The Importance of a Support System in Recovery

The importance of a support system in recovery cannot be overstated. It can make the difference between long-term recovery and relapsing. Having a guaranteed source of positive interaction greatly improves physical and mental health with long-lasting benefits. It does not matter the size or scope of your support system as it’s quality over quantity.

Support System Definition

While you may have lots of friends and family members, not all of them may qualify as part of the true support system. This concept is defined as a network of people that are a positive influence and available to provide psychological, physical, and/or financial help. Further, these people demonstrate at least one of four types of supportive behavior:

  • Emotional: Provides expressions of love and empathy; someone willing to listen to be moral support and lend an ear
  • Instrumental: Provides tangible help such as offering to babysit or make dinner
  • Informational: Provides advice or suggestions; sharing of useful information
  • Appraisal: Boosts self-esteem and encourages feelings of being valued

This definition also excludes people who exhibit negative means of support such as being an enabler or providing angry criticism. Bear in mind that people do not have to exhibit all four of these behaviors to be considered part of your support system.

Health Benefits of a Support System

Social interaction improves overall health in a number of meaningful ways, both in the long and short term: 

  • Reduced stress and lower vulnerability to future would-be stressful situations
  • Improved self-esteem and perception of being valued
  • Higher pain tolerance/reduced perception of pain
  • Improved cardiovascular health
  • Reduce or ward off depression
  • Lower overall mortality rate

Many of the benefits of having a support system directly target the struggles a recovering drug addict might face in the midst of their journey – struggles they’ll need to overcome to be successful. These health benefits are invaluable to recovering addicts who are undergoing things like dealing with withdrawal symptoms or fighting the temptation to use when confronted by triggers. 

How Your Support System Can Help You Overcome Addiction

The emotional support from friends and family can quite literally be life-saving. Support systems not only give people the means to deal with the highs and lows of recovery but enable them to handle such situations in the future in a healthy, non-destructive manner. 

Accountability

Having others to hold you to a goal can help you stay on track even when your own discipline or motivation falters. Your support system will follow up with you to ensure that you are on the correct path and that you also haven’t fallen into old habits. This can look like making sure you attend group therapy meetings (or driving you to them), calling on a regular basis to ensure you haven’t relapsed, or inquiring as to whether you’ve been taking your medication. Their presence applies (positive) pressure to ensure you stick to your healthier drug-free lifestyle.

Motivation

Having people that are actively rooting for your recovery can go a long way. Whether it’s their encouraging words or not wanting to disappoint them, your support group can be a strong motivating factor to stick through recovery even when it gets unpleasant. Similar to the “Higher Power” concept frequently referred to in 12-Step based groups, your support group becomes an external reason to want to achieve sobriety. If your support group is composed of others who have gone through addiction treatment, it creates a sense of camaraderie that reminds you you’re not alone.

Practical Help

The act of going to rehab and attending therapy is helpful but can be a major disruption to daily life. Life doesn’t stop when you’re in rehab and dealing with life’s demands can be a major obstacle in addiction recovery. Having people that can help take care of practical tasks like washing dishes, driving you to and from appointments, or watching your children, allows you to focus on recovery. 

Tips for Building a Support System In Recovery

Creating and nurturing supportive relationships doesn’t happen overnight, but if you’re looking to expand your social circle with positive influences, these tips can help you:

  • Be open to feedback – They may not always say what you want to hear, but you know they have your best interests at heart.
  • Reach out to them first – A relationship is a two-way street and making the effort to show you care can strengthen your bond.
  • Offer to help others – People are drawn to kindness and it can make them more inclined to help you in return.
  • Look to those around you – These can be people from church, from group therapy sessions, work, or school. Look to see if there’s already a community for others in recovery that you can join.

The positive impact of social interaction on our mental and physical wellbeing is well documented. Countless studies have highlighted the benefits of having a strong support system as well as the dangers of loneliness. Even just having a few close friends leads to higher emotional intelligence, healthier coping skills, and greater overall happiness. For a recovering addict, the benefits are even greater and can ultimately be life-saving. 

