Recovery is a gradual process that involves much more than quitting your drug of choice and detoxing.
Alcohol use disorder and substance use disorder typically impact all aspects of your life, so shifting from the abuse of drinking or drugs to sustained sobriety involves making some sweeping changes.
Fortunately, by implementing some healthier behaviours and taking better care of yourself, you can kickstart your recovery before you engage with addiction treatment.
How to kickstart your recovery before you get to rehab
- Work on rebuilding relationships with friends and family.
- Replace toxic or unhealthy relationships with a supportive network.
- Ensure you look after your mental health.
- Eat a healthy diet, stay active, and focus on your sleep health.
- Investigate a selection of suitable treatment centres.
Work on rebuilding relationships with friends and family
If you’ve been abusing drink or drugs, chances are your relationships with friends and family have suffered.
While addiction may have caused many adverse consequences in your life, it will also likely have triggered negative outcomes for your loved ones, including:
- Shattered trust
- Feelings of shame or guilt
- Frustration and anger
- Financial hardship
- Poor communication
- Excessive conflict
When you ultimately engage with addiction treatment, many programs incorporate family therapy, but until that time, you can start rebuilding your relationships by committing to inpatient or outpatient rehab. Even if you’re not ready to take that next vital step right now, by assuring your loved ones you are receptive to the idea of recovery, you can lay some important foundations for repairing unravelled relationships.
Replace toxic or unhealthy relationships with a supportive network
All stages of your recovery will be hindered if you have unhealthy relationships with other drinkers or drug users.
There is no need to take this too far, and you need to separate the person from the substance, so the best strategy is to start by frankly assessing any relationships that are centred on substance abuse of any form.
When you engage with addiction treatment or attend 12-step meetings like AA or NA, you’ll have instant access to a peer support network undergoing broadly similar experiences. Before you reach that point, scythe away any toxic relationships and you’ll strengthen your chances of sustained recovery without relapsing.
Ensure you look after your mental health
NIDA data shows that roughly half of those with substance use disorder also experience a mental illness at some stage. These mental health conditions include:
- Major depressive disorder
- GAD (generalised anxiety disorder)
- PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder)
- Anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Bipolar disorder
- ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder)
When these mental health conditions co-occur with addiction, this is a dual diagnosis and requires specialised treatment.
Some people self-medicate the symptoms of a mental health disorder with drink or drugs. Others abuse drink or drugs and trigger mental health conditions. Left untreated, each of these conditions will feed the other, leading to serious and adverse consequences, both short-term and long-term.
When you undergo dual diagnosis treatment, you’ll address both the addiction and the mental health condition simultaneously.
Until you reach the point of engaging with treatment, though, you should do everything possible to keep your mental health in shape. Refrain from using drink or drugs to ease the symptoms of depression or anxiety. The best result is fleeting relief, but you’ll be doing nothing to improve the situation. Indeed, you’re likely to inflame the symptoms, while also possibly creating new problems.
Consider educating yourself about the basics of CBT and DBT. These forms of psychotherapy are powerful components of addiction treatment programs the world over, and you can get started yourself. Check out our guide to CBT vs DBT to see how these therapies could help you address your mental health condition.
Eat a healthy diet, stay active, and focus on your sleep health
Overhauling your lifestyle is something you can get started with before you commit to addiction treatment.
Exercising for at least thirty minutes a day can deliver powerful health benefits. When you exercise, your body produces more dopamine (improving your mood) and less norepinephrine (reducing stress levels). If abusing drink or drugs has left you feeling rather weak, get started with some gentle walking. You can soon progress to more intense exercise when you’re feeling stronger.
Eat as many healthy whole foods as possible, and limit your intake of processed foods and sugars. Aim for five portions of fruits and veggies daily. If you find this impractical, incorporate some juices or smoothies into your diet. Cut back on caffeine and stay hydrated with plenty of water. These very simple changes don’t take much effort to implement and will yield enormous benefits to your health, well-being, and your appearance.
Addiction plays havoc with sleeping patterns, so do everything possible to ensure you get the right quantity and quality of sleep. The closer you get to achieving the recommended eight hours of sleep, the better your mood, the higher your energy levels, and the sharper your mental alertness.
Investigate a selection of suitable treatment centres
Once you finally get to the point where you are ready to leave drink or drugs behind, you need to choose the right addiction treatment provider.
The first choice you’ll need to make is between inpatient or outpatient treatment.
For most moderate and severe addictions, and for anyone with an unstable home environment, or a co-occurring mental health disorder, residential rehab is almost always the best option. This intensive form of treatment involves the integrated delivery of medication-assisted treatment and talk therapy with the goal of complete and ongoing sobriety. Inpatient treatment is expensive and requires a commitment of 30 to 90 days or more during which you remain at the treatment centre.
For mild addictions, outpatient treatment offers you access to the same services for several hours on weekdays. In the evenings and at weekends, you’ll remain at home. As well as regular outpatient programs, you can also find intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) and partial hospitalization programmes (PHPs). These involve a greater time commitment than standard outpatient programmes, but they are more flexible than inpatient rehab. Most health insurance policies will cover the costs of outpatient treatment.
Once you’ve decided on the correct form of treatment for your needs and budget, you should start by making some initial inquiries to the centres on your shortlist.
Frost Anderson is an addiction expert and have been writing in the addiction treatment and mental health space for years.