Life After Inpatient Drug Rehab: Maintaining Your Recovery

Many people enter rehab under the assumption that it’s the solution to all of their problems. You took that hard first step. You went through the detox process. You put your whole life on hold. You did it. 

You got through rehab, even though it felt utterly impossible just a few weeks before you went. So what now?

The reality of the matter is that your true recovery is only just beginning. It was easy to make the right choices in rehab. All the temptations were gone, everyone there helped to hold you accountable, and the entire environment was centered around sobriety. Unfortunately, the real world isn’t like that. 

Leaving rehab is the first step to true and meaningful recovery, and now your job is to apply all the things you’ve learned so you can keep your success going. 

Go Over What You Learned in Therapy

You discussed a lot of things with your therapist at inpatient treatment. You identified the way a lot of things make you feel. You’ve been over your strengths and weaknesses, your achievements and failures. 

You learned a lot about personal accountability, maintaining healthy relationships, and setting goals. 

Your therapist cannot apply what you’ve learned on your behalf. He or she only helped you to create a map for achieving the things you want. You’re now left to your own devices to follow those steps and take that journey to your destination. 

To make the things you’ve discussed a reality, you need to begin making changes in your life. Your old life is exactly where you left it, and that’s not you anymore. That life involved doing drugs, hurting the people that you loved, and damaging your body. It was the biggest obstacle between you and everything you’ve ever wanted or deserved. 

Dismantling that life as you build a new one will set you up for success. The old has to truly be out before the new can come in.

Changing Your Life Accordingly

You gained a lot of things you needed in rehab. Now you have to lose the things you don’t need outside of rehab. 

Friendships that were built around drugs, places where you would go to use, and a daily routine built around keeping yourself in a steady supply of your substance of choice are no longer an option. The other people in those situations did not take the steps you took or put in the effort to change their lives for the better. If you turn back to them, you’ll only be letting yourself down.

It might be time to move to a different apartment in a different part of town. Solidifying your new start with a complete change of scenery will help to reinforce the idea that your life is new now. You don’t need constant reminders of the bad choices you made or the harm you caused yourself through drug use. You deserve to leave that behind you. It’s no longer a part of your identity. 

You might also want to look into a new career, or schooling or vocational training that will help you settle in a career you’ve always wanted. Many drug addicts don’t work. You can’t accomplish anything under the influence, employers often drug test, and your preoccupation with the drug likely kept you from pursuing a new job once your old one was out the window. 

One of the most important steps to independence is establishing your own income. Personal responsibility is getting up every morning, putting on the suit or the uniform, and showing up to do what you signed up to do. At the end of the day, you make your budget and pay your bills. 

This change in priorities and sense of responsibility can help to keep you focused. You made commitments that you’re in complete control of. You have to answer for yourself. You’re getting the things you want, and you’re holding onto them by doing all the things you said you would do. 

Keeping Yourself Accountable

Many people continue to go to outpatient treatment or see a therapist after they’ve left rehab. This isn’t a crutch — it’s a vital accountability tool. 

While you were in rehab, the group you spoke with and the therapist you saw helped to realign your perspective and change your priorities. They didn’t follow you outside of treatment. The moment you went back out into the world, things became radically different. You didn’t know how you would react or what it would feel like until you were left to your own devices again. 

Therapists and outpatient groups can help you with your transition to independence. Most recovering addicts and alcohol users in outpatient groups have had the same experience you have. 

They went through their inpatient program, came back out into the world, and realized they still needed empathy and companionship from others who understood the struggle. Some recovered addicts continue to attend outpatient groups for decades to help them maintain their sobriety. 

Continuing to work with a therapist is the most effective way to deal with thoughts and feelings as they come up. There are so many things you can’t address at inpatient because you don’t know they’re going to happen. You have no idea how you’re going to feel, and you can’t preemptively work through these mystery feelings. 

Regularly scheduled therapy appointments will help you navigate your feelings day by day without ever feeling overwhelmed. If you see a therapist once a week, things won’t have time to pile up until they feel insurmountable. 

Let it all out as it comes so you can effectively move past it or develop new coping skills to help you deal with intense feelings you experience out in the world. 

Striving for Goals and Using Healthy Outlets

When you felt down, you used drugs. Your only real goal was to find more drugs to use, even if you had an entire incredible life planned for yourself before you succumbed to your addiction. 

Things have changed, and you need to direct the same amount of attention and effort you directed to your addiction to healthy outlets and productive goals

As long as there is nothing inherently harmful about your goals or outlets, everything is on the table. 

You don’t need to have lofty or overly ambitious goals. Very few people save the world or cure a disease. If the goal you’ve set for yourself is to knit a scarf that’s 25 miles long, many people aren’t going to take you seriously. That doesn’t matter — they can mind their own business. 

If it means a lot to you and it’s not harming you or the people around you, it’s a good goal. You can easily measure your progress and strategize for its completion, and you’re keeping yourself busy. 

You’ll also want to begin utilizing healthy outlets. Many people go blow off steam on the weekends. They go to bars or clubs, or other places where alcohol and drugs are easy to find. Some of those people are addicts, and some of them aren’t. You know you belong to column A, and these environments are no longer suited to your needs.

A healthy outlet is any activity that grants you satisfaction and relaxation without causing any undue harm. Martial arts is a healthy outlet. It’s a great workout that teaches discipline and self defense, and there’s a class somewhere almost every night. Yoga is very similar in that regard, and it’s a little less intense or intimidating than a martial art. 

Yoga is healthy for your body and your mind. One of the biggest benefits of yoga as a healthy outlet is that it teaches mindfulness, a practice you can easily apply when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Practicing mindfulness might help you avoid giving into the temptation to relapse.

Having the Right Support System

Think about all those people you knew before rehab. You had nicknames for them. You had inside jokes, and you saw them every day. Those people aren’t your friends. 

You were bound together by addiction, and that is something you don’t want to have in common with anyone anymore. You need a support system full of people who make better choices and care about your sobriety just as much as you do. 

Hobbies and healthy outlets are a great place to meet quality people and form friendships, but these friendships won’t happen overnight. You might need to lean on your family or sober friends from your past a little bit in the beginning — just until you’re done establishing your new life. 

Your sister might have been angry with you for calling her at 3 AM and asking for money for drugs. She’ll probably be a lot less angry with you if you call her at 3 AM and tell her you’re having a difficult time and you don’t want to end up using. 

From the beginning, establish who you can and cannot call for support. People are allowed to set their own boundaries and manage their own responsibilities however they see fit. If you work with your family and sober friends to establish a support system according to the terms that work for them, you’ll be saving yourself some dark hours that may have otherwise ended badly. 

It may also be helpful to join support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). These groups are both dedicated to one main mission: help people get out of and stay out of addiction. You can be as minimally involved as attending an occasional meeting or as deeply involved as helping someone else out of their addiction. Being able to be with others who have gone through or are going through a similar journey can help you stay on track, and you may find that something that helps you stay sober is helping others get there, too. 


You cannot allow yourself to entertain the notion that relapsing is an option, even if you have to radically alter every single aspect of your life to prevent a relapse from happening. 

You need to be proactive and responsible in your recovery. You need to follow through. Accepting a sense of personal responsibility and doing the things you said you would will keep you from reverting to bad habits, and you will be so happy and thankful for it in the long-run.

Maintaining your recovery is the final stage of recovery, and Starbridge Recovery can help keep it that way. Contact us today about our recovery aftercare planning programs


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