Make a Change: 8 tips to plan the journey ahead
Are you on a journey to stop using drugs or alcohol? We can help you draw a roadmap to change.
At this time of year, lots of people are making resolutions to change, but then find themselves slipping back into the patterns they want to leave behind. It’s easy to grow frustrated with yourself and give up, but lapse and relapse are part of every path to growth and change.
When it comes to cutting down on drugs and/or alcohol, it’s incredibly common to start out with the best of intentions but find yourself back in the same place. That doesn’t mean you have to abandon the journey. Every person’s experience of recovery is different, but well-planned strategies can be helpful to navigate the road ahead.
When we start on a road trip, the first thing we do is look at a map and plan the journey ahead. Recovery is the same. Here are some tips to help you plan for the road ahead.
1. Define your goal
Think about where you want your journey to lead. Is it about how you travel on your journey or is it about your destination? Not everybody who decides to change their relationship with substance use needs or wants to stop altogether, and that’s ok. Think about how you want your life to look in the future and what you need to do to get there.
Check out our guide to setting achievable goals.
2. Plan to protect your physical health through withdrawal
If you’ve been drinking or using on a regular basis it’s a good idea to seek support. Your GP or an AOD specialist can help you plan how to safely cut down. Significantly reducing or suddenly stopping drinking can carry considerable health risks.
Find out more: What is withdrawal?
Most people will try to reduce or stop on their own. If this does not work it can leave you frustrated, unmotivated and possibly lead to deeper relapses. Medical professionals may be able to help you with strategies or treatments that help ease the transition and make the journey a little easier so you can achieve the change you want.
Read more about getting through withdrawal.
3. Plan to support your mental health through withdrawal
Withdrawal is often a mental and emotional process, not just a physical one. It’s important to think about the mental health impacts of change and how you are going to manage them.
If you’ve experienced mental health issues, current or past, you could be more vulnerable to negative outcomes brought on by the stress of change and withdrawal. It’s a good idea to seek the right support to help you handle this turbulent emotional journey.
If you don’t already have a relationship with a therapist or counsellor, we can help you find one. Chat to one of our AOD counsellors to find out what resources are available in your state.
It can be intimidating to see a counsellor for the first time, so check out our tips to manage your nerves. You can also practice some relaxation techniques. Being mindful of what you are thinking and how you are feeling will strengthen you.
4. Understand the factors that influence your physical and mental health
Because every person’s health and mental health is different, the intensity and duration of withdrawal symptoms vary depending on a range of factors:
- the substance you have been using
- how long and how often this use has been
- how much you have been – your tolerance
- is this poly-drug use (that is, using multiple types of drugs)
- co-occurring physical illness or mental health and/or
- psychosocial factors (that is, things that influence you psychologically or socially — this can include obstacles such as family problems, a history of trauma, unemployment, or supportive factors like a tightknit friendship group and steady employment).
Self-assessments can help you understand your own health and wellbeing. They can help you decide if you require the assistance of a health professional.
Learn more about the benefits of self-assessments.
5. Educate yourself on what you can expect from withdrawal
Read more about the substance you’re dealing with and what you can expect from withdrawal. Find out about treatments and strategies that work for other people — or, if you’ve been through withdrawal before, think about what has worked for you in the past. Understand the symptoms and implications of withdrawal, again to see what level of support you may need going forward with your plan.
To help you get started, check out our guide to your primary drug of concern:
6. Prepare your toolbox
Having the right tools at hand makes most jobs easier. Make sure you have a full toolbox using the list below:
- Preparing to make a change
- Getting through withdrawal
- Understanding and managing cravings
- Identify your triggers (e.g. people, places, etc)
- Learn strategies to manage cravings
- Maintaining positive changes
- Lapse and relapse
7. Set-up your support network
There are many benefits to setting up a support network:
- maintaining focus on recovery
- keeping track of your progress
- learning from others’ experiences
- accessing adequate resources
- being accountable to others and yourself
- having social connection
- counteracting isolation, shame and stigma and
- achieving a sense of worth and belonging
- having a personal cheer squad!
The right support can provide you with the knowledge, strategies, tools and skills to maintain positive change in your life.
Think about who you know and trust to support you. Maybe it’s your best friend, partner, sister, brother, mother, father. Second cousin once-removed. If there’s someone you feel comfortable confiding in, let them know you’d like their support.
Don’t just stick to the people you know, though. Look outside your existing social group for support.
You might love your friends and family dearly, but sometimes there are things they might find hard to understand or that you don’t feel comfortable sharing with them. That’s okay. Sometimes we need to seek support from people who have been in our shoes.
Consider the spaces where you can find peer support from people who get it. Having a meaningful social connection with other people navigating the recovery journey can help you stay on track.
The Counselling Online Peer Support Forum is a great place to start. Our community is there to support each other through each step of the recovery journey. There are also a number of support groups available online or throughout Australia. Have a chat to us if you’d like to find one that works for you.
8. Support yourself (against yourself)
Know that you’re taking steps to improve the path you see ahead of you, even if the journey feels rocky and difficult right now. Even taking those first steps is something you should feel good about.
Sometimes your brain works against you and tries to convince you that what you’re doing is stupid, selfish, or pointless. It’s not. Here are some blogs you can check out to help you dismiss the annoying little voice that attempts to sabotage your journey: