Back in the “Outside” World
Leaving treatment can be a terrifying experience! Treatment is a safe, controlled environment where structure is one of the most powerful guiding forces. Being back in the “outside” world, where there is always the option to use again, can be stressful and exhausting.
For the first two years of my sobriety, I lived at my aunt’s house with three other women in recovery. We went to meetings daily, woke up every morning at four thirty (no exceptions) and went to bed no later than nine at night. Three meals were cooked for us daily and served at the exact same time each day. Meditation, Yoga and selfless service were requirements Monday through Sunday. As you can see, it was extremely structured.
Leaving there created a huge upheaval in my life. I did a lot of things well, and a lot of things imperfectly. It was often challenging and scary, especially those first two months, but I also had many beautiful moments of recovery and fun.
If I could go back and change how I did things to save myself some suffering, I would have done everything in my power to keep the same schedule I had had for the past two years. Waking up, eating and sleeping at the same time each day is ideal for a healthy mind, body and spirit. I found myself staying up late to hangout with friends, and sleeping in past the time for meditation and Yoga.
Consequently I was more tired, which led to more feelings of stress and frustration. Those are definitely not emotions that are helpful to have fresh out of treatment!
Keeping the same schedule each day may seem strict or boring but I have since found it to be the opposite. After some time in the “outside” world I have been able to reestablish my daily schedule, and instead of feeling restricting, it has given me more time and energy, along with feelings of security and stability. Feeling safe is absolutely one of the most important keys to serenity, particularly in early recovery.
Of course I still struggle with this sometimes. I am twenty-one, so a lot of my friends in recovery and otherwise like to hangout late at night. Occasionally I do, but not more than once or twice a week. It’s something that I’m still working on.
My next piece of advice is this: work the 12 Steps daily! If you were already doing this in treatment, great, keep it up! If I had done this, those first months out of rehab would have been a lot more fun. Now I talk to my Sponsor at least twice a week, sometimes more if there is something major going on. Each day I do some reading and writing associated with whatever Step I’m on. This is so important for me to keep in touch with the program and with my inner self. It continues to give me the feeling that I am still moving forward, progressing, changing for the better.
This goes right along with daily meetings. Even if you feel like you don’t want to, especially in the beginning right out of treatment, going to a meeting every single day is as important as breathing! It will keep you in touch with other people in recovery, people who you can start to befriend and integrate into your life. Because I can tell you this, I had to make some difficult decisions regarding who I would spend my time with.
Many of my friends were still drinking and using, and they would often invite me out. Now that I didn’t have a curfew, I was tempted to go. A few times I did go out with them to bars or clubs, and I can tell you that wasn’t a good idea. I was able to stay sober, but being around that atmosphere fresh out of rehab was a poor choice and resulted in a lot of unnecessary stress. As it says in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous, you can create the Fellowship that you crave. Basically I started turning down my old friends and instead spending time with my friends in recovery. It was a smart decision on my part, and resulted in a lot of fun, sober adventures!
So, to recap: keep a structured schedule of eating, waking up, sleeping and meditation. Go to meetings, talk to your Sponsor and work the 12 Steps daily, hangout with other people in recovery, and stay away from old friends and bars! It’s so not worth it.
Remember, leaving treatment may feel terrifying, but your Higher Power is looking out for you. I’ve come to realize there is nothing that can happen in life that we don’t have the ability to handle with grace and dignity!