Tips to Stay Sober Through New Year’s and Beyond

Developing an addiction to alcohol or drugs is easy. It’s getting sober again that’s the hard part. Although there are countless resources available, part of the complex nature of addiction is that recovery requires so many different components, and even after receiving treatment it takes ongoing conviction to stay sober. However, it’s not actually as bleak or hopeless as it may sound.

Like any new lifestyle or habit, it simply takes time to adjust and become reacquainted with oneself while free from alcohol and drugs as well as strategies in place to safeguard one’s sobriety during those occasional times when it may be tested.

Sober Holiday Celebrations Are Achievable

Most people associate the holidays with indulgence and jovial celebrations. While it can still be that way for those in recovery, it also goes without saying that it’s a much different type of indulgence and celebration when you’ve had an addiction and gotten your sobriety back through the hard-won journey of recovery.

Therefore, it’s important for anyone in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction to know what to do when holiday festivities put them in tempting situations. Staying sober through New Year’s requires thought and planning. Here are tips for enjoying an alcohol- and drug-free holiday season.

1. Limit Time Spent with Non-Sober Friends

Anyone who has gone through the recovery process can verify that there are many people who are supportive of newfound sobriety and, inevitably, some who don’t understand it. Those who don’t understand tend to have the least experience with addiction, which means they can’t fathom how a person could be unable to control his or her alcohol consumption or drug use.

This can be frustrating, but there’s not much to do in such a situation except to avoid time spent with those who aren’t understanding of your being in recovery. It doesn’t mean you can’t spend plenty of time with them, but it’s obviously going to be best to gracefully bow out of accompanying them to any events that involve more than one kind of Christmas spirit.

2. Arrive Early, Leave Early

If you’ve ever been a college student or enthusiastic substance abuser, you’ll know that whether you’re hitting the bars or going to parties, it tends to be that things get increasingly more exciting as the evening matures. The main reason for this is quite simple: when it gets to be later, it means that everyone is already pretty inebriated because they have been imbibing for a while already.

If your intent is to protect your sobriety, it’s a good idea to plan to arrive early and leave before the drinking or drug use commences. You might miss all the “excitement,” but it’s also likely to be the kind of excitement that requires a near-comatose level of intoxication to enjoy.

3. Be Prepared to Make a Quick Exit if Necessary

Try as we might, there’s just no possible way to be prepared for every possible outcome in every given situation. It’s inevitable in life that we’re going to find ourselves in situations we would never have expected, and this applies as much to people in addiction recovery as anyone else; perhaps even more so.

You may think you’ve strategically planned your holiday festivities in such a way as to prevent yourself from encountering any sticky situations, but you should always have an exit strategy for the remote chance that you would come face to face, so to speak, with the substance to which you were previously addicted. So do yourself a favor and, especially when you’re attending holiday gatherings, be prepared to make a swift exit if it comes to that. As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

4. Create New, Sober-Friendly Traditions

While it’s good to have an exit strategy and to plan to attend holiday festivities before the booze is brought out, there’s also the possibility of ruling out the possibility of unexpected temptation altogether by hosting your own holiday event or events. There are seemingly limitless possibilities as to what your event might entail. For instance, you could invite friends over for a night of baking ten different types of cookies or have an open ice cream bar for everyone to make their own sundaes, or have the family come over to help you decorate your tree. Who knows? You might even start a new, sober tradition.

5. Drive Separately

Here’s a tip that you may not think about, but it’s extremely helpful. Driving separately rather than riding with others will mean that you could very well get stuck in a place where, for sobriety’s sake, you really shouldn’t be. Instead of being at the mercy of someone else’s schedule, you can choose to leave any time you please, which could even be the difference between saving your sobriety and having a relapse.

6. Say “No, Thank You”

If you’re someone of an extremely strong will, who has absolutely no problem resisting the temptation that comes with being offered the substance of your previous addiction, saying, “No, thank you,” is another potential solution. Granted, even with an ironclad will it’s still a gamble, but it’s a good one to keep in your back pocket just in case.

7. BYOA (Bring Your Own Alternatives)

Mixed drinks. They’re incredibly popular and bring an insane amount of variety to alcohol consumption. Some are simple, containing only a couple ingredients and perhaps a garnish while others have more than a handful of different liquors in very specific ratios.

