10 Things to Do After Rehab – Living Life in Early Recovery

man free from addiction after rehab
If you’ve recently completed a residential rehab programme, congratulations – it’s a brilliant achievement. Asking for addiction help and achieving sobriety are huge steps that take courage and commitment. But what happens after rehab? How do you prepare for and live your life in early recovery?

In this post, we’ll give you our top 10 suggestions for life after rehab. We’ll explain how to put your addiction recovery first, strengthen your health and well-being, pace yourself and prevent relapse.

1. The Day You Leave Rehab – Prepare and Share

group therapy session
Towards the end of your time in residential rehab, you’ll discuss and make plans for leaving the treatment centre. Your focal counsellor and the wider treatment team will guide you on the considerations for the day you leave.

You’ll get clear on where you are going when you leave, how you’re travelling to your destination and whether you need support in place for the journey. Is a relative or friend coming to collect you? Is there anything you need to make the trip more comfortable? If it’s a long journey, do you know where you’re taking breaks along the way?

Most importantly, as you’re approaching the date you leave rehab, speak about how you’re feeling about returning to the community. Group therapy and 1-2-1 sessions are the best place to voice any concerns you have about going home. Talk about anything that’s on your mind – no matter how big or small it seems. Most people experience some anticipation or concerns about leaving rehab – it’s normal to be a bit nervous about this important stage.

In a few cases, people choose to extend their time in rehab or go on to another addiction recovery facility. You’ll be able to discuss and plan this during your time in rehab – so you’ll know exactly what’s happening when you’re due to leave.

2: The First Day and Night at Home after Rehab – Keep it Simple

couple walking a dog
After spending weeks or months in rehab, getting home or to the place you’re staying can bring up mixed emotions. You might feel excited to spend time with your family and sleep in your own bed again. Or you might be worried about going back to an empty flat.

Perhaps you share a house with friends or relatives who don’t understand your addiction – or they’re addicted themselves.

Whatever your circumstances, there’s time to prepare whilst in residential rehab. You can identify the pros and cons of where you’re living and develop strategies to deal with anything risky or challenging at home. Whilst you can’t predict everything that’s going to happen when you leave rehab, talking through how you’ll deal with likely situations builds your coping strategies. This includes knowing what to do if you experience cravings to use or act out in your addiction. Most recovering addicts get some cravings to use in early recovery – in rehab, you’ll learn how to spot what’s happening and get help quickly.

Our main suggestion is not to take too much on immediately after leaving rehab. Remember that you’ve just been through an intensive rehabilitation programme for a serious illness. You haven’t been on holiday. You don’t need to tell people everything (or anything at all) about rehab. Take things at your pace.

So, you might prefer to go home and take things easy after rehab, rather than making plans to go out with friends. Or if you don’t want to be at home alone on your first night, you can ask a good friend to come over. Even better, go to a local addiction recovery meeting and talk about how you’re feeling.

If you have trouble sleeping on your first night home, try to use some of the relaxation techniques you’ve learned in rehab such as meditation or deep breathing. It may take a few days to settle back in at home – that’s completely normal to need time to adjust.

3. Go to Local Addiction Recovery Groups – the Best Free Support

spice chemical structure
There are thousands of 12-step recovery groups across the country – as well as in most countries worldwide. Search online for the Anonymous fellowship of your choice and find a list of local meetings.

There are also alternative addiction support groups in many towns in the UK including SMART Recovery groups – though these are fewer in number. For people who live in remote areas, there are telephone and online recovery meetings that you can join – get in touch with the organisation via their website for details.

Why are addiction recovery groups a good idea? Recovery from addiction is a process not an event. Rehab gives you the best possible start – allowing you to detox safely and learn vital recovery skills with the help of experts. However, most people find that with every new situation in recovery, there can be challenges and strong emotions to manage. By attending local support groups regularly, you’ll benefit from the ideas and knowledge within the recovery community.

4. Attend Free Aftercare Sessions – Structure and Continuity After Rehab

Good rehabs including all UKAT facilities offer free aftercare sessions to clients who complete their programme. Whilst in rehab, you’ll be informed about when these groups run. Typically, they are weekly groups that operate at a time when most people can attend easily – such as evenings.

Aftercare is really useful for managing the transition period between leaving rehab and resuming your life in the outside world. You can discuss all aspects of living life in early recovery – as you take up activities and face new challenges.

5. Continue Learning about Recovery – Growth and Resilience

woman meditating
There are many ways to continue developing your addiction recovery skills. It’s a good idea to have a range of approaches – including regular face-to-face contact with recovering peers. The most tried and tested methods include:

Participating in addiction recovery meetings – listening and sharing in group sessions, reading the literature and books on offer, taking up positions within the group to help run meetings.

Going through an addiction recovery programme – for example, the 12-step programme or the SMART Recovery programme. You’ll work with a mentor or sponsor who will guide you through the process.

