Addiction Recovery

The addiction recovery process is a lifelong journey, but what exactly does life look like after receiving alcohol or drug rehab?

There are various recovery services available to help you continue to avoid alcohol or drug use, from support groups to specialized therapies. While your journey may be unique to you, let’s look at what your life can look like after getting help for alcohol or drug addiction.

Facts About Addiction Recovery

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with substance use disorder, you likely have many questions.

Initially, you will choose an addiction treatment program to receive drug or alcohol abuse treatment. But you may wonder what comes next—and what your chances are of living a fulfilling life once your treatment program ends.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, most people who seek addiction treatment and remain in recovery support can quit their drug use. These individuals also participate in less criminal activity, enjoy better work opportunities, enhance their social lives, and improve their overall mental state.

“Because addiction is a disease, most people cannot simply stop using drugs for a few days and be cured. Patients typically require long-term or repeated episodes of care to achieve the ultimate goal of sustained abstinence and recovery of their lives.”

-Nora D. Volkow, M.D | Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

Addiction Treatment Programs

Various treatment options are available to help you or your loved one with addiction recovery. Treatment facilities range from inpatient and residential care to outpatient treatment.

Your doctor or licensed addiction counselor can help you select the best type of treatment center for your individual needs. Your treatment plan may include additional treatment approaches outside the various treatment centers providing recovery services.

Medical Detoxification

Medical detox is often the first step in recovery. Many individuals quitting substance abuse will need to go through detox as their bodies work on rebalancing their natural chemicals. Detox services are provided at inpatient and outpatient levels, depending on your needs.

Addiction Medicine

Addiction doctors may prescribe you medication as part of your overall treatment plan. This medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms, diminish cravings, and help you stay sober during and after recovery.

Medical professionals often recommend MAT during alcohol detox and opioid addiction rehab. They do not use MAT to treat all types of substance use disorders.

Inpatient Treatment Centers

Inpatient care provides recovering addicts with the most structure of any treatment option. Inpatient treatment centers can also offer 24/7 access to medical care when other health issues may be a concern due to the patient’s previous drug or alcohol abuse.

Residential treatment can last as little as 30 days, but the recommended length for the highest potential for success is 90 days.

Outpatient Treatment Centers

Outpatient programs are an excellent option for individuals with a mild to moderate addiction to drugs or alcohol. These outpatient treatment centers will provide the same quality of care as an inpatient program but without requiring the patient to live on-site.

Partial Hospitalization

Partial Hospitalization programs are structured very similarly to the daily schedule of a residential program but without the live-in requirement. Patients will visit a treatment center between 4 to 8 hours a day (depending on their treatment plan) for several days each week.

Partial Hospitalization Programs are great for individuals that require more intensive treatment but may be unable to attend residential care due to other commitments, such as family responsibilities or employment.

Intensive Outpatient Treatment

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) are best for individuals with mild to moderate addiction that have solid support systems in their lives. An IOP provides therapy and group counseling a few hours a day for about 10-15 hours each week.

An IOP is also beneficial to patients with more severe addiction issues that have completed a residential program but would still benefit from additional treatment services.

Sober Living Houses

Sober living houses provide a drug and alcohol-free home for recovering addicts. Sober living offers a safe, supportive environment after people have completed their rehab programs as a way to bridge the gap between the structure of rehab and living back in mainstream society.

Halfway Houses

Halfway houses are sober living facilities tailored to meet the needs of individuals with previous drug abuse issues who also have criminal backgrounds. The halfway house is structured to help these recovering addicts reintegrate into society and learn better life skills to avoid future incarceration.

In many cases, individuals imprisoned for drug-related crimes must live at a halfway house after serving their sentences.

Addiction Recovery Therapy Types

All inpatient and outpatient rehab programs offer various mental health services to help recovering addicts improve their overall well-being.

Through individual and group therapy, recovering addicts can improve their coping mechanisms, receive peer support, work through problematic thought patterns, and develop skills that will help with relapse prevention.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of psychotherapy or “talk therapy.” Psychologists use CBT in treating drug or alcohol addiction because it helps individuals discover what negative thought patterns might have contributed to their addictive behavior. During individual or group therapy sessions, patients will work with the therapist to re-structure these negative behaviors into more positive, healthy patterns.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is another form of psychotherapy commonly used to treat substance use disorder. DBT focuses on acknowledging and accepting difficult emotions that may be contributing to their struggle with addiction. Individuals participate in DBT during sessions and in skills training groups.

Motivational Enhancement Therapy (MET)

Motivational enhancement therapy (MET) is a type of reward-based therapy model in which recovering addicts have the opportunity to earn vouchers or tokens for positive behavior. Some examples of this good behavior can include clear drug tests or participation in group therapy sessions, etc.

Motivational enhancement therapy provides recovering addicts with incentives to remain sober, such as movie tickets or special meal vouchers. MET also helps recovering addicts enjoy different aspects of daily life unrelated to drugs or alcohol through these appropriate rewards.

12-Step Programs for Recovery

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are programs consisting of 12 progressive steps that guide individuals in sobriety. These 12-step programs are available both in rehab and after rehab is finished, so recovering addicts can continue their 12-step work even after completing their rehab program.

Living as an Addict in Recovery After Drug Rehab

Once you or your family member finishes rehab, the task of rebuilding your life may feel overwhelming. You may be worried about what life looks like after treatment and if things will ever go back to normal.

