What to do after completing a treatment program?
It’s ok to feel nervous about life after getting through a treatment program or rehab. You’ve done all this hard work and achieved sobriety. But what happens next?
Coming Back Home
Returning home after an inpatient rehab program often means coming back to an environment full of triggers that may tempt you to use again. You may be surrounded by paraphernalia or friends and family members you used drugs or alcohol with. You can prevent or avoid some triggers, but others are inevitable.
Sober living communities are a form of aftercare following rehab. These residential facilities are transitional homes that help ease former addicts back into their lives after completing treatment. If you attended rehab as a result of legal troubles, you might be required to stay in a halfway house. Other addicts may choose to stay there as a preventive measure.
Sober living homes provide those in recovery with a safe, drug-free environment free of the stressors and temptations of their home lives. They help to ensure abstinence by administering regular drug tests. The communities often offer additional services, such as job placement, support groups, 12-step programs, and recreational activities.
If you don’t have a place to stay, consider asking a sober family member or friend if you can stay with them temporarily. Friends who are using drugs or alcohol may trigger your desire to use. Even staying with sober friends whom you previously used drugs with can be risky, because if one of you relapses, the risk of the other relapsing is much greater.
Being with Family
Many people who leave drug addiction treatment are surprised when their family members don’t give them a warm welcome home. Remember that just because you’re sober doesn’t mean that your family members have forgotten the things you did while using. Your behaviors may have hurt your family members, and they may be hesitant to trust you at first.
Don’t be discouraged. It can take time to rebuild trust. They may feel uncertain for a while, and you may have to provide them with extra reassurance. In a way, everyone is in recovery and is adjusting to this new way of life. Change is a gradual process, so keep that in mind as you work to rebuild positive and healthy relationships with your family members.
Having a Social Life
Social functions can become a trigger for many people in recovery. Make sure to consider these activities carefully and make a plan for what you’ll do if you feel tempted to use.
It’s common for drug users to socialize with other people who use drugs. But it’s in your best interest to find new friends who do not use drugs in order to maintain your sobriety. Although it can be difficult to let go of close friendships, you are making a commitment to a better and healthier life for yourself.
At some point, it’s likely that you’ll get invited to a social event where alcohol is served. Think carefully about whether going is the right choice for you. You may want to be honest with your friends and explain why you feel that going would be a threat to your sobriety. If you don’t feel comfortable being honest about the situation, find another excuse such as having a prior commitment.
Getting Back to Work
Work can provide both structure and stability, which are crucial in the early stages of recovery. Having a solid routine and a sense of purpose can help you maintain sobriety both by filling your time and by providing you with a sense of duty.
However, returning to work after completing treatment can be one of the most intimidating aspects of recovery for many people. Some may be embarrassed if their boss or coworkers find out that they were in treatment. Others may fear that people will ask questions and they don’t know how to respond.
If you are returning to a job that you had prior to treatment, decide whether you want to be honest and open about your recovery or whether you want to keep it to yourself. Make these decisions ahead of time so that you won’t feel stressed and end up giving them an answer that you may regret later.
If you are seeking new employment, you may want to consider some ways that you can explain your addiction to future employers. Ultimately, it’s up to you if you wish to share this information. It’s illegal for prospective employers to ask these types of questions during an interview, though they may ask you about gaps in employment. You can say that you had a gap in employment due to illness or personal issues.
Going Back to School
Returning to school after treatment can be both exciting and challenging for many in the early stages of recovery. Some people may be returning to high school or college, while others may be older adults who choose to return to school after deciding to make a major career change. Regardless, the transition may bring difficulties that you should be prepared for ahead of time.
Social activities are also a major component of school life for those in high school and college. Because many of these types of social functions involve alcohol and/or drugs, it may be difficult for students to maintain sobriety.
Sober living dormitories are available for students on many college campuses. Likewise, many colleges and universities have sober support groups and other services available for students in recovery.
Self-care is one of the most important (and neglected) aspects of recovery. Taking good care of yourself can help minimize the risk of relapse and maintain sobriety in the long-term.
Take Care of Yourself!
Whether you are 3 days, 3 months, or 3 years out of treatment, here are some self-care tips to consider:
Get enough sleep: Adequate rest is crucial to optimal health. It is recommended that people get at least 7-8 hours on average per night. It might be tempting to stay up late when life gets busy or stressful. But that can make you feel fatigued as well as make you more susceptible to health problems and relapse.
Exercise: Regular exercise can keep both the body and the mind healthy. Exercise releases endorphins, which can create a feeling of well-being or euphoria and alleviate cravings.
Eat a healthy diet: Proper nutrition can have many physical and mental health benefits, such as increasing energy, healing any damage done to the body during addiction, and improving immune defenses.
Make time to relax and de-stress: Stress is one of the biggest contributors to relapse. Making time to relax and using healthy coping strategies to deal with stress can help you maintain long-term sobriety.
Cultivate a spiritual practice: No matter your beliefs, taking part in a spiritual activity such as going to church, practicing meditation, or even taking a walk in nature can help you feel a greater sense of purpose and meaning, which may decrease the need or desire to use drugs. In addition, most 12-step programs focus on surrendering one’s addiction to a higher power (which does not have to be God).
Engage in a hobby: Many people relapse solely out of boredom. Keeping yourself busy with positive, healthy habits and hobbies may decrease the risk of relapse.
Connect with Others in Recovery
Make friends with people in recovery. You can stay in touch with the people you have met through treatment. It can be a new family for you and will help with looking back as well as forward to the new days ahead. Don’t just throw away the relationships you have developed along your journey once you have pushed through the treatment portion of the life changes you are making.
These relationships are the bedrock of a sustainable recovery; they’re the people you call when you’re struggling. They’re the people who understand your struggles and can offer their insight or just hear you. They’re the people who tell you they know how hard recovery is and that you’re doing a great job. They’re the people who you call when you can’t sleep, and they’re the people that remind you how important it is to take care of yourself. They are your tribe, and they ground you in recovery.
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