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Emotional Challenges to Reintegration

As alumni, we know just how challenging it can be to maintain our sobriety. We’re up against odds that feel insurmountable. Completing a treatment program is just the beginning of our work in recovery. When we’re reintegrating back into society and returning to our regular lives, there are some specific emotional challenges we can be mindful of in order to help ourselves cope with the difficult process.

One of the biggest challenges we’ll face during the reintegration process is how isolated we’ve become in our lives. Many of us struggling with addiction have pushed people away, ended important relationships, and become estranged from people who care about us. We often felt as though our relationships were an impediment to maintaining our addictions, and we prioritized our high over the people in our lives. When we’re reintegrating back into our former lives, we’ll need all the support we can get. We’ll want to reach out to the people in our lives who can support us in our recovery. It’s a great idea to stay connected to a treatment facility, in order to take advantage of all the important services they provide, including sober living options, outpatient treatment and recovery coaching. It’s crucial that we enlist the support of a therapist, to continue the important developmental work we started while in treatment. We tend to isolate when we’re stressed or depressed, so to help ourselves cope with the emotional complexities of the reintegration process, we’ll want to stop our self-destructive isolating tendencies.

Maintaining our emotional balance can be a difficult challenge when we’re recovering and reintegrating. In addition to reaching out for support rather than isolating, there are some useful things we can include as part of our recovery work. Attending support group meetings and therapy sessions regularly can help us to cope with the emotional ups and downs we’ll experience when reintegrating. We can be faced with a multitude of complex emotions, including loneliness, sadness and fear. We can feel totally alone after being in treatment, and after being displaced from our lives throughout the course of our addictions. Our self-isolation, which is often a coping mechanism, can work against us and make us feel worse in the end. We can be filled with sadness at the state of our lives and the condition of our relationships. We can feel hopeless, defeated and despondent, especially when we’re just returning home and facing the reality of our situations for the first time in awhile. We can be consumed with self-doubt and fear that we won’t be able to maintain our sobriety. While we’re in treatment, we are temporarily removed from our lives. We get a reprieve from the difficulties and stressors of our daily routines. We’re given a healthy distance from the things and relationships that most trigger us. Returning to all of them, and all at once, can be particularly overwhelming. Learning to care for our emotional health is a crucial part of the reintegration process. Devoting time to self-care, spiritual practice and mindfulness are all extremely beneficial to having a successful recovery and keeping ourselves on track. Working to maintain our emotional balance means we’ll be less triggered by external situations and circumstances, less swayed by tumultuous emotions, and more in tune with our inner selves.

One of the contributing factors to our emotional imbalance, one that can most threaten to derail our progress in recovery, is the temptation of our addictive urges and compulsions. When we’re reintegrating back into our regular lives, we’re no longer supported by the safety and security of being in treatment. We’re no longer physically removed from our addictive substance or behavior of choice. We’re no longer surrounded by a team of professionals helping us to stay sober. Facing temptation in reintegration can feel stressful, anxiety-inducing, uncomfortable, even painful. We’ve grown so accustomed to giving into our addictive urges that they’ve become our way of life. We can feel depressed and anxious when we’re no longer able to use the coping mechanisms we’ve come to rely upon. One of our greatest tools we can use to cope with the inevitable temptation is mindfulness.

Mindfulness helps us to stay focused on the present moment, rather than becoming overwhelmed with the thoughts in our minds, our fears for the future, and regrets about the past. Many of us living with addiction also struggle with anxiety. We’ve developed thought patterns that keep us mired in our fears rather than allowing us to be grounded in the present moment and rooted in our faith. Mindfulness practices such as meditation, visualization, breathing exercises and repeating affirmations can help us return to the moment we’re actually in, rather than getting caught up in the whirlwind of thoughts that can contribute to our temptation and anxiety. Here is one simple exercise you can try the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, that can help ground you in the present moment. Take a deep breath. Now look around you and name some colors you can see. Close your eyes and list some things you can hear and smell. Continue taking deep breaths. Whenever your mind wanders, try to return to your senses and let yourself focus on your sensory perception rather than the turmoil of your mind. Another very helpful tool for maintaining our emotional balance is a gratitude practice. On a daily basis, list things you feel grateful for. The more you practice, the more your mind will be programmed to look for things to be grateful for, which will help you to think with more positivity, optimism and appreciation.

Prioritizing our emotional well-being is of crucial importance to our recovery process, especially when reintegrating into our regular lives. We can feel alone with the challenges we’re experiencing, but there is help available when we’re open to it.

Riverside Recovery is here to support you at every stage of the recovery process, whether you’re just beginning or are looking for an alumni network to help you continue your progress. Call (800) 871-5440 today for more information.