Preparing to Check into an Alcohol Treatment Facility
A little over three years ago, I found myself checking into a 28-day treatment facility for alcoholism, a couple of hours away from my hometown in North Carolina. I called and had three days to get ready until a bed was available for me. The preparation was reminiscent of getting ready for summer camp when I was a little girl, except instead of losing sleep over excitement, I was losing sleep due to nerves.
My mom and I went to Wal-Mart with a checklist of approved and non-approved items and filled our cart with the approved necessities. It was a humbling experience—the first of many to come.
Making the Tough Decision
I had no idea what rehab was about, what they did, or how they got people to stay sober. I just knew I needed help; my brain, liver, and heart required some major TLC. I had proven to myself that I couldn’t do it on my own. Like countless others, I had tried to get sober many times, all of which were unsuccessful. And again like many others, I was baffled as to why I couldn’t just stop. I had finally reached a point where I was willing to try something new. I would do anything they asked of me, like sleep for 30 days, meditate for every second, or talk about my feelings nonstop– I would do whatever it takes if it would help me just not want to take a drink. I remember thinking it would be a miracle if my desire and obsession to drink could be corrected. However, it seemed impossible.
Adjusting to the Treatment Facility
Joining the rehabilitation program was a huge adjustment for my liver and brain; I had to begin physically and mentally detoxing from my addiction. Doing so correctly, and under the guidance of a medical professional, could mean the difference between life and death.
Though the physical adjustment to not drinking was hard, the mental adjustment proved to be equally as challenging.
Each week a counselor would take the seven other girls in treatment and me to a Wal-Mart to replenish our snacks and toiletries. I remember avoiding the beer and wine aisle the first week, but I thought I’d walk down it on the second week to make sure nothing about the oh-so-familiar aisle had changed.
Sure enough, same bottles, same labels, same price as when I checked into the treatment facility ten days earlier. Nothing about the shelves had changed. However, I noticed I had changed; I was actually able to walk away from them.
Acknowledging My Progress
Looking at that alcohol aisle, I contemplated, “why was this time different?” Why was I able to walk away?
The answer: I was able to walk away because I played the tape through in my head: what would it look like if I took a six-pack into the bathroom and chugged them before having to load back in the van with the other girls?
And that tape didn’t look good.
So many different things could have gone wrong. For one, I could have been arrested for shoplifting. And for what? Six beers weren’t even going to get me drunk, only leave me wanting more. What would be the point of that? I would have either gotten kicked out of the rehab facility or left there in the Wal-Mart on my own, because let’s face it…I wouldn’t know how to stop at just six.
This moment in the alcohol aisle, and the ability to say “no” was progress I was proud of.
Letting Go of My Alcohol Obsession
It wasn’t too long after I walked through the doors of rehab that my obsession with drinking was gone. Sure, the desire was still there, but that was manageable, and eventually, my desire and the obsessive need to drink became less and less.
I had learned in my short time in treatment that it wasn’t the sixth, tenth, or twelfth beer that got me drunk, it’s the first because I was unable to stop after having one. For years, I had tried to figure out how to control and enjoy my drinking, and for years I failed. So when I learned that it was the first drink, not the 6th or 7th, it made perfect sense.
I didn’t necessarily like learning that information. My original hope was that rehab was going to teach me how to control my drinking, but that idea quickly evaporated; my dream of becoming someone who could still drink, but in a manageable way, was no longer achievable or realistic.
Getting Sober and Staying Sober
I don’t think there is only one way to get sober.
However, I can only speak from my own experience of how I got and stayed sober.
Rehab didn’t cure me; what rehab did was give me the desire to stay sober one day at a time and enough hope that it was possible. It gave me enough knowledge about the disease of alcoholism for me to accept that I am, in fact, an alcoholic. It laid a solution out in the form of 12-steps as a recovery program. It showed me a way of life, through other people, that was desirable.
My counselors in rehab let me know that it wasn’t going to always be easy, but it would be worth it, and they were right.
The rehab center sold these t-shirts that said, “I believe in miracles. You’re looking at one.”
I didn’t really understand what that meant at the time, but I do today. The fact that I walked out those doors over three years ago and have not taken a drink for the past 1,121 days is a miracle.
In fact, it’s 1,121 miracles.
Recovery Management Post-Treatment
Thankfully for Alison, she has remained sober after completing her time at a treatment facility. Her story is a success story about putting one’s health first and kicking drinking to the side to better one’s life.
