When someone we know completes rehabilitation, we tend to assume that they’re ready to face society again. We also express how proud we are of them, which they, of course, appreciate. However, while our well wishes mean the world to them, recovering from addiction doesn’t end their struggles.
A good rehabilitation center continues to monitor its patients after their treatments. That’s because recovery doesn’t stop after rehab. For some, the healing journey can last years, even a lifetime. It’s different for each recovering addict, but none of them ever has an easy time healing.
There are four stages of addiction recovery. Completing in-patient rehab is just the third. The first stage is initiating treatment, and the second one is abstinence. After rehab, you prepare for the fourth stage, which is advanced recovery.
During the third stage, former addicts maintain their abstinence, create a sober lifestyle, and go back to work. Depending on their situation, they may return to their current or last employer or start with a new company. They may also start a business. It all sounds like a fresh start in life, which it is, but it’s not filled with rainbows and butterflies at all.
The third stage of recovery is a risky time for former addicts. This is where they might fall into relapse. If they succumb to the temptation of alcohol or drugs again, they may never reach the fourth and final stage.
Below are the surprising challenges that can hinder their full recovery:
1. Facing Their Triggers
When a former addict goes out of rehab, their addiction isn’t “undone.” It’s simply curbed, controlled, or diminished. To maintain their sobriety, they attend outpatient treatment or follow-up counseling. They’re walking a thin line at this stage, so facing their triggers can easily make them relapse.
Former addicts are triggered by different things, people, or situations. The addictive substance is often one of those triggers. Any situation that can make them encounter that substance can tempt them into relapse. Hence, don’t be offended if a recovering addict rejects your invitation to a party or any social gathering. Don’t take it personally if they tell you that they’re just avoiding their triggers. It doesn’t mean they’ve stopped enjoying life or your company. Respect the boundaries they’ll set, and you’ll be one of the people who would help them reach full recovery.
2. Building New Relationships
Many former alcoholics or drug-users lost important relationships because of their condition. If you’ve never been an addict before, it’s easy to imagine that completing rehab will automatically resolve your broken marriage, friendships, or romantic relationship. That’s not the case at all in reality.
Rehab opens up many new possibilities in your social life, but rebuilding broken ones may not be one of those. You can earn the forgiveness of the people you’ve hurt before recovering, but they may not want to be a part of your life anymore. In that case, you need to build a new social life.
Also, recovering addicts cannot be friends with the type of people who brought them into addiction. For example, if your old friends pressured you into trying drugs, you should cut them off your life during and after rehab. And when you make new friends again, you should only look for people who will be good influences. That’s not always easy since many friendship circles enjoy drinking or recreational drugs.
Hence, a recovering addict may need to temporarily spend time alone to start new hobbies. They can read books and join a book club afterward. They can also watch movies and find a group with the same hobby. It’s like going back to middle school all over again.
3. Finding a New Job
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ACA), employers aren’t allowed to discriminate against employees or candidates with an addiction history. However, that doesn’t stop workplaces from developing a stigma toward addiction.
Employers can’t fire an employee who goes to rehab. As such, a recovering addict can still go back to their workplace after completing rehab. But once they’re the subject of the stigma, it may not be easy for them to pick up where they left off. The stigma can become a trigger, pushing them into relapse.
Employers and other business leaders should create a culture that openly discusses sobriety and recovery. In other words, addiction shouldn’t be taboo. An employee who overcame addiction should feel safe sharing their experience with their colleagues. Their bosses shouldn’t discriminate against them or assume that they’ve become incompetent because of their addiction.
It may be true that addiction affects the brain, but treatment and commitment to sobriety repair the damage and makes them reliable employees again.
By raising awareness about these challenges, we can help break the stigma toward addiction. In turn, we can create a safer place for former addicts and encourage struggling ones to get help.