Is Dating In Recovery A Bad Idea? Tips for Making it Work

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching and everyone has ‘love’ on the brain. For recovering addicts, however, romantic relationships can be a tricky subject. Dating in recovery can be particularly challenging and adds an extra layer of uncertainty to an already nerve-wracking situation. While there are no hard and fast rules for dating while in recovery, there are a few guidelines that can help make the process easier (and without sacrificing your progress). Before diving into the particulars of how to successfully date while in recovery, let’s address the elephant in the room: how soon can a recovering addict start dating in the first place? 

When is it okay to start dating again?

Jumping from a relationship to another is rarely a good idea. There’s no set timeframe, but dating early in recovery is universally advised against. The general consensus is that recovering addicts should wait about 6 months to a year after treatment to consider romantic relationships. 

Recovery is intended to be a time of intense self-reflection and introspection and being newly in love can be incredibly distracting. The first stages of a relationship are exhilarating and can have you prioritizing your new romantic interest over yourself.

At the same time, recovery is a lifelong journey that never really ends so a recovering addict may not ever feel truly “ready”. One of the best ways to go about this is to involve your support system. Speak to your therapist or your sponsor, someone who is invested in your recovery and has witnessed your personal growth. They’ll be very helpful in determining if you’re at a stage of recovery where it’s okay to start dating again. 

Risks of dating too early

Aside from negatively impacting your progress, there lies the risk of recovering addicts falling into harmful, codependent, or otherwise dysfunctional relationships that marked their past. Then there’s the risk of the relationship going south which is always an upsetting experience. If the recovering addict hasn’t yet internalized healthier coping mechanisms, they’re likely to turn back to their old ways to cope (a.k.a.: relapse) and end up back at square one

Tips for Dating in Recovery

Once you’ve successfully mastered the foundations of recovery and are sure you’re doing it for the right reasons, learning how to navigate the dating scene while staying sober becomes the next biggest challenge. How do you relax on a date if you can’t drink (or use your other drug of choice)? How do you bring up that you’re in recovery – do you even tell them at all? These are just a few of the questions a recovering addict needs to ask themselves before diving into the dating pool once more. 

 

Have sober date ideas ready: Whether you feel comfortable telling your new romantic interest about your struggle with addiction, it’s always helpful to have an arsenal of non-triggering date ideas at the ready. Next time when someone asks to meet up for a drink (or anything that might be potentially compromising), say something like “The weather is beautiful, I actually wanted to show you my favorite park in the city”. This is still useful if you’re comfortable with being forthcoming and letting your date know that you are sober from the very beginning. You’ll be ready with suggestions for someone who might otherwise be stumped at ideas for first-dates that don’t center around bars.  

 

Don’t date someone from a place you visit frequently: Places like your local grocery store or your job might seem like a perfect place to meet people. However, if dating goes badly, you might no longer feel comfortable going to these places. This risks a disruption to your routine (which we all know is an important part of the recovery process). If these places are key to your recovery like a 12 step meeting group, the damage is even greater. 

 

Keep your recovery support group close: It’s very distressing when a relationship doesn’t work out. Having people to talk to allows you to process your feelings which can prevent you from turning to booze or other drugs to cope. Plus, relationships can quickly become all-consuming and a close support group can keep you from getting too distracted from recovery.

 

Date someone who’s also sober: The easiest way to go about dating in recovery is to find someone who had similar experiences as you. They’ll understand what you’re going through which takes off a lot of the pressure of meeting someone new while in recovery. Perhaps best of all is that you won’t have to deal with the stigma of addiction. This will circumvent some of the awkwardness that comes with telling someone you’re in or recently entered recovery. One of the easiest ways to do this is through sober dating apps.

