The hopeful myth of rehab is that once you're out, you're cured and never need fear addiction again. It's sadly not true, as recovery is an ongoing process to confront a disease that may never entirely subside. That is why it's vital that every former addict learn to navigate the challenges of long-term recovery.
Most people emerging from rehab likely expect to face challenges and problems in the short term of their recovery process. Fresh out of treatment, the former addict almost expects to feel cravings at times and to face pressure to return to former habits and destructive patterns. But surely this will fade and life can return to the way it was before substance abuse ever happened, right?
Sadly, this is not generally the case. While long-term recovery may see the former addict face less cravings than in the early days of recovery, or see new patterns of constructive behavior emerge to overwrite bad habits, the peril of relapse is never entirely gone.
A former addict can never entirely predict what can bring on a sudden urge to return to their addiction, despite all reason arguing against it. A glimpse of a former haunt, a whiff of a smell once associated with substance abuse, any number of sensory memories can revive the psychological craving for an illicit substance even with all chemical dependency gone. The brain is a powerful tool and sometimes it can actively work against its best interests.
So while short-term recovery is about building new routines, abandoning destructive habits and associations and forging a new path ahead, long-term recovery is about maintaining gains and avoiding the pitfalls of addiction’s long shadow.
Of course, a former addict can’t predict what random encounter they may have that could spark a resurgence of addictive cravings. Even the most cautious person can’t avoid all triggers, as some can be entirely innocuous except in the association they create for the former addict.
Instead, the former addict needs to develop coping mechanisms for such triggers, from connections with other former addicts through support groups to new hobbies and habits to supplant former activities to simple actions such as meditation or prayer.
Having someone to call when cravings rear, or something to do in place of seeking out illicit substances, can be a simple yet life-saving thing for the former addict in recovery.
Continued therapy can help, such as long-term treatment from a rehab facility such as Good Landing Recovery. Good Landing can teach recovering addicts coping mechanisms such as those above and others to help navigate the tricky world outside of rehab, both in the short-term and over the long haul.
Long-term recovery is not a walk in the park, but it is navigable, with help from within and without in the face of myriad challenges.