The road to recovery for alcohol or drug addiction doesn’t end when rehab is finished. Life after rehab is when the real recovery begins and the true transformation and positive impact can take place. Yet, as you return to daily life there will be many challenges to prepare for. This includes the ultimate challenge of remaining committed to sobriety and preventing relapse.
Typically, relapse rates for drugs and alcohol are between 40% and 50%. That said, there are some expert tips and practices to follow to ensure you stay on track one you leave. A positive transition requires an understanding of the expected challenges, a healthy and well-balanced daily lifestyle, establishing support and continuing to make a commitment to your sobriety. Above all else, remaining dedicated to your spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing will ensure you have the foundation needed to remain strong and disciplined when life becomes challenging.
Making a plan before exiting rehab and continuing to work with a recovery coach will go a long way towards preparing you for your transition. Having a plan and a coach will help to establish healthy coping skills that you can rely on when facing the realities of daily life outside of rehab.
Before Leaving Rehab
The plan for transitioning into life after rehab should start before leaving. You should openly discuss with rehab counselors and health professionals what to expect, what coping skills you will need to develop and what your aftercare plan will look like.
An important part of this is understanding the realities of relapse. You’ll need to know how to avoid relapse triggers and remove old habits to ensure a successful transition. Keep in mind that your after rehab plan is a long-term commitment, meant to provide you with ongoing holistic treatment after recovery.
What to Expect After Rehab
Before exiting rehab and creating an aftercare plan, you’ll need to have an understanding of what to expect once you’ve transitioned. Here are the expectations you’ll need to have in order to ensure a healthy transition out of rehab:
- Knowing the potential challenges you may face
- Understanding relapse triggers and implementing relapse prevention skills
- Following specific tips to help in a successful long-term recovery
- Implementing a holistic aftercare plan that includes professional recovery coaching
Be Prepared for Challenges
While many people may be prepared to leave rehab and create a new positive way of life, it’s still important to know the challenges that most face during life after rehab. Being prepared for these challenges can help you to set realistic expectations. It can also help you to plan ahead of time what types of strategies or techniques you’ll need to use to overcome these inevitable challenges.
Some of the most common challenges when transitioning after rehab include:
- Feelings of isolation
- Missing your rehab support counselors and therapists
- Not being able to relate to others such as friends and family
- Feelings of guilt or shame or judgment from family members
- Lack of purpose of direction
- Facing familiar drug or alcohol use triggers
- Facing ramifications leftover from before going to rehab (financial, career, social etc.)
- Feelings of depression, anxiety or general stress
- Being overwhelmed by the amount recovery work ahead
By acknowledging that these are all normal feelings people face when transitioning after rehab, you can start to accept these challenges and prepare to deal with them.
Be Aware of Signs and Triggers of Relapse
The first 90 days after rehab is a critical period for implementing healthy relapse prevention techniques. This starts with first knowing what triggers a relapse, so you’ll be better equipped to avoid it.
Watch for these potential relapse warning signs:
- Feeling fatigued and overwhelmed due to social, family, work or school responsibilities
- Lying to yourself and others about money, achievements, behaviors and more
- Feeling aggressive or irritated by others and how they think or act
- Depression, despair and lack of direction
- Pitying yourself or getting stuck in a victim mindset
- Losing self-discipline such as not sticking to a schedule or not going to meetings
- Continuing to associate with negative social influences
Relapse-prevention is the key to staying healthy, on track and avoiding slipping back to unhealthy habits. Therefore, it’s important to develop the self-awareness needed to recognize the warning signs. By becoming self-aware, you’ll have a better idea of how to change or shift behaviors through the help of the tips below.
While self-awareness is important to be able to recognize these signs of relapse, it’s equally as important to have a strong support network around you. You support network may include a recovery coach, friends, family or people from your meetings can also recognize these signs and help prevent a relapse.
Tips to Dealing With Transitioning After Rehab
Transitioning after rehab and the entire recovery journey can be complex. There’s a lot to consider, be prepared for and recognize to ensure you’re maintaining your commitment to sobriety.
Thankfully, there are plenty of people who have lived happy and healthy lives, despite their long journey to recovery. Because of this, there are several tried and tested tips to follow so you can recover as well.
Remember that your spiritual, mental and physical wellbeing are the foundations of a successful recovery. These tips will help you to understand the importance of prioritizing these aspects of your life, so you can stay focused on a healthy recovery.
