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How to Rebuild Your Life After Drug Addiction

Addiction Treatment
Jan Trobisch

Jan Trobisch

How to Rebuild Life After Addiction

When you recognize you have an addiction and reach out for help to overcome it, you make one of the bravest decisions you ever will in your life. Surrendering to the reality of a life gone out of control and accepting the assistance you need to get your life back on track requires strength and courage.

As you learn through recovery, addiction is a complex intertwining of both physical and mental discomfort; addiction is a disease that takes time and perseverance to unravel. Although everyone experiences addiction differently, the basic journey to recovery involves dismantling the life you built up around your addiction, clearing the slate, and starting over.

Addiction recovery is hard, but with the right assistance, you can overcome it. Detox is rumored to be tough, but it’s just the beginning of a life-changing journey. It’s not enough to tear down the dysfunction in your life, though — you must rebuild something in its place.

How to Build Life After Addiction

Starting Over After a Drug Addiction

The idea of starting over can be scary, especially in a society where status is extremely valued, but must be gained over time. You may be well behind your peers on the career ladder, in building a family, and in maintaining successful relationships. It can seem overwhelming to start from nothing in the middle of your life.

Starting over can be the best part, though! Think of it this way: Not everyone gets this chance. You can make your life exactly what you always wanted it to be, long before it started spinning out of control. And now, you have the added knowledge of all you learned in rehab to make healthier choices.

Starting Over After Drug Addiction

What most people discover in rehab, if they didn’t realize it before, is that there’s underlying trauma in their lives that triggered their journey down the road to addiction. A good rehab program will dig into your pre-existing mental health issues and help you resolve them.

In many cases, what happened in your life before you began using drugs and alcohol predisposed you to addiction. You weren’t conscious of this connection, and may have been helpless to avoid it. Now, you have the information you need to protect yourself from wandering into such a dangerous position again.

Making life better after addiction is an exciting new step in your endless journey to increased self-awareness and love. Embrace this opportunity and devote your energy to the healthier new life you are building.

Habits to Get Into After Rehab

You learn in rehab that routine is the mantra of healthy living. Addiction is an emotional condition, during which your life becomes a tangle of mixed feelings and an endless quest to feel better. In the throes of addiction, your brain is not giving you the benefit of logical thought — it’s been hijacked by your substance of choice.

Drug abuse can quickly become a routine when it reaches the level of addiction, and rehab seeks to break that habit. Behavior is hard to change, partly because it’s based on thought patterns that aren’t easy to manipulate. The easiest way to break a habit, though, is to replace it with a different habit.

Building Habits After Drug Addiction

Using your natural ability to form habits is a good way to rebuild your life after a drug addiction. Here are some habits you should pick up to get on the right track:

  • Make a routine. The best way to be sure you’re doing things that will result in a healthy, happy life is to do them regularly. Many people avoid routine because it seems stifling. However, a good routine helps you get out of bed every morning, even when you don’t feel like it. Life after addiction means facing and overruling those negative emotions that keep you stuck. Having a daily routine of healthy activities will keep you moving in a positive direction. Set a schedule for yourself, write it down and follow it every day.
  • Use exercise to move you. Honoring your physical health and protecting it with daily exercise is an important part of self-care. During addiction, most people neglect their physical health, and the abuse of substances further erodes your physical condition. A lot of the damage that was done can be undone by remaining abstinent, allowing your body to heal itself, and facilitating good health moving forward. You don’t have to spend hours in a gym to be healthy. Simply [ick a physical activity you enjoy and practice it every day. The increased blood circulation and deep breathing that results from exercise will help heal your brain, too.
  • Learn something new. Expanding your mind is a healthy part of life after rehab. During rehab, you learned a lot about addiction, mental health and yourself. It was an enriching experience that you should continue. Decide what you want to learn and how to get that information. You may choose to read a book or take a course. Be sure you’re always pursuing new knowledge in your life.
  • Continue your recovery practice. Recovery is an ongoing status. When you think you’re finished and don’t need to practice recovery anymore, that’s when you’re most likely to relapse. Get in the habit of attending counseling or group sessions of some sort on a regular basis — whether that’s weekly, monthly or even bi-monthly. Maintaining this habit when you don’t think you need support will sustain you when you do.
  • Maintain social connections. You didn’t get through rehab all by yourself — no one does. You had support system of people who love you and played a part in your journey somehow. These social connections are important to your new, healthy life after rehab. After rehab, interpersonal interactions in the “real” world can feel scary. You’re used to being surrounded by people who understand and empathize with your recovery journey. It’s too easy to isolate yourself, and start spending more time in your head than is healthy. Make a habit of getting together with friends on a regular basis. You can start small with just one or two close friends, mentors or family members. When you’re ready, expand your circle.

