Returning to life in society can feel both exciting and daunting. Exciting because it’s an opportunity for a fresh start, and you can return home to family and familiar surroundings. This can be daunting because once outside the safe environment of the rehab facility, you’ll need to acquire self-reliance and resourcefulness, as well as put in place the support you need. Successful recovery depends greatly on how well someone leaving rehab navigates the early stages of their new sober or substance-free life.
Transitioning Back to Everyday Life
Completing a rehab program is no small achievement and is something to be extremely proud of. And moving on from a rehab center is a chance for new beginnings in many areas of life. At the same time, it is really when recovery begins. The two main goals required to stay on track while transitioning back to everyday life are to maintain sobriety and to avoid relapse.
After drug and alcohol rehabilitation, you may feel like you’re a changed person – possibly even a different one. And there will no doubt be some truth in this. Life outside, too, will be different as you transition to a new and different lifestyle.
But hopefully, some things will be the same – returning to your home, family, and friends – albeit with challenges as you and they navigate this time. And as these words of wisdom remind us, “wherever you go, you are there” – none of us can escape our inner world. Wherever you go, and whatever you do, you’ll still have familiar patterns of thoughts and emotions inside you that you’ll have to deal with.
Thankfully, many things help strengthen sobriety and build a life away from active addiction. Completing rehab is not a miracle fix for drug or alcohol addiction. Many in the recovery community see addiction as a chronic disease. That’s why the recovery process is always ongoing. Ultimately, recovery is a lifelong journey – but one that can be achieved, leading to a happier and healthier future.
Having a Recovery Plan
The best way to succeed at something is to have a plan of action. A good recovery plan addresses all the essential aspects of the recovery process. It includes essential strategies for learning to live without the need for drug or alcohol use. It helps you avoid slipping back into old habits or hanging out with the wrong crowd of old friends. Of necessity, it has practical steps to prevent a disastrous slide back into drug or alcohol use and relapse.
Although a recovery plan alone won’t make things easy – it will give you more clarity and a sense of direction. It’s good to bear in mind the following:
- Be very clear about your recovery goals – define the steps you will have to take to achieve them.
- Prioritize your recovery goals – don’t try to achieve everything at once. For example, you may have relationships to heal, but if you’re still emotionally fragile or have not yet fully recovered your physical health, fixing broken relationships may have to wait a while longer.
- Set up your support system straight away. Your support network – which can include support groups, family members, sober friends, and staff from the rehab facility – is essential for building solid sobriety and long-term abstinence.
Remember that addiction treatment shouldn’t stop at just a rehab program. Any time you feel you’re struggling, you can reach out to a treatment provider for further support on your journey.
Organizing Life After Rehab
In order to support long-term recovery, it’s important to begin establishing new, healthy habits as soon as you leave rehab. In practice, long-term sobriety is rooted in normal life – one day at a time.
A healthy mind in a healthy body, says the idiom. How you feel in your body has a great influence on your thoughts and emotions. If your physical health is poor and your lifestyle unhealthy, you’re more like to feel miserable, lack motivation, and have low energy levels. If you’re healthy and well, you’ll feel upbeat and enterprising. More importantly, you’ll feel more stable and resilient. In short, a healthy lifestyle is essential to manage the triggers and challenges of everyday life.
You are what you eat, another proverb says. A healthy diet is an important part of a sober lifestyle. A life of drug abuse or alcohol addiction revolves around doing harmful things to the body for the temporary payoff of a false sense of well-being. After completing rehab, it’s time for a 180-degree polarity shift and to adopt a lifestyle based on doing good things for your body.
The Importance of Routine
A healthy daily routine provides structure and should include a balance of activities. Some form of enjoyable exercise should be an important part of each day. When in the grip of active addiction, people tend to stop exercising and are often physically unable to exercise anyway. Beginning exercise again can be uncomfortable at first, but it’s worth hanging in there until the benefits start to be felt once more.
It’s also important to ‘re-program’ your brain so that you remember how to enjoy natural well-being. The mind and body can rediscover what it’s like to feel good from beneficial activities rather than the artificial high from substance use.
In short, the better your overall health, the better the chances you’ll avoid relapse, but also the better equipped you’ll be to build a new healthy future for yourself.
Social Life and Leisure Without Alcohol or Drug Abuse
It is a fact that many people who’ve gone through alcohol rehab or received treatment for drug abuse have forgotten how to socialize or enjoy themselves without substance use. In fact, many may even equate having a good time solely with getting drunk or high.
In the early stages of recovery, it can be a good idea to ensure socializing takes place in a drug or alcohol-free environment. This helps keep temptation and unwanted thoughts at bay. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never again be able to go to an establishment that serves alcohol again. It’s just a sensible measure to help avoid relapse and support your sobriety in these early stages.
Learning to do things like dance or play pool without a drink can feel daunting, although it is possible and still enjoyable. Indeed, one of the great things after a treatment program is discovering how some things are much more fun when ‘clean and sober’! A sober life opens up so many more possibilities that it’s worth finding other, maybe new, drug and alcohol-free activities to enjoy.
