Addiction Treatment
Addiction Treatment

Life After Rehab: What Is It Like?

Last updated: 04/12/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Like all chronic illnesses, addiction isn’t entirely curable but can be effectively treated and managed so you can live a healthier, more rewarding life after rehab. The time you spend in rehab allows you to learn valuable skills and techniques that support your sobriety from drugs and alcohol, along with your overall livelihood and well-being. But recovery doesn’t happen overnight, which is why your life after rehab can benefit from aftercare and continued care programs that keep you on track with your sobriety.

How Can I Avoid Relapse After Rehab?

Addiction is defined as a chronic relapsing brain disease, which means relapse is common and normal among those in recovery. Relapse rates for drug use disorders are between 40 and 60%, which means it’s likely you may relapse at some point during your recovery. Triggers like stress and cravings commonly lead to relapse, as well as mental illness, relationship problems, and peer pressure.

You can lower your risk for relapse after rehab by receiving therapy and relapse prevention training while you’re still in rehab. Therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy help you identify and change harmful thoughts and behaviors driving addiction and relapse, while relapse prevention training teaches you how to cope and manage triggers that commonly lead to relapse. Learning skills for avoiding relapse in rehab can better prepare you for life after rehab.

However, though you may learn useful strategies and techniques at rehab for avoiding relapse, the possibility remains that you may still relapse after leaving rehab. Aftercare programs can be vital to helping you stay sober and to experience a safe, successful recovery.

What is Aftercare Important After Rehab?

The goal of an aftercare program is to help you maintain recovery after being treated for a substance use disorder. Many who overcome addiction must receive long-term and consistent treatment aimed at helping them change their lifestyles for the better after leaving rehab. Learning healthy daily lifestyle habits can help you rediscover things that give your life meaning, and that helps you develop yourself spiritually so that you may once again become and feel whole.

Aftercare teaches you how to monitor and manage your emotions, and practice healthy lifestyle behaviors revolving around quality sleep, good nutrition, and regular exercise. Aftercare also helps you avoid social isolation, maintain regular contact with therapists, and allows you to talk and listen to others who are also in recovery from addiction. In your earliest days after leaving rehab, you may need an enormous amount of support as you adjust to healthier living. But gradually, these new healthy lifestyle habits and practices eventually become a normal way of life, and your aftercare will become far less intensive.

Before your therapy at rehab ends, your doctors and healthcare team will help you plan and begin your new life as a newly sober individual. If aftercare is not readily available at your rehab center, talk to your doctor about referring you to an aftercare program that can prolong and support your recovery.

What Happens in Aftercare Programs?

Aftercare programs consist of an array of therapies that all have the common goal of preventing relapse and helping you stay focused on recovery. Support groups, 12-step programs, and individual and group counseling are just some therapies available in aftercare programs. Therapies can be selected and customized just for you to meet your individual recovery needs. For instance, aftercare programs for teens and youth use therapies that help them strengthen self-esteem and family relationships.

Aftercare treatment can occur daily, weekly, a few times per month or as needed to help you manage stress, avoid relapse, and focus on recovery. Your care will consist of regular appointments with therapists, scheduled group counseling sessions, attendance in 12-step meetings like Narcotics Anonymous, and continued education on new skills and coping strategies. Ongoing medication maintenance may be part of aftercare if you’re using medication to manage co-occurring mental health disorders or post-acute withdrawal symptoms. Aftercare helps you adjust to normal daily life without feeling the need to practice addictive behavior and helps you establish or strengthen relationships with those who support sobriety and your recovery.

What Is Life After Rehab Like?

Abstinence is far different from recovery in that abstinence is a life without drugs or alcohol, while recovery is a major lifestyle overhaul that involves replacing unhealthy behaviors with healthier counterparts. Those who focus on just maintaining abstinence tend to suffer and struggle more with staying sober since they may be living the same lifestyle they had prior to going to rehab. But those who focus on recovery can make necessary changes that foster a healthier lifestyle and stronger spiritual outlook that eliminates the need for substances in their lives.

Your quality of life after rehab depends entirely on you and on whether you choose to maintain recovery with aftercare. Aftercare combined with support from friends and family can help you experience a strong, successful, lasting recovery from addiction.