15 Tips for Staying Sober After Rehab

staying sober after rehab

Leaving rehab, it feels like you’ve been given a new lease on life. Gone are the dark days of addiction that consumed your every waking moment with thoughts of drinking. But sobriety isn’t a guarantee just because you’ve completed a treatment program.

You really do have a new opportunity to create the life you want. That’s why it’s important to take steps for staying sober after rehab.

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Recovery Doesn’t End After Rehab

staying sober after rehabWhile you were in treatment, you undoubtedly heard someone say that recovery doesn’t end after rehab. You’re about to realize just how true that statement is. 

Recovery is a life-long process requiring sustained effort. While it’s hard work, the benefits of sobriety far outweigh any efforts. We reap rewards in our relationships, our sense of inner peace, improved health, and overall well-being.

In order to adjust to your new life outside the rehab bubble, here are 15 tried and true tips to help keep you sober and thriving in long-term recovery.

#1. Create a Relapse Prevention Plan

Your relapse prevention plan is an action plan you develop in rehab. Your team helps you put together a plan that includes resources, relapse triggers and warning signs, and places where you can get support.

In rehab, you create the plan. Staying sober after rehab demands that you also use it.

#2. Develop a Solid Support System

Social support is critical to long-term alcohol addiction recovery. Your support system prevents isolation and reduces the risk of relapse. It also gives you people to talk to and share your challenges (and victories!) with.

Develop a mix of social support that includes family members, close friends, partners, and friends in recovery. It can include other people in treatment, such as members of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or participants in a group therapy group.

These social supports should be people you can trust and who support you and your recovery journey.

#3. Build Healthy Relationships

While you gather support around you, remember that part of recovery is also rebuilding or repairing relationships we have damaged and developing new healthy relationships. 

Building healthy relationships means avoiding those who you used to engage in problematic alcohol use with and developing relationships with people who model healthy behavior, like people who have hobbies you’re interested in and are focused on goals to improve their well-being.

#4. Avoid Risky Situations

Staying sober after rehab requires that you change how you live. If you drank with friends in bars, just being in those establishments could create the risk of relapse. If you drank in secret at home, isolating yourself and keeping mixology paraphernalia could put you in danger.

Research suggests that relapse happens in stages, often starting with difficult emotions and obsessive thinking. Avoid people, places, and things that encourage these feelings and thoughts.

Other risky situations could be hanging out with friends who use, letting your recovery activities lapse, or engaging in old coping behaviors like going with coworkers to a bar after work.

#5. Attend Peer Support Meetings

Group meetings like AA, SMART Recovery, and Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) are a critical part of staying sober after rehab. Peer groups are associated with positive recovery outcomes, including reduced need for formal addiction treatment in the future.

You don’t have to attend certain peer groups if you don’t like their style, but you can find a meeting that works for you as there are lots of different kinds of meetings available.

#6. Manage Your Stress

Stress is a major contributing factor to relapse. In the early stages of recovery, it’s important to keep stress to a minimum. That might mean taking a less stressful job, or going to sober living accommodations until you’ve developed enough experience of handling challenges in sobriety. 

If you do have to return to work, then try to be mindful of stress and actively work towards reducing or relieving it. Activities like yoga, meditation, or simply going for a walk are great ways to relieve stress.

Managing stress also means tending to your basic needs. AA recommends the HALT method: check in with yourself to see if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired and take care of these urgent matters first.

#7. Create a Structured Schedule

Having a plan for the day is a great way to manage your time. In the early days, a lack of schedule can leave you feeling bored or even tempted to use. So try and keep your schedule full of recovery activities, work, and meetings that help you feel purposeful and fulfilled.

#8. Have a Plan for Cravings

Cravings should be an aspect of your relapse prevention plan, but you may need to flesh out this part of your plan as you experience post-rehab life.

Strategies might include meditating, talking it through with a recovery friend, going to a peer support meeting, talking to your therapist, or exercising. 

Cravings are a perfectly normal part of recovery, especially if you used alcohol or drugs for a long time. You don’t need to be frightened of them, but you do need to have a plan to overcome them. You’ll find that, over time, cravings are reduced, and you have less of an emotional response to them.

#9. Recognize Relapse Warning Signs

There are some clear warning signs of potential relapse, including:

  • No longer going to peer support groups or no longer participating
  • Avoiding friends who are in recovery
  • Isolating yourself
  • Bottling up emotions, especially those related to cravings
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Interpersonal conflicts
  • Missing your recovery-related commitments

 Be mindful if any of these are showing up and try to stay committed to your routines. You might also find it helpful to talk to your counselor, AA sponsor, or mentor. 

#10. Connect With Your Body in a Healthy Way

Many people who are focused on staying sober after rehab find that some kind of movement is a great way to relieve stress, manage your mood and well-being, and promote recovery. You don’t have to go to the gym every day, or at all. Find some kind of movement that works for you.

You can also connect to your body through spending time in nature, such as by bird watching, taking your meals or morning coffee outside, or practicing body scan-style meditations.

Reacquainting yourself with your newly sober body can help you tend to its needs without resorting to alcohol.

#11. Find a Sense of Purpose

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), recovery has four major dimensions, one of which is purpose. Perhaps you find your purpose in changing your career to something you’ve always wanted to do, or maybe it is fostering animals. Maybe you find purpose in smaller things. 

According to SAMHSA’s definition, “purpose” not only includes “conducting meaningful daily activities,” but also having “the independence, income, and resources to participate in society.”

Having a sense of purpose can make people feel more connected, they develop more resiliency, show more optimism, and find a greater sense of hope.

#12. Heal With Intention

Addiction is an unwanted coping mechanism, often deeply linked to trauma. In order to sustain recovery and pursue staying sober after rehab, we need to heal from our past. 

Your healing process may involve regularly visiting a therapist, having trauma therapy like EMDR, or using a creative therapy like art or music therapy to process your addiction and trauma. Unresolved trauma is a risk factor for returning to use so it is critical to work on this. 

#13. Be Mindful of Your Financial Health

Addiction has a ripple effect throughout all areas of your life, including your finances. 

Many folks in recovery find that they have no choice but to face the financial consequences of their addiction. That may mean debt, making financial amends, or rearranging your priorities. 

It’s best to make any financial decisions with the support of your financial advisor or certified public accountant (CPA). Some financial institutions, private financial professionals, and community organizations provide financial services at low or no cost to help people who need assistance to regain financial health.

#14. Make Amends

In recovery, cleaning up the mess on our side of the street is a critical step to maintaining our recovery and rebuilding our relationships. 

The process of making amends is really helpful to our mental health too, because we no longer have that sense of dread, guilt, or shame that we’ve been carrying around. 

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#15. Celebrate Your Recovery Milestones

staying sober after rehabIt may not seem like celebrating is a major part of staying sober after rehab, but reaching 30, 60, or 90 days is a huge achievement that should be celebrated. Many people in recovery continue to celebrate their sobriety each year throughout their lives. 

This might include going to a meeting, going out for a meal, eating a birthday cake, or treating yourself to something that helps you remember all that you’ve accomplished in your recovery.

Celebrating where you are now is one way to remind yourself that you have been capable of conquering every obstacle you have encountered in your past.

If you are ready to start your recovery journey with rehab, call 800-839-1686Who Answers? to learn more about alcohol addiction treatment options.

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