Most people who complete an addiction treatment program agree it can be difficult, but ultimately worth it. Understanding what to do after rehab can form the foundation for a long-lasting recovery.
Seeking treatment for a substance use disorder for alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both is often one of the hardest decisions a person has to make.
Because of the severity and complexity of the disease of addiction, some people may need to make that choice more than once, which is why it’s key to have ideas for what to do after rehab to increase the likelihood of a successful, productive and happy life in recovery.
The most effective way to treat and recover from a substance use disorder, along with any underlying conditions like depression or anxiety that stem from or are related to addiction is to undergo professional drug and alcohol recovery treatment.
Unfortunately, far too many people will never get the help they need and deserve. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reports that only 19 percent of people who need treatment will actually attend rehab.
Sometimes a lack of access to recovery resources is a factor for why people don’t get the help they need.
More often, people who need addiction treatment simply refuse to go to rehab because they don’t think they have a problem or a variety of other reasons.
Addiction treatment provides structure, safety and support. Depending on the severity of a person’s condition, they may need to detox in a safe medical setting to ease uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms. Having access to supporting counselors and therapists can help facilitate and guide patients toward success in recovery.
In truth, making the commitment to seek treatment and focus on recovery will be one of the most rewarding decisions a person with an addiction to drugs or alcohol will ever make.
Protecting one’s recovery after completing treatment then becomes the next phase, which is why it’s important to have a plan for post-rehab life.
12 Things To Do After Completing Addiction Rehab Treatment
1. Congratulate Yourself
Of course life will not be an easy “magic carpet ride” after rehab, but you not only made a difficult choice, you managed to complete the process and are better equipped to stay healthy.
That deserves a hearty acknowledgement, so take a victory lap. Relish in the feeling of this accomplishment and be mindful of how it feels, so when challenges down the road appear, you will remember you are strong enough to overcome them.
2. Follow Your Recommended Discharge Plan
Sometimes called an “exit plan” or a “recovery plan,” a discharge plan from treatment can serve as a set of blueprints that provides guidance and directions for moving forward in your new life in recovery.
A well-designed discharge plan should include recommendations from your treatment team, scheduled follow-ups, along with support information and contact numbers.
3. Reconnect With Family
With addiction, the people we inadvertently hurt the most are those that care about us dearly, our families. Post-treatment recovery is often the perfect time to reach out to our loved ones who we may have hurt and explain ourselves.
This may include a conversation about how we hurt them and, if appropriate, apologizing for that. It is also a good time to tell them that we want their support and love as we work to heal.
4. Find a Sober, Safe and Stable Place To Live
While some people who attend rehab may be able to return home after treatment, others cannot. This is because “home” may have been a toxic or chaotic environment that’s not conducive to lasting recovery.
Well-established treatment centers often provide access to sober living facilities, but even if they don’t provide that post-treatment, most will help their outgoing patients find suitable housing in clean living communities or other available and appropriate housing programs.
5. Find a Therapist
The length of time a person spends in treatment will vary, usually between 30 to 90 days. While that might sound like a long time, it’s really just the beginning of a recovery process that needs to continue.
Arranging to see a therapist on a regular basis before fully exiting rehab is an excellent way to start life in a more independent setting.
A well-suited therapist should be familiar with the recovery process and may even be the same person a patient saw while in rehab, or one referred to them by their treatment team or another source.
6. Join a Support Group and Attend Meetings
Support groups, whether the are organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or non-religious, science-based groups like SMART Recovery can be vitally important for recovery.
First, attending support group meetings provides people in recovery with clear and present evidence that they are not alone in struggling with a disease that many people don’t understand.
Second, being involved in a support group and having the opportunity to share ongoing challenges and being heard can decrease the chances of relapse.
There is also another important key reason to attend support group meetings, which brings us to number 7…
7. Find Sober Friends
Finding a likeminded community of sober people and developing relationships with others in recovery can lead to a richer, fuller life after rehab, and one where there is a lot of available support.
Many people exiting rehab realize that if they plan to stay sober, they will not be able to return to the friends they once spent the most time with, the people they “used” with.
Making new sober friends is harder for some people than it is for others and that’s understandable because everyone is different. But attending support groups is a good first step at being open to new, healthier, sobriety-based relationships.
8. Help Others
Learning to help others is a key to learning how to “take ourselves out of the equation.” It’s easy in recovery to succumb to the many patterns of negative self-talk that make us feel bad about ourselves.
We might not even recognize that we’re doing it at first, but learning to spot the cycle early can take its power away and reduce the chances of having a relapse.
Helping others, either through volunteer organizations, setting up and breaking down support group meetings, or even listening to a sober friend who desperately needs to talk are all ways to stay “out of the way” of our own recovery.
Finally, providing others a helping hand will make you feel good, like a positive force in the world. In truth, this is what we are actually doing when take the time to be of service to others.
9. Be Mindful of Relapse Triggers
Succumbing to the pattern of negative self-talk mentioned above is one sign that relapse might not be far off. If it goes uninterrupted, people in recovery might find themselves driving by or longing for the perceived camaraderie of places and people where they used to abuse drugs or alcohol.
Other signs might be the lack of motivation to attend meetings, see a therapist, or dealing with prolonged periods of unmanaged depression, to name a few.
The takeaway is that it might not be one single thing that leads to relapse. Instead, it could be a series of thoughts, events, and poor choices that lead to a relapse.
Being able to recognize the signs early and seek support can be an incredibly powerful tool for relapse prevention.
10. Practice Self-Care and Good Mental Health Habits
Said another way, this recommendation could just as easily read “Exercise, Eat Healthy, Meditate, and Sleep.”
Taking care to protect your recovery also means being good to yourself by practicing self care. Again, this is easier said than done, but since you’ve tackled treatment, you’re already ready moving in the right direction.
Keeping a balanced diet, along with regular exercise that can be moderate to more vigorous, depending on ability, goes a long way in helping to maintain a positive outlook. A good diet and exercise also improves sleep, which is another important aspect of good mental health for recovery.
Lastly, taking just a few minutes a day or more if possible to practice mindful meditation, clearing the mind of negative thoughts, and focusing on the body, can reduce many of the symptoms of anxiety and depression.
11. Consider Outpatient Treatment
For some people exiting treatment after 30 or 90 days might feel like it’s too soon. Others may still need the built-in structure and support provided during rehab.
Outpatient treatment is generally considered a step-down from being in a full-time residential treatment facility. But it still provides one-on-one counseling sessions, support groups, and other activities that deepen a persons roots and foundation in recovery.
PHP or IOP Outpatient treatment after residential treatment is an excellent way to fill the gap between leaving treatment and living a more independent life in recovery.
12. Ask For Help When Needed
A life in recovery will certainly, without a shadow of a doubt, come with challenges that shake the foundation of everything a person has worked for. These struggles will usually come early in sobriety, but the truth is that no matter how much time in recovery a person has, trouble finds all of us.
Knowing that it’s okay to ask for help is key to long-lasting recovery. For some people, this may just be increasing the number of meetings they attend.
For others, it might mean finding an outpatient program or returning to residential rehab treatment.
The point is to not be afraid and ashamed to ask for help regardless of what stage of recovery you’re in.
Hopefully these recommendations for what to do after rehab will make the transition to a sober life a successful and rewarding path to a lifelong recovery.