There are countless things to do with sober friends – going to the movies, taking a class to learn a new skill or form of exercise, having a meal out, going on a road trip, and so much more. Over time, as it becomes easier to stay sober, it’s possible to become more adventurous – go on long vacations with friends or family, learn a new skill, like a musical instrument or a foreign language.
Socializing and leisure activities are essential in life stress management too. Real-life concerns around employment, finances, and relationships still arise, and ‘downtime’ helps to deal with them.
Any good treatment program introduces people to the benefits of support groups. It is a fact that for almost all recovering addicts, social life includes getting out to support group meetings or engaging with other forms of peer support.
The recovery community is one of the most precious groups of people a person can be connected with to help them maintain sobriety. Long-term recovery is generally enormously helped by regular contact with support group members or friends who’ve also been through drug and alcohol rehab. Possibly the most well-known fellowships for those recovering from alcohol and drug abuse are the 12-step groups.
Alcoholics Anonymous is present nationwide and in a great many countries across the world. And Narcotics Anonymous is now almost as widespread, so wherever you go, you’re likely to find support groups you can reach out to.
Family members can also provide support if they feel willing and able. And in case of need, healthcare providers are always there for further assistance from qualified professionals. As well as in-person counseling, online addiction therapy has become increasingly available in recent years.
Life after rehab is rarely a return to a problem-free life. Substance abuse, be it alcohol or drugs, often has a great impact on spouses, family members, friends, in short, anyone close to the person in the grip of active addiction. When under the influence, people often say and do things that can be hurtful and not easily forgotten. Loved ones can then respond angrily, more words can be said, and the situation gets worse.
Resolving conflicts within close relationships brings a great deal of emotional healing and can give all those involved greater peace of mind. 12-step programs place great emphasis on what they describe as making amends to people a person may have treated poorly as a result of their addiction.
Romantic relationships may be among the most difficult to fix because there has often been a considerable loss of trust and possibly a sense of betrayal on the part of the sober spouse. Couples therapy under the guidance of a trained therapist can be one way forward to work towards rebuilding your relationship with a spouse or partner.
Family therapy can be a good place to start harmonizing connections within the wider family. Here, too, the presence of a qualified therapist helps create a safe, neutral space for everyone to have their say. Children and close family members, in particular, may need reassurance that things will be better now and that their loved one is genuinely recovering.
Families often need to learn more about long-term recovery and its implications. This includes knowing what it looks like in practice – and understanding that it’s a lifelong process but that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Any recovery journey, just like life, will have its challenges. To avoid getting discouraged when you encounter emotional ups and downs, periods of doubt, or fear of relapse, it can be helpful to celebrate sobriety milestones. In many support groups, people celebrate thirty days, ninety days, six months, and then a year of freedom from alcohol or drugs.
To reach these milestones safely, it’s helpful to include these tangible goals in your recovery plan. After completing rehab, a treatment provider will generally offer aftercare programs – these are invaluable in navigating the first few weeks back in the real world.
Relapse rates for substance abuse disorders can be as high as 60%, so continued support is vital. In addition to your rehab center aftercare, online addiction counseling can be a useful option, particularly if you’re busy plunging straight back into working life.
Your first thirty days are a good time to begin therapy – licensed therapists offer individual counseling, for example, which is a great investment in yourself. Your first month is also a good time to find a regular support group to attend. Both of these activities can help you look out for possible warning signs your sobriety is wavering, and you’ll have the necessary support and guidance around you to help.
As you near the three-month mark, it can be useful to start journaling to reflect on your successes so far and the triggers or urges you’ve managed to overcome. Use this as encouragement as you move forward. As you begin to feel more confident, you can turn your thoughts to the future you want to create.
By six months, many people will want to feel they have at least started working towards:
- improving their work or study situation
- healing relationships
- improving the state of their finances
- starting, or signing up to start, a new course or training for work or study, that takes them closer to their aspired goals
- taking the plunge and starting a new hobby, sport, or extracurricular activity.
After six months, the belief that long-term sobriety is not only possible but becoming reality sets in. Vigilance is still required, but you can start to allow yourself to feel – and be – a useful, productive member of society.
It’s easy to feel elation when leaving rehab – it can feel like everything is going to be okay and life is full of possibilities. Both of these things can and should be true. But after the safe environment and 24-hour care in rehab, it’s also easy to come down with a bump back in the ‘real’ outside world. You’ll need to take your responsibility for your recovery up a notch, and maintaining sobriety will depend largely on your efforts – and the support network you put in place.
Drug and Alcohol Rehab at Cornerstone
If you, or a loved one, feel ready to enter treatment for alcohol or drug misuse at Cornerstone we guarantee we’ll never give up on you if you don’t give up on us. If you’ve successfully completed rehab but are finding it hard to stay on track or feeling overwhelmed by it all, we can help remedy that too.
From day treatment to one on one therapy to counseling or our intensive outpatient program, we provide the support you need. Reach out to us today to start building your life after rehab.