Eliminate Triggers and Prevent Stressful Situations
For those who have succumbed to substance abuse, going to rehab is often the first step to getting clean and living a productive, meaningful, drug- or alcohol-free life. While in the hospital or treatment facility, former addicts are allowed to detox and learn new coping mechanisms in a safe, closed setting that is free of distraction and stressors.
But rehabilitation is more than just a short stay in a controlled environment. It’s a lifelong process that, according to many former addicts, never really ends. After rehab is over, one must return to the “real world” and resume their life, their work, their education, and their relationships.
The thing is, these routines are often inextricably tied to a former addict’s previous lifestyle. From the drive to work past an old dealer’s house to drinking beer and watching football with friends on Sundays, a recovering addict faces reminders of his addiction each and every day. Surrounded by these triggers, it can be difficult to implement healthy behaviors. If the recovering addict does not address these situations by taking a new route to work and skipping the Sunday Ticket, they can trigger a relapse.
But what happens when these triggers exist in your own home? How can you ensure the space where you spend most of your time is one that promotes your sobriety, even if it is filled with sights, sounds, and smells of the lifestyle you’ve left behind? It may seem a daunting task, but it is possible, and our guide is here to help you make the process as seamless as possible.
Rearrange Your Life
Chances are, if you’ve been to rehab, your addiction permeated nearly every aspect of your life — including how you lived in your home. Maybe you got high in your bedroom every morning, had a drink in the same chair every evening, or had parties outside on the patio every weekend. If that’s the case, you will likely have to make a few changes to your living situation in order to avoid going back to those old habits.
First, ask a friend, relative, or professional to assist you in removing everything that you associate with your previous lifestyle. This includes any remaining drugs or alcohol, as well as any paraphernalia. Then, give the space a good cleaning. Scent can be a powerful trigger, so wash all linens, window coverings, and clothes in a new laundry detergent with a different scent than you’re used to.
If you can, consider changing the scenery by rearranging your space. Shift your furniture, revise your decor, change your bedding, and paint your walls. Garage sales, thrift stores, and clearance racks are a good place to find inexpensive pieces to update your space without spending a fortune. These small changes will help give your space a new look and feel, eliminating some of the triggers from your daily environment. If you have more than one bedroom, you may even decide to switch rooms altogether.
It’s no secret that your mental health and physical health are connected. In fact, according to a study on the impact of physical activity on substance abuse disorder, physical activity may even increase abstinence rates, reduce withdrawal symptoms, and minimize anxiety and depression among persons in recovery.
For this reason, many addicts are turning spare bedrooms, basements, and garages into home gyms full of fitness equipment and sports gear. From a yoga mat and a set of dumbbells in the corner of the living room to a full-blown Crossfit course in the backyard, having easy access to your heart-rate raising, calorie-burning, mental-health-boosting activity of choice has a lot of benefits.
First, it’s usually less expensive than a gym membership. It’s also more convenient than leaving your house to work out, so it makes you more likely to actually do it. As a bonus, new, healthy habits like a morning workout or clean cooking and eating can replace old, unhealthy ones like drugs or alcohol.
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Decorate with Purpose
In recent years, motivational phrases have become a trend in home decor. From peel and stick wall murals to hand-lettered signs, affirmations, mantras, and religious quotes are seemingly everywhere — and that’s good news for the recovering addict.
Personal development plays a big role in many rehabilitation programs. Incorporating mantras, motivation, and spirituality into your home is an easy, inexpensive way to embrace a positive mindset and change the energy in the space. While scattering sayings throughout your home will not shield you from relapse, if you choose to meditate on the statements, they can increase your mindfulness and encourage positive thinking, which relieve stress and can reduce negative thoughts and triggers.
During your period of substance use and abuse, you likely spent a lot of time tracking down, using, and simply being under the influence of drugs and alcohol. As a result, recovering addicts sometimes struggle with boredom as a trigger. Having a hobby, in addition to being a natural anti-depressant, can be an effective way to occupy your free time.
If you haven’t already converted the spare bedroom to a gym, consider making it a space where you can revisit an old hobby or pursue a new one. Avid readers can line the walls with bookshelves and move in a comfy reading chair to make a home library. Crafters and artists can set up work tables and easels for a studio. Movie and music buffs can hone their crafts in a media room. (Just don’t forget the soundproofing!)
If you’re running out of room indoors, you can always take your hobby outside and plant a garden, play fetch with your pet, or learn bird calls. The possibilities are truly endless. After all, even home renovating is considered a hobby.
Finally, make your home a place where you can gather with other sober, supportive friends and family members. Offer to host meetings, get-togethers, birthday parties, and holiday dinners at your own place so you’re in charge of the guest list, menu, and atmosphere. If you think it might help keep you accountable, implement an actual open-door policy by giving friends and family members permission to stop by anytime and check in with you.
Of course, if you’re going to be entertaining guests on a regular basis, there are a few things you can do to make your space both more inviting and more functional. Anytime family and friends come by, guests will gather to eat and talk in the kitchen, in the main living area, and on the patio (if you have one).
Update these spaces quickly and inexpensively with quick cosmetic fixes like area rugs, candles, plants, paint, and artwork. If you need extra guest seating and eating space, invest in some folding chairs and tray tables that can be easily stored and reused.
When it comes right down to it, the key to success after rehab is identifying the triggers that make you want to relapse and eliminating them from your life. While modifying your home is not a guarantee that you will be able to avoid triggers everywhere, creating a place where you feel relaxed and comfortable is a great first step to escaping the urge to fall back into a lifestyle of substance use and abuse. Every bit of time and money you spend transforming your home into a place that inspires your journey to and through sobriety will be well worth it.
- PsychCentral – 5 Tips for Managing Triggers during Addiction Recovery
- National Institutes Of Health – Impact of Physical Exercise on Substance Use Disorders: A Meta-Analysis
- Kristin McGee – Tips for Meditation and How it Impacts Addiction
- Well And Good – How to throw a high-vibe, booze-free holiday party