Tips to Prevent Post-Therapy Depression
Depression is not uncommon in the days or weeks after you finish addiction treatment. After you’ve lived in an environment that’s structured, have been surrounded by supportive staff and were able to focus on your recovery, it’s normal to be overcome with a negative feeling when you go back to the “real world.” When you go through addiction and mental health treatment, you make positive strides towards a healthier life and you likely think that you don’t want to mess that up.
Some common things that might instill fear are the ideas of hanging out with certain people, being in particular environments or doing activities that were in your past when you were using. Here are some ways to try to reduce depression after leaving treatment so you can continue to thrive in recovery.
Tip #1: Surround Yourself with Supporters of Your Recovery
Maybe hanging out with your friends or family members meant you drank alcohol or used drugs. When you were with them, the expectation was to relax, “get high” and have fun. When you leave addiction treatment, you can feel unsure about returning to the people and places you once knew. The uncertainty of how you can feel or react to what you used to know can trigger depression.
For instance, people who used substances can remain in the same behavior patterns before entering treatment. They know the old you and can become unsure or uncomfortable around the new you. As a result, they can stop inviting you to go out with them. You’re not the same person you once were and that’s OK.
Instead, focus your energy into the support system of those who love you and want the best for you. Friends and family can surround you with the strength and hope you need. While you were in treatment, they may have attended family therapy sessions because they wanted to know how to support you or change their behavior patterns. Surrounding yourself with the right people can help alleviate any stress, depression or anxiety when you have to face a challenging situation.
Remember to reach out to your therapist for help, as well. When you leave your treatment center, you don’t leave your therapist. While you were in treatment, your therapist helped you build coping skills, contingency plans or a list of people to call if you feel depressed or have anxiety. Your therapist is also available to help you after you leave treatment because, like you, they are committed to your recovery.
Tip #2: Explore New Environments after Treatment
Your environment is an integral part of your recovery. If you go back to places that encouraged harmful behaviors, you can increase your relapse risk. Instead of falling back into what was your comfort zone, find new places and people. Some things to think about as it relates to an environment change:
- Attend AA or NA meetings: The support you can find in meetings can decrease feelings of anxiety or depression.
- Join groups that promote and encourage sobriety: People who understand your recovery journey can also share the same interests as you. Having fun, being engaged in activities or relaxing can include being sober. Do you surf or draw, or maybe write music, poetry or stories? Some groups foster your skills without substances. Speak with your sponsor, sober friends or therapist about groups like these groups.
- Attend alumni therapy sessions at your treatment center: If you live too far away, attend online meetings.
- Move into sober living: Sober living affords you the chance to work on the skills you learned while you were in active treatment while also providing you guidance in finding a healthy living or work environment
Tip #3: Find a New Activity – Or Re-Engage with a Once-Loved Hobby
Your identity can link with who you are friends with, what you do for fun, how you make a living or how you express yourself. The idea of living these parts of your life without substances is, at times, scary. You may wonder, “Can I still play music, write, draw or play a sport without alcohol or a drug?” The answer is yes. While you are in treatment, you can work on skills that can help you ease back into your favorite activities – or explore new ones – post-treatment. Addiction didn’t give you your skills; you always had them. Recovery is the time to strengthen and grow those skills. Here are some ideas to get you started and keep your mindset positive:
- Find new, healthy activities: An exciting part of recovery is discovering what makes you feel good. Try new activities like acting, art or a form of exercise. You don’t have to like the first thing you try. The fact you are willing to explore new adventures is great.
- Continue healthy activities you learned while in treatment: Did you really like yoga, journaling or another form of holistic therapy? Keep doing it once you leave therapy. You learned the building blocks of recovery. Practicing an activity makes those blocks stronger.
- Incorporate self-care: A hot bath. A walk to get some fresh air or call a friend. Meditating. Reading a good book. These are simple yet important ways to stay busy without much planning and can help boost your mood.
Feelings of depression or anxiety after you finish addiction treatment are not uncommon. You are not the same person you were before treatment. During your therapy, you learned to recognize triggers and replace harmful habits with healthy responses. The coping skills you practiced while you were in addiction treatment can help guide you through difficult situations. In some cases, the problematic situations are because of people and places you returned to after therapy. When you find yourself tempted to resume past, unhealthy habits, remember you are not alone in your recovery. Reach out to friends and family who want to help you, go to AA or NA meetings, attend alumni meetings or get in touch with your therapist. Cliffside Malibu understands your unique needs when you are finishing addiction treatment and re-entering your work and living environment. We know you can face challenging situations; that’s why we maintain our relationship with you throughout your recovery. Our patients can attend alumni meetings in person or via the internet, reach out to their therapist at any time or decide to live in our private, luxurious sober living home. For more information, call (855) 403-5641.