Addictions Recovery: A Guide to Life After Rehab

Addictions Recovery: A Guide to Life After Rehab
October 27, 2020

One of the hardest things that people can do is admit to themselves that they have a drug or alcohol addiction and decide to do something about it. 

Substance addiction, because of the physiological effects it has, can be particularly challenging to overcome. Many people choose rehabilitation programs to help them overcome these addictions, but what happens when the rehab ends?

Staying sober or clean after rehab can be difficult, but it is entirely possible. Holistic rehab programs give people not only an opportunity to detox and remove themselves from a substance, but also gives them the tools for a lifetime of sobriety. 

Life after rehab can be difficult, but it is possible to be sober for a long time after a successful journey through rehab. There are a variety of factors that can influence a person’s success after they finish rehab.

Keep reading for a guide to some of these factors, as well as some effective methods for coping with them, from the perspective of alcohol or substance abuse.

What is Life Like After Rehab?

A comprehensive rehab program seeks to treat the whole individual with an alcohol or drug addiction because most substance addictions affect every aspect of an individual’s life. Since every rehab program must come to an end, though, a key component of a successful program is its ability to give people the tools to continue being successful after rehab.

Life after rehab involves the daily living out of a detailed plan that has been established with the assistance of a qualified substance abuse counselor. Without a detailed plan, it is very likely that the person will fall back into old habits. This plan will vary with each individual, but it generally has the following components:

  • Joining some ongoing support group to help keep on track and get through difficult times
  • Establishing solid goals, along with the steps to achieve them
  • Repairing relationships with friends and family that were damaged due to the underlying addiction
  • Meaningful activities and hobbies that don’t involve drugs or alcohol
  • Learning how to identify and overcome personal impulses so they don’t lead to relapse

Each of these steps will be described in greater detail below, but the important thing is that each person’s life after rehab will likely be a lifelong journey. Like any other thing in life that’s worth doing, it will involve struggles but also great triumphs, especially if the person has made a commitment to overcoming their addiction.

A Brief Overview of a Typical Rehab Program

In order to talk about life after rehab, it is necessary to discuss what life is like in a typical rehab facility, since it is intended to help prepare a person for life afterward. There are two broad types of rehab programs: inpatient and outpatient. 

Inpatient programs involve a person staying at a resort-type rehab facility for several weeks. On the other hand, an outpatient program involves a person living at home but attending various workshops and classes during the day. Each type has its advantages and disadvantages, some of which are listed in the table below.

Inpatient Outpatient
Advantages Disadvantages Advantages Disadvantages
Can completely remove self from triggers Higher cost Lower costs Still living at home so may be subject to trigger situations
Dedicated staff Can be difficult for people with dependents Able to keep many commitments, i.e., childcare, work Less intensive program may not be suitable for people with strong addictions
Constant exposure to others on the same journey Limited (or no) freedom Flexible scheduling May still have access to drugs or alcohol
Removal from distractions Difficult to take leave from a job May include family sessions to help loved ones as well Staff is not as dedicated
High level of structure Insurance may not cover inpatient treatment Insurance is more likely to cover inpatient treatment. Less ability to build a support network of other recovering addicts

Each person’s situation and needs will be different, so while one person might benefit more from a less intensive outpatient program, another may find that they require an inpatient program to help recover. The important thing is that a person finds a compassionate program that aligns with their values as much as possible.

Values and Structures

Many different philosophies might guide a rehab program, and a person can find one that aligns with their values. There might be a program based on religious teachings or one that emphasizes personal responsibility, or one that tries to take a holistic approach to treat the entire individual, body, mind, and spirit. 

Their financial status and physical locations might limit a person to only a handful of rehab facilities, so it may not always be feasible to choose one that perfectly aligns with their perceived values and sense of self. However, if a person is earnest about getting better, finding a facility to which they can relate will likely help them recover.