If you’re someone who’s in recovery and can’t drink alcohol, there’s actually a way for you to enjoy the same mixed drinks as everyone else: Simply bring your own alternatives or B.Y.O.A. Obviously, these alternatives are non-alcoholic such as tonic water, club soda, or even something like Sprite.

While this strategy will allow you to continue participating, it’s obviously a bit more difficult at events where the other partygoers are drinking significantly more than a cocktail or two.

8. Donate Your Party Time by Volunteering

Here’s another option that’s infrequently considered: Ditch the booze-laden holiday festivities altogether and do something selfless such as volunteering. There are always many opportunities for volunteering, especially around the holidays. Whether it’s at a soup kitchen, wrapping gifts for Toys for Tots, or organizing a food drive, the feeling of helping others in need is a high in and of itself.

9. Plan Ahead

Executing most of the tips to stay sober through New Year’s and the rest of the year will require varying levels of foresight, so that makes planning ahead important by default. For instance, you can’t bring your own alternatives if you didn’t plan ahead by picking up some club soda to take to your company’s Christmas party. Planning is an essential part of recovery and is essential to retain your sobriety throughout the holidays.

10. Hit Some Extra Meetings

Last but certainly not least, attending some extra meetings as you head into the holiday season is always a great idea. In fact, this is a great idea year-round, but it’s especially beneficial in times when you feel your hold on sobriety is especially tenuous, including during any times of stress, worry, and during the holidays. Be sure to get some rest.

Call Us and Start Your Journey to Sobriety Today

If you or someone you love would benefit from a free consultation with one of our recovery specialists, call Pathway to Hope at 844-311-5781. Whether it’s day or night, we’re always available to help you or your loved one get back to a life of happiness, health, and fulfillment.

 

Grief and Loss in Recovery | Avoiding Relapse When Coping with Death

The disease of addiction attacks even if you are in recovery. Addiction is relentless and despite ridding yourself of old behaviors, certain things tend to creep up in a matter of time. Although recovery promises a life beyond your wildest dreams, it doesn’t completely diminish some of the negative aspects of life. One of the most daunting obstacles to face is death. Grief and loss in recovery seem to happen more frequently than ever before. The national opioid crisis contributes to the highest number of overdose deaths—let’s face it, a lot of people in recovery know someone whose life has been cut too short. However, death can be dealt with in recovery without relapse. Although it can be difficult and you will struggle, it is possible and there are a few guidelines that can prevent you from relapse in these crucial times.

There are a number of effective coping mechanism and tools to use to face the obstacles that may arise. Of course, each individual’s shortcomings will vary in severity; however, the tools will be effective regardless of the matter.

Educating yourself on the stages of grief, what it means to overcome obstacles in recovery, and how to cope with grief and loss in recovery can be the deciding factor in how you overcome future struggles.

The 5 Stages of Grief

The Kubler-Ross model, otherwise known as the five stages of grief, was first introduced in 1969 in Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s book On Death and Dying. Although the stages are written in a specific order, they can be experienced in any order at any given time. An individual dealing with grief and loss in recovery can also flip from one stage to another during their grieving process.

The stages of grief were initially inspired by the death of loved ones. However, the feelings expressed in the stages can relate to any form of loss and are useful for understanding the process and ultimately learning to accept death when it comes.

There is also no time frame for grief and loss in recovery. The time it takes to fully accept loss can vary on a number of individual factors.

Denial

Denial is typically the first of the five stages of grief. This stage is known as the survival stage and it helps in diminishing any urges to act irrationally. Denial is actually a defense mechanism which numbs us to our true emotions.

Sometimes, you might feel the world is a dark and meaningless place and overwhelming feelings might begin to take over. The stage of denial creates this illusion within you—that perhaps the diagnosis was a mistake or the loss isn’t actually true.

Anger

As the numbness begins to dwindle, you might begin to experience anger. When dealing with grief and loss in recovery, the intense emotions can override any feelings of inner peace you may have gained on your recovery journey. Anger is actually one of the easiest emotions to express. However, the anger may be directed at people or things who aren’t necessarily to blame. When dealing with a loss, no one is to blame. If an overdose is the cause of death, the disease of addiction is the only true culprit.

