How Life Changes After Rehab

You did it. You finished rehab. As you walk through the doors to your ride waiting by the curb, you wonder what your life will look like after drug or alcohol rehab.

What to expect after rehab may be different for everyone. There are some wonderful things to look forward to, and there are some challenges — but these aren’t necessarily the same hard challenges you faced during rehab or before you decided to get help for your addiction.

how life changes after rehab

No matter what, life after rehab is a time of growth and personal development that gives you a fresh start on life.

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Planning for Re-Entry

Life after rehab actually begins while you’re still at your rehab center. Before leaving, a counselor will meet with you and review many of the important things you’ll need to do once you leave rehab. This may include:

  • Finding local NA, AA or other 12-step meetings
  • Making follow-up appointments with physicians, psychiatrists, counselors and others to continue therapy and medication
  • Finding a new place to live or a new job
  • Returning to school
  • Other steps leading you back along the road to recovery

A written action or aftercare plan can be helpful and take some of the feelings of being overwhelmed out of your discharge plan. Knowing in the back of your mind that you should go to an AA meeting is one thing, but having a printed list of dates, places and topics on hand to choose from is another. Keep all your information in a safe place and refer to it frequently after leaving rehab.

How Life Changes After Rehab: The First 90 Days

One of the strangest feelings after leaving rehab is that while everything looks the same when you return home, it’s different. You feel different inside. You’ve looked at your life and recognized your addiction. For a time, you were in the safe environment of the recovery facility. You were able to spend all your time focused on recovery. Now, however, you’re stepping back into your regular routine, and yet you need to make changes to maintain your recovery.

The first 90 days can set the tone for your recovery to come. Here are some things to look forward to:


Many sponsors suggest trying to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. It sounds like a lot of meetings, but 12-step meetings form the bedrock of your after-rehab recovery plan. This is where you can connect with other recovering addicts, find a sponsor and learn how to work the steps to the best of your ability.

life after drug rehab

It’s an essential lifeline to help you work your program. Putting your meetings first in your day helps you stay focused on recovery even while working or returning to school.


Suddenly, you’ll find you have a lot more time on your hands. That’s because a lot of the time and energy you spent on finding your next fix is now available for recovery work as well as family, friends and hobbies.

Find healthy ways to use this time productively. You might want to take up a sport like running or a team sport like volleyball, take painting or dancing lessons, or explore interests you never had a chance to before.


When you’re in rehab, there’s a set schedule that creates a rhythm and pattern to the day. There’s a time to get up, a time for meals, a time for meetings and therapy sessions, and more. It’s important to create and maintain your own personal schedule once you’ve completed your stay in rehab.


Many addicts discover while in rehab that they have concurrent mental health issues. These require time, care and treatment. Make appointments now with doctors and counselors and prioritize around recovery activities.


It’s important throughout recovery to be rigorously honest with yourself and others. Honesty is the foundation of any recovery program. Being honest with yourself and others also extends to being honest about how close you may be to relapse.

life after alcohol rehab

Some recovering addicts say they ‘tell on themselves’ by contacting their physicians and pharmacies and letting them know about their medical condition and that they cannot take any mind-altering substances at all. These steps may be helpful for life after drug rehab, so you can prevent your “sneaky” mind from subterfuge that threatens recovery.

Life After Rehab: What It’s Really Like

Life after rehab is full of wonderful surprises. Some of the positive surprises you may feel in your life include:

Better Health

A positive benefit of life after rehab is an overall improvement in your health. Drugs and alcohol can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, nervous system and other organs. Once your body isn’t under the stress of detoxifying drugs from your system every day, it has a chance to heal.

Your immune system can be suppressed when you’re abusing substances, too, which can make you prone to every virus going around. Once your system recovers, it can fight off viruses and bacteria more easily, and you’ll likely get sick less often.

More Energy

When you’re feeling better, it’s amazing how much energy you have. Your body is healing from months or years of drug and alcohol use, and as your systems repair themselves, energy is freed up that can be spent doing something you enjoy.

You may also find you’re sleeping better, are more alert during the day and are in a better mood most of the time.