How To Stay Sober During New Year’s

New Year’s Eve is a magical time of year that brims with promise and the allure of a fresh start. But aside from the aspirational sentiment of this holiday, it can also be a stressful time of temptation for recovering addicts. NYE is a holiday known for partying, and trying to celebrate without your unusual substances can be discouraging. If you’re looking to stay sober during New Year’s, check out these easy-to-implement ideas for sticking to your new-and-improved sober you.

 

1. Find (and share) your favorite mocktail recipes with the party host

Found a winning mocktail recipe that’s NYE worthy? Share it with the party host to ensure that you have a fun drink to sip on all night long. Make it pretty and no one will mind one bit that there’s no alcohol in it. A fun alternative to water or plain soda, it’s certain to be a welcome addition to the beverage options that both drinking and non-drinking partygoers will appreciate.

2. BYO (Non-Alcoholic) B

Alcohol-free beer is a great alternative that provides the genuine malty-goodness of a brewski, without the buzz. This once niche market has grown considerably with major beer manufacturers now getting on board. Just be sure to check the label, some beers labeled as “non-alcoholic” actually contain trace amounts of alcohol. Heineken’s 0.0 beer is the real deal that’s completely alcohol-free.

3. Keep something in your hands at all times

Peer pressure is one of the biggest influences on drinking and drug use. Even if you have no desire to drink, it’s easy to feel like the odd-man-out when everyone else has a drink in their hands. To avoid feeling self-conscious try to keep your hands occupied and holding something as often as possible. This can be a drink or a plate of food, or even a camera – an easy way to guarantee you’re the party’s favorite person. 

4. Drink beverages in a fancy glass

Regardless of whether you’re having a fancy mocktail or something simple, get in on the festivities by drinking out of a fancy glass. Sipping sparkling water or orange juice inherently feels much more elevated when it’s done out of a champagne glass. If you’re used to relying on alcohol to put you in the partying spirit, try incorporating other fun drinking accessories you’re accustomed to using like stirrers, garnishes, or little umbrellas. This holiday doesn’t revolve around what’s in your cup, it’s about putting yourself in a festive mood! 

5. Don’t volunteer to be the designated driver

It might seem counterintuitive that a person who doesn’t plan on drinking should avoid volunteering as DD – but hear us out. Accepting the responsibility of being a designated driver doesn’t just involve staying sober, it also means that you are obligated to stay at the party until your passengers are ready to depart – and depending on how rambunctious they’re feeling, it could be a while. This puts you, the recovering addict, in a tough spot of having to stick around as the party guests around you continue to get drunker and drunker and unable to leave when you want to. While offering to be DD is a nice gesture, it’s worth putting yourself in an uncomfortable situation that puts your recovery at risk

6. Don’t hang out with your old crew from your using days

Addiction is closely tied to familiar settings and hanging out with your old friends in your old haunts can significantly increase your risk of relapsing. If your friends plan on partying in places where you used to use drugs, or with people who do, you’d be better off sitting this soiree out. Don’t bring in the New Year by falling into old destructive habits.

 

Struggling to Stay Sober on Your Own?

If you’ve decided to partake in New Year’s Eve festivities, all the usual roles for staying sober apply: use the buddy system, have an exit strategy, and to leave as soon as you feel uncomfortable. If you’re looking for long-term solutions to staying sober, the alcohol rehab treatment at Level Up Lake Worth may be able to help. Start with alcohol detox and then move on to your own personalized alcohol addiction treatment program. Give us a call today to make 2021 the year you regain control of your life.

 

10 Tips for Avoiding Relapse During the Holidays

The holiday season is meant to be filled with joy and merriment, but for a recovering addict, it can be a time of dangerous temptation. Parties are frequent and there’s an overall air of indulgence where we encourage one another to do everything in jolly excess. Plus, this time of year is heavy with expectation, making holiday stress a very real burden that addicts must contend with as well. It’s no wonder that drug and alcohol relapses spike during this time of year. Even for those who have been sober for decades, the holidays can be a particularly strong trigger that drives them to their old destructive habits. Fight that urge with these 10 tips for avoiding relapse during the holidays.

