Youth Wisdom

The 10 Most Important Factors to Plan for in Aftercare according to Bryce F.

1. Bring new things into your life. Try new things. Take some risks and do stuff that is different from how you’ve handled things in your ‘old story’.

2. Structure and plan your days. Try and structure your daily activities to try and fill your days: boredom and isolation are a very big factor in relapsing, remember you can never be too busy – after awhile it becomes routine. Try to do work or school, and plan your time – get a calendar and go back to it if you start to get bored. Think about things that pass the time when you feel bored, like music, or writing, or going to the gym, or surfing the net. Remember that feeling bored comes and goes and so try to find things to pass the time while you sit out the boredom.

3. Let go of your old story, for example, your old using friends and hangouts can be very tempting at times, especially when you have nothing to do. Remember what it was really like and how you felt when you wanted to quit. Remember too all the tricks that substances use to sneak back – things like telling you you’re not normal without them, that you need them to have fun, that it won’t get so bad this time, or that life is so bad that you might as well use.

4. If possible and safe, repair relationships with family and/or friends. Build up old and torn relationships with family and/or friends. Doing this will hopefully bring you together again as a family. Starting off it may not be so easy – for many it takes time to trust and honour you in your new story. It is the little things that count, for example telling the truth, settling down and being open about your mistakes, coming home on time, or borrowing money but paying it back. These things mean a lot to those around you. As time goes on you and those close to you can see these changes in your actions.

5. Try to set goals for yourself. If you can list as many things as you can that you want to work on, like how to stay clean, work, school, rebuilding relationships. Choose the most realistic ones that you most know you can do and make a plan for which ones to do first and what little things you’ll see that will show you things are changing. Think about pacing yourself so that you don’t feel overwhelmed and like you have to do them all at once. It’s a very big help if you can get one of your support people to help you with this – ask them for advice and talk to them about how it’s going.

6. Get together as many support people as you possibly can. By support people, I mean people who will support you in your ‘new story’. It doesn’t have to be someone whom you see all the time. Examples of support people could be parents, foster parents, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, grandparents, drug and alcohol counsellors, NA friends and sponsors, youth workers, teachers, probation officers, spiritual leaders, clean friends, neighbours, girlfriend/boyfriends. Sometimes you have to be the one to ask for help, and you might have different kinds of support from different people. One person might help you with a resume and another with a craving. If one person can’t help you then try someone else – remember that sometimes you might just have to handle things alone for a little while and talk to support people afterwards. The more people you have the less isolated you’ll be and the better a chance you’ll have of finding support when you need it. You can look for support online too – check out the links listed here.

7. When you get out of treatment you’ll run into many situations and obstacles that might trip you up when you get out into the community. It’s a good idea to prepare for this by imagining and planning for some ‘worst case scenarios’. Ask yourself what’s the worst thing (realistic though) that could happen to you – what things do you think would for sure take you back out to using substances? Ask some of your support people to come up with questions that place you in realistic situations that they thing would take you back out too. Work out one or two different ways that you could handle those situations in a ‘new story’ way – ways you could keep yourself safe and avoid a lapse if these things were to happen to you in a real life way. One day you might well come across these situations and if you’ve thought about them before hand then you might have a better idea of what to do in the moment and how to get around it.

8. Self-care. After all of the things you’ll be doing and the challenges you’ll be facing with school or work or being challenged by drugs and alcohol and relationships you’ll have a lot of stress and maybe anger building up. Things may not go the way you want them to go. In our old stories many of us did no know how to take care of ourselves without drugs and alcohol and getting ourselves into unsafe or risky situations. There are many ways to take care of ourselves – for some people 1-2 hours alone writing or taking a bath works really well to try to sort through confusing feelings. You can go to the gym or go running, or even sleep is self care – sometimes you just need to go to bed and start a new day the next morning. It may be going on a little vacation – maybe you need to go visit a family member in a different town for a couple of days and take a little time to figure out what to do with challenges. It’s also part of self-care to talk to support people – maybe taking care means making an appointment to meet with a counsellor or going to an AA/NA meeting.

9. Honesty. For many of us while using drugs lying and doing things the dishonest way was the only way to get by. It starts with lying to ourselves and telling ourselves that we don’t have a problem or that it doesn’t matter if we tell the truth or not, or being afraid to tell the truth because we don’t want to have to deal with consequences of the truth getting out there. The truth may be one of the main keys to settling into your new story, Not lying to yourself and to those around you will benefit you in the long run, even if it seems nasty in the short-term. Being able to sit down and talk about your problems truthfully helps a lot and it also means you don’t have to start feeling afraid that people might find things out or feeling alone and isolated. Sometimes it’s really hard, and you sometimes have to let people down like admitting to a relapse after a long period of clean time.

10. Lapses. What do you do if it happens? It doesn’t happen for everyone, but if it does then that’s where all the other things here come in, like honesty and support and self-care. If you don’t talk about it then you’ll struggle to deal with it. If you’re too worried about telling your parents then talk to your Drug and Alcohol counsellor or go to NA/AA. You might think “what’s the point now” or “might as well go back to it now since everyone expects me to anyway” or you might feel like you can’t have friends without drugs or alcohol or that you don’t like how you feel when you’re not using. These are things that you can talk about with someone supportive. It doesn’t have to be like that. Try to work on why you’ve lapsed, go back to your structure and routines and see if you can get more things happening in your life that you care about too much to give up to drugs and alcohol. If you used because things got too hard with feelings then be honest about that and work on the feelings, because taking them away with drugs and alcohol will not last. And remember, if you have lapsed, that a lapse doesn’t necessarily mean you lose everything you’ve done or that your ‘new story’ is gone or over – you can still pick it all up and keep going the next day, that is, if you are willing.