New Friendships

Many friendships made during the time in which you were actively using were friendships based on drug and alcohol abuse, not on shared interests and other positive attributes that form the bonds of friendship. When substance abuse is removed, true friendships can emerge. You’ll have many opportunities to make friends with people in your 12-step program and people you meet at work, school and social events.

what to expect after drug rehab

Without the clouds of substance abuse over your personality, true friendships can emerge based on shared likes/dislikes, common interests and all the fun things that build friendships.

New Romantic Relationships

Like friendships made during the time you were abusing substances, romantic relationships change after rehab, too. Romance can blossom with a partner who understands your past and present direction and supports your recovery efforts.

Family Relationships Change

In addition to changing friendships and new romantic relationships, you may also find that your relationship with family members also changes. Children, parents, siblings and others see a new side of you that substance abuse hid for many years. Trust can be rebuilt after it is broken by substance abuse.

Family relationships often change for the better after rehab and continue to improve as you move forward in your program of recovery.

Clear Direction

Instead of drifting from day to day, wondering when you’ll find your next hit, your mind is clear. You can move in any direction you choose. Things that once seemed unattainable can be achieved one step at a time.

As you discover more about who you are without substance abuse, you’ll find yourself moving in new and exciting directions. Life after rehab means you can actively choose what you’d like to do and who you wish to become.

how life changes after rehab

Feeling Comfortable in Your Own Skin

One of the things about life after rehab that often surprises people in recovery is the feeling of being comfortable in your own skin. It’s wonderful to feel comfortable and content with who you are and not have to pretend to be anyone else.

That’s one of the major benefits of working through a 12-step program with a sponsor. Admitting your character flaws, making amends and asking your higher power to remove them are all healing and freeing.

As you progress through your program, you’ll find yourself becoming more comfortable with who you are. It’s all part of recovery and life after rehab that includes healing the body, mind and spirit.

Realizing the Power of Choice

Life after rehab is full of choices. Some choices are big: Where will I live? What should I do for my work? Other choices are small: What should I eat for breakfast? Should I go to the gym or take a nap? These small choices, though, are just as important as the major life choices you’ll be making along the way — maybe even more so.

One thing many people in recovery realize in life after rehab is that small choices actually add up to big life decisions. Small choices to go to a meeting, call your sponsor, read recovery literature and take care of your health and well-being all add up to a full, rich and satisfying lifestyle in recovery. Realizing you do have the power to choose in this moment whether you’re progressing in recovery, remaining at a standstill or stepping backward is a gift of life after rehab.

life after drug rehab

Achieving Goals

Along with making the right choices and realizing the power of choice comes the freeing feeling of achieving goals. Many substance abusers set goals for themselves only to never achieve them. Substance abuse gets in the way of reaching goals by taking your time, energy and thoughts away from what you need to do.

Life after drug and alcohol rehab includes the newfound ability to achieve goals. Reaching the first goal, which is sobriety, during rehab is empowering. After that, you begin to practice the skills learned in rehab and find yourself able to achieve new goals.

“Fun” Changes

Another great aspect of life after rehab are the many “fun” changes in your life. While life may not be easy, you’ll be able to laugh about problems more. Sharing them with sponsors and with your home group in a 12-step program helps ease the burden of problems. Helping others means you feel less alone and see that everyone is in the same boat.

life after alcohol rehab

If substance abuse is a downward spiral, recovery is the upward spiral. Imagine a staircase with each step leading you to a fuller, richer life. As you step up the staircase in recovery, you feel more comfortable in your skin. People who are comfortable in their own skin laugh more, love more easily and find joy and delight in simple, daily pleasures. Each step up leads to more positive changes. Yes, there will be setbacks, but in general, you’ll find that fun and positive changes all support the better direction of your life after rehab.

Other Addictions Come to Light

Here’s an interesting fact about life after drug rehab or life after alcohol rehab: Other addictions, ones you may not have been aware of, come to light. These may not be as life-threatening as substance abuse, but they can get in the way of a positive, productive life, too.

Some people find themselves giving up their smoking habit along with their drug or alcohol abuse. Others discover they rely too much on simple sugars and carbohydrates and need to change their eating patterns. Even thought patterns like always thinking the worst or always trying to rescue other people may come to light. Like the character flaws and defects you’ll identify and shed while working through the recovery process, these are other addiction stumbling blocks that the gentle power of recovery can remove from your pathway — but don’t be surprised if you suddenly notice more addictions and addictive behaviors working on along the way.

