I Completed Drug Rehab,
Now What?

Happy Sober Young Woman

When recovering addicts explore the prospect of getting off of drugs and alcohol, they can usually only think as far into the future as getting into and through a drug and alcohol rehab center. Just getting to rehab is the primary focus for them, a real need and a steady goal that they have until they can just get it done. Addicts tend to spend their time and energy focusing on getting into a rehab center, believing firmly that going to a drug rehab is the key to their recovery.

And it is, to a degree. But that is, of course, assuming that they get into a good rehab center. Howard Samuels, an owner, and a chief executive officer at an alcohol and drug treatment facility in Los Angeles commented that there is no such thing as “bad rehab” as bad rehabs do not stay in business long. He also mentioned how, at the end of the day, it is just as much up to the recovering addict as it is to the treatment center to ensure success. It is a team effort after all. He said that:

“It’s up to the individual to follow the treatment plan once he or she leaves the center.” 

Shady treatment centers aren’t in business for long; they end up failing because of unethical or unlawful business practices. Look for a track record of more than five years. The ones that have been open longer than that tend to remain open because they do good work. It’s impossible to guarantee success for an alcoholic/addict. It’s up to the individual to follow the treatment plan once he or she leaves the center. ( Source )

But even if the recovering addict goes to a good rehab, (which is the most likely eventuality), they are still far from free and clear. There is still much for them to work on, much for them to accomplish, much for them to focus their attention on. In the next few paragraphs, we’ll take a look at what a recovering addict should do after they manage to overcome addiction and are once again free and sober human beings.

The Big Misconception

There is a big misconception that drug addicts and the family members and loved ones of those drug addicts have on the subject of addiction treatment. There is this concept that all one has to do to get off of drugs and alcohol is to enter into a treatment center and they will automatically be “all set.” Some people believe erroneously that getting off of a drug habit is as easy as walking into rehab and calling it “good.”

But this is not the case, and it likely never has been.

Couple discussing the problem

Most drug addicts and alcoholics wait years before they go to rehab. They spend years and years using drugs and alcohol, ruining their lives, getting worse, experiencing hardship, falling prey to illness, injury, and other types of difficulties and critical issues that impair their lives considerably.

This is merely a matter of time. That’s all it comes down to. Addicts use drugs and alcohol for years on end, then they finally decide to enter into an addiction treatment center of some kind. So when they do enter a program, how could they possibly hope to reverse years of habits and mindsets in just a few short weeks or months at a treatment center? It just doesn’t work that way. Recovering addicts need to plan for continuing to work on their recovery even after they complete a rehab program.

An inpatient treatment center is designed to help an individual overcome the hump of addiction. The idea is to address the key stumbling blocks and hardships in the person’s life. An inpatient center will assist the person in detoxification and withdrawal off of substances. The person will have access to a plethora of counseling and therapy sessions. They will be able to avail themselves of coping strategies, relapse prevention techniques, life skills, educational courses, therapy, counseling, strategies for success in sobriety, etc. Let’s not devalue the fact that a rehab center gives a recovering addict a lot to work with.

But recovery takes time. That’s really all there is to it. A rehab gives a recovering addict the tools to get free, but the person has to now use those tools and apply them to his or her life, post-rehab. A rehab does not simply wave a magic wand to “fix” an addict. Rehabs do save lives, but the life-saving process is an exciting and rewarding journey that may take years to accomplish fully. Going to rehab is simply the first step in a long path of exciting fulfillment towards a far better life.

A Step-by-Step Checklist for Life After Rehab

Life after rehab has to be handled well. It can be tricky at first, transitioning out of the highly controlled environment of an inpatient rehab facility; a drug free environment where a person has all of the help and support, care and assistance that they could possibly want, and now transitioning once again into life as a functioning, responsible adult with demands and obligations to fulfill. An environment where drugs and alcohol may not only be around but might be being offered to him. Here are some tips to keep one on the straight and narrow, a checklist of sorts to help guide recovering individuals in what they should do right after they complete a rehab program:

Person travelling
  • When you come back from rehab, make sure that you come back to a different place. By this is meant that you need to avoid the environment, neighborhood, or city that you were once in. This can be tough, as you might want to move back into your old house or your old location, but avoiding old triggers and old areas that remind you of your days as a substance abuser will not be helpful for you. If this is not possible, work out a strategy of how you will deal with this environment while you are still in treatment, before you are discharged. A good Transition Plan should help by outlining things to do to avoid any problems.
  • Make sure to start acting on your plans, right away. Laziness and a lack of activity is the devil’s best friend in this case, and nothing prompts a relapse more than having nothing to do does. Though it may seem stressful at first, recovering addicts should enter into high levels of activity as soon as they get back from rehab, including a full-time job or educational endeavor, hobbies, activities, positive social group engagement, family time, etc. Again, this should be addressed in the Transition Plan before discharge.
  • Spend lots of time with your support group. One’s support group is the backbone, the key to any recovering addict’s path to a better life and better living. This could be the family, your friends, other recovering addicts, etc. Spend lots of time with these people, as they will be people who help bring you up. Be certain to avoid people who bring you down, and be absolutely sure not to spend time with people who supported your drug use previously.
Woman practicing live art
  • Last but not least, immediately begin a life of self-improvement and self-enhancement. Recovery works, but it only works to the degree that you keep working on it. Read books about sobriety and the everlasting quest for abstinence. Keep a journal. Take a class. Pick up a fitness quest or a healthy eating hobby. Attend church. Getting off of drugs and alcohol is a quest for a better life, but there is so much more to the attainment of that better life than just simply going to a rehab center. It starts with rehab, but it continues with your onward quest to a life of growth and fulfillment. Work with you Treatment Team to devise a Transition Plan to include a Plan of Action before discharge.

These are just the first steps, the first forward movement to better living. This is a real quest we are talking about here, a lifetime endeavor that never really ends. But it is a good endeavor, a path that gets more rewarding and easier to walk as each year goes by.



Clinical Review by Claire Pinelli, LADC, CCS, ICAADC, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.