Typical Experiences

Coming up with a typical experience when there are a plethora of rehab programs is difficult and likely counterproductive. Still, there are several features most programs share because they are successful. Programs usually start with an intervention and detox period that can vary in a time frame based on the substance involved.

Some of these detox periods may be conducted as medical procedures with medical support staff due to the seriousness of the addiction. Still, often detox periods will be held in a social setting with others, emphasizing peer support. This may be more appropriate with an alcohol addiction or a less-severe drug addiction.

There are several steps in the rehabilitation process for a recovering addict. These steps can vary slightly from the treatment center to the treatment center, but they generally involve the following:

  1. Seeking help – the individual looking to recover has to actively seek help to change.
  2. Intake – this step involves an individual and a trained professional at a rehab center coming up with a treatment plan.
  3. Detoxification – the detox process, especially from more chemically-addicting substances like drugs, can be long and arduous. Medications may be used if necessary.
  4. Therapy – the individual goes through a period of group and individual counseling and therapy sessions to try and heal and develop long term recovery strategies.
  5. Aftercare – after the rehab process, the individual will often need continuing care or therapy. Aftercare involves coming up with a plan and sticking to it.

The rest of this article will focus on step 5, the aftercare. Rehab only lasts a short amount of time, and overcoming serious alcohol or drug addiction can often be a life-long struggle. Life after rehab can be difficult, but it also can be gratifying, as a person can overcome their addiction and re-build healthy family relationships and improve themselves.

The Post-Rehab Planning Process

Before a person even leaves rehab, one of their most critical tasks is to come up with a plan, with the assistance of the professionals helping them to provide for continued care after rehab. Another term for this is aftercare, and it is essential to long-term sobriety.

Prior to Leaving Rehab

Especially if you are in an inpatient program, going back to life on the outside can be challenging, particularly if you come from an unstable environment. Therefore, before leaving an inpatient program, it is necessary to have a few things figured out to ensure post-rehab success. These items can include:

  • Making living arrangements
  • Finding support groups in your area
  • Identifying potential triggers and planning to avoid them
  • Incorporating a healthy daily routine
  • Establish possible hobbies
  • Reach out to sober family and friends for support
  • Arrange for work (if not working)

However, it is important to be sure you do not take on too many activities post-rehab, at least initially. You will be understandably excited and motivated to start your new life, but feeling overwhelmed quickly can lead to feelings of stress, which all too often can, in turn, lead to relapses. A good rehab facility should be able to assist with getting things in place before departure.

Celebrating Milestones

Anyone who knows anything about AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or similar support groups knows one of the first things people do when they get up to introduce themselves is to say how long they have been sober. Celebrating milestones is an integral part of a recovering addict’s journey because achieving long-term sobriety is challenging. 

It is essential to take a moment for a person going through the recovery process to congratulate themselves on their success and to make it a big occasion. Whether it has been a month, six months, a year, or ten years, taking time out from the chaos of everyday life is crucial to long term success.

Of course, sobriety celebrations can often take a destructive turn if the person sees it as an opportunity to “treat themselves” because they have made it so long. Like a dieter who rewards himself or herself with a slice of cake, rewarding yourself with a drink can be counterproductive and hazardous to a recovering alcoholic. 

However, every person is different, so it is important to talk over any celebration plans with a long-term counselor, trusted family member, or whatever other support channels a person may have (more on that later). They may be able to help a recovering person take a step back, consider party plans from a different perspective, and help identify potential pitfalls.


Options for Continued Support

After finishing up a rehab program, a person in aftercare will find they have many different options for continued care. Some of the most common include family therapy, continuing individual counseling, and local support group meetings. One of these may be enough for some, while others may find a multi-pronged approach works best. 

Family Therapy

Often with a drug or alcohol addiction, an individual’s relationships can be significantly damaged. The individual’s behavior can hurt close family; friends can be estranged, parents can be pushed away, and the list goes on. 

While in rehab, a person may focus on recognizing and accepting how their behavior affected their family, but post-care is the time to fix these relationships. Therefore, some people may find family therapy to be a helpful exercise.

