Substance abuse has held too many Americans hostage the past few decades. Unfortunately, it continues to tear families apart, one parent and one child at a time. Only a minority of people struggling with substance dependence seek rehab treatment and not everyone completes a recommended 12-step program. If you have successfully completed treatment, congratulations. A whole new world awaits you.

As exciting as this is, it might also feel a little terrifying. You may wonder which family members or friends you should keep in your tight circle. Some family members may have spent more time judging you than helping you, making it difficult for you to reconnect with them. Similarly, friends may not understand your recovery journey.

The period after the completion of drug and alcohol rehab leaves many people feeling isolated, but there’s no need to allow that feeling to linger. Here are several different ways to move forward with your recovery after you complete a treatment program.

Starting a New Life After Rehab

You may have spent years envisioning what your life would be like when you were finally sober. Now that you are, you may not know what to do next. Solving that riddle may ultimately help to keep you out of trouble.

Consider Moving

  • Your environment helps determine the people you meet and the places you hang out. If your neighborhood is a high-traffic area for substance and drug use, consider moving to a new location. Maybe temporarily relocating with sympathetic family or friends or finding supportive sober housing would be more helpful than returning to your old stomping grounds.

Find Sober Friends

  • One of the best things you can do for yourself after rehab is to find a community and make friends with people who are sober. Being around people who do not use substances will put you in a better position to make healthy friendships and stay clean.

Discover Hobbies

  • While ongoing social support is important, self-reliance also goes a long way. Over time, you may find hobbies you enjoy alone. For some people, this involves going to the gym or going on a morning run before work. You can also try painting, taking cooking classes or learning something new, like a foreign language.

Prioritize Mental Health

  • For many people, substance use can be worsened by a low period in life. Focus on self-awareness and be mindful of these lows when they occur. Focus instead on healthier alternatives to mental stability as you move through the recovery process.

Join a Support Group

  • Many people believe that 12-step programs are only for patients in treatment. Remember that when you choose sobriety, you are always in recovery. It’s an ongoing process, which is why support groups are so important.

The Role of 12-Step Groups

To better understand how 12-step groups fit into your life after completing addiction treatment, it’s important to understand what a 12-step program really is. The 12-step process first became popular during the Great Depression in the 1930s and is most commonly used by Alcoholics Anonymous today. As their name suggests, these programs utilize a 12-step framework to help people continue their recovery sustainably alongside group support. 12-step programs are open to anyone, whether they are actively in treatment, have completed a treatment program, or are seeking treatment for the first time.

Some 12-step programs also focus on providing support to the family members of people struggling with substance dependence. In fact, only about 20% of 12-step programs specifically handle substance use issues. The remaining 80% tackle everything from gambling to grief counseling.

The Power of 12-Step Groups

Whether you achieved sobriety through a 12-step program or not, incorporating 12-step support groups can help you maintain recovery. In fact, psychologists have found that treating human behavior in groups is highly effective. The underlying reason for this is that people tend to bond when they share a common hardship such as addiction or substance use.

Here are some of the many types of 12-step groups that you may find in your area:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Women for Sobriety
  • Cocaine Anonymous
  • Narcotics Anonymous

What To Expect at 12-Step Meetings

If you have never been to a 12-step meeting before, you might feel nervous your first visit. This is normal, but you’ll soon find that you have nothing to worry about. Here’s what you can expect when you attend meetings with the two most popular groups; Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.

Alcoholics Anonymous

  • According to A.A., the only requirement for attending its meetings is the desire to stop drinking. Whether you have stopped drinking or not does not determine if you can attend. You do not pay dues when you attend, and the group is not affiliated with any denomination, political party, or other organization. This removes social pressure so you can communicate freely and openly without fear of judgment.

If you are concerned about your privacy and the confidentiality of the meetings, note that A.A. does not retain any records on its members. You also have no obligation to disclose any personal details about yourself.

In most A.A. meetings, people share stories about their own personal experiences with alcohol. They tell others how alcohol has affected their lives, the steps they have taken to make amends, and the lifestyle they are living today. Not everyone has a story of success and triumph. Some people are still taking small steps and learning as they go.

Narcotics Anonymous

  • Narcotics Anonymous, or N.A., follows a similar premise to A.A. but focuses more closely on other addictive substances such as prescription or illicit drugs. The focus of these meetings, however, is not on the drugs themselves, but on recovery.

N.A. meetings are often held inside treatment facilities or churches, as these areas typically provide a sense of privacy and comfort. Some attendees do opt to end the meeting with a prayer, but you are not obligated to participate. To maintain anonymity in the group, members are discouraged from sharing conversations or details about members.

The Benefits of Ongoing Social Support

While 12-step programs can provide a crucial benefit, there are other reasons for maintaining a connection with a support group.

Maintaining Your Focus

  • One of the main reasons people relapse is that they don’t keep sobriety as a regular focus. They may believe that they have the strength to go back to their regular lives and abstain. Unfortunately, addiction generates very strong cravings, so this rarely works. Joining a sober social group helps to remind you of your ongoing recovery goals.

Mentor Others

  • If you want to mentor others and use your experiences to help their recovery, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so while not jeopardizing your own recovery. Many A.A. and N.A. meetings have speaker setups where one or two people give a talk at the meeting. Use this opportunity to uplift others.

Whether you choose to actively participate in these 12-step meetings or simply stay quiet and listen, you’ll likely benefit from the knowledge that you’re not alone on the road to recovery.

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