Staying Clean and Sober AFTER Rehab


How can someone stay clean after leaving an inpatient drug rehab?

This is a very important question for someone just leaving treatment. The following suggestions will help make or break someone’s recovery:

1) Take their suggestions

You went to rehab because you could not stop using drugs on your own, right? There are two main functions that the treatment center provides: one, to physically detox you, and two, to show you how to live without putting drugs and alcohol into your body. Obviously, drug rehab centers specialize in helping people to not use drugs, so you might do well to actually take their suggestions and follow through with them.

The first two times I went to treatment, I did not do this. For example, they suggested I go to long term treatment, and I refused. In shunning their advice, I ended up relapsing very quickly after leaving both of those rehabs. The last treatment center I went to, I did take their suggestions, and followed their recommended treatment plan to a “tee.” I have been clean and sober ever since.

2) Do what other people think you should do, not what YOU think you should do

For the longest time, this was a huge stumbling block for me. Why should I let other people decide how I should live my life? I figured that I (me, personally) should be the most qualified person to make decisions about my life. Turns out this was not the case, because I continued to slowly kill myself with drugs and alcohol when left to my own devices. Amazingly enough, when I started taking advice from others, my life started to get a whole lot better–and a whole new world of freedom opened up to me. It still baffles me that this could come from letting other people suggest how I should live my life.  This was the form of drug rehab help that I resisted for so long, and finally had to surrender to in order to get better.

3) Participate in any follow-up treatment

Most detox and residential programs that make up drug treatment centers are composed of very short visits these days. Many programs used to be 28 days in length; most of them are half of that or less nowadays. The length of time you will spend in a residential treatment program is a drop in the bucket, and you should not expect to live “happily ever after” without some serious follow up to your stay in drug rehab. Recovery is a life long process. Therefore, any recommended after care that they suggest should be taken seriously and approached with enthusiasm. Many treatment centers follow up with IOP programs (intensive outpatient), and these can be a strong source of support for people who are just leaving a residential program. Bottom line: follow through with your aftercare.

4) Go to a long term treatment program

This is the number one most effective form of aftercare, and I believe it is anyone and everyone’s best shot at maintaining long term sobriety. This should be especially inviting to you if you have been to drug rehab before and failed to stay clean. Ask the therapists at rehab if they know of any long term treatment programs that they can set you up in after you leave. Long term treatment is the only thing that worked for me, and I consistently see the higher success rates that it provides for recovering addicts at my workplace. Long term treatment works.

5) Go to meetings every day in early recovery

This is something that will be emphasized heavily while you are in drug rehab recovery: you need to go to daily meetings during early recovery. It’s a no-brainer, really. Tons of support from other recovering addicts. Twelve step meetings are widespread and are there to help you. Take advantage of the support they offer. “90 meetings in 90 days” is heard like a mantra in treatment centers, and for good reason. Daily meetings will improve your chances of staying sober in the short run.  Long term sobriety entails expanding beyond simply making meetings, but this is still a good strategy for early recovery.

6) Get a sponsor and call them every day

After leaving a drug rehab clinic, get a sponsor, fast. Go to a regular outside AA or NA meeting and ask someone with some significant clean time to be your temporary sponsor. Anything to get you in the door with someone. Most sponsors will have you call them every day for the first 30 days. This might seem silly to you. Do it anyway.

Finding and using a sponsor is another no-brainer. If you choose a bad sponsor, let them go and get another one immediately. A sponsor is someone to help guide you through the twelve steps.

7) Consider an holistic drug rehab

If you do not do well with traditional rehab recovery, then consider going to an alternative drug rehab where the emphasis is more holistic rather than simply being 12 step based.  Holistic rehab is powerful because it draws from multiple recovery strategies in order to help you to stay clean and sober.

Holistic recovery is all about encouraging long term growth in several different areas of your life.  For example, you would be encouraged to grow spiritually, but also seek emotional stability, work on physical fitness and nutrition, and practice meditation, and so on.  Expanding growth beyond traditional recovery programs is what holistic treatment is all about.



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