What to Expect after Drug or Alcohol Rehab
You’ve completed a drug or alcohol treatment program. This is a huge first step! Be proud of what you have accomplished. Treatment sets the stage for long-term recovery. Next comes transitioning from treatment to the world outside its doors. The real world doesn’t have the same levels of safety and accountability. Know that relapse can happen. Learn what to expect after drug or alcohol rehab. Formulate a plan, and protect yourself and your recovery. Many people find happy, healthy, and successful recoveries. You can too.
Formulating a Plan for Life After Rehab
Plan to succeed in recovery. Ideally your treatment team has been helping you find a customized aftercare path. Don’t be complacent and do take risks and effort seriously, but make sure you stay positive overall. You have found recovery. You can stay in it with a little support. Life’s stresses will never magically disappear, but you can navigate these is a healthy way. You can arm yourself with coping strategies and prepare for possible cravings. You can plan for life after rehab.
Tips and Tools for Avoiding Relapse After Addiction Treatment
Treatment helps you learn your particular triggers. Your recovery team helps you learn when to confront these head-on and when to use healthy distraction or delaying methods. You create a strategy for dealing with these triggers that may lead to relapse. Avoiding relapse may begin with taking time for yourself. Nurture your spiritual side through prayer, meditation, or spending time in nature. Don’t hesitate to call a friend or sponsor. The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine explains the relapse is not a sudden occurrence. It is a gradual process. Recognizing triggers in their early stages contributes to recovery success.
The following signs may indicate that triggers are building up:
- Keeping emotions bottled up
- Isolating from family and friends
- Failure to attend support meetings
- Failure to share at meetings
- Focusing excessively on the needs and opinions of other people
- Poor self-care, including sleeping and eating habits
- Thinking about people or places associated with use of drugs or alcohol
- Glamorizing past use of drugs or alcohol while minimizing real-life consequences
- Thinking about or planning ways to control use of drugs or alcohol
- Looking for opportunities to use
If you notice these signs, return to your aftercare plan. Use your coping skills, and reach out for support when challenges seem too tough to overcome alone.
Where to Live after Rehab
You may already know where you will live after rehab. You may not. A safe, supportive environment will support you as you transition out of treatment. You have options. Talk with your treatment team to determine the best ones.
You may want to begin recovery at a sober living home. Also known as halfway houses, sober living homes provide a stable environment.
The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs shares, “Lack of a stable, alcohol and drug free living environment can be a serious obstacle to sustained abstinence.”
Honestly assess your living environment before treatment. If it was contributing to your addiction, consider starting life after rehab at a sober living home. Some of these are sponsored by nonprofit organizations, but most are funded by residents who are expected to pay rent. Sober living is less restrictive than rehab, but there are certain standards and rules that must be followed. For example you may be expected to hold down a job or attend school. You almost certainly will be asked to adhere to a curfew and to undergo random drug tests. Sober living may be a good choice if you don’t have a sober environment at home, or if you have struggled with relapse in the past.
If you have a good home environment, you may choose to move back home after treatment. However if your home life includes stress and conflict, moving home can create risks best avoided during the early days of recovery. Be aware of possible triggers. If somebody at home is still using drugs or alcohol or if you lack a stable support system, home may not be the best place to transition out of treatment.
Continuing Care After Addiction Rehab
Most people benefit from continued treatment after rehab ends. Some may need ongoing, intensive therapy. Others may need less structured types of support. The resources you need can change over time. You may need more or less support at any point in your lifelong recovery journey.
Treatment centers often recommend a step-down approach to transitioning out of rehab. This may mean beginning with intensive outpatient treatment (IOP). IOP typically involves all-day support and daily group and/or individual therapy. It progresses to standard outpatient treatment that often meets for just a few hours once or twice a week. Aftercare may also include family therapy and assistance with housing or employment. It can include education, parenting classes and other resources that can be valuable during early recovery.
Many treatment centers base their programs in the 12 steps. Even if your care was not based on this system, you may benefit from attending meetings after treatment. 12-step groups aren’t for everybody. If this is the case for you, groups such as Rational Recovery or SMART Recovery can provide personal and social support. Your treatment center can connect you to Alcoholics Anonymous and alternative sources for continuing care.
Social Support After Addiction Treatment
Addiction changes relationships. Recovery does too. Your home and social life will be different after treatment. It can take some time to transition and to adjust to these differences. Have honest conversations with friends and family before and after moving home. Be clear about your needs and expectations. Allow your loved ones to voice their concerns and emotions. Allow them to come to terms with your recovery and your new sober lifestyle. You aren’t the only one who needs to adjust. Be patient, as reestablishing relationships requires time, commitment, and determination.
You may find that some friends or family members are angry or carrying grudges. They may have negative feelings or comments regarding your recovery. Damaged or damaging relationships can challenge your recovery. You may have to separate yourself from old friends or family members. An aftercare plan will help you learn to identify toxic relationships. If trust is broken, if a friend or family member is still using, or if things just don’t feel right, you may need to seek a new, sober support system.
Transitioning Back to Work After Addiction Treatment
Work can provide a sense of purpose and a supportive community. It can also create stress and triggers. Always put your recovery first. If possible, give yourself a week or two to settle back into regular life before returning to work or to the job search.
If you are returning to an old job, be prepared to respond to questions about your absence. Decide what and how much you want to share. You recovery story is yours to tell or yours to keep. Never be ashamed of recovery, but also be comfortable in your work and personal life balance. Even if you decide not to share with coworkers, do consider being open and honest with your employer. This can help you get time off for meetings or counseling sessions and to ask for any other reasonable accommodations that will support your sobriety.
Transitioning Back into Life after Rehab
Expect a period of adjustment after rehab. Make recovery your first priority no matter what. Life will smooth out, but in the meantime, make plans and get support. You have come so far. Focus on your long-term goals. Know that you are already on your way to achieving them.
In this episode of Recovery Unscripted, Alex Dorsey and Ashley Buchanan help us take a look at the role outpatient treatment plays in the overall recovery journey. They share how they approach helping people safely and effectively step down from residential treatment to outpatient to aftercare to a sustainable life in recovery.
 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/. “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. 3 Sep 2015. Web. 18 Apr 2017.
 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3057870/. “What Did We Learn from Our Study on Sober Living Houses and Where Do We Go from Here?” Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. Dec 2010. Web. 18 Apr 2017.
Provided by Lighthouse Treatment Center, a Southern California Drug and Alcohol Addiction Treatment Center.