A lot of time in rehab is focused on preparing people for the move back home – this starts for day 1. This transition can be a perilous one if people are not ready for it. Clients can look upon their last day in rehab as being similar to graduation day. It is vital though, that they realize that the learning is far from over; the toughest challenges lie ahead of them. A stay in a treatment facility is all about preparation for what awaits when they get back home. All the conditions that supported substance abuse may still be there, and the individual needs to be ready to face these. Good preparation for the transition is the key to success.
Leaving rehab is an exciting time, but it also means facing a number of challenges including:
* Staying away from alcohol or drugs while in rehab is made as easy as possible. Clients are protected from temptation and the whole focus of the environment is on helping them beat their addiction. Going home means no longer having such favorable conditions to promote abstinence.
* One of the nice things about rehab is that there is so much support available. Negative thinking can occur at any time of the day or night, but there is always somebody to talk to. Such support is usually not available in the real world.
* Friends and family can express different reactions to the individual returning from rehab. Some may be cynical about the chances of success while others may still be angry about previous wrongdoings. The most dangerous reactions will usually come from those who are continuing to be involved in substance abuse. They may try to sabotage the efforts of the newly sober individual.
* Returning home usually means having to face familiar stresses. These will have been an excuse for the individual to abuse alcohol and drugs. Just because the individual gets sober does not mean that life will stop happening. Nobody gets a free pass in life. In order to deal with these challenges the individual will need to develop better coping skills.
* Many people who end up in rehab will have done so as a result of hitting a particularly low point in their life. The ramifications of this rock bottom might still be causing many ripples. This may mean that when people leave rehab they may still have to face the consequences of their bad behavior.
Feeling a bit of trepidation at the thought of leaving rehab is not a bad thing. It is a sign that the individual is taking the move seriously. If they have made the most of their time in treatment they will have put in a tremendous amount of effort. It is like a boxer preparing for the most important fight of their life. Just spending a lot of time in the gym isn’t enough; they have to make use of the resources available. This fighter may be full of nerves before stepping into a ring, but it is a sign that they are ready to do what needs to be done.
The concern about the transition from rehab to home should motivate people to do all they can to be prepared for it. With the help of the rehab team, and other clients, they will carefully consider the challenges they are likely to face and plan for how they will deal with these. This is like how a boxer will mentally visualize their opponent so that they can plan their strategy.
The period of time when people are most at risk of relapse will be in the first few months after rehab. The initial few weeks can be particularly hazardous as the individual is still transitioning. Once people become established in their recovery the risk of relapse declines, but it never completely goes away.
Making it through rehab only to then relapse is terribly upsetting; not only for the individual but also for their loved ones. There is no guarantee of another chance of recovery. Addicts can find it hard to summon up the motivation to quit again. This may mean that their relapse is a death sentence. Those who return to their addiction always regret it because it means returning to the same conditions that drove them to rehab in the first place. Things can actually feel a lot worse because the individual has had a taste of life away from this abuse.
People in rehab need to develop an understanding of how relapse occurs. People don’t tend to just go back to alcohol or drugs out of the blue. There is usually a process that leads them to this point. By developing an understanding of the relapse process the individual will be able to take the right action to prevent it. Knowing about relapse triggers will mean that they will know what behaviors to look for.
There are number of mistakes that people make after leaving rehab that increase their risk of relapsing. These include:
* Those individuals who leave the treatment program convinced that their problems are over are on shaky ground. It means that they are not prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. It is good that the individual is positive about their future success, but this should not lead to complacency. Tough days will come and if people aren’t prepared for them it can spell disaster. Aftercare is always important.
* Spending a lot of time with former drinking or drug using buddies can be a mistake. There is a saying in AA that if you spend enough time in a barber shop you will eventually get your hair cut. What this means is that if people surround themselves with temptation it increase their risk of relapse. Spending time with old friends like this can mean a slide back into addiction.
* If the only change that a person makes in their life is that they have given up alcohol or drugs it is not going to be enough. Those who become addicted tend to have poor coping skills for dealing with life. If they continue to interact with the world with a business as usual attitude it will lead to problems. This is sometimes referred to as dry drunk syndrome. Even if they manage to avoid relapsing it will still mean a poor quality of life in recovery. Getting sober is all about building a new life away from addiction.
* People should feel happy about their escape from addiction. It is an accomplishment and it should mean a much better life in the future. Sometimes people in early recovery can become so happy with their progress that they lose touch with reality – this is known as the pink cloud syndrome. Everything in life feels perfect and there isn’t one dark cloud on the horizon. The danger here is that the individual can feel so good that they become convinced that all their problems are over. This means that when something goes wrong, as it always will, these people can bump down to earth particularly hard.
* Those who have expectations that are too high may also struggle when they return home. The destruction caused by addiction does not occur overnight and neither does the repair process. Things will get better but it does take time. Loved ones may not be quite ready to forgive and forget, and reputations cannot be rebuilt right away. If people are expecting too much in early recovery it will lead to disappointment.
* Another common mistake that people make is that they try to take on too much right away. It is like they want to fix all the problems in their life in one week. The first couple of years of recovery are a time of recuperation – it is important to not take on too much because people are still fragile.
* Sometimes people slip during their first few weeks at home. They use alcohol or drugs and instantly regret it. Such people will feel that they have let themselves down – and rightly so. Slips should never be taken lightly, but they don’t have to lead to a full-blown relapse. If the individual can get right back into recovery the fall-out of their behavior will be limited. The vital thing is that the individual examines the causes of the slip and learns from it.