For the casual observer, it may seem like support for those suffering from alcohol use disorder begin and end with rehab. Television and media also have distorted views of 12-step programs and even interventions. However, there is a wide range of support available for someone new to sobriety. That is, the practice of living sober does not end at the doors of a rehab.
Studies have shown that the longer a person focuses on their sobriety the longer they stay sober. While these studies primarily focus on treatment itself, it's easy to see that if you stick with a personal sobriety program, you will have longer, higher-quality sobriety. There are many resources available to help every recovering or recovered problem drinker.
Your rehab staff will likely provide you with a long list of resources. Take the time to read that material. Even if you are in a different town for rehab, you can likely translate the information to resources available in your hometown. In fact, prior to leaving an intensive treatment facility, you might want to begin the process of establishing a support network to help develop your life in sobriety.
Sources of alcoholism support
Your rehabilitation program may not stop with its intensive inpatient (residential) program. Many offer ongoing support in the form of an outpatient support treatment program. If you choose this route, you can maintain contact with some of the familiar faces and places you knew in early treatment.
Outpatient programs also individual, group counseling, and sometimes you can find 12-step meetings on the premises. Additionally, you may yet have work to do with your family. Most outpatient programs will have family therapists on staff to help you work through those difficulties.
Outpatient programs also help you meet specific professional needs in sobriety, such as drug testing or other requirements for your licensure. Some licensing boards have rather unique and strict demands, and your outpatient program is sure to help you find those resources if they do not offer them.
Further, an outpatient program might help satisfy any legal demands you may have outstanding from your life with alcohol use disorder.
Many outsiders only have a skewed image of what a 12-step fellowship is about. While Hollywood is evolving its portrayals, the predominant view has been of casual, smoky rooms full of people confessing their problems or bad acts. That is not really what AA or NA is all about.
Instead, you'll find that meetings are places were recovered people go to share their experience, strength, and hope as it directly relates to getting sober. The members of a 12-step fellowship are very familiar with the problems associated with alcohol use disorder and so meet to discuss how they have solved that problem. More to the point, members discuss how they continue to solve that problem. Sobriety is a lifelong process of learning, growth, and discovery.
You will also learn how a 12-step program is more than the meetings. The core of the program is contained in the steps themselves. With the aid of a sponsor, you can work that program, and then proceed to sponsor someone else as they walk that path to sobriety.
12-step fellowships are also great places to meet new friends. Your new friends have all been through the ringer of alcohol abuse and are happy to meet new people. AA clubhouses frequently host social gatherings, and provide outlets for volunteer work in a variety of settings.
You may find that there are all sorts of sober retreats available in your area. Some may be directly tied to a 12-step fellowship, but others might have a different focus. If you have a meditation practice, there may be weekend, or weeklong retreats focused on silence and introspection. While you may not be among fellow travelers in sobriety, you will likely find that you have much in common with your fellows.
If you are able to go on a retreat dedicated to sobriety or some sort of spiritual practice, it's unlikely that any drugs or alcohol will be involved. Further, these getaways are bound to deepen your practice of sobriety and inform your life with new meaning and a richness you didn't realize was possible.
Friends and family
When you return home, your first impulse is likely to be with your familiar support network of friends and family. If you are attending AA, you might encourage your non-drinking social group to attend Al-Anon. This will help them gain a deeper insight on what you have gone through. Some of them may even decide to work the 12 steps themselves, as they aren't specifically for alcohol abusers. The 12 steps are guidelines for living, a pathway that anyone can walk.
Note that many of your relationships are bound to change in sobriety. Your role in the social dynamic is likely to shift and that will be an adjustment for everyone, including yourself. Give your old social network, and yourself, adjust to the new you.
Never be afraid to reach out for professional support. While your 12-step fellowship, friends, and family may be wonderful; sometimes there is no substitute for a skilled counselor. When you work with a counselor, you can unveil many of the thoughts and feelings that may not be ready for your "real life."
Seek out a counselor who specializes in the problems of addiction and alcohol use disorder. They will be understanding and have the professional experience that will best help you. Further, they may know of even more sources of support.
Counseling can involve more than just one-on-one sessions. There is always the option to engage in group therapy. This might sound like an AA meeting, but a trained professional will be there to help guide the therapy. The focus will veer from things like old drinking problems to issues with friends, family, past trauma, and more.
When you return home, you are bound to face old temptations. Your old bar or liquor store may be on the way home. If you are having a hard week, these old playgrounds might call your name. If you live in a sober house, however, you are far less likely to stray. You will have a safe place to return, where you can find fellows who are dedicated to living sober. You can talk about your experiences and then go out to an AA meeting.
Sober houses are often a stepping-stone back into life. However, they are available for anyone who is living a life dedicated to sobriety. Every sober house operates under its own set of rules and guiding mission and there may be one for you. If you've been out of rehab for a few years, living sober, yet feel that your sobriety is somehow jeopardized; reach out to a local sober house. You may find that living with fellows new to sobriety will give you a newfound gratitude for your own sobriety. You can teach the new people from your own experience and discover a new meaning in sobriety.
Many new to sobriety find that their church is a good place to find support for their newfound life. Churches offer the newly sober the opportunity to volunteer, meet non-drinkers in a safe atmosphere, and more services. Frequently, pastors will offer counseling for individuals. They may also offer sessions for groups or families. If they do not, it's certain that they will refer you to a trusted professional.
There are many ways to focus your energy in sobriety. Many addiction professionals recommend a mindfulness practice such as meditation, tai chi, or yoga. Through these practices, you can learn to find a new sort of stillness you were previously unaware was possible.
Many yoga practitioners, for instance, find a deeper world of spirituality and other exploration. They may discover new ways to eat, breathe, and simply exist in the world. Through this practice, or others, you might find the sort of peace and ease you previously sought through alcohol. Once you've discovered this ease and comfort in a healthy practice, its unlikely that you'll return to using a toxic substance in pursuit of a happy, fulfilled life.
Though not specifically geared towards AUD or addiction, you can often find many groups that are dedicated to a specific hobby or recreational activity. Sports leagues, hiking clubs, and other groups can be found via MeetUp.com or on local bulletin boards. Check for these sorts of groups/activities in an AA clubhouse, at your church, or online. Note that many of these groups may include drinkers or drug users, but if you keep your focus on the core activity you should have no problem. However, keep a few sober friends on speed-dial should the need arise.
Life can be so much more than drinking or drug use. Once you refocus the time and energy you once spent on drinking towards healthy activities, you will find that your life takes on a whole new meaning and purpose.