What to do After Rehab: Navigating Your New Beginning

When you or a loved one decide to enter rehab for drug abuse, you are committing yourself to making a serious choice for your life and health. It should be celebrated! But as you go through a rehab program and it begins to come to a close, you and your family may begin to feel some anxiety regarding what will happen when you are back out in the world with temptation, responsibilities, and a lack of community accountability to help you with your sobriety. The best way to face these fears is with planning and preparation to ensure you know your options and what is recommended when thinking about what to do after rehab.

What is Rehab?

If you don’t have any experience with rehab programs or anyone who has entered rehab, you may have a few preconceived notions of what it is like. You might think that rehab is a luxury vacation, with catered meals and a beautiful suite to yourself. You may fear that rehab is a jail center where you’re treated like an inmate. Alternatively, you may believe that the simple act of attending rehab will be the cure-all for your condition and that, once your stay is over, you’ll never have any temptation or desire for a substance again.

The truth is that rehab is an umbrella term used to describe a number of environments where the focus is on your health. In the case of drug and alcohol rehabs or addiction treatment centers, the goal is to get you healthily detoxed from the substance and get you in the practice of living without the substance in your body. This may involve therapy, medical treatment, or medication, and typically involves staying at the treatment facility for an extended period of time.

There are a variety of rehab types, with some focused on outpatient treatment, while others are completely residential, and others are a combination. The best option for you or your loved one will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of drug or alcohol addiction, the presence and severity of a mental health disorder, and a variety of lifestyle factors that will best illuminate your options.

Residential treatments are usually offered in 30, 60, or 90-day treatment plans. 90-day programs have been proven to be the most effective length of treatment, as they give patients a longer window of time to acclimate to a sober life. 30-day programs are too short and often end at a point where the recovery process is finally starting to take place.

Why do people relapse after rehab?

Drug and alcohol rehab creates a safe space for someone to withdraw from substances, gain insight into why they might have resorted to drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism, and practice sobriety again for some time. However, in order to do this, a person must completely abandon their environment and the regular flow of their daily life. There is a degree of surrendering to the program, therapists, and doctors that helps make the sobriety happen. There are people who are actively invested in maintaining a clean and safe environment. Even for those in outpatient treatment, who never spend a night at a residential center, the routine of regular check-ups can maintain a sense of order and responsibility for sobriety.

As soon as individuals leave rehab, the regular world is there. They will have time alone with their thoughts. They will return to their neighborhoods. They may have their dealer in their social circle or friends who are in active addiction. They might avoid these friends, but get bored being alone. The stressors of work and paying bills will return. At first, a person may be able to handle it and cope with it effectively, resisting the temptation to use. However, in many others, the compounded stress and isolation of daily life and coping mechanisms that feel less good or less-effective than drugs may overtake them and lead them back to substance abuse.

What should I do while my child is in rehab?

While your loved one is in rehab, you can take the time to heal from experiencing your child’s drug abuse and make plans for when they return and what your role in their recovery process will be. Many treatment programs suggest that family members seek their own professional counseling and support groups to address their problems that may exacerbate a loved one’s addiction and emotionally navigate the stress of loving a person with an addiction. It can also be extremely helpful to educate the family on addiction and what to expect in a person’s recovery.

Considerations Before Your Child is Discharged From Rehab

As your relative prepares to return home from a treatment program, there are some considerations for life after your child has been discharged from their treatment center:

  • Where will my child live after completing drug rehab?
  • How will we ensure they maintain sobriety?
  • How will we establish and enforce boundaries?
  • How have we contributed to their substance abuse? How can we stop?
  • Are we prepared for the possibility of relapse? What steps should we take, just in case?
  • How much should we be involved in our child’s life after completing rehab?

What do people do after rehab?

Rehab is just the start of a person’s recovery journey, and after leaving rehab, it can be hard to get that same type of support system and structure anywhere else. Many drug and alcohol rehab centers will offer an aftercare plan consisting of referrals to therapists, sober living homes, support groups, or a peer support network, but many do not.

Seek Further Addiction Treatment

After individuals complete rehab, one of the first lines of defense against regressing back into alcoholism and drug dependence is continuing drug and alcohol treatment in the form of outpatient programs. This provides recovering addicts with opportunities to build a solid support system, meet some sober peers, and engage in a healthy lifestyle outside of treatment. Additionally, most PHP and IOP programs will create a treatment plan that focuses on mental health as well as drug addiction. By engaging with a mental health professional, individuals leaving treatment can work towards managing mental illness, practicing self-care, and building self-esteem.


Therapy is a helpful and frequently recommended treatment option for life after rehab. Individual therapy can help you or your loved one have an outlet for stress and a space to process thoughts. Family therapy can be helpful for reorganizing communication patterns and building a stronger united front. Group therapy can help provide a sense of peer support and community.

Support Groups

Support groups and 12-step programs like alcoholics anonymous are most beneficial when the person attending the meeting gets involved in the community, through attending support group meetings, service work, sponsors, and engaging with literature and other members of the group. This network creates the foundation for a person to gain some footing and confidence in their sobriety through education and the support of others. Attending support groups also provides an opportunity to meet sober friends, plan alcohol-free activities, and continue to build upon a foundation that can support long-term recovery.

Sober Living Homes

Sober living homes help their residents make the adjustment from residential rehab to everyday life by continuing to provide the accountability and support of an inpatient center while allowing the independence of everyday life. At a sober living home, residents are able to work jobs and leave the home for extended periods of time but are still expected to contribute to the community, participate in their recovery, support fellow residents, and stay sober.

One study found that post-rehab transitional treatment led to far better outcomes for sobriety over a year after discharge than those who had no involvement in post-rehab care. The report suggests that the best results happen with a combination of time spent in a sober living community combined with involvement in a 12-step program, followed by sober living, 12-step involvement, therapy, then independent-support living, in that order

Life After Rehab

At New Life House, we provide substance use disorder support for young men and their families. Addiction is a lifelong journey and recovery is a lifelong process. At our sober living in Los Angeles, we provide young men with life skills, group accountability, around-the-clock supervision, and peer support in an effort to promote long-term sobriety and a better life after rehab.

Last Updated on September 22, 2023


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