Health & Wellness

The Keys to Lasting Recovery

The challenges of recovering from substance use disorder are not just physical. People in early recovery need to build new communities and new coping mechanisms. This kind of wraparound change helps increase the likelihood that recovery is effective and sustainable. We asked Jason Martin, PsyD, LCPC, CPRP, NCC, ACS, Sheppard Pratt’s director of Addiction Services, for tips on making the transition into recovery a successful one. 

Start with the basics—and don’t be afraid to ask for help

This isn’t the time to work on long-standing issues, Dr. Martin says. Focus on your basic needs. Don’t have a safe place to stay? Dealing with unemployment? Addressing these needs first is key to recovery. 

Try flipping the script. “Often, people with substance use disorder have had to get creative to get their needs met—when it came to drugs and alcohol. That same creativity can be harnessed in the service of meeting housing and employment needs too,” Dr. Martin says. “I like to ask, ‘how can we use those same skills that got you into trouble in a healthy way? How can we identify your strengths and channel them towards positive change?’” 

Sheppard Pratt’s Addiction Services, and other professional help like it, can help you through the especially difficult early days. “Getting through withdrawal can be very physically uncomfortable,” Dr. Martin says. “Depending on the substance, withdrawal can even be dangerous. Seek medical attention to help you through it.” 

Stay busy—structure helps prevent idle time

Detox is hard—it’s critical to keep your ”why” front of mind. It’s just as important to keep your mind and your time occupied. “Create new routines so you don’t have idle time,” Dr. Martin says. “But it’s also okay to indulge a little to get through—check out a new series on Netflix, eat cupcakes.”

Building a community of support is important too. Maybe that means opting for a professional addiction recovery program or an AA/NA meeting. “A lot of recovery programs are heavily focused on group programming because we want to help people create community and social support,” Dr. Martin says. “You need that social connection, somewhere to turn when things get tough—especially if the community you had before you were in recovery is still using.”

Engage in self-care

Self-care doesn’t have to be fancy! Exercise is a great way to get through withdrawal, to deal with cravings, or to just get out frustration and excess energy in a healthy way, Dr. Martin says. Tire yourself out doing something you can be proud of.  

Mindfulness exercises are also a great way to stay engaged. This might look like taking a mindful walk—paying attention to all five senses as you stroll. 

Focus on your breathing or try using a meditation app a few minutes a day. “Addiction is often the result of coping by turning to substance use. It is a quick mindless fix,” Dr. Martin says. “Practicing mindfulness techniques teaches you to pause, engage other parts of your mind, and not behave reactively.”  

“Recovery is worth it,” Dr. Martin concludes. “It is worth the temporary pain for the long-term benefits, for the life you are building in recovery. 

Recovery means different things to different people, but no matter what recovery looks like for you, it is a chance to improve the quality of your life.”

Sheppard Pratt’s Addiction Services can help if you are struggling with a substance use disorder. Click here to learn more. 

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