What Happens After Rehab? Navigating in a New Direction

What Happens After Rehab? Navigating in a New Direction
Recovery October 9, 2019
Author: Ilana Jael

Finding your own way as you step out of rehab or detox may seem daunting in the early days. Addiction treatment is a personal journey, and you may still be wondering how to arrive at an independent and sober lifestyle.

In the grip of addiction, we can lose our sense of direction. Drugs and alcohol distort perception, change the balance of brain chemicals, and can send our inner compass spinning. Outpatient therapy and sober living homes can offer resources and stability while you set your sights on new life goals.

Let’s lay out a roadmap after rehab that will get you to the place you truly want to be.

Choosing Your Own Path to Recovery

It takes quite a long time for the body and brain to recover from addiction. While a detox program is extremely valuable in providing medical support and supervision during severe withdrawal, achieving sobriety is only the first step on this path. To recover fully, one must not only stay sober but discover sources of satisfaction and joy in life which are based in reality.

Maybe the environment around you, your personal reality, contributed to your desire to escape into substance abuse. You have the power to change your life. Take the best of these strategies and make them your own as you choose your next steps forward.

1. Plan a Route

Maybe you have a destination in mind. If you have always wanted to do something, this is the perfect time to start moving that direction. If you’ve always wanted to restore classic cars, start learning the necessary skills. If you’ve always wanted to work with animals, volunteer at your local humane society as a first stop. Knowing where you are headed lets you program your inner GPS to get there efficiently, with planned stops along the way.

You may not know exactly where you want to wind up. A world of possibilities is open to you, but you need to explore it. One thing you can decide is where you do not want to be. Start moving in a positive direction and open yourself to new experiences. Peruse tech school and college catalogs. Watch videos about different careers, hobbies, and places to live. Without the clouding effects of addictive substances, you will eventually see clearly where you want to go.

Some milestones and refueling stations to consider:

2. Stay on the Marked Path

When you leave rehab, your treatment team should help you create a “discharge plan” or post-treatment plan that will document the next steps you have chosen. This document can serve as a resource by clearly outlining these factors to keep you on track:

3. Move Toward a Healthier Environment

You may need to take a close look at your living situation. Some people returning from rehab have a safe, clean, and sober housing available, but this is often not the case. If the other residents of your former home are still using, or if the neighborhood offers constant access and temptation to relapse, a change of scenery may be the best move.

One way to transition smoothly and safely is to choose a sober living facility in your area as a place to find community support and protect your sobriety during early recovery. Changing from a more restrictive environment to recovery housing gives you a chance to practice navigating daily life without the distractions and stresses of your former living space.

4. Choose Your Traveling Companions

Who will you choose to move forward with you? As part of the recovery process, you may have learned some of the necessary skills to recognize, build, or repair healthy relationships. There may be some old relationships that you need to end and others you wish to restore to a state of mutual trust and respect.

As you step out of inpatient or outpatient rehab, keep improving your circle of support by:

Avoiding relationships with those who are still in the grip of addiction, unless and until you are secure enough in your sobriety to serve as a mentor to others.

5. Stop and Refuel

beautiful young woman traveler lost on highway

There are 12-step meetings happening in almost every community, often at all hours of the day. Alternatively, you can check in with an outpatient program on a regular basis. These pit stops are essential to keeping your recovery moving. As soon as you feel a need to re-orient yourself or find a source of strength, reach out to your network.

Group or family counseling, self-help groups, and sobriety-focused events are all sources of positive energy, but you have to put yourself in the places where support is waiting for you. When you reach a low point or hit a pothole, it can be difficult to get up and go, so call a friend, family member, or sponsor you trust to guide you.

Refueling the Mind

Very often, addiction goes hand in hand with mental health disorders. These co-occurring conditions may need continuing treatment after rehab. Depression, bi-polar disorder, childhood trauma, and PTSD are all associated with addictive behavior.1 Focusing on your mental health and healing therapies after addiction treatment will help prevent relapse and restore a healthy mindset.

Refueling the Body

As part of the recovery process, the body begins to heal from the damage done by substance abuse. Exercise and sleep are amazing in their natural ability to restore brain chemical balance and clear the body of toxins. Exercise releases endorphins and other signals to the body, which make us feel physically and mentally better, while improving sleep. While sleeping, the body heals and the mind rests. Taking good care of your physical health will speed your way to recovery.

Refueling the Spirit

As humans, we are more than a mind and body that can be treated with formal therapy. This is why part of addiction treatment and supportive sober living programs are often making a connection to a higher power or purpose. Personal beliefs may vary, but we all need to empower our inner selves with a sense of positive purpose.

Using your energy and talents to help others can restore a strong spirit and a sense of self-worth. Learning about yourself while you make a positive change in the world around you is more than a way to stay sober—it is a reason to do so. By engaging in a spiritual community and embracing a full experience, you may restore a sense of wonder, achievement, and joy to your life.

If You Take a Wrong Turn

four tourists in the forest holding map

Recognizing the signs of impending relapse is a skill you will acquire. Stress, unexpected triggers, and challenging life events might steer you off course. The fact is, when a relapse occurs, how you react to it will determine how far it sets you back.

Having a plan in place of where you will turn if you relapse will help guide you in the moment. Addiction is a chronic disease, and a relapse is not a failure of the individual or their treatment program but a sign that more treatment is needed. Moving into a sober living facility or returning to intensive outpatient therapy right away will restore your sense of direction.

Choosing an Experienced Guide

If you or someone you care about is struggling to start or complete a recovery journey, contact us for help. RECO Institute in Delray Beach, Florida offers luxurious and modern sober residences that can be a safe and comfortable step on the path to long lasting health and freedom from addiction.

In partnership with RECO Intensive’s outpatient programs, our sober living homes offer the broadest range of evidence based therapies and community resources to smooth the transition from rehab to a full and satisfying sober lifestyle. No matter where you are at this moment, we are standing by to empower your recovery.


  1. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
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