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Stay sober and avoid relapsing after you get out of drug rehab

Ben Brafman, LMC, CAP CEO/Founder and Clinical Director The Sylvia Brafman Mental Health Center, Destination Hope: The Women’s Program

Graduating from an addiction treatment program is a huge accomplishment. When you come out of rehab, you may feel like a changed person that is in charge. However, it can be strange to return to an environment that doesn’t appear to have changed at all. How can you negotiate the challenges of re-entering your normal life when you’re in such a different frame of mind? There are ways to deal with triggers and get your life back on track once you are out of rehab. It may be difficult at first, but you can do it.


Do try new hobbies

Before alcohol or drug rehab, you might have spent much of your time in bars or at friends’ houses where substance abuse was happening. Now that you’re sober, those aren’t ideal places to hang out. It’s time to explore new possibilities. Is there something that you’ve always wanted to try, like parasailing or writing music? This is the perfect time for you to explore new opportunities.

Do cut out toxic relationships

Unfortunately, you may need to end some relationships, even if that means calling off a friendship that has lasted for years. Going forward, it’s important to build a support network of people who have your back. If an old friend doesn’t support you in your recovery and continues to use around you or even encourages you to relapse, they don’t belong in your life. Remember that you have worked hard to graduate from rehab, don’t let a toxic relationship set you back.

Do get active

Sometimes we have to expend energy to get energy, and that’s certainly true when it comes to exercise. Start small, with a 30-minute walk each day. Build up to a variety of exercises like cycling, swimming, going to the gym, or running. It doesn’t matter how you get active, just that you do it. Even gardening or doing housework can break a sweat!

Do eat consciously

What we put in our bodies has a lot to do with the way our bodies perform in the short and long term. This may have become abundantly clear in rehab, as your body flushed out the toxins and fought against the effects of drug abuse. Help your body recovery by fueling it with healthy fruits, vegetables, and grains.

Do have a relapse prevention plan

Relapse prevention is one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal against relapse. A good relapse prevention plan addresses your personal triggers and provides options for how to knock them back. Be prepared with a strategy for how you’ll react if someone offers you a drink at a party, or what you’ll do on a holiday that you previously celebrated by getting high. The more you practice your relapse prevention plan, the easier it will become.


Do not use drugs ‘one last time’

Sobriety isn’t a grey area. You are either sober or your aren’t. Relapse is relapse, whether it’s taking a single pill or going on a four-day bender. Your lasting recovery hinges on your sobriety, which means saying no to substances. It can be all too easy to slide into drug addiction when you only intended to use ‘one last time.’

Do not neglect your aftercare appointments

Your treatment program has ended, but you should still attend meetings and therapy sessions. It may be tempting to skip a group meeting because you’re feeling strong, but resist. Continued aftercare reinforces the positive results of treatment and recovery, and you should keep it up. You never know who may be inspired by your actions.

Do not expect it to be easy

Life after rehab is a challenge. You’re faced with the consequences of your actions during addiction, and it might not be pretty. The trick is to find new coping mechanisms for difficult emotions like stress, anxiety, fear, and anger. Where you may previously have reached for drugs, learn to reach for the phone and call your sponsor, or go for coffee with a friend. Your strength can get you through.

Do not write off further treatment

You might feel like you could benefit from another treatment program. Don’t hesitate to seek more support. There are several options for continued treatment, such as an outpatient program that allows you to meet your family and professional duties while attending rehab.

Do not give up

Relapse does not mean failure. Success in recovery is not just measured by complete sobriety, but the ability to pick yourself up if you fall off the wagon. Don’t give up on yourself if you sense that you are nearing a relapse or if you have relapsed. Step up your efforts and call for more support to get you through the tough times. Don’t give up, just take life one day at a time.

Jumping cartoon

Coming home after drug rehab can be a wake up call, both for you and your loved ones. You may need to make new friends and cut out old ones, find new hobbies, and embark on a healthy lifestyle. It may be a challenge, but you may also find reserves of strength that you never knew you had.

More expert advice about Drug Addiction

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Ben Brafman, LMC, CAPCEO/Founder and Clinical Director

Ben Brafman, LMHC, CAP, is the Clinical Director, President and CEO of Destination Hope, a nationally recognized substance abuse and dual diagnosis treatment facility in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. With more than two decades of hands-on experience...

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