Here are the top tips for what to do after rehab:
- Create and follow a daily routine
- Develop a new positive mindset
- Set realistic expectations
- Address depression and anxiety right away
- Find new hobbies and schedule time for them
- Connect regularly with support groups and attend regular meetings
- Communicate with your family about your recovery
- Plan to return to work or school slowly
- Fill your spare time with activities and chores
- Develop new positive relationships and eliminate negative ones
- Maintain a healthy diet by planning and cooking your own meals
- Stay active with daily physical exercise
- Prioritize spiritual wellness
- Make time for reflection and connecting to your commitment
- Serve others with volunteer work or other types of help
1. Create a New Daily Routine
A healthy and positive daily routine is vital to a healthy recovery. When transitioning after rehab, take time to think about and plan a daily and weekly schedule that includes a healthy balance of priorities.
Your daily and weekly routine should schedule the following priorities:
- Healthy meals
- Family and social time
- Spiritual wellbeing like meditation or prayer
- Hobbies and classes
- Reading and journaling
- School, work or finding a job
- Attending your scheduled 12-step meetings
2. Develop a New Mindset
The most critical aspect of a successful long-term recovery is developing a new mindset. Your new mentality should be entirely health-focused. This means being clear on your recovery needs and new priorities. Priorities such as meetings, social gatherings, ongoing therapy, spiritual wellbeing and physical health should all be at the forefront of your mind.
Whenever faced with a decision, you should determine whether it aligns with your recovery priorities. If it doesn’t, then avoid those types of activities and pursue healthy ones instead.
Be cautious of getting too overconfident and letting these priorities slip as this is what often triggers a relapse. Remember to set yourself a daily intention that will guide you on the path of recovery and keep you focused on your priorities.
3. Set Realistic Expectations
Set realistic expectations about how much you can accomplish during the weeks after rehab. Often people will feel good about the progress they made during rehab, and will want to keep the momentum going. While positive, it’s important to remain realistic about how much you accomplish.
Keep in mind that once you leave rehab, you can’t fix all your problems alone, and it can’t all be done in a single week. In order to head down a steady path of recovery don’t try to take on too much at once. This is still a fragile time, and the slightest thought of failure or not living up to expectations can trigger disappointment and a potential relapse.
Remember that it will take time to fully recuperate and rebuild relationships. Invest the time to gradually repair things. Understand that full recovery and repair will not happen overnight. Your recovery is a work in progress and it’s best to take it one step at a time.
4. Address Depression and Anxiety
When transitioning after rehab it’s normal to experience feelings of depression and anxiety. This usually stems from fear of the unknown and of isolation. Leaving an environment that has plenty of positive support and social activities (like rehab) can be a stark contrast to returning to daily life.
Prepare for the inevitable times you’ll spend alone, potentially depressed and anxious. Come up with a plan about how you can best deal with these feelings. Some tactics that people use to counter feelings of depression and anxiety are exercise, journaling, music and art.
Another way to deal with anxiety is to make sure you talk about it to a therapist, family and friends. Do not keep these feelings locked up, but rather find a healthy way of letting them out and communicating them. By using these as tools to intervene in depression, you can help reduce your risk of triggering a relapse.
5. Find and Schedule Time for Hobbies
Having specific and scheduled hobbies is a great way to relieve stress and build confidence. There are countless hobbies to pursue, whether you’re looking for a creative outlet or to simply relax. Take the time to explore different types of hobbies and discover which are most beneficial for your own mental and emotional wellbeing.
Some hobbies you might try include painting or drawing, cooking, gardening, dancing, music, theater and animal care. These are also therapeutic ways to heal the soul and elevate your mood.
6. Connect Regularly with Support Groups
As part of transitioning after rehab, you’ll want to attend community support groups for people who are also on their recovery journey. This type of support is valuable for keeping a positive and healthy recovery journey alive. Other participants and leaders of these support groups can relate to what you’re going through, as they’re all on similar journeys.
Having open communication with them or simply being around others who are facing similar challenges is a great way to remove barriers and eliminate any feelings of isolation.
7. Communicate Recovery Plans with Family Members
It’s important to have open communication with your family members about your transition back into daily life. With open communication, you can bring your family into your inner support group and demonstrate your progress to them.
By communicating your journey and aftercare plan to your loved ones, you’ll also be able to hold yourself accountable and keep the promise you’ve made to stay sober.
8. Make a Plan for Returning to Work or School
Whether you’re returning to school or work, it’s important not to jump back into a full workload right away. Taking on too much responsibility right after leaving rehab can cause stress. As the stress builds, it can turn into burnout, which can potentially trigger a relapse or a spiral of negative emotions.
Discuss with your employer or school administrators the best way to ease back into your workload. Gradually build up your responsibilities over several weeks to ensure you’re limiting the amount of stress.
