In recovery, there is a lot of talk about “Day 1”. Whether it’s in reference to a person’s first day without using drugs or alcohol; their first day of treatment or their first day after they complete their program, it’s easy for those in recovery to characterize the early stages of recovery as a series of firsts. With the coming of the New Year, it’s common for everyone, whether they’re in recovery or not, to feel empowered by a fresh start. Just like New Year’s resolutions, however, ongoing sobriety after treatment hinges on both personal resolve and a plan to effectively implement the appropriate change; in other words, an effective recovery plan.
A recovery plan starts in treatment and is refined as each patient integrates themselves back into their everyday lives. Critical elements of a recovery plan include contact information for local recovery meetings and addiction-trained mental health professionals so patients can continue their counseling outside of the rehab setting. It’s also important for these plans to build on the behavioral coping mechanisms that patients learned in rehab in order to avoid succumbing to temptation and subsequent relapse. It’s critical that patients gain the emotional strength, self-awareness and perspective to live independently from drugs and alcohol and thrive in recovery, even when they encounter adversity.
Substance abuse is usually triggered by deep-rooted dysfunctional thoughts and feelings, and it’s important that a patient’s recovery plan address the factors that could trigger those feelings, whether it’s acute trauma, toxic family dynamics, co-occurring depression or anxiety of anything else. There is no defined timetable for post-treatment recovery, nor is there any one-size-fits-all approach to the process. As time goes one, patients may adjust their recovery plan to better suit their emerging lifestyles. No matter what promises we make to ourselves on Day 1, it’s important that we have the resources and perspective in place to help us keep them.