10 Ways of Avoiding Holiday Relapse

1. Start each day with a schedule

Having structure has shown to play a big role in overcoming addiction. Maintaining a schedule can help prevent your day-to-day from feeling so hectic, but most importantly, it’ll allow you to start and end each day with a feeling of control. Pencil in everything from travel time to meals, you might find that you’ve overbooked yourself which might cause undue stress. If you see a lot of gaps in your schedule, that brings us to tip #2… 

2. Keep yourself busy

Having too much time on your hands can lead to boredom, and can be a recipe for relapse if the holidays already have you feeling down. Keep your hands and mind occupied with activities that bring you joy. These can include social gatherings or more solo activities like yoga, knitting, watching tv, or working out. Use this time to devote yourself to your passions or to find some new ones.

3. Get some sunlight

Seasonal affective disorder or SAD is no laughing matter. It’s well documented that mental health and substance abuse have a closely tied relationship. Even if this type of depression is only seasonal, the impact it has on overall well-being are far-reaching. The winter blues is estimated to affect millions each year often in the form of feelings of hopelessness, overall disinterest, difficulty concentrating, or even thoughts of suicide. To combat these negative feelings, strive to get at least 20-30 minutes of sunshine a day. If you live in a climate that does not allow for significant sun exposure, a sun lamp is the next best thing.

4. Prepare responses

One of the biggest sources of holiday stress can come from interacting with others in a social setting. If you’ll be interacting with people you haven’t seen in a while, you may be dreading the inevitable questions about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing. Depending on your relationship with your social groups you may not feel comfortable telling them that you have been in rehab – much less explaining why you can’t drink with them. Before such gatherings, plan your explanations to the common questions beforehand and decide on how much you feel comfortable disclosing.

5. Leave when you feel uncomfortable

Speaking of preparing responses, come up with some excuses that you can use to gracefully bow out when you’re in an uncomfortable situation. Be this a conversation or a gathering,  sticking it out and putting yourself in a heightened state of stress or anxiety is not worth it. Stress is one of the most well-known risk factors in the development of addiction and relapse. It may feel selfish, but it’s important that you put your physical, and mental well-being before holiday traditions or niceties.

6. Enlist your support system

Don’t forget to tap into your support system to help you get through the holidays. They can serve as your sober partner at social functions or simply being a friendly ear that you can call in times of boredom,  having someone who knows your situation and can help talk you through it can be a huge sense of relief. Before the holidays are in full swing let your support system know that you will probably be reaching out more than usual so that they can expect your calls. 

7. Don’t stop attending meetings

Don’t let the holidays interrupt your group meetings. Now more than ever, it’s important to have a sense of community and a reminder of why you’re doing what you’re doing. Sobriety is hard and the holidays make it even harder, tap into the resource that is your fellow group therapy or 12 step members. They’ve likely been through exactly what you’re going through now and can offer invaluable advice on how to get through the holidays without relapsing.

8. Make your sobriety streak prominent

Visual reminders can be a valuable source of motivation. If you’re the type of person who’s encouraged by having hard numbers associated with your accomplishments,  something like a countdown tracker could be helpful in keeping you motivated and on track to stay sober. There are plenty of apps and other software with customizable countdown timers that you can use to prominently display the number of days you’ve been clean.

9. Don’t isolate yourself

Humans are innately social creatures and the effects of isolation on mental health can be profound. There have been numerous studies on how dangerous isolation and subsequent loneliness can be. In the case of a recovering addict, it can cause extra high levels of stress significantly increasing the likelihood of relapsing.  This feeling can be exacerbated if you have not told your family or other loved ones that you have gone to rehab and are undergoing treatment for your substance abuse issues.

