Once you’ve been to rehab and stopped drinking alcohol, it’s tempting to think that the hard work is over. But as any decent rehab program will tell you, the hard work is just beginning. Getting sober is one thing; staying sober is another proposition entirely.
Surround yourself with the right people
If your social life before rehab revolved around binge drinking with friends, then you need to either change the setting or change the friend group. Next time your pals want to get together, suggest going somewhere besides the usual dive bar. Sure, you still know that bars exist, but you’re trying to avoid temptation here. You want to put yourself in a position to succeed. It’s much easier to avoid alcohol if you stay away from places that revolve around alcohol. It’s up to you to determine how far to take that. Some people can handle going to a bowling alley with a bar in the back of the building, while others need to stick to dry places, at least initially.
To help you in your journey to sobriety, look into joining a local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is way more than the cliche you see in movies where someone says, “Hi, my name is Bob and I’m an alcoholic.” They provide essential emotional support for people struggling to stay sober, regardless of if they had their last drink a week ago or twenty years ago. You can find a sponsor to help you stay on the right path. And if you fall off the path, your sponsor can help you find it again. Relapses are common. You’re fighting a battle that’s not always easy, but a relapse doesn’t mean you’re doomed. Far from it.
Engage your mind and body
You’re more likely to relapse when things aren’t going so well. It could be as simple as a bad day at work, or it could be something as drastic as your spouse asking for a divorce. In those moments, you may feel the siren call of alcohol, but resist. Distract yourself by joining a gym and trying to go three or four times a week. The post-workout feeling will create a more durable sense of accomplishment than you could ever get from drinking yourself under the table. It’s important to stay active in both mind and body. Keeping the mind active could mean reading a great new thriller or playing a game of chess with a friend. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to take up a new hobby. If so, now is the time. The more engaged you are with your life, the less likely you are to slip back into old habits. Call your AA sponsor or another trusted friend, one who will be happy to meet up for coffee and let you talk things out. Don’t listen to anybody who encourages you to have “just one drink to feel better.” They may mean well, but you know your limits better than anybody else.
The day you decided to stop drinking was a fateful one, one you should look back on with pride for years to come. But it’s not the end of your recovery story. You’ve got a long way to go, and it’s important to stay focused.