Bargaining

Bargaining is a normal reaction in any form of grief and loss in recovery. When you bargain, you typically make “if only” or “what if” statements. You might say to yourself things such as:

  • If only I had reached out sooner
  • If only I was a better friend, lover, supporter
  • If only I was there, I could have stopped it

However, these statements, along with many others that fit into this category, most likely would not have changed anything. Bargaining can also be a form of guilt or survivor’s guilt. Guilt convinces us that we are faulted when in reality, we only want to diminish the feelings of pain.

Depression

Grief and loss in recovery are sure to lead to depression. This stage can be felt throughout the entire duration of the process, especially if you are predisposed to depression or other mental illness. However, if you do not suffer from pre-existing depression, it is completely normal to feel symptoms of depression when dealing with loss. In this stage, you might begin to withdraw from support and loved ones. This can, however, be risky in recovery.

In times like these, despite not wanting to, it is important to keep in contact with people you trust. The feelings associated with depression can be a slippery slope, especially if you begin to feel weak in your recovery.

Acceptance

Acceptance is the final stage of the grieving process; however, it is possible to experience feelings from previous stages after getting to acceptance. Accepting death comes with time and being able to work with support networks to sort through the feelings associated with grief and loss in recovery. Although your life has been altered, there is a sense of contentment or accepting this permanent reality without feeling the need to do something brash. It is imperative that you continue to reach out to your support network and loved ones in order to remain stable.

Coping with your loss is a deeply intimate and personal journey—no one can tell you how fast your grieving process must be or understand the exact feelings you’re going through. However, you must not stray away from your program or your support, as they are your lifeline and can help you stay sober through the entire process.

Avoiding Relapse

Staying sober is the goal throughout the entire grieving process. You will experience all of these overwhelming feelings and it is important to avoid relapse. Relapse will only lengthen the obstacles.

Although relapse is preventable, it does happen.

I can tell you from experience, having knowledge of the stages of grief and actively working a program with a number of supportive people in my life, I still chose to pick up. Dealing with grief and loss in recovery is difficult. At the time I experienced this, I was weak and fragile in my recovery. I had no desire to continue my recovery process, but it prolonged a lot of the issues relating to the loss as well as issues prior to experiencing the loss.

There are a few guidelines and coping mechanisms to use that can help you stay sober throughout the grieving process. Having a solid foundation can better your chances of staying sober through a heartbreaking time. If you are in recovery, it’s important to stay strong and consistently reach out to your support network and close friends and family. Also, not drifting away from your support and your daily regime can help you remain busy, which is beneficial in all aspects of dealing with loss in recovery.

Although grief and loss in recovery is a difficult process, it is possible to overcome without relapsing if you follow the steps to prevent relapse.

Are You Struggling?

If you or someone you know is struggling with grief and loss in recovery, there is help available. At Pathway to Hope, we understand how difficult this process can be and our professionals can help you overcome addiction and any other obstacles you may face. Our trained professionals can be contacted at (844) 557-8575 and are ready to assist you in finding the right program for you. Unfortunately, relapse is a part of a lot of people’s recovery. However, it is important that you seek help before it’s too late.

How Competition Can Sabotage Recovery | The Danger of Comparing Addiction Recovery

Addiction recovery is a process, and it doesn’t end once you finish your rehabilitation treatment. Living in recovery and managing your addiction requires strength, energy, and a willingness to always be improving. If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is, and that’s why there is a 40 to 60 percent chance of relapse within a person’s first year post-treatment.

The good news is that, if you dedicate yourself to your recovery, after that first year, the odds of relapsing get significantly smaller. While managing your addiction will never be easy, it will get easier.

During these early stages of your recovery, it’s important to avoid any behaviors or mindsets that could potentially sabotage yourself and leave you vulnerable to relapse. One common mistake is comparing your recovery progress with anyone else’s.

Everyone’s path to sobriety is different, and each person journeys through it at their own pace. While it’s important to set goals for yourself, when recovery becomes a competition to see who can reach their milestones the fastest or complete their 12 steps first, it can negate the whole process.

Comparing Works Both Ways

Recovery isn’t something you’re meant rush through in order to “keep up”. And, comparing yourself to others is a surefire way to trigger a relapse as it leaves you open to being overcome by negative feelings like resentment, jealousy, and insecurity, or on the other hand, overconfidence and complacency.

