your best to recover from a substance you once found enjoyable.
Some things you can do to improve your sleep patterns include removing TVs and computers from your bedroom, installing soundproof curtains, and getting a better set of bedclothes.
Adding a better HVAC system to your room can also help you get a deeper, less fitful sleep. A nicer orthopedic mattress can also help, helping reduce stress and helping you wake up refreshed and ready to face the recovery challenges of the day.
6.) Find a less-stressful job
Stress and anxiety are major predictors of SUD and relapse. If you have the option, try to find a job that offers less stress than your current one.
All other things being equal, you may want to get a less stressful job that pays slightly less than one that pays more but puts you closer to falling off the wagon. If commuting is your main source of stress, try to get a position closer to home or one that offers telecommute options most days of the week.
7.) Do something creative
Creative hobbies are a good way to express ideas and emotions you couldn’t necessarily do otherwise.
These hobbies can also be a good way to build new healthy friendships, which may strengthen your motivation to stay on the path to recovery.
Post-rehab strategies play a key role in determining the speed and sustainability of SUD recovery.
By incorporating a few healthy, yet enjoyable activities regularly, you can supercharge your healing and make cravings less of a problem than they would otherwise be.
If you want to try these or other supplemental post-rehab therapies, be sure to discuss them with your therapist or counselor first.
Good luck, and be well!