Exchanging phone numbers with addicts in recovery – ideally people who are practising a recovery programme themselves, who you can call to talk through issues.

Building a relationship with your GP – it’s a good idea to check in with GP in early recovery and let them know how you’re progressing. They’ll also need to know if you’re recovering from substance addiction – because this is an important consideration if you need prescribed medication in future.

Taking up outpatient addiction counselling – you can ask at your rehab about where to find addiction counsellors who work in the community. This is particularly helpful if there are things you aren’t comfortable to talk about with peers – including childhood trauma or abuse.

Mentor or sponsor other people who want to recover from addiction – once you’ve established your own recovery, you can begin working with other people in their recovery process. Mostly, this takes place in free addiction support groups – but recovering addicts find other ways of passing on their skills, including by volunteering at rehabs.

Joining recovery communities online – there are countless websites, apps, social media groups and recovery resources available for people online. If you don’t like one, try another. Find communities that inspire you to develop your recovery.

Secondary care or other residential programmes – occasionally after rehab, people find they are still struggling to maintain their recovery. If this is the case for you, then there are many options for ongoing, structured support including secondary care facilities.

6. Boundaries with Family and Friends – Stick to Your Recovery Plan

woman meditating
Your recovery from addiction may be great news for some people in your life – but others may react strangely or even in hostile ways. For example, your mum might be delighted you’ve given up alcohol – but your best friend has stopped inviting you out or calling round.

In recovery from addiction, you may face choices about what matters most to you. Is your recovery more important than keeping other people happy? The best advice we can give you is to take things day by day and put your recovery plan first. Other people don’t have to get what you’re doing. You know why recovery is essential for you. Stick to the plan and you’ll reap the rewards – including vastly improved relationships with family and friends.

7. For People Returning to Work or Education – Know Your Allies

Depending on your circumstances, you might go straight back to work or education after rehab or you might take time out. Sometimes people have a phased return to their job role – such as starting out part-time then increasing hours gradually. For others, a job or course is a definite advantage in early recovery – it gives structure and purpose to the day.

Whatever you decide, it’s really important to know who you can talk to at your work place or educational establishment. In larger firms, there’s usually an HR or occupational health department. In smaller companies, you may need to talk to your line manager, the managing director or CEO. If you run your own business, then it’s up to you to decide – so you may need to speak to other business owners in recovery for guidance. In all cases, talk about what your plans are whilst you’re still in rehab.

Our main suggestion is this – whatever you decide about returning to work or education, know that you can change your mind it if it feels too much. So if you go back to work full-time straight away and the pressure is too much, consider temporarily reducing your hours and getting extra recovery support. If your college or university course feels overwhelming, ask for extra time to complete assignments, take up counselling or defer for a year.

8. Holidays – Is it Too Soon to Go Away?

Taking a holiday in early recovery can be a life-affirming and refreshing experience – if you’re going for the right reasons and you have good support in place. So it’s not so much about when you take a holiday – it’s about why you’re going, who with and whether there’s local recovery support available.

Before booking a holiday, we’d suggest talking through your plans with recovery peers. This will help you identify the pros and cons of going away – and whether there’s a better destination or plan for your break.

9. Relationships – Make-ups or Break Ups

When it comes to relationships, early recovery is often a time people want to start, revive or end relationships. This is because the feelings that were numbed by addiction come to the surface – and often, they can feel very impulsive.

Unless there’s a really pressing reason to end a relationship – such as emotional or physical abuse, criminal behaviour or an addicted partner who is threatening your recovery – then it’s a good idea to give yourself time in recovery before making big decisions. Do get support from peers or an addiction counsellor with conflict in relationships – don’t suffer in silence.

In terms of starting a new relationship or getting back together with someone, many addiction professionals advise to take new relationships slowly in early recovery. This is because the start of recovery is about embedding all the things you need to do for yourself to stay well. However, there’s really no right or wrong – so if you do get into a relationship in early recovery, make sure you’re talking about it with trusted people and you’re still attending to your needs.

10. What Next in Life? – One Thing at A Time

After rehab, people often feel a new lease of life. They’re keen to get on with all the things that addiction prevented them doing. They want to make decisions and move forward with new determination.

Recovery from addiction is inspiring – so you may get lots of creative ideas in early recovery about what you want to do next in life. Ideally, work an addiction recovery programme first. Keep note of all the things that you feel inspired to do.

Then you can choose one thing at a time to add into your life. By not overwhelming yourself with too much to do, you’re more likely to enjoy and achieve your goals. This includes for high achievers and high earners – give yourself time to grow in early recovery.

At UKAT, we offer residential rehab programmes and secondary care to clients nationwide. Our service is confidential. Our rehabs are monitored by the Care Quality Commission. Please call for an addiction assessment today.