Feeling like you need to reach certain milestones because those around you have already achieved them and you’re “falling behind” isn’t a healthy motivational tool and it can hurt you in the long run. Competing with others to see who can blow through their post-treatment goals the fastest undermines the whole process and isn’t based on any internal inspiration to get better or take responsibility for your life after rehab.

On the other side of the coin, comparing your progress to those who have not come as far as you or are not moving as quickly can be just as detrimental. Being proud of your progress is one thing, but letting yourself get too comfortable based on where you’re at compared to others carries the risk of becoming complacent and losing that willpower needed to keep moving forward that’s so important to long-term success.

4 Ways to Avoid Turning Recovery into a Competition

Cut toxic people out of your life.

Post-treatment alumni programs and support groups are a fantastic tool for creating a long-lasting support system to help avoid relapse. They give recovering individuals a community of peers who are undergoing similar experiences and challenges.

However, while keeping others posted on your progress and celebrating each other’s milestones can encourage you to keep moving forward, there might be one or more people in these groups who turn it into a race, comparing their recovery progress to others in an unhealthy way.

If someone keeps bragging about the progress they’ve made while mocking or belittling those who aren’t as far along, they might be doing it to mask insecurities about their recovery, but if speaking to them directly about it doesn’t help, do your best to avoid them.

Set goals that are realistic for you.

There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to recovery. Even common recovery programs like the 12-steps are tackled differently from person to person, with some spending more time on one step than another.

It can be all-too-easy to compare yourself to someone else and what they have accomplished and try to set your goals to match theirs. However, these goals, while they might work for this other person, might not necessarily be achievable for you, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Trying to force yourself to make it to a stage of recovery you’re not at yet is more than just unhealthy, it’s dangerous because you’re essentially setting yourself up to fail, and when you don’t meet those goals, it can be disheartening enough to trigger a relapse.

Instead of competing and trying to “keep up” with the people in recovery around you, set goals you know you’re capable of meeting.

Maintain a sense of perspective.

Comparing your addiction recovery to those around you can cause you to lose your motivation and fall into a “negative thought loop,” potentially derailing all the progress you’ve made. One way to combat this is to put these thoughts into perspective.

Instead of “I have so much farther to go than they do,” think “look how far I’ve come.” Instead of “I should be progressing faster like they are,” think “I’m moving forward at my own pace, and I’m still moving forward.”

If you’re going to compare yourself to anyone, do it to the person you used to be. No matter how slowly you’re moving through the recovery process, you’re still running circles around your pre-treatment self.

Focus on you.

While this might sound obvious or like a repetition of the previous steps, this one goes for any kind of comparing. Whether you’re the person feeling hopeless about your own progress in comparison to someone else’s or the one using others’ slow pace to make you feel better about your own, neither mindset is helpful or healthy.

The playing field, so to speak, will never be level, so there’s no way to make equal comparisons between people. Everyone’s end goal may be the same, but you’re all starting from somewhere different, and trying to compare your recovery progress to anyone else’s can take your focus off what’s actually important: maintaining sobriety and putting your life back together.

Focus on your own life and well-being rather than worrying about whether you’re reaching important recovery milestones before or after someone else. Avoid the potentially damaging pride that comes from paying attention to someone who’s behind you and the feelings of defeat that come from getting fixated on someone who’s ahead of you. Instead, celebrate reaching your goals at your own pace and keep setting more.

Get the Tools You Need for Your Recovery Journey

Pathway to Hope has created treatment programs that give you the motivation you need to continue succeeding and thriving in your recovery. From therapy, life skills training, and relapse prevention programs to our aftercare and alumni programs, you receive the support you need to continue to be empowered.

At Pathway to Hope, we understand that treatment is only the first step on a long journey through recovery, and we’re here to help every step of the way. If you or someone you know needs addiction treatment or support while in recovery, call us anytime, day or night at 844-557-8575 or contact us online.

5 Benefits of Rehab Alumni Groups: Staying Plugged In

Going through addiction treatment can be an exciting and sometimes overwhelming experience. Finally getting the help you want and need is crucial. As you undergo your treatment, you probably will experience many levels of care. Beginning with a medical detox at a private or public facility, you’ll step down into inpatient, intensive outpatient, and then ultimately routine outpatient. During these step-downs, you’ll encounter more freedom and less supervision, which can be difficult for many addicts to adjust to. When you finally graduate your treatment program, you may be faced with anxiety and uncertainty of where to go next and how to handle your assimilation to reality. That’s where rehab alumni groups come into play!

