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How to Stay on Track After Leaving Drug and Alcohol Rehab

by Landmark Recovery

September 19, 2019

When you finish up in an alcohol rehab center or drug treatment facility, you’ve completed a crucial step in the recovery process.

Rehab is only the first step, though.

If addiction is a disease with no cure, recovery is a lifelong process of keeping that addiction at bay while helping you return to a substance-free life.

Successfully detoxing from alcohol or drugs then following through on a rehab program, whether residential or an intensive outpatient program, is cause for celebration and excitement. Despite this, adjusting in the wake of rehab can be remarkably challenging.

The cocooning environment of residential rehab removes you from any triggers and bad influences. You have around-the-clock support from counselors and your peers. Suddenly, though, you’re home and dealing with life’s normal stressors again.

You might find yourself struggling to deal with temptation and cravings.

How can you stay motivated and sober after leaving rehab, then?

1) Attend All Your Meetings, Therapy and Counseling Sessions

Perhaps the most obvious starting point to work from is to attend all components of your ongoing recovery program without exception.

Once you’re outside the structured environment of the treatment center, it might be tempting to let follow-up appointments slide. Fight this temptation if it arises.

Aftercare is a central part of recovery so take advantage of all the resources you have. Stay in touch with counselors from the treatment center and attend any group meetings as arranged.

Whatever form your personalized recovery plan has taken, keep your end of the bargain and make sure you turn up.

2) Remember That Getting Sober and Living Sober Are Different

Keep in mind that rehab is only the first part of recovery.

To remain sober on an ongoing basis, you’ll need to keep your guard up and probably make some sweeping lifestyle changes.

Addiction is a treatable disorder but treatment manages rather than cures the disorder. Since relapse rates for addiction are roughly comparable to those of other chronic diseases – 40 to 60% according to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) – you need to be aware of this possibility.

Make sure you’ve got a plan in place if you do happen to relapse.

The key to sustained recovery is to make positive changes while remaining flexible and ready to adapt if you hit any roadblocks along the way.

3) Stick to a Healthy Diet and Repair Physical Damage

Chances are, if you’ve been abusing drugs or alcohol, nutrition will have taken a nosedive.

Hopefully, rehab will have reintroduced healthy foods along with plenty of water so you can nourish and hydrate your body.

Try to eliminate junk food as much as possible and cut down on sugar and unhealthy fats. Get plenty of fresh fruit and veg on board as well as lean meat and fish. Drink more water and less coffee.

Not only can making these simple but effective dietary changes kickstart the process of renourishing your body, you’ll notice a dramatic improvement in energy levels and overall health as you transition to a healthy diet.

4) Get Adequate Rest and Sleep

The average person struggling with addiction to drink or drugs tends to sleep poorly.

Many will sleep all day in order to stay up partying all night. Others sleep intermittently and with no regular schedule. Still others will keep hitting it hard for days then crash and end up sleeping for 36 hours.

All of these approaches to sleep are obviously unhealthy.

By trying to fall into the routine of aiming for 8 hours of sleep a night, you should notice a sharp spike in energy levels, heightened mood, sharpened alertness and improved health.

When you’re fighting the psychological side of staying sober, never overlook the simple building blocks of adequate sleep and a nutritious diet. Give your body all the help you can and rebuild your strength with the toxins of drugs or alcohol gone from your system.

5) Become More Physically Active

When you were drinking or using drugs, how often did you exercise?

Chances are, it was nowhere near enough.

As you start pushing ahead down the road to recovery, you’re sober but are you really healthy?

Regular exercise brings about a shower of well-known benefits. Energy levels will improve along with your mood and sense of overall well-being.

Joining a gym or a sports team comes with an inbuilt benefit… You’ll be naturally exposed to people living a healthy lifestyle which can only act as a motivator.

With food, sleep and fitness in check, it’s time to double down on the bigger picture and think about your overall goals.

6) Pin Down and Pursue Your Goals

As the novelty of sobriety wears off and you settle back into a more humdrum routine, it’s natural to feel frustrated at times.

Maybe you don’t feel like you’re making the progress you had in mind back in the rehab center.

Perhaps you start feeling slightly lost, questioning why you’re even in recovery.

Be clear about your goals. Be concrete.

If you’ve been addicted to drink or drugs for some time, chances are your goals took a back seat. Maybe if your destructive lifestyle started early, you never really made proper goals in the first place.

Once you’re certain of what you want to achieve, it’s simply a case of taking a series of decisive actions to help you meet each goal. And one way you can maximize your chances here comes down to routine.

7) Develop a Structured Schedule

If you’ve spent years in the throes of addiction, chances are all structure in your life went out the window.