9. Fill Your Days with Positive Work, Chores and Activities
Ensure that you have a balanced mix of work, household chores, activities and social engagements to keep you occupied. Staying busy (but not overwhelmed) will help to keep your mind focused on productive activities and away from negative feelings. It also helps to limit the amount of free time you have. Too much free time can promote feelings of depression, anxiety and even start to induce cravings.
Create a list of go-to activities you can pursue if you’re ever faced with too much spare time. These might include walking, a phone call to a friend, cooking, exercising and many more activities that can subdue boredom or intervene in anxious feelings.
10. Develop Positive Relationships and Eliminate Negative Ones
One of the most important aspects of how to live after rehab involves your relationships. It’s critically important to completely eliminate your associations with previous friends who use or abuse drugs and alcohol. Continuing these relationships will only open you up to the risk of relapse and negative habits.
Instead, focus your attention on solidifying the positive relationships in your life and building new ones with others from your support networks and community.
11. Maintain a Healthy Diet
Maintaining a healthy and well-balanced diet is a staple of managing overall health levels. Proper nutrition improves your focus, your immune system and your sense of wellbeing. Being properly nourished will prevent you from getting sick and feeling fatigued or overwhelmed. These negative emotions can lead you to slip back into toxic behaviors.
Instead, proper nutrition will help you to feel energized, happy, and healthy, which are positive states for ensuring long-term recovery.
12. Exercise Daily
Like your diet, regular or moderate exercise is imperative to your overall health. Without exercise, you may begin to feel sluggish or lack energy and focus. This will make you more susceptible to relapse triggers.
With regular exercise, such as walking, hiking, running, swimming and cycling, you can increase your dopamine levels to your brain. This encourages feelings of happiness and pleasure without the use of drugs and alcohol. Exercise also helps to reduce feelings of depression by elevating your mood and building self-confidence.
13. Prioritize Spiritual Wellness
Make time each day for activities that promote spiritual wellness, such as meditation, prayer, journaling or yoga, to help keep you centered. Additionally, you can try getting involved in a local faith-based organization such as a church or other spiritual group. No matter how you choose to implement spiritual wellness in your life, be sure that is a primary focus and that you make time for it daily.
14. Make Time for Reflection
Make time to reflect intentionally on your journey. Write in a journal about how far you’ve come, the ways in which you are growing, how you’re occupying your time and the types of feelings you’re experiencing.
This reflection time should also include reminding yourself about what you’ve learned in rehab and all the reasons why you are choosing to stay sober. These periods of reflection can be used as times to intentionally reconnect to your personal commitment to recovery and health.
15. Serve Others
They say that nothing can make you feel better than your ability to serve others in need. Helping others boosts our self-esteem, builds our self-confidence and provides us with another meaning or purpose that’s bigger than ourselves. This can be a useful tool to develop over the course of your recovery.
Volunteer to help seniors, homeless people, youth or adults with development disabilities. Alternatively, donate your time to help pick up trash from city parks, tend local community gardens or walk rescue dogs. Look at the specific skill sets you have to offer and determine the best ways you can put them to use.
You may also want to look at your community and the specific needs of the various community groups. From there you can decide where best to donate your time and service.
Working with a Recovery Coach
For some patients, life can become overwhelming and even frightening when leaving rehab. This is where a recovery coach can support a patient in their transition back into normal daily life. There are several benefits to working with a recovery coach, including continued assistance with your aftercare plan.
A recovery coach can escort you home on your last day of rehab to ensure your transition is positive. They’ll also be available to answer questions, provide guidance and assist in reestablishing a daily routine. As professionals, recovery coaches can provide valuable insight on how to maintain a daily life that is positive and meaningful.
Recovery coaches can also recommend tailored therapeutic approaches and provide access to other community support networks you may not be aware of.
As you progress through life after rehab, a recovery coach will act as a continual mentor, friend and support person for ongoing struggles. Should emergencies arise, your recovery coach will be able to help to ensure you obtain appropriate medical treatment.
Recovery coaches are also an important support person for the family members who have an addicted loved one. As part of a successful and healthy aftercare plan, recovery coaches understand the key role that family members play in how to live after rehab.
As you transition into life after rehab, it’s important to have an aftercare plan in place that includes the support of a recovery coach. Recovery coaches understand the challenges that patients face when transitioning to life after rehab. They can provide tailored guidance to both you and your family members to ensure that your ongoing recovery is healthy and safe.
If you plan on working with a recovery coach as part of an aftercare plan, explore JourneyPure’s Recovery Coaching services for more information.