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Life After Rehab

Learn about the methods to help you stay sober after addiction treatment.

Recovery doesn’t end after treatment

People facing life after rehab may have conflicting emotions: They may be excited to live substance-free, but the end of rehab can also bring fear of having a relapse and concerns about how to stay sober when daily routines and relationships resume.

Adjusting to life after rehab can be difficult. You may no longer have the constant support of counselors and peers. You may find yourself in difficult situations that make you want to use again. Rehab and therapy programs prepare patients for life after rehab. They teach strategies to help you deal with hard situations and maintain sobriety. They may also provide follow-up support.

Make a post-treatment plan.

Whether you’re returning home after rehab at an inpatient facility or reaching the end of an outpatient program, it is important to develop a plan to maintain sobriety. Ideally, you will work with your treatment provider before rehab ends to define how you’ll stay on track in recovery. For many people, a plan that includes continuing care after treatment improves their chances of staying off drugs or alcohol.

  • Connect with reliable support, including health care professionals, friends, and family members, to assemble a recovery team.
  • Practice a healthy lifestyle.
  • Manage situations that may trigger the desire to use drugs or drink alcohol.

Some programs offer post-treatment support. This is also called continuing care, aftercare, disease management, or recovery support services. This care is typically overseen by trained professionals, such as case managers and recovery coaches, and may include any combination of the following:

  • Individual or group counseling or therapy
  • Support groups
  • Medication
  • Recovery checkups in-person or by phone
  • Drug testing and feedback
  • Services related to employment, housing, legal needs, and relationships

If your program does not offer these services, ask to be referred to someone who can help.

Gather your support team.

Friends and family members often ask how to help someone after rehab, and these people can be a key part of your recovery team. As part of your post-treatment plan, list the people who you can rely on for healthy support and encouragement.

Build relationships after rehab with people who can help you stick to your plan for recovery. Find support or self-help groups of other people in recovery. They can also help you adjust to life after rehab. At the same time, avoid people in your life who misuse drugs or alcohol. Being around them can make you want to start using again.

Practice a healthy lifestyle.

Long-term lifestyle changes that focus on overall health and wellness have proven benefits for people in recovery.

  • Find an exercise option that works for you. Exercise can help you feel better, provide a distraction from cravings, and help reduce stress — which can be a trigger for relapse after rehab.
  • Maintain a healthy diet to provide your body with energy and nutrients.

Consider recovery housing.

Recovery housing is a drug and alcohol-free environment in a home or residential complex. It can be a good option for people who have completed treatment but need additional support while adapting to life after rehab. These short-term programs usually provide supervision and peer support. People living in recovery housing may be encouraged or required to attend a 12-step program and connect with community groups that offer employment, health care, legal support, and social services.

Recognize and manage triggers.

It is important to recognize situations that trigger cravings for drugs or alcohol, because they may lead to relapse after rehab. Keep a list of triggers to help you avoid them or cope in healthy ways. Triggers may include:

  • Stress and life challenges
  • People who used drugs or alcohol with you in the past or who are using now
  • Homes, workplaces, bars, schools, neighborhoods, and other places where you have used drugs or alcohol
  • Situations or feelings that are like the ones you experienced when you used drugs or alcohol, such as certain times of day, emotions, social activities, smells, and sounds

Be ready if relapse occurs.

As with many other health conditions, relapse after treatment is always possible: It can occur soon after rehab or even years into recovery. In fact, relapse might be part of the recovery process. Relapse does not mean a person, or their treatment, has failed.

Plan for what to do if you or someone you care about has a relapse. The plan should list the people to contact (such as a health care provider, sponsor, or family member) and the steps to take to get immediate help from an addiction treatment professional. Having a plan can help in quickly finding support or getting back into treatment. The sooner someone who has relapsed gets into treatment, the more likely they are to continue their recovery.

Find support and resources near you.