Restoring order into a chaotic life is a key transitional part of the journey from rehab to ongoing recovery. Once out of the treatment center, you won’t have that same external organization of your day. It’s on you now so make it count.

By addressing sleep issues, you’ll soon feel good getting up at a fixed time each day. Eating healthy food will instill more routine since you’ll be cooking and eating at more regular times rather than snatching some snacks at the bar or skipping meals entirely.

Structuring your schedule will also help you to track and achieve your goals more readily. As with so many elements of successful, sustained recovery, so much you can do to help yourself has a positive domino effect into areas of your life. Structure is one of these.

If you’re particularly resistant to structure and worried about becoming stifled, why not mix things up and introduce some completely new activities into your life?

8) Get Yourself Involved in New Activities

For many people on the road to recovery, it can be enormously rewarding to rediscover and rekindle old, neglected interests.

Don’t be scared of giving new activities a try, though.

Whether it’s painting or drawing, writing or playing an instrument, there are many ways you can express your emotions outside of addiction.

Reignite old passions and explore new interests by joining clubs or starting new sports. This will naturally bring you into contact with people committed to a healthy lifestyle. Take this further by actively seeking better relationships.

9) Seek Out Healthy Relationships with Sober Friends

Surrounding yourself with a solid network of sober people is the best countermeasure to hanging out with the people you used to drink or use drugs with.

Think of it like this…

When are you more likely to experience cravings?

When mixing with new training buddies at a local gym or when hanging out with your old drink or drug partner?

The more time you spend with sober friends who have similar goals, the easier you’ll find the transition from rehab to ongoing sobriety.

If you run into any snags or roadblocks on the path to recovery, remember to go easy on yourself and be patient.

10) Stay Patient With Recovery

It’s almost inevitable that you’ll run into challenges and roadblocks on your road to recovery.

Try to deal with any setbacks with as much patience as possible.

The process of recovery itself shouldn’t be viewed as something to be rushed. Stay motivated and stay patient!

11) Remember Action Trumps Intention: Just Do It!

Maybe since rehab, you’ve started looking at things more spiritually.

You could be finding positive affirmations and intentions useful but there’s one surefire way to lasting sobriety…

Action. Committed and regular action.

By small but important daily behaviors, you can overhaul your old routine and establish a much healthier and far more productive substance-free lifestyle.

Combine positive thinking and regular action. Keep moving forward away from addiction and away from rehab.

Start the next chapter of your life and remember: you have the power to create your own future. Use that power for the good.

12) Pursue Inner Change As Your Recovery Progresses

By cutting out the people you used to drink or do drugs with and by changing the places you go, you can avoid many of the early triggers that can lead to relapse.

As you push forward with your recovery, though, you should focus on inner change to consolidate your recovery and stay on track for the long-haul.

Changing the way in which you think about emotions and how you deal with these emotions can be the difference between continued recovery and relapse.

13) Work on Anger Management

While anger is a normal and healthy emotion, dealing with anger improperly characterizes addiction for many people.

Once you’ve moved out of the protective atmosphere of a treatment center, you might find situations suddenly get the better of you. If you feel you’re about to lose your temper, take a step back and understand that how you manage your anger can make a real difference in maintaining recovery.

If you feel unable to deal with anger in a healthy fashion, speak with your healthcare provider about getting some help with this.

14) Learn to Process Your Past Mistakes

Addiction of any kind doesn’t just affect you.

If you’ve been dependent on alcohol or drugs for any length of time, chances are you’ll have left a great deal of pain in your wake.

While it’s normal to feel both ashamed and guilty of toxic behavior that damaged you and others, you need to leave those mistakes in the past. Learn from them and avoid repeating them but don’t let your past define you.

15) Find a Better Balance in Your Life

Balance is something you should strive for when you’ve finished a drug or alcohol treatment program.

Whether it’s a new way of eating, an exercise program or a 12-step program, try to avoid throwing yourself all-in to other activities. Look for balance rather than substituting one addiction for another.

You might be wondering what the problem is if these are healthy activities but you’ll still be better off exercising restraint and moderation rather than excess and compulsive behavior.

Next Steps

Get in touch with our alcohol and drug rehab in Indiana if you’re struggling in any way with alcohol or drug dependence.

If you’ve made it all the way through a residential rehab program, don’t let that hard work go to waste now. Call us any time and we can help you avoid going off the rails after drug or alcohol rehab.

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About the Author

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery

Landmark Recovery was founded with a determination to make addiction treatment accessible for all. Through our integrated treatment programs, we've helped thousands of people choose recovery over addiction and get back to life on their own terms. We're on a mission to save one million lives over the next century. We encourage all those struggling with substance use to seek professional help.