For others in a similar situation to Alison, some tools can be implemented post-treatment to help those who struggle with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) remain sober throughout their lives. Though receiving treatment at a facility is wonderful in promoting sobriety, life after rehab can be difficult when adjusting back to one’s everyday life.
Thankfully, utilizing other tools to help manage an alcohol addiction can help those coming home from rehab stay sober once they are back integrated into their lives and presented with triggers and a temptation to drink.
Alcoholism: A Disease
It is important to understand that Alcohol Use Disorder is considered a chronic disease, and therefore needs to be treated like one. Other chronic illnesses, like diabetes, usually involve an initial treatment and maintenance and care for the rest of the individual’s life; AUD is no different.
Just like someone with diabetes needs to manage their illness for their whole life, so does someone who experiences AUD. Management in recovery is nothing to be ashamed of, but instead should be implemented to ensure lifelong sobriety for a struggling individual.
Tools for Recovery Management
There is no one-size-fits-all for recovery management; individuals need to find the tools that work best for them when managing their sobriety. Thankfully, there are many different ways to keep yourself accountable, and therefore in recovery, for a lifetime.
One way to manage an alcohol addiction is by joining a support group of people who understand your drinking disorder and who can support you through your recovery process.
The most popular, but also one of the most successful groups for accountability is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). AA is a no cost meeting place where those who struggle with Alcohol Use Disorder can come together to discuss, manage, and hopefully solve their drinking problems.
AA does not discriminate, regardless of age, gender, social class etc. AA is a safe place to discuss your experience and drinking problem and is known to help individuals manage their desire to drink.
It is also important to keep your Recovery Circle strong and full of people who want the best for you. When you have friends and family who support you in recovery, you are more likely to succeed in remaining sober long term.
Holding yourself accountable is one of the most underrated tools when it comes to managing one’s sobriety. When you take control over your recovery and set and achieve personal goals, it gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment that encourages you to keep pushing to remain sober.
You become proud of how your body has recovered and all you have accomplished, that you are more willing to keep your sobriety day after day. Putting yourself and your health first encourages you to remain in recovery and continue to abstain from alcohol.
Soberlink Remote Breathalyzer
One efficient and beneficial way to hold yourself accountable in recovery is to engage in alcohol monitoring through a system like Soberlink.
Soberlink’s remote breathalyzer is an amazing tool to help foster recovery and promote accountability. Due to its small and compact size, the ability to remain discreet when in use, and its Advanced Reporting capabilities, Soberlink is the premier choice in remote alcohol monitoring for improved outcomes. Additionally, the system also keeps those in your Recovery Circle in the loop about your alcohol consumption through real-time alerts, making it a versatile and helpful way to manage your health and your sobriety even after you have completed treatment.
Managing Your Mind and Body
Though talking about your AUD and practicing self-accountability aid in strengthening your overall recovery, keeping your mind and body healthy with other practices can also help you stay clear-headed and committed to sobriety.
Remaining sober is more than simply not drinking. It is keeping your mindset in a positive place and keeping your spirits high, especially because not every day of sobriety will be easy.
Practicing meditation and self-affirmations can get your mind and spirit strong while managing your alcohol addiction. Meditation is the practice of listening, acknowledging, and coming back to your breath, and paying attention when your mind begins to wander. It is known to lower stress and anxiety and help you get in tune with your mind and body.
By implementing this practice post-treatment facility, you are using a tool that helps you manage stress, anxiety, and depression– all ways that can lead one to slip or relapse.
Exercise is one of the most underrated and under appreciated tools that can help one remain sober after experiencing treatment.
Moving your body not only gives you immediate endorphins and is beneficial to your physical health, but the longer you practice exercise, the more confident you begin to feel. Exercise makes you stronger physically and mentally and the confidence that produces motivates those in recovery to stay in recovery.
Staying in Recovery
Though it is a lifelong journey to remain sober, sobriety after rehabilitation treatment is achievable when implementing self-care and recovery management tools into your daily life.
The most important thing is to find a combination of accountability tools that work for you and your lifestyle and stick to a routine that is actually doable.
Whether it is a daily walk with a friend followed by an AA meeting, or morning meditation and enlisting Soberlink’s comprehensive remote alcohol monitoring system, know that implementing these practices into your life can present you with skills needed to obtain long term recovery from AUD post treatment.
Remember, we are aiming for progress, not perfection, and as long as you are continuing to wake up and choose sobriety every day, you too, are a miracle—just like Alison.