10. Consider your New Year’s resolutions

Last but not least, when in doubt look to the future. Even if you don’t participate in resolutions in the traditional sense, the new year is significant as a marker of a fresh start. They say it takes 28 days to create a new habit so give yourself a running start by dedicating yourself to making the upcoming new year one of a healthier, happier you. 

Your Addiction Treatment Center Can Help

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed by all that the holidays can bring, don’t forget that you can always reach out to your addiction treatment center for relapse support. Having professionals that know you and that you can trust, can serve as an additional source of strength to avoid relapse during the holidays. Contact us today for more drug and alcohol relapse prevention advice and what to do in the instance that you do end up relapsing.

10 Ways to Cope With Holiday Stress (Without Drugs)

The holidays are supposed to be the happiest time of the year…right? While it may be the season for gathering with friends and being merry, it is often accompanied by sky-high expectations that make the reality anything but. A survey showed that more than half of the participants experienced heightened levels of stress during the holidays. For recovering addicts, the holidays can prove extra challenging and be rife with triggers. But, there certainly are ways to cope with holiday stress without using drugs or relapsing. Use these 10 holiday stress tips to help you stay sober into the New Year and beyond.

Scenario #1: Dealing with Holiday Parties

It can be stressful enough that alcohol is a seemingly inextricable part of holiday celebrations but feeling forced to interact with family, friends, or even coworkers can be a major source of anxiety. 

Have an exit strategy

Keep a little white lie in your back pocket in case the festivities get uncomfortable. Saying that you have another engagement at another time gives you an out. If things go south earlier than you anticipated, there are all sorts of apps that can help you easily fake a last-minute emergency. Check out this Applet from IFTTT titled “Get yourself out of an awkward situation”. 

Drive yourself (and make sure you won’t be blocked in)

Managing your own transportation keeps you in control and allows you to leave whenever you want. To ensure you can come and go as you please, don’t volunteer to be the designated driver or to drop anyone home. Perhaps, most importantly, be sure that you won’t get blocked in by other cars, leaving you stranded amongst drunk party-goers. 

Scenario #2: Dealing with Holiday Depression or Loneliness

This time of year tends to be emotionally charged. Nostalgia, self-reflection, and seasonal depression make for a tough combination. If you’re dealing with a breakup or the loss of a family member, the holidays can heighten the feeling of absence making it all the more painful. 

Skip the sappy holiday movies and opt for comedies instead

Watching a movie that pulls at your already exhausted heartstrings may seem a cathartic way to get your feelings out, but most likely will simply invite you to wallow in your own self-pity. There are plenty of funny Christmas movies you can watch instead since laughter is the best medicine after all. Plus, watching some fictional dysfunction may make you feel better about your own situation. 

Volunteer with the less fortunate

Nothing provides perspective more than volunteering with those who are less fortunate. Not only can doing so help you realize you may not actually have it so bad, but volunteering can actually make you a happier person overall. Talk about a win-win way to jolt you out of your pity party.

Create a new holiday tradition for yourself

Don’t mope at nostalgic thoughts of the activities you would do in holidays past. Create new holiday traditions that are all your own. Besides being a fun distraction, it will show you that no matter where you are or who you’re with, having yourself is enough to make the season feel special.

Scenario #3: Dealing with Gift Expectations

Addiction can do a number on your finances, which can be super stressful when it comes time to buy presents. As a major part of the ritual of the holidays, the urge to give gifts can be overwhelming. 

Notify loved ones ahead of time that you’re not doing presents this year

Instead of feeling obligated to spend beyond your means, notify your family and friends well before the holidays kick off (ideally before Black Friday) that you won’t be giving gifts this year and that you don’t wish to receive any. Set the expectations for reciprocated gift-giving early to minimize feelings of guilt later.

Opt for heartfelt words instead

In lieu of a gift, opt for meaningful words to your loved ones. Whether by card or by email, letting the people in your life know how much you appreciate and care for them is exactly what the holidays are all about. 

