Misty Walter, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker and the clinical director at Recovery Works South Shore, a detox and residential treatment facility in Kentucky.
WebMD: What are some things you suggest recovering addicts do in the first days and months after treatment?
Misty Walter: The early days of recovery can be a strange mix of riding an emotional rollercoaster and being completely bored, but every day that you stay sober is a win. Here are a few things you can do to help get another day under your belt:
- Remember why you want this. Write it down and keep it with you. Review this list often.
- Connect with others. Often in our addiction we have unhealthy connections or even isolate from others. Now is the time to start working on new healthy friendships. Consider joining support groups and going to meetings to connect with others in recovery.
- Keep a dopamine list. Dopamine is responsible for mood regulation and is connected with the reward system in the brain. It is thought to play a role in the cycle of addition. Have a list of things you can do that will generate dopamine naturally. This list can be everyday easy-to-achieve activities to more challenging activities, such as listen to music, hug a pet, exercise, take a 20-minute walk, learn something new, go on a hike. Just making a list and working on it is shown to increase dopamine, so get creative.
WebMD: What is the most challenging obstacle people face in post-treatment recovery?
MW: Initial recovery can feel overwhelming. Feelings are more intense and new ways of living have to be embraced, but one of the most difficult things can be boredom. That is why doing the things mentioned above is so important. Be willing to be uncomfortable. Challenge yourself. Stay busy. Get involved with others who are also in recovery. Work on embracing a new way of living.
WebMD: What is the most fulfilling aspect of life after treatment?
MW: Every day you stay sober is a win. Drug and alcohol abuse were leading you in a direction of misery, isolation, poor health, and ultimately a shorter life. Possibly it was already impacting your work, school, social life, or causing legal problems. But staying clean and sober not only means you do not have to deal with the consequences of addiction, it is a boost to your self-esteem, helps you to see the world in a more positive light, and gives you the freedom to begin pursing a totally new way of living.
You can begin to decide what type of person you now want to be and start working on becoming that person. Whether that means making a healthier life, healthier relationships, going back to school, or doing whatever will help you become a better person, you are now free to pursue whatever you decide to do today that will help you become the best version of you.