Family therapy is done with a licensed therapist, and can be just the recovering individual and one family member, or could be done in a group of several family members. A family therapist’s goal is not to identify problems within the people involved, but to find the issues between the people involved. It is only then that those issues can be fixed.

It is often the behavior between the recovering addict and the rest of their family that can perpetuate substance abuse cycles. For instance, teens who have substance abuse problems may be in what’s called a fugitive/detective cycle with their parents, where the teen’s secretive behavior may, in turn, cause the parents to act more like detectives, and vice versa.

Family therapy can be beneficial in rebuilding the relationships that are significantly damaged by drug or alcohol abuse. The specifics of each program can vary. Often, they include such elements as:

  • Getting other family members invested in the success of the recovering person.
  • Helping family members realize what their behaviors mean.
  • Helping family members change harmful behaviors.
  • Helping families change their familial dynamics to promote growth and acceptance.

Individual Counseling

Ongoing individual counseling can be crucial to a recovering person’s ongoing success and long-term sobriety as well. Generally, this involves periodic counseling sessions with a licensed provider, whether that is a psychologist, psychiatrist, or social worker. These sessions are intended to provide the person with an understanding of the root causes of their addiction.

Individual counseling can have several areas of emphasis. Generally, they involve helping a person understand how their addiction has negatively affected other aspects of their lives, such as employment, trouble with the law, or issues with family members. 

Individual counseling often takes the form of short-term goals so the person can keep the plan manageable. These can extend to longer-term goals as the treatment program progresses. Since every day can be a struggle for a person recovering from an alcohol or drug addiction, it’s important not to make the individual treatment plan overwhelming. 

Local Support Groups

A lot of valuable social support can be found by joining a local support group. Family therapy and individual counseling are both important, but with local support groups, a person can get the help of people who have had similar experiences and have overcome them. 

Having the support of family members is critical, but they often fall short (not intentionally, of course) because they have not tackled such a huge challenge as sobriety before. However, people at support groups have done just that so that they can offer valuable insights to a recovering person. 

Group therapy can also help a person who has been struggling for years feel a sense of renewed motivation as they help newcomers as well, so they are beneficial to everyone involved as long as attendees are committed. They provide a sense of accountability as it will be much more difficult to “fall off the wagon” if you have to tell a group of other people about it.

Some rehab centers, like Steps Recovery Centers in Utah, offer free life-time group treatment for alumni of their programs. Such a benefit can be very beneficial to a recovering person, as it provides a free way for them to reconnect with their rehab center and link up with individuals who are going through the program. 

There are plenty of local support groups to choose from and national groups that hold meetings all over the US. Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the most famous, but some other examples include:

  • Women for Sobriety
  • Secular Organizations for Sobriety
  • LifeRing Secular Recovery
  • Moderation Management
  • SMART Recovery

There are even online support groups for those who cannot or do not want to go to a local support group; at the same time, it is debatable whether these groups can provide the same level of support and accountability as in-person groups. They are at least a way to connect with and learn from people who’ve had similar experiences.

Final Thoughts

A person just coming out of rehab can feel like they have a steep hill to climb for long-term sobriety, but they do not have to do it alone. There are several options for continued care and support, and there are plenty of other people with a vested interest in their recovery. Family members, therapists, and support groups all want to see the person succeed.

Life after rehab is a struggle, but celebrating sobriety milestones is another way to stay sober for the long term. It is a good way to get family and friends involved in your success as well. Hopefully, this article gave you some important things to think about, and some hope that you’re not going to be alone in your journey.

Steps Recovery Center is Here

Addiction recovery is attainable with a caring and supportive rehab center such as Steps Recovery Center. Not only do we help you through detox and recovery, but we also help you beyond. Reach out to us to learn more about our programs and what we can do to help you reclaim your life. We have centers in Salt Lake and Utah counties in Utah. 

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