Treatment is the beginning. Some of us who are fortunate enough to be placed or “asked to attend” a treatment center know that there are many different pathways that are tailored for an individual’s needs. Which is an awesome thing, however what happens after treatment? We get out of the 30, 60, or 90 day programs (or maybe longer) and we ask ourselves “Now what?” There is no easy answer for this question, nor is there a wrong answer if you are looking to continue this journey of recovery.
In order to fully explain, let me tell you a little about myself. I was 23 years old when I went to a treatment center looking for help for a substance use disorder. This particular treatment center was a homeless shelter that offered a recovery program. To put the program in a nutshell, it was a social model program that was designed to be a behavior modification boot camp. The behavior that needed modifying was my life style choices. I was young and still did not understand the gist of living responsibly. My substance use disorder had caused me to stunt my own growth, intellectually and maturity. After going through this intense boot camp and learning a few basic life responsibilities it was time for me to move on. I still remember asking myself the same question, “Now what?”
Embarking on this new journey I had learned new things about myself. I really enjoyed learning and helping others to do the same. I did not want to get a 9-5 job that would land me in the same place I was once before. I critically thought out where I wanted to be in 5 years. I recalled being an elementary student and talking to my teachers about college, life goals, and my dreams. I was in a transitioning period, and although very much younger at that time, I was still plagued with the same questions. One thing that I learned and hope to pass on is that life is a continuous journey of learning. What we learn is up to us. I began to set goals for myself. Enrolling into higher education was first on the list. I often thought that I would never go to college. That was before I took the first step to change my life.
I enrolled into college and was more fearful than ever. I wondered if I could even muster the willingness to do what was required of a student. I was so intimidated of everything that involved transitioning outside of my cushy treatment world. I talked to many of my peers and as uncomfortable as it was, I asked for help. Now the real work began with class schedules, work schedules, bills, and life. How to juggle all the demands of being a student, living independently, and being in recovery was to say the least stressful. There were times that I wanted to pull my hair out over an exam, and there were times I felt like the queen of a ferocious mountain top and was standing screaming that I dominated a class that was truly an obstacle. One after another the classes accumulated. Now I am graduating with an associate degree and transferring to a local University to earn a bachelor degree, which I would have never thought possible.
What is the relevance of this? Am I telling you to go to college? Maybe, maybe not. What I am telling you is that this new journey you are on is full of new possibilities. You can go to college, become a small business owner, or go wherever your dreams take you. Treatment is only the first step to starting your new life, after that it is up to you! Higher education is a crucial step for me to continue my growth as a person and as a person in long term recovery. Perhaps your goal is to become an electrician, buy a house, or go on a vacation you have been dying to go on since you were five years old. What is the road map to get you to where YOU want to be in 5 years from now? Once you know where you are going, the steps to get you there will be crystal clear. Regrettably, I have some friends become stagnate upon completion of a treatment program. They go home and work, but they have no direction. Their hopes and dreams had dissipated and now no longer think of the possibilities of the future. When we are not continuing to progress and move forward in our life most of the time this leaves us unhappy, indignant, and frankly on an unstable path. Those friends had asked themselves the same question that I did, “Now what?” but had never answered. When we are not developing ourselves as individuals we forget the true meaning of recovery, being better than the person I was yesterday.
Treatment was the first step to start this growth and set the goal of completing a treatment program. That was the first goal I had made and reached since graduating high school. Why would life outside of treatment be any different than that? After graduating I am transferring to a University, my new goal is to obtain a bachelor degree. We are continuously evolving so it would only make sense to have road maps to give us directions on how to get there. When we have goals and directions, we are less likely to veer off the path because we consider the consequences of our actions a little more critically. What goals do you have for the next 5 years? What is your road map to get you there? Ask yourself these questions and consider the endless possibilities. This is your life and you deserve to live it!