What Happens After Rehab?
You’ve finished treatment, and that is a huge accomplishment. Rehab is a difficult process, and it can be physically, mentally, and spiritually intense. But what happens now?
As you return home after rehab, take time to settle back into your daily routine and take it one day at a time. You may be looking for a place to live, seeking a new group of friends, or returning to a job. It can seem overwhelming at first.
As you prepare for life after rehab, it is also crucial that you stay engaged in care. You can attend 12-step meetings, see a therapist, or even help someone else with their recovery.
This page offers tips on how to navigate some of the common issues people face after they leave drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
One of the biggest questions you may have is where to live after rehab. Some people worry about going back into an environment where they used.
After completing inpatient treatment, you may be referred to a sober living home (halfway house). Sober living homes provide a safe and drug-free environment where you continue treatment on an outpatient basis, build life skills, and prepare to transition out of treatment completely. You live with other people who are going through the same journey to recovery as you.
As you look for a sober living home, here are some questions you can ask:
- Is your sober living home accredited? If so, by whom?
- What are your policies on drug use? How can I ensure that I won’t be around triggers?
- How do people who are living at the home interact with each other? What are the relationships like?
- Do you drug test?
- What type of support do you offer for a job/education/housing search?
You will also want to consider where you want to live. Some people decide to relocate to a sober living home in a new place so that they can get a fresh start.
Sober LivingPeople typically stay at sober living homes for 6 months, but this can be longer or shorter depending on your situation. Take enough time at a sober living home to feel stable enough to make your next move. Some sober living homes will allow you to live without rent while you are actively looking for work, school, or volunteer opportunities.
If you don’t want to go to a sober living home, evaluate your current living situation and decide if it’s the healthiest thing for you.
- Are there triggers?
- Are you around people who are still using?
- Will you be exposed to unhealthy relationships and behaviors?
If it’s not the best place for you, try to find a new place to live, a sober roommate, or live with a family member that does not use drugs. Some people relocate to the area where they went to treatment to start over.
The most important thing in early recovery is to stay away from triggers to use and prevent relapse.
When you are finished with drug treatment, you may realize that there are people in your life that are unhealthy and enable or encourage your drug use. Many people find that they need to make new friends, since many of their old friends still use.
In treatment, you will likely meet people you connect with. Some people even choose their sober living home based on where their new friends are going. This can be a great way to create a support system.
The risk of relapse is high after rehab. Stick with people who will stay clean. If your friend relapses, this will make it more likely that you will, too.
Finding sober friends and drug-free activities can help you feel connected to other people and help avoid relapse. Below is a list of activities that you can try in order to take your mind off of using:
- Volunteering: Many people find that giving back and helping people can take them out of their own heads. Volunteering can help you see the importance you can make in the world and encourage you to be the best version of yourself.
- Sports teams: Staying active and joining a sports team can help keep your mind and body healthy. Playing sports can also help you meet new people and improve your mood.
- 12-step meetings: These meetings address the spiritual aspect of rehabilitation that is helpful in stopping drug use. When you go to a meeting, you will be welcomed by people who not only know what you’ve been through, but have gone through it too and accept you. Twelve-step meetings can make a huge difference in your recovery.
- Non-12-step meetings: Non-12-step programs can provide similar benefits as traditional 12-step meetings. However, the focus is on self-empowerment, and these programs tend to take a more scientific approach. You can check out both models of groups to see which one you like best.
- Take a class: Learning a new skill or hobby can be incredibly healing. Whether it’s a computer skill, new language, yoga, art, meditation, or something else, a class can give you fresh, new goals to work towards and take your mind off of drugs or alcohol.
If you are looking for a job as you transition out of treatment, here are some tips:
- Ask members of 12-step meetings if they know anywhere that’s hiring.
- Volunteer or intern at a company to get experience and maybe get a position down the road.
- Network with friends, family, or fellow sober people.
- Go to a local community center or nonprofit to get help with your resume and job search.
If you’re returning to a job or re-entering the workforce, try to maintain a good work-life balance, get enough sleep, and eat well. Some people can slip into workaholism and use their job as excuse to avoid dealing with issues in recovery such as relationships.
Don’t overwhelm yourself. It’s okay to take things easy, and you may want to avoid taking on a high-stress job. In fact, by avoiding a stressful work environment with deadlines, impatient bosses, or demanding work hours, you will likely prevent triggers to use.
After rehab, you may decide that you are ready to go back to school. This is a big decision, especially if you put school on hold while you were using. For many people, school can be stressful and demanding.
Given the risk for triggers, you can prepare for a transition back into the academic setting by:
- Getting involved in sober social activities.
- Finding out if your school offers sober housing.
- Joining Facebook groups for people in recovery.
- Practicing good self-care.
- Managing stress without drugs or alcohol.
- Getting enough rest.
- Eating well.
- Socializing without drugs or alcohol.
- Exercising regularly.
Working with your sponsor or sober friends can help prevent relapse if you go back to school. When you are surrounded by people who aren’t in the same space as you, it can be hard to socialize or find a community.
Working with a sponsor can be useful because they can help give you suggestions on how to stay clean. Although it can be difficult, listening to people who have been sober for a longer time than you is a helpful way to avoid using.
Maintaining Your Recovery
As you transition into life after rehab, stay involved with some sort of care. In recovery you will learn how to change behaviors, and it can be helpful to have someone to talk to as you change your lifestyle.
Aftercare activities can include:
- 12-step meetings.
- Non-12-step meetings.
- Individual therapy sessions.
- Group therapy sessions.
- Sober living home.
- Therapy via text.
- Become active in your treatment center’s alumni program.
- Become a sponsor.
- Volunteer in the community.
One of the keys to long-term sobriety is finding what works for you. Everyone will prefer a different method. For example, according to the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), a texting aftercare program proved successful in helping young adults and teens avoid relapse after they left treatment. 1
There are many opportunities and ways to stay involved in the recovery community. It can be incredibly rewarding to volunteer with your treatment center’s alumni program. Also, if you worked the steps and had a positive experience with a sponsor, you could be a sponsor and guide someone else through the steps.
Getting your family involved in the recovery process can also be beneficial. Groups such as Al-Anon help your family to stop enabling behaviors and adjust to your sobriety.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2015). Text Messaging Aftercare Intervention Cuts Youths’ Risk for Relapse.