What Are Rehab Alumni Groups?

Since treatment is merely only the beginning of one’s journey in sobriety, the real test is once you leave the safety of the facility. Rehab alumni groups were designed to help former clients stay in the loop with other recovering addicts and alcoholics and to have a point of contact at the treatment facility with the rehab alumni coordinator. By providing clients a person they can call at all hours, it gives a safety net for anyone struggling, especially in the crucial first few weeks.

Rehab alumni groups often perform numerous activities together to demonstrate the power of fun in sobriety as well as the importance of community. It brings together other recovering addicts who went through the program and keeps them in close contact with one another so that their support systems in recovery can grow!

Rehab alumni groups also often host meetings on a weekly or monthly basis so the clients may meet face-to-face in a safe environment and work together therapeutically. This can help keep clients accountable as well as provide consistency and routine, which are other important aspects of early recovery.

So, What are the Benefits of Rehab Alumni Groups?

Now that you understand just what these programs offer, it’s time to look at all of the wonderful benefits rehab alumni groups have in store for you! There’s a reason these programs are so widely provided and successful.

Feeling of Community

The first and most important benefit of rehab alumni groups is maintaining a sense of community. By strengthening the relationships that clients already have with one another, it can make them feel a part of a recovery community. Having a feeling of camaraderie is imperative to having long-lasting sobriety. Many people have no sober associations prior to heading off to treatment. So, by allowing access to an entire network of other sober people, rehab alumni groups can help the newcomer find his or her place with other actively recovering people.

Staying Connected

Similarly to the benefit above, rehab alumni groups help its members stay connected. What this means is members of rehab alumni groups not only have access to their peers, but also access to alumni coordinators and therapists to continue to get professional support. Having a point of contact at the treatment facility can help many clients feel a level of safety during their transition back into everyday life. Knowing they have someone to call at any given moment can keep many recovering alcoholics and addicts out of trouble if they find themselves in a tight spot.

Learning How to Have Fun in Sobriety

Rehab alumni groups are primarily known for all of the awesome activities and outings they frequently schedule. Many people believe that once you enter recovery and are completely sober, it’s the end of any and all fun. That could not be further from the truth! In sobriety, addicts and alcoholics learn how to have real fun, without needing to have that synthetic happiness provided by drugs or alcohol. Rehab alumni groups will plan trips and activities for its members that all are welcome to attend that revolve around having sober fun.

Learning how to have fun in sobriety is important. If you were not enjoying yourself, why would you want to continue on in recovery? These groups teach members what real fun is and create an atmosphere with other sober people to enjoy these activities with!

Ease the Assimilation Back into Everyday Life

Again, it can be hard to successfully make the transition from living at an inpatient treatment facility to that of everyday life once again. Treatment centers often act as a protective bubble, successfully shielding clients from temptation and providing a safe space for them to focus solely and completely on their treatment. Once the safety net of the treatment center is removed, the real test begins.

It’s easy to stay sober in rehab, but what about in the real world? It gets tricky. That’s why rehab alumni groups are awesome tools to help ease the transition. Many rehab alumni groups with have information and referrals for the client to enter into sober living homes, which can act as a further buffer for recovering people. Also, having someone to reach out to and talk to (the alumni coordinator) as well as fill up his or her schedule with recovery-oriented activities can be very beneficial.

Flexibility

Lastly, a benefit of rehab alumni groups is the flexibility they provide. Unlike an intensive outpatient or routine outpatient program, rehab alumni groups offer elective activities and services, meaning you are not obligated to attend! This allows for a recovering addict or alcoholic to select which services and outing they both want to and are able to attend. If they want to be very actively involved and go to all the different group outings, or maybe attend one or two per year, they have the power to create their own schedule.

Can You Benefit from a Rehab Alumni Group?

At Pathway to Hope, we understand the need for our clients to have that extra support even after they graduate from our program. That’s why we pride ourselves on our awesome rehab alumni program! We know and understand that treatment is just the first step on a long journey through recovery, and we are committed to seeing our clients all the way through to the end!

If you or someone you know may be struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, give us a call 24/7 at 844-557-8575 or contact us online and let our addiction professionals help you learn about the treatment options that best fit you!