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July 24, 2022

What Should I Expect After Drug or Alcohol Treatment?

Completing drug and alcohol treatment is a major accomplishment that’s worth celebrating, but finishing rehab doesn’t mean your recovery journey is over. After you complete an addiction treatment program, you will need to intentionally maintain your sobriety. This means applying the lessons, strategies, coping mechanisms, and stress-reducing techniques you learned in the treatment program in your day-to-day life. You might also have to change your routine, build new friendships, find a new place to stay, as well as develop an entirely new lifestyle. The process may not be easy, but knowing what to expect can help you mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare for life after drug and alcohol rehab. Understanding what to expect can help you avoid unhealthy behaviors that can ultimately lead to relapse.

Life After Rehab: What To Expect

Life after rehabilitation will be different from life before drug and alcohol treatment. Some of the changes you’ll deal with will be minor, while other changes will feel monumental. As you deal with these changes, remember that life and growth tend to happen at the end of your comfort zone.

After you complete drug and alcohol treatment, you can expect to:

Develop A New Day-To-Day Routine

Creating a new routine is a key part of life after drug and alcohol rehabilitation. The old habits you had and the way you lived before treatment won’t help you maintain your sobriety. Instead, you’ll need new, positive habits. For example, to help keep your physical body strong, you’ll need to eat well-balanced, nutritious meals. You’ll also want to make sure you’re getting adequate amounts of sleep, exercising regularly, practicing self-care, and taking time to manage stress, relax, and visit with supportive family members and friends.

The schedule you decide to create is up to you, but healthy habits you should consider including into your routine include:

  • A morning and nighttime routine
  • Downtime and sober leisure activities
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Practicing gratitude

As you develop a new routine, you should also expect to keep participating in certain aspects of drug and addiction recovery.

Keep Attending Recovery Activities and Sessions

Even though you’ve completed a formal treatment program, you need to continue participating in recovery activities. Remember, addiction is a chronic condition. This means that just as you would continue to see a doctor to manage a heart condition or diabetes, you should keep attending recovery activities, treatment sessions, and follow-up and check-in meetings to manage your addiction.

This could look like:

  • Working with a therapist and attending weekly counseling sessions
  • Attending group therapy meetings
  • Visiting a doctor that specializes in addiction treatment
  • Receiving injections that block the effects of drugs and alcohol
  • Participating in biofeedback therapy sessions that help you manage stress and triggers

All of these options represent continuing support, which is key to avoiding relapse. Continuing support can also include joining 12-step peer groups that celebrate sobriety and help individuals stay alcohol and drug-free. Even after you’ve finished drug and alcohol rehab, the accountability, support, inspiration, motivation, and encouragement you’ll receive from continued participation in recovery activities can be significant and, in some cases, life-changing.

Quit Hanging Out With Old Friends

Spending time with friends who encourage you to use drugs or alcohol won’t help you maintain your sobriety. In fact, hanging out with these types of friends can quickly lead to relapse. So you should expect to stop hanging out with those friends and form a new group of friends that can support your recovery and sobriety journey instead.

Having a set of good sober friends can help you:

  • Let go of toxic, unhealthy friendships
  • Avoid loneliness and boredom
  • Develop and settle into a healthy, sober routine
  • Enjoy sobriety by introducing you to different types of sober fun
  • Stay motivated when recovery becomes challenging
  • Stay on track and remain abstinent

If you’re not sure how or where to find sober friends, look for support groups, recovery meetings, volunteer opportunities, or at some of the places you visit for sober fun. Start by getting involved in your community. The wider your circle of support, the more secure you’ll feel in your recovery.

Build A New Social Life

You should also expect to stop participating in activities that may have triggered or contributed to your drug or alcohol use. This can include:

  • Hanging out in bars
  • Places that trigger stress
  • Attending drug parties and raves

Now that you’re drug and alcohol-free, you need to fill your time with activities that can help you avoid relapse. Some hobbies you might want to consider participating in instead can include:

  • Joining a sports team
  • Learning to play an instrument
  • Painting or drawing
  • Swimming
  • Surfing
  • Rock climbing
  • Writing stories
  • Gardening
  • Photography
  • Cooking
  • Singing, dancing, or making music
  • Learning a new language
  • Playing video games
  • Attending conventions
  • Watching and reviewing movies
  • Starting and growing a YouTube channel
  • Playing video games
  • Volunteering

These activities can help you relieve stress and discover passions you never knew you had. The important thing to remember is that you don’t have to be high or drunk to enjoy life.

Deal With Cravings

Unfortunately, cravings don’t stop the moment you complete a drug or alcohol rehab program. They can occur weeks, months, and sometimes years after you receive addiction treatment. So you should expect to deal with them. The good news is there are several effective ways you can manage cravings without giving in to them.

In addition to knowing what triggers your cravings and avoiding those people, places, and things, some of the most effective ways to manage cravings include:

  • Challenging the thought. Behind every craving, there’s a thought. For example, cravings are often accompanied by the thought that “one little drink or dose won't hurt.” Challenging the thought encourages you to stop and challenge that particular thought. Remind yourself that one drink and one dose can, in fact, hurt your progress, family, career, self-worth, physical health, and lifestyle, because “just one” usually leads to a lot more. Continue to challenge the thought behind the craving until the craving passes and you’re able to remain sober.
  • Urge surfing. This mindfulness technique believes that cravings and similar urges are like waves, rising in intensity, peaking, and then crashing. Here’s how the process works. When you feel the urge to drink or use drugs, pinpoint the part of your body that’s most affected by the craving. Next, explore what you feel. Is your chest tight? Is your back in pain? Inhale and exhale. Then visualize the part of the body that’s affected by the craving as you continue to breathe deeply. As you focus on what’s happening physically and psychologically, imagine yourself successfully riding a wave and repeat phrases such as “I can ride this out” or “I will get through this.” Eventually, the craving will pass.
Look For Signs of Relapse and Pay Close Attention To Your Mental Health

Addiction doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t go away overnight. That’s why you have to have your guard up at all times. You need to understand who or what makes you vulnerable. If feeling sad and lonely makes you crave drugs or alcohol, stay connected to others. If feeling powerful and happy triggers addictive behavior patterns for you, make sure you have an accountability partner with you when you experience celebratory moments. Most of all, take care of your mental health. Having poor mental health can easily lead to self-medication which can, in turn, lead to relapse. Taking care of your mental health can help you avoid that kind of downward spiral.

  • Some of the best ways to take good care of your mental health include:
  • Getting good quality sleep
  • Eating well-balanced nutritious meals
  • Getting plenty of sunlight
  • Managing your stress in a healthy way
  • Doing activities you enjoy
  • Doing things for others
  • Asking for help when you need it

Empowering You To Take Charge Of Your Recovery

Here at Meta, our mission is to empower you to take charge of your recovery. That’s why we want you to know what to expect after your drug and alcohol treatment ends. You’ll need to develop new routines, make new friends, build a sober social life, deal with cravings, and take care of your mental health. You may need to find a job and or a new place to live. All of these changes can be daunting and overwhelming, but you are not alone.

Our recovery experts are here to help you every step of the way and our clinical services can help you handle many of the changes that tend to occur after drug and alcohol treatment ends. Contact us today to learn more.