Staying Clean and Sober Long After Rehab Is Over
Addiction recovery is a journey, not a final destination. Even after rehab ends, more work remains. Your addiction probably didn’t occur overnight, and you can’t put it behind you with one stay in rehab. In fact, the period just after rehab is the time when you’re most vulnerable to relapsing and even overdosing. Knowing the early warning signs and how to handle them is the best way to prevent relapse after rehab and maintain long-term sobriety.
The Vulnerable Time Just After Rehab
The period right after rehab is when you’re at the most risk of returning to substance abuse. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 40-60% of addicts relapse from their treatment. A 2016 study by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City found that cocaine addicts were most likely to resume using right after their release from rehab. This frequency means it’s essential to know the warning signs and have a robust support system and a plan to prevent it when it threatens to occur.
Warning Signs of Relapse
Addiction relapse involves a gradual process that starts slowly and usually happens in stages. The early signs may be so subtle that you may not even recognize them as a lead-in to using again. The signs don’t necessarily happen in strict order, and you may feel them simultaneously. But these are the general kinds of symptoms:
Moodiness and Other Negative Emotions
Without the drugs you used to use, you start feeling angry and anxious, and you may have mood swings. You may lash out at people who try to help you or withdraw from others and start becoming increasingly isolated. But this is the worst time to withdraw; you need people to help you.
Denial of Your Problem
You’ve completed rehab, and you haven’t had a drink or used drugs since you got out. Indeed you can just have a little, right? You’ll find yourself thinking like this frequently and remembering the “good old days” when you were using drugs. You may even seek out the friends and associates you sued to hang with.
You’ve given in to your cravings and started using or drinking again. This action can happen quickly, so you must have a prevention plan in place before you get to this stage.
8 Ways to Prevent Relapse
The best way to prevent relapse is to understand that you will be in recovery for a long time and that you will be at risk for a long time. Here are some practical ways to reduce the chances of resuming your addiction:
1. Be mindful of your feelings – Stay aware of how you feel in certain circumstances. Learn to recognize which situations cause you to lose control and reach for artificial relief.
2. Stay busy – Keeping your mind and body occupied will help you resist temptation. Make sure you’re keeping busy with meaningful things you enjoy doing.
3. Keep up with your therapy – Continue your 12-Step program or other treatment. Attend as many meetings as you need.
4. Keep a list of supporters – When you start feeling like you can’t make it without relapsing, reach out to one of the people you know can help you. Don’t try to go it alone.
5. Have a plan – What will you do when someone entices you to a drink? What if you run into a friend from the old days who wants to party? Think ahead to the various scenarios you might encounter and decide how you’ll handle them.
6. Find other ways to be good to yourself – You don’t deserve a drink because you’ve stayed sober so long – you deserve a real reward. Buy yourself a new outfit, go on vacation or just enjoy a simple pleasure like an afternoon at the beach.
7. Follow the old advice: One day at a time – You got through today. That’s all that matters right now.
8. If you have to, check yourself into rehab again – Don’t beat yourself up. You didn’t fail; you had a setback, and now you’re getting up and trying again.