“Staying clean” also known as not drinking or using, is easier while being cared for in a Residential Treatment Center. Although residential treatment teaches individuals the tools they need to succeed, it is said that the ‘real work begins’ once a client leaves rehab.
Having family members who are successful in their recovery, and others who were unfortunately lost to the disease of addiction, I believe education on maintaining sobriety is essential. Additionally, a recent study showed 12.7% of American adults have an alcohol use disorder, colloquially known as alcoholism. Although addiction, or having a loved one with addiction, can feel lonely, we are certainly not alone.
Fortunately Arbor Day, a day for ecological awareness and tree planting, offers an opportunity to use nature, specifically trees, as a source of four ways to sustain growth in recovery. When staying sober is difficult, think of these four elements of a tree: trunk, branches, fruit, and seasons.1. Trunk - Remembering Your Why
What is your why for staying sober? Why did you decide to get sober? Why do you want to stay sober? How will staying sober benefit your life? Who are you able to be when you are sober? How will relapsing affect your life? Taking time to answer these questions will bring us back to our roots, our foundational motivation to continue growing in a healthy lifestyle.2. Branches - Choosing Community
Branches are the daily choices that make your tree grow, the different ways to nurture yourself.
Surrounding yourself with people who understand and respect your sobriety goals, and drawing boundaries with people who do not, is important to foster growth. There are many communities and support groups to join where you can find people to support you. Options include SMART Recovery, 12 Step Programs, Celebrate Recovery, Faces and Voices of Recovery, Refuge Recovery, JACS (Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons and Significant Others), and more. Attending support group meetings and investing in relationships from these groups will help sustain self-growth. Now, nearly all meetings are available virtually on Zoom. The opposite is true as well, social isolation is a step in the opposite direction of falling into old habits.
On an individual level, there are many ways to sustain growth, by re-centering and bringing fulfillment without drugs or alcohol. Options include meaningful daily readings, hobbies such as painting, cooking, sports and exercise, fixing or building things, journaling, meditation, calling a trusted friend or loved one, going for a walk, mentoring someone, volunteering, and more.
It is important to try a variety of techniques to sustain growth in order to find what works for you. As a Community Liaison for Soberman’s Estate, I am able to attend our Commencement Stone Ceremonies, which mark the end of a client’s stay and beginning of the next phase in their recovery journey. I hear of the multiple types of clinical, medical, holistic, and spiritual therapeutic modalities they’ve tried onsite, and enjoy hearing which tools work for them and what they plan to continue practicing, such as art therapy, equine therapy, and talking to a therapist. I’ve learned honoring the body with proper sleep hygiene, nutrition, exercise, and balance of social and self-time, is foundational to support all mental, emotional, and spiritual growth.3. Fruit - Celebrate Progress
This is the sweetness you and your loved ones will enjoy from your hard work, growth, and sober existence. This is the treasured time and relationship with your children, partner, family and friends, the contribution you are able to make in the workplace and in your community, and your general ability to enjoy being in the present moment. Celebrating our progress is proven to boost self-esteem, creativity, problem-solving, and help keep us on the path we desire.4. Seasons - Seek Help When Needed
Like trees, us humans go through seasons. Some seasons we are growing quickly, with unexpected colors and delicious fruit. Some seasons we are dry, cold, and feel empty. Knowing that each season is temporary, it is important to seek, acknowledge, and practice the tools that work to help you transition through the seasons, and make the most of your summer seasons.
Going through a pandemic with a politically divided nation, and experiencing more social isolation and unexpected challenges than ever before, has caused depression, anxiety, and substance abuse to rise dramatically. With the risk of relapse significantly increased, I hope this Arbor Day-inspired framework can serve as a peaceful and memorable strategy to choose Yourself every day, especially when the going gets tough.