Methadone maintenance is one of the most effective treatments for heroin addiction, but entering treatment is just the first step. It takes time to reverse the neurological changes that occur due to addiction, and to unlearn the behavior patterns that became ingrained when you were actively using drugs.
Learning to live without drugs is never easy, and the longer you were addicted, the harder it is. Even if you’re successfully using methadone to manage your physical withdrawal symptoms, you’ll still struggle with psychological cravings. Like many recovering addicts, you may experience loneliness now that you’re no longer hanging out with your drug buddies. You’ll also struggle to cope with the stress of daily life, since you need to develop or re-develop healthy coping skills.
Whether you’ve already entered methadone treatment or you’re still asking yourself, “Where can I find methadone clinics in my area?” sticking with treatment will require a plan. Make sure you have plenty of social support, take good care of yourself, learn how to cope with stress and cravings, and find new hobbies that provide both a sense of purpose and a distraction.
1) Get Support
When you enter methadone maintenance or any other form of drug rehab, it’s generally a good idea to stop hanging around with the people you used to spend time with when you were still in active addiction. That’s because the people you used drugs with might not understand your decision to enter recovery and probably won’t be able to provide the support you need. It’s not because they’re malicious or bad people; they’re just not going to be able to support your decision to quit taking drugs while they’re still taking drugs themselves.
But loneliness will drive you right back to doing drugs. You’ll decide you were happier on drugs because at least then, you had friends. Get social support by joining a 12-Step or other recovery support group, attending a church, joining a class or exercise group, or reaching out to family members or old friends who are likely to be supportive of your recovery.
2) Take Up New Hobbies
Hobbies are a great way to find a sense of purpose and begin to take pleasure in your new, drug-free life. They can help you cope with stress and help distract you from cravings and urges to use drugs. They can also get you out of the house and help you meet new people who share your interests.
Perhaps there’s something that you used to enjoy, but haven’t done much of lately. Maybe you’d like to try something that you’ve always been interested in. Once you find a hobby or hobbies you enjoy, you can begin to rely on these activities to help you cope with stress.
3) Take Good Care of Yourself
When you first enter methadone maintenance, your body will still be recovering from the physical damage done by drug abuse. In order to recover physically, mentally, and emotionally, you’re going to need to take good care of yourself so that your body can heal. Eat a healthy diet, get plenty of sleep at night, and exercise regularly. Doing these things will help your body recover and help you manage your stress levels.
4) Learn to Cope With Cravings
While methadone maintenance might relieve your physical withdrawal symptoms, you’ll still have to cope with psychological drug cravings and urges to use. Luckily, other recovering addicts have navigated the minefield of cravings before you and they have developed strategies that you can use to move through cravings until they eventually disappear from your life. You could try:
- Distracting yourself with another activity
- Getting away from craving triggers
- Remaining present with the feeling until it passes
- Getting some exercise, reading a book, or indulging in another pleasurable activity
5) Manage Stress
Often, drug abuse is a misguided attempt to cope with stress and painful feelings. When you stop using drugs, however, you’ll still have to find a healthy way to deal with stress. As previously stated, taking good care of yourself, exercising, getting plenty of rest, and participating in activities you enjoy are all good ways to manage your stress. Exercise is good for stress because it releases endorphins, helping you feel better. Other ways to combat stress include:
- Playing with a pet
- Drinking a cup of herbal tea
- Listening to music
- Taking a hot bath
- Spending time outside
As you learn to manage stress successfully, you’ll find that difficult situations no longer make you automatically want to take drugs.
Methadone maintenance can be a valuable tool to help you rebuild your life after heroin addiction. Take advantage of your time in treatment to learn healthy behaviors that can help you eventually get off methadone and stay drug-free for good.