The truth is, life after rehab will be different, but that’s not a bad thing! Using the skills you acquired during treatment and making significant life changes can lead you to a happier, more fulfilling life. After rehab, the critical thing to remember is to take things one small step at a time.

Tips on How To Rebuild Your Life After Drug Rehab

Recovery is a life-long journey, but many recovering addicts can continue improving their lives after rehab. You can use the following aftercare tips as a guideline for where to start rebuilding once you finish your rehab program.

Continue Going to Therapy

Doctors strongly recommend attending individual therapy after your rehab program. While behavioral therapy is also provided during rehab, continuing the work you started can help you maintain long-term sobriety and improve your overall quality of life.

Family therapy allows an addict to make amends to family members and work through any other complications resulting from their addiction. Alternatively, family therapy may provide additional healing and support if family issues contribute to your behaviors and initial substance abuse.

Find a Support Group

Support groups after rehab are also beneficial. Consider joining a 12-step program in your area to have a supportive group of peers to help you remain sober. Many other support groups are available, both in-person and online, to give you a sense of community with other recovering addicts who understand what you’ve experienced.

Eliminate Toxic Friends and Situations

As you strengthen your support system through family and peers, you will also want to remove toxic people or social situations from your life. Making these changes may be hard at first, but if a particular group of people is still using drugs or are connected to your previous drinking or drug problem, spending time with them again will make it hard to stay sober.

Similarly, you may need to avoid certain social situations—like going to bars or old hangout spots—where drug or alcohol use once occurred. Avoiding temptations will improve your chances of preventing relapse as well.

Create a New Routine

As you eliminate any possible toxic people or situations from your life, you’ll want to replace those with healthier habits. Once you’re out of rehab, creating a new routine will help you develop a new sense of normal.

When creating your routine, consider adding new activities such as fitness, meditation, reading, or other self-help behaviors that can help you continue to heal emotionally after your addiction.

Find New Hobbies

New hobbies can be a great thing to add to your new routine. Is there something out there that you always wanted to try? From crafting to outdoor recreation, engaging your mind and body in new hobbies is helpful in recovery.

Take a look at local classes that are available in your area. Explore a new part of town, or take a walk in a local park. As you continue to work on your recovery, you might be surprised what new hobby calls out to you!

Focus on Your Health

One possible suggestion for a new hobby is to get more interested in health and fitness. You don’t have to become a “gym rat” to become more health-conscious, and you can begin being more health-conscious by thinking more about the types of food you eat and focusing on your nutrition.

You can also join a local free fitness group, like a run club, or sign up for a yoga class. This new focus on your health will allow your body to continue healing, but it can also provide you with a new hobby. And as a bonus, you may also find a new, healthy social group to support you in your recovery.

Get Plenty of Rest

As you continue your recovery journey, make sure you get plenty of rest—especially if you are taking part in more active hobbies. You’ve completed the initial stage of treatment, but your mind and body are still recovering. Ensuring you get plenty of sleep will allow your body to recover and keep you mentally refreshed.

Set and Accomplish Goals

Setting goals and working toward accomplishing them can provide you with motivation and positive reinforcement in your new drug-free life. Setting goals doesn’t have to be complicated. They can be as simple as finding a support group, continuing a certain amount of therapy sessions, or even creating a new habit like making the bed every day.

Consider tracking your goals in a planner or a bullet journal, and enjoy the feeling that comes each time you check something off your list.

Make Amends

One of the more difficult parts of rebuilding your life will be making amends with those you have hurt due to your addiction. Making amends will give both you and those you may have harmed the opportunity to work through things and move on.

Making amends with someone may lead to a renewed relationship, and it may not. However, the key is that you are actively working on a better, healthier lifestyle while being accountable for behaviors you made in the past.

Are You Ready to Start Your New Life?

The first step in recovery is getting treatment. Start by searching the SAMHSA program locator to see what programs are available in your area.

Reviewed by:Chris Carberg

Addiction Guide Founder & Mental Health Advocate

  • Fact-Checked
  • Editor

Chris Carberg is a visionary digital entrepreneur, the Founder of Addiction Guide, and a long-time recovering addict from prescription opioids, sedatives, and alcohol.  Over the past 15 years, Chris has worked as a tireless advocate for addicts and their loved ones, while becoming a sought-after digital entrepreneur. Chris is a storyteller and aims to share his story with others in the hopes of helping them achieve their own recovery.

Written by:

Content Manager

Jessica Miller is a USF graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in English. She has written professionally for over a decade, from HR scripts and employee training to business marketing and company branding. In addition to writing, Jessica spent time in the healthcare sector (HR) and as a high school teacher. She has personally experienced the pitfalls of addiction and is delighted to bring her knowledge and writing skills together to support our mission. Jessica lives in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and two dogs.

3 references
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2020, June 3). Types of treatment programs. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/principles-drug-addiction-treatment-research-based-guide-third-edition/drug-addiction-treatment-in-united-states/types-treatment-programs
  2. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45. HHS Publication No. (SMA) 15-4131. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 2006.
  3. National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes of Health; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved April 1, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/nchav/resources/docs/interventions/contingency-management/NIDA-principles-of-drug-addiction-treatment-a-research-based-guide-third-edition-508.pdf

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