Stop feeling guilty

This is easier said than done, but feeling guilty for not participating in the seemingly obligatory gift-exchange will make it much easier to indulge in the true spirit of the holidays. Any friends or family worth keeping around would much rather you focus on your health than some prettily wrapped little trinket. 

Scenario #4: Dealing with a Busy Schedule

Between family get-togethers, work events, and preparing for the holidays, there’s a lot of hustle and bustle.  It’s important to regularly take mental stock of your state of being and to say “no” to things that don’t sound fun. 

Download an audiobook

One of the most stressful parts of having a booked social calendar is the time spent going to and fro. Turn your holiday commute into “me time” with a good book. Getting wrapped up in a great plot will not only make the time go by more pleasantly, but you’ll likely arrive at your destination in a better mood. If you’re going somewhere that makes you feel anxious, an audiobook can help keep it off your mind.

Hit “No” on those RSVP invites

Odds are that if the host hasn’t invited you personally. It’s a function you could probably opt out of without being terribly missed. Don’t let the fear of disappointing someone cause you to run yourself ragged. One thing that can help is to physically write down everything happening each day. If you feel like you’re writing a lot, odds are you may be pushing yourself too thin.

Relapse Prevention Assistance

If you feel like you’re at your last resort, contact your rehab facility. Level Up Lake Worth has a strong alumni support program that can help you navigate the stress of staying sober during the holidays without relapsing. Whether the source of your holiday stress comes from navigating the presence of alcohol or drugs at gatherings or dealing with drama from family or romantic partners, your rehab center can help with managing holiday stress to keep you on the right path.  

5 Sobriety Anniversary Phrases Worth Saying

When it comes to taboo topics, it can sometimes be difficult to know what to say. Even if you have some experience with addiction, you may still always feel like you are walking on eggshells. How do you show support without saying the wrong thing or enabling bad thoughts and behaviors? When a loved one is reaching a sobriety anniversary, whether it be one month or one year, saying the right thing can feel important. Consider the following sayings to show your loved one how you feel about this milestone:

I’m Proud of You

Sobriety is a struggle. It simply does not come easily and that deserves recognition. When someone we admire expresses their pride, it can feel like a hug to our core. Let your loved one know that you recognize all they have done and how far they have come. Being in recovery isn’t something they should have to hide or feel shame about. On the contrary, addiction can happen to anyone and they should feel proud of the adversity they have overcome. 

I’m Happy You’re Doing Well

A sobriety anniversary is a perfect time to express the dramatic changes you may have observed. Someone who has been sober for a year might look healthier, more energetic, and focused on the right things. Giving up toxic substances allows for the mind, body, and soul to heal in ways we never could have imagined. So go on and tell your sober loved one that you can tell how great they are doing. This lets them know that their wellbeing is important to others and provides encouragement to keep it up!

You’re an Inspiration

Most people face adversity in their lives and millions of Americans struggle with addiction every year. Unfortunately, many people die from substance-related causes. Those who overcome this disease truly do serve as an inspiration to the hundreds of thousands of people who are still battling addiction. Heck, it is an inspiration to all of us in showing that even the obstacles that seem impossible to overcome are possible with perseverance, positivity, and support.

Let’s Celebrate

This is a time to celebrate. When you have reached a year of marriage, you celebrate. Why would this be any different? Tell your loved one that you want to celebrate the milestone and do so in an appropriate manner. Here are some sober ways to celebrate any anniversary:

  • Bake a cake
  • Go to a theme park
  • Go out for a celebration dinner
  • Present an AA chip

You Deserve Happiness

Those who struggle with addiction often think “Why me? Why do I deserve this life? Why should l live when others die?” They may think that because of their mistakes and bad choices, that they are not worthy of happiness. It isn’t true and needs to be said out loud. Everyone deserves happiness and no one should feel like they need permission, but sometimes saying “you deserve to be happy” can be just what is needed.