Even good habits take a little time to develop. The key is repetition. Use these good habits as a goal, add appropriate activities to your schedule and repeat your routine every day and every week. After a while, you’ll notice you don’t have to try as hard to get through these activities — they’ll become habits. Good habits will help you build a healthy, happy life after addiction.

Healthy Activities for Life After Addiction

At first, it may be hard to figure out what to do with your time. Most of your life before recovery was devoted in some way to substance abuse. You probably spent countless hours in unhealthy situations with people who supported your addiction. You can’t go to the same places or be around those people, so you’re a bit stuck for what to do.

Hobbies After Addiction

There are several healthy activities you can choose to occupy your time, such as:

  • Reviving an old hobby. Chances are, you gave up spending time on your hobbies when your addiction got bad. Now’s a good time to get back to them.
  • Practicing self-care. The self-care you learned in rehab may be completely new to you, and anything new needs practice. Set aside time to spend preparing healthy meals for yourself, tending to personal grooming and pampering yourself in a way that makes you feel as important as you are.
  • Starting a new hobby. Trying new things will help you develop a deeper sense of yourself and grow in your recovery. Take up something you were always interested in but never had the time or motivation to try.
  • Spending time in nature. Hiking, riding your bicycle or even just walking around the block are all constructive uses of your time. The connection to nature fostered by spending time outdoors will enhance your sense of well-being and provide you with a healthy activity to enjoy.
  • Joining a club. You can meet like-minded people by joining a club centered around sports, music, reading or some other activity you enjoy. Choose a club that has regular activities and a place to interact with other members.
  • Taking an AA vacation. (Not a vacation from AA!) If you like to travel, this is a perfect opportunity to experience healthy activities. You might consider it your rehab graduation gift to yourself. You’ll meet other people in recovery and learn about healthy ways of living from people who are consciously doing it.

It’ll take some time to adjust to your new life after addiction. It’s not a good idea to spend a lot of time alone or idle mourning the life you used to have. When you get your life back on track, you’ll discover it’s significantly better and you’re much happier than you were before.

Repairing Your Relationships After Addiction

One of the greatest losses in addiction is the personal relationships that were important to you. When an addiction takes hold, your focus changes to substances instead of family. Your priorities are temporarily changed in a way that can be extremely damaging to your relationships.

Rebuilding Relationships After Addiction

To begin the process of repairing relationships, you first need to forgive yourself. You probably did and said very hurtful things while you were using, but you now have a better understanding of how the addiction affected every aspect of your life. When you can forgive yourself for your role in damaging your relationships, you can approach repairing them with a more positive outlook.

There’s a process to forgiveness. Once you’ve gone through it, you can sympathize with your family members more easily. Remember: They didn’t go to rehab and learn what you did about addiction, mental health and life before and after addiction. You may have to help your loved ones go through a process of understanding and be patient while they learn, too.

Using these steps, you may be able to tap into your family members’ ability to forgive and repair your relationships:

  • Take the initiative to reach out. Whether you think they did anything to contribute to the damage to your relationship, your family members are waiting to hear from you. Be the first one to make contact and address the issues between you.
  • Say “sorry,” and mean it. A heartfelt apology goes a long way to soften people’s anger. Make a true, detailed confession of your guilt. Take responsibility for your actions rather than blaming the drugs, addiction or anything else. Don’t try to implicate others in damaging your relationship. When you own your responsibilities, other people tend to step up and share the burden with you. If they don’t, that’s okay, too. Your goal is to apologize for what you did wrong.
  • Project a better future. Make it clear that you want to make up for the damage you caused to the relationship. You can’t expect the problems to go away with an apology. Acknowledge that you now owe the relationship more effort. You may also express a debt of gratitude for the opportunity to try again. No one owes you another chance, but if you can convince them to let you try, you may be able to rebuild the relationship.
  • Take small steps. Relationships aren’t built overnight. Trust is an important part of a healthy relationship that takes time to develop. Take small, calculated steps at first to re-establish trust. Make plans and follow through. Make one promise and follow through. The biggest problem in a relationship with an addict is that they’re not reliable and therefore create an atmosphere of turmoil and disappointment. Demonstrate your ability to be reliable now that you’re in recovery.
  • Focus on others. When you’re in a relationship with someone who’s actively addicted to drugs, everything becomes about that person. Try to understand that your family members’ lives revolved around you and your problems for quite a while. There were secrets, lies, deceptions and emergencies about you and your addiction. Even when you went to rehab, you probably remained the center of your family’s attention. They need your attention, now. Focus on what’s going on in their lives, support them and participate whenever you can. Make a conscious effort to talk about their feelings, not yours. Ask them questions about their day, what’s on their minds and what they need help with. Getting out of your own head will be a healthy practice for you, as well.
  • Rely on your family for help when you need it. Your family survived your addiction and put up with your poor behavior. Now that you’re in recovery, you share your feelings and belly laughs with your new rehab friends. It isn’t hard to see how your family would be resentful. It’s a careful balancing act to step out of the center of your family with your addiction and recovery work and at the same time, keep them close. Most people feel wanted and loved when you rely on them for help. It will take time, but if you bring your family members back into your inner circle, your relationships will be improved.

Relationship Damage From Addiction

Your loved ones will need time to adjust and get over their anger. How people do this and in what timeframe varies from person to person. Many times, family members want to see their old loved one back from rehab. This is not a realistic expectation. Even after rehab, you’re never the same person you were before addiction. And although most of the time you’re even better than before, your family’s first realization is that you’re different.

Give your loved ones time to get over their resentment and get to know you again. Ultimately, they’ll love the new you — not just because you’re not abusing substances, but also because you’re in a better relationship with yourself. You’re happier with yourself, and in time that will be clear to the people who love you.

Try not to be resentful that your family doesn’t just welcome you back after rehab. You’ve been through a lot and worked hard to get there — but they went through a lot, too. If you can put yourself in their position, you’ll be more patient with the rebuilding process. When you get frustrated, ask questions. Don’t assume you know what they’re thinking or feeling. Your sincere desire to understand what they’re going through will make it easier for them to open up to you.

Getting Your Career Back on Track After Addiction

Working After Addiction

This can be the most stressful part of building a new life after drug addiction. The drive to succeed professionally actually causes a lot of mental illness, and it could be the fastest means to a relapse after rehab. Keep in mind everything you learned about yourself in rehab when attempting to throw yourself back into the work environment.

Just like in other aspects of your life, you won’t be the same person you were before the addiction. This is neither good nor bad — it’s just a fact. You need to act accordingly to keep your recovery on track. During your addiction, your priorities were changed and you may have burned some bridges. You need some time to get your professional goals in line with your new understanding of yourself and your mental health.

It’s okay to reassess your professional goals after rehab — in fact, it’s preferable. You need to earn a living, but how you do that can be quite different than it was before. You know more about your strengths, abilities and desires now than you did before. Use that information to adjust your perspective on your career.

In the short term, however, you may need to return to the same job. Your addiction likely created tensions at your workplace, and you’ll need to address uncomfortable questions. Remember you have a new understanding of yourself, and everyone around you will need some time to catch up. Be patient with your coworkers as they try to figure out how to interact with you once you’re back.

Take some time before you go back to work to decide how you’ll address the question of your addiction and rehab. You may want to discuss this topic with your counselor. Addiction is about keeping secrets, but now that you’re in recovery, you understand the value of truth. Figure out how much of your truth you’re willing to share with your boss, co-workers and HR manager. If there are union or legal implications to this, get some professional guidance before telling your whole story.

Ultimately, you’ll have to own up to the mistakes you made during your addiction and the damage caused to the relationships with your coworkers. Taking responsibility for your actions is a healthy way to move forward in your recovery. Humility is a healthy practice.

Being Patient Addiction Recovery

In time, you may realize that this job is no longer in keeping with your career goals and values. When the time is right, create an opportunity to exit to a career that will be more fulfilling for you and fit better with your new understanding of yourself. This adjustment will take time and might require several changes before you find the perfect fit. Be patient with yourself and trust that any move you make is a positive next step.

Synergy Recovery Services specializes in positive next steps. We’re here to help you at every stage of addiction recovery, including reconstruction. To learn more about how to rebuild your life after addiction, contact Synergy Recovery today.

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