People in the grip of addiction often question whether there is life after addiction, and the answer is yes! As an addiction psychiatrist, I’ve had the blessing of helping many clients successfully recover in the aftermath of substance abuse, and go on to live happy, rewarding lives.
To prevent relapse, it’s important to understand the chronic nature of the disease and to set goals to maintain a healthy lifestyle following treatment. These include a nutritious diet, regular exercise, good sleep hygiene and other familiar recommendations.
However, there are three critical but oft-overlooked ingredients to sustaining sobriety and a healthy lifestyle post-addiction. These are described below, as well as tips on how to acquire them:
1. A Network of Like-Minded Friends and Loved Ones
Research shows long-term recovery outcomes are better for those with a supportive network of friends who are in recovery or also abstaining from drugs and alcohol. For instance, in a study of recovering alcoholics, social support was a significant predictor of long-term alcohol abstinence. The bigger one’s social network of support, the better the outcome, according to other findings.
Building a network of supportive friends in recovery can take time, but regular (better yet, daily) participation in 12-step meetings is one tried-and-true approach to get there. The more engaged you are, by showing up and being present, the more momentum you’ll generate, and your network of support is bound to grow.
2. Spirituality and a Sense of Life Purpose
Scientific literature strongly supports the inclusion of spirituality when seeking to improve quality of life post-addiction and sustain sobriety. In its most basic sense, spirituality can be defined as one’s sense of connection to something greater than oneself, which imbues life with meaning. In 12-step jargon, the term often used is that of a “Higher Power,” allowing individuals to choose whatever power they believe to be greater than themselves and a source of daily strength and peace.
A practice of regular mindful meditation and prayer is one helpful way to begin cultivating a sense of life purpose and a deeper spirituality. Just taking 10 minutes a day to get in touch with one’s breath, finding one’s center and becoming attentive to the present moment can open up a deeper capacity for spiritual growth, reflection, and connectedness to one’s world. This, in turn, provides a lasting sense of fulfillment and reward deeper and richer than any drug can provide.
3. A Personal Motivation to Stay Sober
The power of your desire to get better cannot be overestimated. Even if all of the externals of a healthy lifestyle seem to be in place, post-addiction sobriety will be fragile at best when the personal motivation to stay sober and find lasting freedom is not there.
Research results published by the Association for Psychological Science reveal that the motivation to change isn’t just critical to positive treatment outcomes. It’s also a foundation for successful long-term recovery.
As with many long-term goals that require hard work and grit, it’s also not unusual for motivation to ebb and flow during recovery. To stay inspired:
- Surround yourself daily with motivational phrases, images, scenes from movies or books, memories or speeches that speak to you.
- Develop passions and interests unrelated to recovery, such as an appreciation for art or books, travel, sports, hiking, learning, crafts, etc. Fill your life of freedom with rewarding experiences and happy new memories.
- Consider or meditate on affirmations during moments of quiet reflection and prayer.
- Seek out the company of people who inspire you and get their take on how they tackled hardships.
- In those moments when you do feel inspired, write down how you feel at that moment and how you got there so that you can recapture the feeling as needed.
Most importantly, lend a hand to someone else who could use some help. Lift as you climb by sharing what you’ve learned. Endeavoring to be an encouragement to others in need is a powerful way to keep your focus on sobriety and healthy lifestyle motivation alive.