When we first leave treatment and enter long-term recovery, we often either feel scared or uncertain or like we can take on the entire world in one afternoon, and it’s perfectly natural to feel both ways. On one hand, recovery gives us a tremendous sense of empowerment and ownership over our futures; on the other, the prospect of starting a new life in recovery can be downright daunting. Oftentimes, our reactions to life after treatment depend on what kind of people we were to begin with.
When we think about everything we have to do following the completion of our treatment program, we should keep the following things in mind:
At first we may feel the inclination to do everything all at once, whether it’s make amends with those we’ve hurt, dive head-first back into our careers or start a serious long-term relationship. Addiction has taken a lot of our time, in some cases years of our lives, and we may feel like we have to play catch-up. There’s a reason why we’re told to take things slow when we enter recovery: more commitments equal more obligations. If we’re not careful, the strain of expectations can cause us unnecessary emotional distress, and even lead to relapse.
It’s ok to incrementally put ourselves out there, but it may be dangerous and counterproductive to do it all at once. Exercising realism and restraint doesn’t mean that we’re missing out on life. It’s healthy, and actually essential to explore new interests and connect with new people, but not at the expense of the obligations we’re facing in the moment. There will be time to make amends, rebuild our careers and improve our quality of life (these steps are built into the recovery process); but the time immediately following should treatment should be spent concentrating on our immediate needs and sobriety.
Recovery involves striking a balance between caution and empowerment; strength and restraint; risk and realism. If we stick to our post-treatment plans and exercise sound judgment, we can greatly improve our chances of success.