Recovery doesn’t end after treatment. Sober living is a day-to-day struggle. Life after rehab, or even the thought of what comes after, can be confusing. It’s natural to go through a whole range of emotions.
One might may be excited to live substance-free, but the end of rehab can also bring with it an immense fear of relapse and concerns about how to segue into a sober living lifestyle. What will your daily routines look like? How will I spend my free time? Will I be able to mend relationships? What will I do for fun?
All these questions and more will be on one’s mind after rehab or addiction treatment.
Adjusting to life after rehab or addiction treatment can be difficult. You may feel a little alone since you no longer have the constant support of counselors and peers from within inside your treatment program, whether you just came from rehab, a sober living facility or an IOP/PHP program. This is natural.
You may find yourself in difficult situations that are driving you to temptation. Rehab and therapy programs are designed to prepare patients for life after rehab, but what many people don’t understand that treatment takes time…lots of time. One cannot fully adapt to the sober living lifestyle after a brief stint in rehab. Continuing treatment is necessary. The longer one stays in treatment, the more skills they will develop to them deal with hard situations and maintain sobriety.
Sober Living Starts With a Post-treatment Plan
Whether you’re returning home after rehab at an inpatient facility or reaching the end of an outpatient program, it is important to develop a plan to maintain sobriety. Ideally, you will work with your treatment provider before rehab ends to define how you’ll stay on track in recovery. For many people, a plan that includes continuing care after treatment improves their chances of achieving a sober living lifestyle.
- Maintain a network of reliable support, including health care professionals, friends, and family members, as part of your recovery team.
- Practice a healthy lifestyle, including exercise and activities held in environments free from temptation.
- Avoid situations that may trigger the temptation to use drugs or drink alcohol.
Some programs offer post-treatment support, but it varies based on what type of treatment you’re currently in and what your economic situation is. Called “continuing care”, aftercare, disease management, or recovery support services, these programs are typically run by trained professionals, such as case managers and recovery coaches, and may include any combination of the following:
- Individual, group counseling or therapy
- Support groups and networks
- Recovery checkups in-person or by phone
- Drug testing and feedback
- Services related to employment, housing, legal needs, and relationships
If your program does not offer these services, ask to be referred to someone who can help.
Build your support team
Friends and family members often ask how to help someone after rehab, and these people can be a key part of your recovery team. As part of your post-treatment plan, list the people who you can rely on for healthy support and encouragement.
Build relationships after rehab with people who can help you stick to your plan for recovery. Find support or self-help groups of other people in recovery. They can also help you adjust to life after rehab. At the same time, avoid people in your life who misuse drugs or alcohol. Being around them can make you want to start using again.
Practice a healthy lifestyle
Long-term lifestyle changes that focus on overall health and wellness have proven benefits for people in recovery.
- Find an exercise option that works for you. Exercise can help you feel better, provide a distraction from cravings, and help reduce stress — which can be a trigger for relapse after rehab.
- Maintain a healthy diet to provide your body with energy and nutrients.
Consider recovery housing
Recovery housing is a drug and alcohol-free environment in a home or residential complex. It can be a good option for people who have completed treatment but need additional support while adapting to life after rehab. These short-term programs usually provide supervision and peer support. People living in recovery housing may be encouraged or required to attend a 12-step program and connect with community groups that offer employment, health care, legal support, and social services.
Recognize and manage triggers
It is important to recognize situations that trigger cravings for drugs or alcohol, because they may lead to relapse after rehab. Keep a list of triggers to help you avoid them or cope in healthy ways. Triggers may include:
- Stress and life challenges
- People who used drugs or alcohol with you in the past or who are using now
- Homes, workplaces, bars, schools, neighborhoods, and other places where you have used drugs or alcohol
- Situations or feelings that are like the ones you experienced when you used drugs or alcohol, such as certain times of day, emotions, social activities, smells, and sounds
Be ready if relapse occurs
As with many other health conditions, relapse after treatment is always possible: It can occur soon after rehab or even years into recovery. In fact, relapse might be part of the recovery process. Relapse does not mean a person, or their treatment, has failed.
Plan for what to do if you or someone you care about has a relapse. The plan should list the people to contact (such as a health care provider, sponsor, or family member) and the steps to take to get immediate help from an addiction treatment professional. Having a plan can help in quickly finding support or getting back into treatment. The sooner someone who has relapsed gets into treatment, the more likely they are to continue their recovery.