Your Attitude Changes

Life after rehab includes a big shift in your attitude. When you’re feeling more confident, you can let down your guard a little and be gentler with yourself and others. Many people put on a tough act to keep others from getting too close to them. This is common in addiction, which is a disease of isolation and loneliness regardless of how many people you surround yourself with. The isolation comes from within and from not wanting others to see your flaws.

what to expect after drug rehab

As you work on healing from addiction, you’ll find your attitude toward yourself and others changes. As with other positive changes during life after rehab, these support even more positive changes. It’s a wonderful cycle of improvement that keeps on going!

Helping Others

One of the hallmarks of most 12-step programs is an emphasis on giving back or sharing what you’ve learned. Sponsoring, sharing during meetings and taking time to participate in your recovery group are all part of this, and so is volunteer work.

Volunteering as your time and talents permit is a great way to continue the positive feedback of life after recovery. Many people say that volunteer work helps them stay grounded and focused during recovery. It also keeps them from having too much time on their hands, which can lead to boredom and potential relapse.

But What If Life After Rehab Isn’t Like This for Me?

Everyone is unique. No two people are the same, and no two people going through recovery experience the exact same thing. Life after rehab is like that, too.

how life changes after rehab

You may be in rehab with five other people from similar backgrounds, and yet each of you progresses in different ways after leaving rehab. That’s okay. Recovery isn’t a linear process. Even though examples include ladders, stairs, etc., it’s sometimes more like a hopscotch board than climbing a ladder. Some people do progress through life after rehab in a logical, sequential manner. For others, it’s one step forward and two steps back, but all the while moving forward with a little help from your friends, therapist, sponsor and others in recovery.

Give yourself permission as you work on your own plan of recovery to relax and savor every moment. Finishing rehab isn’t like graduation. You don’t get a degree and continue on your way. It’s more like the start of a long journey. If you were planning a trip around the world — a fun adventure in most people’s eyes — you might find that portions of the journey were filled with excitement and adventure.

But there’s travel in between, which can be tiring and boring — and perhaps even some unpleasant adventures along the way, like lost luggage or a stolen wallet. It’s all part of the journey.

Similarly, with life after rehab, there are stretches of excitement, personal growth and development. You’ll have major breakthroughs in relationships, work, health, romance and more.

Then there are stretches of life in between that are normal, everyday experiences — stretches of boredom, interspersed with problems. The car won’t start. You get a cold. Then it’s back to normal, and sudden bursts of growth, development and happiness begin again.

How this unfolds in your life is as unique as your DNA. No two lives are the same, but all have the same potential to be lived fully, substance-abuse free and with the goal of personal growth and development.

There is life after rehab to explored and savored. The first step begins with calling 12 Keys Rehab.

Choose 12 Keys Rehab

12 Keys Rehab believes there’s a wonderful life after drug rehab waiting for you. Our multi-disciplinary approach to recovery addresses the whole person in a holistic, comprehensive and compassionate way. Surrounded by people who understand the struggles and challenges of drug and alcohol addiction, you’ll be able to focus on your recovery in a safe, supportive yet structured environment that emphasizes the positive aspects of recovery.

life after drug rehab

The 12 Keys experience is like no other in the world of rehab services. Located along Florida’s beautiful coastline, 12 Keys offers an environment that relaxes and nourishes your spirit as you work with our team of dedicated professionals. Psychological counseling, 12-step recovery meetings, group outings and time for personal development are all part of your program of recovery at 12 Keys. Comfortable, private rooms and delicious, healthy meals round out the 12 Keys experience, so you are comfortable and cared for during your stay with us.

Each person receives an individualized treatment program. Our low client-to-staff ratio means that staff has the time to spend with everyone who stays with us for treatment. Most of our staff are former substance abusers themselves and are now in recovery. This also helps ensure you’re surrounded by people who care deeply about your success and understand what you are going through during recovery.

With so much waiting for you, please don’t delay calling us. We are available 24/7 to offer advice, counseling and intake information.

There is life after alcohol and drug rehab. Explore it now, starting with 12 Keys.

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The Addiction Blog