Life After Rehab: What to Expect and How to Cope
Life after rehab is truly a step into the unknown. For many, going home after rehab can feel truly terrifying.
After all, you’re leaving the security of rehab and stepping back into your old environment, likely filled with triggers and stressors. Being nervous about going home after rehab is incredibly normal and is something that so many people face.
Others leaving rehab, however, may have misplaced confidence that putting down the substances was the core of recovery and all that needed to be worked on. Getting back into the real world and facing the emotional challenges that arise, will quickly show them that ongoing inner work needed in order to maintain their newfound sobriety.
Going to rehab is a huge step and a massive accomplishment. It’s also just the beginning of the recovery journey. If you struggle with addiction, you’ll soon find that the real work starts in the real world.
What is life after rehab like?
When you're in rehab, you're able to focus 100% of your energy and your efforts on recovery. Your days are filled with one-on-one therapy, group sessions, and activities that enhance your well-being. You're ideally in a safe and secure environment where you can't get access to drugs or alcohol, so even when cravings do strike, you're forced to bear through it.
During rehab, you're also constantly looking your recovery square in the face. Understanding the root of your addiction, learning how to manage cravings and urges, and understanding the importance of building new and healthy coping skills are typically at the forefront of your mind due to the intensive nature of the therapy.
When you go home after rehab, there's a massive shift that takes place. You're no longer forced to focus a full 100% of your energy on your recovery. Now, you may be working on looking for a job or going back to school. You may have a family that you want to focus on taking care of. You're back in an environment that once contributed to your addiction.
Life after rehab is jarring, as rehab can sometimes feel like a bubble. Back in the real world, you now have to incorporate everything that you learned about yourself and about recovery into your real life. You may be overwhelmed by the stress of figuring out work or school, or navigating your old relationships. You may find it deeply challenging to go back to your old environment that once fed your addiction.
Going back home after rehab is when you will feel truly tested. Many people unknowingly assume that going into rehab will be the end of their struggles, but it is truly just the first step toward recovery.
Why is ongoing treatment important in life after rehab?
Ongoing treatment after rehab is key when it comes to preventing relapse. Relapse is common in addiction recovery, and many professionals have stated that relapse is a part of the recovery process. Of course, you want to do your best to remain sober as you continue to grow and heal.
In rehab, you were able to detox your body of illicit substances. You were also able to learn skills and tools that you’ll need in recovery. However, implementing those skills and tools is very different from simply learning them. You may find yourself coming up against triggers you didn’t even know you had. You may experience emotions that you haven’t felt in a long time, and you may not know what to do with them.
There are so many nuanced bumps and challenges you’ll find yourself facing in early recovery, which is why it’s so important to continue to get help.
What does treatment in life after rehab look like?
Ongoing treatment can look like going to therapy or counselling or attending meetings, either virtually or in person. As previously mentioned, going to rehab and ending drug and alcohol use is just the first step of recovery. The deeper work begins when you go beneath the surface to uncover the underlying reasons for your use. Exploring the trauma that happened in your past, or navigating any potential mental health struggles such as depression or anxiety, will require you to have support on your side.
In treatment after rehab, you’ll learn how to:
- acknowledge and understand your emotions
- process your emotions in a healthy way
- observe and shift the thought patterns that have been unhelpful for you
- manage and treat any co-occurring disorders you may have
- develop new, helpful coping skills
- communicate with others
- build healthy lifestyle habits
- uncover what makes you feel truly happy and fulfilled
And so much more!
Continuing to engage in some form of treatment after rehab helps you continue to focus on your recovery efforts.
Recovery doesn’t just happen on its own – it requires conscious, daily effort on your part. Continuing to engage in treatment can help keep you on track and serve as a reminder of what you’ve been through and what you’re working towards.
Additionally, there are many levels to recovery, because there are many levels to you. The more you face challenges and conquer them, the more you’ll learn about yourself. Ongoing treatment after rehab will help you understand yourself on a deeper level as you discover new parts of yourself.
5 tips for remaining sober in the early days after rehab
The recovery process will look different for everyone, but there are some foundational things you can do to help yourself remain sober in the early days of life after rehab.
1. Give yourself a routine
In early recovery, it’s important to set a strong foundation and give yourself some structure. You likely didn’t have a sense of structure and routine when you were in active addiction. However, having a routine will help keep you on track and help you stay focused.
Additionally, giving yourself structure can help you build a solid foundation for your recovery. In the early days, be sure to prioritise building foundational habits such as getting enough sleep, incorporating nutritious food into your meals, and moving your body throughout the day.
Also, it isn’t always stress and emotional chaos that leads to relapse. Sometimes, relapse just stems from boredom. Because boredom can very easily lead to relapse, having some sort of plan for your days can help prevent you from experiencing boredom that can end up being harmful.
2. Implement what you’ve learned
In early recovery, it’s important to actually use the coping skills you learned whilst in rehab. If you feel they aren’t helpful for you now that you’re out in the real world, that’s okay. You can try different strategies to figure out what coping skills truly help you to decompress, feel better, distract yourself from urges, or process your feelings in a healthy way. The sooner you figure out healthy ways of feeling better for yourself, the stronger foundation you’ll set for yourself and the better off you’ll be.
3. Stay actively engaged in recovery
In life after rehab, you’ll need to stay actively engaged in your recovery. This is incredibly important if you want to experience a long-lasting, healthy recovery from addiction. As previously mentioned, recovery doesn’t just happen on its own, and takes conscious effort. Especially in the early days of recovery, it’s important to keep your momentum going and remain actively engaged in counselling, groups, or both. By doing so, you’ll learn how to integrate everything you’ve learned and continue to learn with the real-life challenges and stressors you come up against.
4. Ease yourself back into your life
If you have the option, try to refrain from immediately returning back to work or school. Doing so can cause you to feel added stress and pressure to an already stressful time. Talk to your loved ones and make arrangements if you can, which allow you to focus as much of your energy on gaining your footing and creating a sturdy foundation for your recovery.
Additionally, try not to worry about making any massive life changes during this time, such as starting or ending a romantic relationship, or moving. Again, this can cause added stress to you and can pull your focus away from your recovery.
5. Give yourself grace and celebrate yourself
Early recovery is a challenging time for everyone. You’re essentially having to learn an entirely new way of living. As you learn how to face your stressors and struggles, be sure to give yourself grace. This is a marathon, not a sprint, as recovery doesn’t happen overnight. There are likely many layers of healing ahead of you. What you’re doing by choosing recovery for yourself and for your loved ones shows tremendous courage and fortitude. It isn’t easy, but you’re taking the steps to become the best version of yourself, who you deserve to be. In life after rehab, remember to celebrate every milestone, big and small, and to celebrate yourself.
Author - Thurga
- Life After Rehab: What Is It Really Like? Will I Relapse? - https://www.addictions.com/faq/life-after-rehab-what-is-it-like/