One Year Sober and Wondering What’s Next? Alumni Programs Have Got You Covered

One Year Sober and Wondering What’s Next? Alumni Programs Have Got You Covered

Published on July 24, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Staying sober as a first responder is a daily struggle, which is exactly why one year of sober living is such an achievement. Naturally, given the passage of time, the nature of one’s relationship with sobriety grows and changes — much like any other relationship. After passing the one-year sober mark, how can first responders in recovery continue to grow?

Alumni programs are a great start. Sharing the company of people who have been through treatment and stayed sober for at least one trip around the sun offers a rare opportunity to feel understood. Not everyone has the ability to empathize with the effects of prolonged sobriety for those recovering from addiction — just as not everyone can understand what it’s like to be a first responder.

Alumni groups provide a space of like-minded individuals, who are sensitive to the pressure of triggers within social settings and work environments. An alumni group composed solely of first responders ensures that they also understand the pressure you often experience on the job.

Alumni groups can also function as a network of healthy resources, as veterans of the sober lifestyle tend to know a lot about coping with alcohol and/or substance use. First responders dedicate their lives to helping others — now it’s time to help yourself. Making connections to fellow alumni can give you the understanding and support you need to get through difficult times.

What’s the Point of an Alumni Program?

Although these programs differ slightly from one facility to another, the main initiative of an alumni program is to ease the return to daily life following treatment and graduation from a recovery program. Offering assistance with job hunting (if you are no longer returning to your role as a first responder), education, and mental/physical health are just a few of the areas these programs aim to improve for alumni.

Additionally, alumni programs provide a bridge from treatment to living life to the fullest. These programs embrace the mindset that “life is for living,” meaning that participants are encouraged to pursue healthy activities that reward their sobriety. For some, this means social activities, many of which are organized through alumni events. Others are drawn to activities like hiking and therapy, which embolden happiness and mental health. Above all else, these programs remind participants that sober life should be enthusiastically lived, rather than merely survived.

Connect to a Community of Recovery

Finding even one person who understands the toll that your experience as a first responder and your addiction takes on a personal level can be difficult in the hustle and bustle of life outside of treatment—finding a group of people who are on the same page is nearly impossible. Surrounding yourself with individuals who share similar experiences and similar values about sobriety keeps you honest about your decisions and habits.

Being able to meet outside the pressures of drinking and/or drug use alleviates the stress and anxiety that coincides with many social gatherings. First responders who are familiar with recovery help each other continue healing through the shared understanding that sobriety is hard work. Peer support empowers us with positivity and hope, offering advice in times of crisis.

Other Ways That Alumni Programs Can Help

The benefits of alumni programs extend beyond the reach of socialization and personal empowerment. These programs are also highlighted by an emphasis on career development and physical health. By connecting alumnus with career opportunities such as job fairs and resumé workshops, these programs provide a tangible path toward financial stability for those who are committed to sobriety. Whether you decide to continue your career as a first responder or pursue something different, alumni programs can help you.

As creatures of routine, we crave stability — yet being a first responder often means being faced with uncertainty. We never know what the next shift will bring. Alumni groups cement the weak spots in our personal foundation without demanding that we surrender our independence, and help us find a balance we can live with.

Some alumni programs offer fitness-centric recreational gatherings for participants as well. Activities like hiking, yoga, and pilates can add a balance to the physical portion of life’s equation. Finding groups that encourage healthy habits helps to keep us dedicated to our health and recovery. Moreover, the actual workout experience can be bolstered through group mentality, which you may have already experienced through police or firefighter training. Feeling the push and pull of fellow participants encourages us to give our best, yielding more rewarding exercise.

You Are Not Alone

In many ways, recovering from addiction isolates us from our peers. We worry that our conditions will be viewed through the lens of cultural stigma. The fear of hurting loved ones with our behavior often leads to us pushing them away. Alumni groups help remind us that we are not entirely alone, and how many other people want to help us succeed. Every person needs a community of individuals they feel comfortable and happy to be around. First responders already know this — we are stronger when we help each other.

Embracing the joy of sober living is easier when you have an effective support system. At True Recovery, we provide our clients with continuing care that envelops the community and culture desired by newly-sober individuals. In addition to alumni curriculum and fellowship, True Recovery offers a variety of resources to pull from after treatment graduation. Relapse is far less likely when you learn to enjoy sobriety by reaping the benefits of a healthy life and a vibrant support system. If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, please call our admissions staff 24/7 at (888) 743-0490.