Making it through rehab is an achievement. It means that the individual has managed to maintain a period of sobriety, and will have picked up some tools that will help them build a good life in recovery. A stay in rehab is analogous to providing a strong foundation for a building. Once this foundation is in place it is then up to people to build upon it. The move from a supported environment back to normal living can be a tough transition. It is a lot easier to deal with if people are prepared for it and have some type of support system in place.
The risk of relapse never completely goes away, but the time that it is most likely to happen is during the first few weeks and months after rehab. If people leave this program and then relapse it will be a setback. It can be difficult for people to stop again; some will never get another chance at recovery. Making it through a treatment program takes a lot of effort, but it puts the individual in a great position to build a satisfying life away from addiction. Not making the most of this opportunity is a real shame; especially as what the individual will be going back to will be a miserable existence. Those who do relapse almost always admit that they regret it. It is therefore important to do everything possible to avoid this happening.
The usual challenges that people will face when they return to normal living include:
* In rehab there is a lot of support as the whole environment is aimed towards helping the individual beat their addiction. As well as the professionals who work in the rehab there will also be other clients to offer support. Leaving rehab means losing much of this support and if people are not prepared for this it may come as a shock.
* Those in rehab will be protected from a lot of temptation. This makes it easier for them to make it through the first few delicate weeks of sobriety. Once they are back in the real world they will be once again faced with temptations.
* Returning home usually means having to face family and friends. Things can be particular difficult if some of these people do not support the decision to quit. They may try to tempt the newly sober person back to their old habits. There may also be family and friends who are not ready to forgive previous bad behavior. It can take a long time in recovery before trust can be rebuilt.
* Leaving rehab might mean a return to a lot of stress. There may be financial hardships or family problems to face. During rehab the individual will be protected from many day to day concerns because their focus will just be on getting better.
* Some people leave rehab thinking that all the work is done. This type of complacency is dangerous because it can easily lead to relapse. In many ways the real work doesn’t even begin until people get home. A dry drunk is somebody who no longer drinks but still continues to behave in much the same way as they always did. This puts them at a high risk of relapse or at the very least not finding happiness in recovery.
* In AA they talk about people who develop a condition known as pink cloud syndrome. They become so happy and positive about their new life that they lose sight of reality. The danger is that people who feel this way can begin to take their recovery for granted – it all just feels too easy. The other danger is that when their mood levels out or they hit a bad patch it can come as a shock – they may go from loving their sober life to hating it very quickly. People should definitely enjoy their new life away from addiction, but it is important to remain cautious of any threats to recovery.
The key to an easy transition from rehab to normal living is preparation. A good program will be focused on getting the client ready for the move. It will be up to the individual to make the best use of the available resources while they are still in rehab. This means learning about what to expect when they go home and developing coping strategies for how to deal with challenges. It is helpful to think of rehab as a training ground, and the outside world is where this training will be put into action. The harder people have worked to prepare the greater will be their chances of finding success afterwards.
Once people return home there is a lot they can do to make the transition easier:
* Most rehabs don’t just wash their hands of clients after they leave. They will want them to succeed and so will often offer additional support. This may come in the form of group meetings or booster sessions. It is often encouraged that people who are struggling get back in contact with members of the rehab team.
* Support groups like AA can be a good option for people who want to belong to a recovery community. The good thing about this is that there are meetings almost everywhere and there is no obligation to follow their program – people can just turn up to listen. These types of support groups are not for everyone, but they are worth considering. The 12 Step Groups recommend 90 meetings in 90 days and this can provide a lot of much needed support during those early months back home.
* There are common pitfalls that can catch the unwary in early recovery. It is important that people learn about the different relapse triggers and how to avoid them.
* Learning a technique like mindfulness can make it easier to handle the stresses of life in the real world. This involves learning to observe what is happening in the mind without getting too caught up in the action. The technique works because it allows people to take a step back from all the challenges they are faced with.
* Those people who are using a Twelve Step program can benefit greatly by choosing a sponsor. This individual will be able to offer one to one assistance and support. They will usually be somebody who has a lot more experience in recovery so they can be a wealth of knowledge.
* It is a good idea to build a network of friends who share an interest in recovery from addiction. These days this doesn’t have to be face to face, because there are also online communities of people living the sober life. Belonging to such a group helps to keep people committed to recovery and will be a place to turn to if things become difficult.
* Some people will choose to go to another supportive environment after rehab rather than returning home. A good example of this would be the dry house where people are not allowed drugs or alcohol, but they have a lot more freedom than they would have experienced in rehab. People can stay in such places for a year or more after they leave rehab.
* It can be highly beneficial if people continue to read and learn about addiction and recovery. This will remind them of where they have come from and keep them committed to their new path.
Addiction can sometimes mask the symptoms of a variety of mental health problems. Some people do find that even though they have quit their addiction their life does not seem to be improving. They may suffer from a lot of anxiety or have a depression that just doesn’t seem to go away. If people are experiencing such symptoms it is always important that they seek proper medical attention. Failure to do so will harm recovery and increase the risk of relapse.