Failing to plan is planning to fail as the famous maxim said and thus it would be a great action to already plan a life after rehab.
Recovery does not end after treatment. It is a lifelong journey that involves many emotions.
At first, you may feel excited and energized to be substance-free. However, as time goes on and you are faced with stressful situations, it can be hard to maintain this positive outlook. You may be worried about relapse and how to stay sober during difficult times.
Adjusting to life after rehab has its ups and downs, but with a strong support network and realistic expectations along with proper planning, you can get through the first year in one piece and continue with your ongoing life after rehab.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone.
Attending 12-step meetings, seeing a counselor and staying connected to supportive friends and family are crucial to a complete recovery.
If you or a loved one is planning for life after rehab, here are some steps to follow in planning a life after rehab to set yourself up for success.
1. Create an Aftercare Plan
An aftercare plan is a post-treatment plan that addresses what will happen after treatment.
If you are returning home, do you have a strong support network to rely on? What will you do to avoid boredom? Do you plan on returning to work or school right away? Addressing these important factors will help you prepare for what’s to come.
We also recommend checking out the 12-step programs and counselors in your area. These are important tools in early recovery, and you should start them as soon as treatment is complete.
Some of the care that may be recommended in your post-treatment plan is:
- Individual or group counseling
- Family therapy
- Support groups
- Recovery checkups
- Drug testing
- Employment services
Most treatment centers provide continuing care plans for their clients. If your treatment center does not, ask to be referred to someone who can help.
There is plenty of help out there, you just need to ask.
2. Establish Your Support Network
In your aftercare plan, think of all the people who stood by you and still cared about you before your recovery. These individuals should be capable of providing support, encouragement and positivity as you embark on this journey.
For many individuals, the first people they reconnect with are immediate family: parents, siblings, spouses, children, aunts and uncles.
Unfortunately, not all recovering addicts have strong support networks. Rest assured that you can gather a support network from other places, such as your 12-step groups.
Keeping busy with healthy activities and hobbies also allows you to meet new people. Finally, consider becoming more active in your local community. You can establish positive relationships with people from church or volunteer work.
3. Practice a Healthy Lifestyle
To support a full recovery, you must make lifestyle changes that strengthen your mind, body and spirit. The first and most important thing you can do is eat a well-balanced diet. Your body needs vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to repair itself. Focus on buying your food from the outside aisles at the supermarket: fruits, vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and dairy products.
Exercise is another important lifestyle adjustment to make. When you exercise, you release endorphins in the brain that boost your mood and energy levels. Exercise also gets your body back into shape and lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Start slow, as you aren’t expected to run marathons. A walk through your neighborhood or a beginner’s yoga class are great options.
Another thing your body needs to repair itself is sleep. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Sleep can be a problem in early recovery, as some people have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep. You can try meditation to help relax your body and mind. We do not recommend taking sleep aids because they can be habit-forming, but talk to your doctor to see what is best for treating insomnia.
4. Identify and Manage Triggers
It’s important to know what situations make you want to use drugs and alcohol because they can lead to relapse.
You can avoid some triggers. For example, if you know that you can’t see a certain nightclub or bar, you would avoid driving past it on the way to work.
However, not all triggers can be avoided. Stress is a huge trigger, and it’s present in all of our lives. In this case, you have to learn to recognize the signs of stress and have healthy ways of dealing with it. You might talk to your sponsor, go for a run or meditate. As you become more in tune with your body and what works to manage stress, you will become less dependent on drugs and alcohol.
Common triggers include:
- Stressful situations
- Life changes
- People you used to use with
- Places where you used drugs and alcohol
- Situations when you used drugs and alcohol
- Certain smells, sounds, emotions and activities
5. Consider Recovery Housing
Not everyone has a home to return to that is 100% free of drugs and alcohol. If you return to an environment where people are using around you, it’s going to be very difficult to stick to your recovery goals. If your home life is not sober, consider sober housing.
This is a great option for anyone who needs additional support after completing treatment.
The benefit to recovery housing is that you are surrounded by people who can relate to you, and you have access to 12-step programs, counselors and employment services.
Some people choose to stay in a recovery house even if their home life is suitable. Individuals in this group recognize that they need more support before returning to society.
6. Be Prepared if Relapse Occurs
Relapse rates are highest in the first year of recovery, though it can occur at any time in the recovery process. While it’s not ideal for a relapse to occur, it’s important to know that this does not mean that treatment has failed. It is just a part of recovery for some and is a learning opportunity.
Treatment continues to build on itself, so it’s never a waste. You will develop and strengthen new skills each time you are in treatment. The key is to start treatment as soon as possible, as this makes it easier to continue your recovery.