woman in relapse prevention

Life After Rehab – What Now?

Completing a rehab treatment program is a major accomplishment and a huge step towards long term sobriety. That said, staying sober is often a lifelong process. It gets easier with time, usually, but just like asthma, diabetes, or high blood pressure, addiction is a disease and should be taken just as seriously as any other major health concern.

A standard 30 to 90 day rehab treatment program is very important and can help you gain the confidence to continue implementing sobriety supporting behaviors and habits into your life. And you’re not alone. Your treatment center may have an outpatient or alumni treatment program that continues to offer you support and resources for maintaining sobriety. Your friends and family should also encourage you to maintain your new, healthier lifestyle.

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Addiction Treatment Doesn’t End When You Leave Rehab

Managing your addiction after rehab can require lifestyle changes, frequent check ups with your doctor (especially in the beginning), and sometimes even tweaks to your treatment plan. And despite how defeating it can feel, it’s important to remember that relapse isn’t a mark of failure. It’s a common part of the recovery process and sometimes it’s an indicator that you need to switch gears when it comes to your treatment approach. Recovery doesn’t end when you leave rehab and relapse doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

Addiction recovery often means you have a lifelong plan in place that will eventually become a habit. For now, it functions as your guidelines to help you maintain the progress you’ve made so far and continue progressing. Addiction isn’t something that can be cured with a single medication or one-time treatment session.

Returning to your normal daily life often means returning to people and places that can trigger cravings and temptations. Because of this, it’s important to understand your triggers. Most relapses occur in the first six months after rehab treatment. Armed with this knowledge, you can plan accordingly and take the measures needed to keep yourself out of potentially harmful or tempting situations. You’ll likely develop a plan before you leave rehab, but if you didn’t, there are resources available to help you do so once you’ve returned home.

Types of Post-Rehab Care

Making a Post-Treatment Plan

Regardless of whether you’ve just finished an inpatient treatment program or are reaching the end of an outpatient program, developing a post-rehab treatment plan is important to help you maintain sobriety as you return to your normal life. You’ll most likely work with your treatment provider to do this, allowing you to define how you’ll continue your substance abuse treatment and maintain the progress you’ve already achieved. These plans often include continued treatment measures and life changes that decrease their chances of a severe relapse episode.

Maintaining Your Support Group

Friends, family, health care professionals, and even people you met at rehab, can all form your personal recovery support squad. Find sober friends that way you can avoid groups that are heavily involved in using or might otherwise encourage you to relapse. Join local or national support networks like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Even after you’ve passed those 5 and 10 year recovery milestones, the urge to use can still crop up from time to time. Surround yourself with people who will support you and find people you can support as well. Sometimes knowing you’re setting an example for someone else can encourage you to stick with your goals.

Practice a Healthy Lifestyle

Keeping yourself out of potentially triggering situations is an important part of any recovery process. Find out if your treatment center or health care provider offers any type of post-treatment support or addiction recovery support system. These systems are usually less intense than full blown addiction treatment through a rehab center, but still include things like:

  • Support groups
  • Medically assisted treatment (if you’re still suffered from some post-acute withdrawal symptoms)
  • Drug testing and feedback
  • Individual and group counseling and/or therapy
  • Recovery checkups
  • Additional services related to employment, legalities, housing, and relationships

If your program doesn’t provide these additional services, you should ask your doctor (either your physician or the doctor overseeing your addiction recovery) to refer you to someone who can provide these additional treatment options.

Additionally, focusing on your overall health can aid your substance abuse recovery efforts by keeping your body and mind both balanced and healthier. Maintaining better health and wellness standards have been proven to benefit individuals in addiction recovery.

Individual Therapy and Counseling

Having a good therapist is technically part of maintaining your support group, but there’s a difference between seeking comfort from a friend or family member and getting a reality check or alternate viewpoint on your situation from a good therapist. Therapy methods like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy help individuals uncover their underlying issues to address the root of their addiction instead of just treating the symptoms.


Check ups are important because they help you hold yourself accountable for your actions. Having regular check ups with a mental health professional is also important, especially for dual diagnosis patients, to make sure you’re making progress and proceeding smoothly with your recovery efforts. Plus, sometimes checkups are only a few times a year if you don’t need to be seen on a weekly or monthly basis for a preexisting reason.
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Additional Steps for Success

Develop and Exercise Regime

Exercise can drastically increase how you feel, distract you from cravings and urges to use, give you better ways to cope with anxiety and depression, and reduce stress. All of which can serve as triggers and lead to relapse. Combined with a healthier diet and overall healthier lifestyle and you may find that exercise becomes a big part in how you maintain sobriety.

Find Something New to Focus On

Before rehab, your life was mostly focused on getting that next high or having another drink. Now’s the time to come up with and choose some better, more productive things to spend your time and energy on. Is your current job a triggering environment for you? Maybe it’s time to find a new job.

Get to Know Yourself Again

Talking about your problems and issues can help you uncover the roots of your substance abuse. You might be unintentionally burying an internal emotional crisis that’s manifesting outwardly as cravings or another trigger. Therapy programs can help with this, but so can setting time aside for some introversion. Maybe try your hand at meditation, even.

Help Others in Need

Whether it’s helping another former addict get sober and stay that way or volunteering at an animal shelter, you’ll feel better knowing your sobriety is helping you help others in some way. That rewarding feeling, similar to the same chemically induced reward response formerly caused by abusing your substance(s) of choice, will encourage you to keep doing what you’re doing.

Be Very Aware of Triggers

Recognizing situations that could be triggering is a vital step for approaching your life after rehab. Knowing what situations, people, and places may trigger a craving for drugs or alcohol can significantly reduce your odds of relapsing. Keeping a list can even be a good idea, that way you have a cheat sheet to help you avoid them or cope in a way that negates or overcomes the trigger.

  • Stress and life challenges
  • People who used drugs and alcohol with you in the past or people you know still use actively
  • 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
  • Locations or places near to where you have used drugs or alcohol in the past

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A Few Extra Things to Keep in Mind

In the beginning, starting your new life of sobriety can often mean leaning to combat boredom, especially if your substance abuse led to you giving up hobbies or pastimes you enjoyed beforehand. All of your activities that revolved around people and situations where you used drugs or alcohol will likely be triggering, and should be avoided. Even so, there are many drug and alcohol-free activities that can keep you occupied, help you meet new people, and make sobriety seem like fun again.

Some drug-free hobbies recovering addicts can pick up include:

  • Rekindling your old hobbies
  • Go see a movie
  • Take classes or lessons to learn a new skill
  • Volunteer somewhere
  • Play sports
  • Visit local attractions
  • Attend conventions related to your interests
  • Learn to play an instrument
  • Play video games

Use the money you’re saving by not purchasing drugs and alcohol to do things you enjoy. Remind yourself that drugs and alcohol aren’t necessary to enjoy your life. That can be a life changing lesson to relearn, but it’s well worth it.

You’ve Gotten This Far, Keep Going

You made it through the first, hardest steps of your recovery. Now all you have to do is keep what you’ve fought for: Sobriety. And you’re not alone. There are thousands of others just like you and thousands of people who have successfully completed the path you’re on. If they can do it, so can you.

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