The First Year Post Rehab: What to Expect After Rehab

first year post rehab- what to expectDuring the final stages of rehab, a lot of time is focused on preparation for the move back home. It’s important to be ready for this day. It should be looked at as a graduation of sorts. You’re moving from one step in your recovery to the next.

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Feeling nervous about leaving rehab isn’t a bad thing. This is a common reaction and should be viewed as a sign you are consciously taking your recovery seriously. You put a lot of effort into successfully completing treatment, so don’t let the pressures of returning to your home overwhelm you.

While in treatment, you’ll learn you built a life around substance abuse. Within a structured setting, you are given the tools to rebuild a life around sobriety. Now, as you prepare to leave that structure behind, let’s talk about what to expect after alcohol rehab or drug rehab.

    1. Living By a New Schedule

Your return home may cause a large shift in the familial situation. You should never feel obligated to jump back into a life the way you used to live it. Obviously that wasn’t working for you.

The first step is in setting up a schedule that accommodates your recovery. Going by a schedule and having a healthy routine is a normal part of living a sober life.

In some cases you may need to have conversations with your family members to avoid any misunderstandings or hard feelings. If your family members were a part of your addiction, you need to calmly tell them any changes in living have nothing to do with them. You’re merely trying to get readjusted to a sober life.

Creating a schedule that focuses on your recovery means planning out the following things:
daily schedule

Almost all of your life is governed by your routine. The importance of maintaining a healthy routine is recognized by people recovering from addiction and sober people alike.

While not everything can be scheduled, as long as what you do falls in line with a healthy routine, maintaining recovery isn’t impossible. Does this mean there’s nothing to worry about? Of course not. You shouldn’t be fooled by complacence. Next in evaluating what to expect after drug rehab, you need to look inward.

    1. A Change in Mindset: Don’t Be Overconfident

The first mistake you can make after exiting rehab is thinking you are fully recovered. Letting your guard down allows your thinking to drift back to old ways of doing things. You begin to justify actions that put your recovery in real danger.

You must avoid telling yourself things like:

      • “I can go drink with my friends, I’ll be fine.”
      • “I’m strong enough to not use if I hang around with people who do.”
      • “There’s no way I’ll ever relapse so I can do what I want.”
      • “I won’t go to meetings because I don’t need them anymore.”

Engaging in behavior that threatens all the hard work you put in getting to this point is simply not worth the risk. Not being in a structured environment doesn’t mean you should go back to living life in the fast lane.

Now isn’t the time to be cocky and think “you’ve got it made.” Though you may be talking about the first year of recovery, it’s a lifelong process.

The ego need is the first one to deceive us. You shouldn’t be prideful about your recovery. Don’t let pride, ego, overconfidence or complacence put you in a position that could lead to some very undesirable consequences. Living life with humility isn’t just for people recovering from addiction and alcoholics. We should all aspire to be greater than ourselves and be humble in our thoughts and actions.

    1. Skills to Cope With Depression

Coping after rehab includes handling the undesirable emotions that rise up. Many will feel what they call “the blues” within the first year of recovery. It’s important to remember everyone gets a little depressed sometimes and it’s a perfectly reasonable part of what to expect after rehab. It’s natural.

You must realize bad things can still happen. Not everyone may be as receptive to you as you would like them to be post rehab. Undesirable events do not wait for the right moment. Fortunately, it’s possible to mitigate the moments when you’re feeling stressed or depressed.

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While it’s normal to experience times of sadness or lack of mental motivation, it should pass in a reasonable amount of time. As you become more involved with your recovery and actively begin building a new life, your thoughts will become focused and it’ll be easier to keep negative emotions and depression at bay.

Conversely, you shouldn’t be afraid to seek help if your depression symptoms worsen. If you’re having long bouts of sadness or are considering suicide, you should immediately tell someone and seek help. Another danger that lies down the road of depression is potential relapse. Recognizing how to avoid relapse and deal with it if it happens are important parts of coping after rehab.

    1. Learned Methods to Avoid Relapse

A major lifestyle change isn’t easy to maintain, no matter how prepared for it you think you are. After you make a change, the demands of a new life it may seem to outweigh any benefits you are getting from it. As someone struggling with addiction, you forget this is normal. Resistance is part of change.

Preventing relapse means developing a plan that maintains your new way of living. This plan involves combining your activities, coping skills and emotional support. Most of all it compels you to avoid certain behaviors that put you in danger of relapse.

These dangers include:

      • Exhaustion: If you aren’t taking it slow, then you’re doing too much. You must make sure you are getting adequate rest, eating right and exercising regularly, but you should never be overdoing it to the point that you feel drained.
      • Dishonesty: Lies can begin very small. When you start telling little unnecessary lies, you work yourself into a pattern of behavior that ends in rationalization. This is the first step down the slippery slope to a potential relapse.
      • Frustration: When things don’t go your way, it’s easy to get angry. Anger is a negative emotion. You must remind yourself things won’t always be the way you want them. One of the best parts of recovery is the joy you get out of overcoming challenges in a healthy way.
      • Self-pity: You don’t do yourself any good by playing the victim. Part of recovery is taking responsibility for your actions. Self-pity is a common precursor to depression.
      • Being undisciplined: The cost of relapse is too great to not maintain proper discipline over your schedule. It may seem easy to say “oh, well I just won’t go to the meeting today,” but is it worth it? Being complacent in your recovery invites relapse.

The relapse process occurs in stages. Along the way you are presented with opportunities to use new ways of thinking to overcome your base urges. You must be able to recognize “red flags” within yourself that signal an impending negative emotional state or bad behavior.

If you are having problems overcoming these urges, you need to ask for help. When you succeed you should reward yourself in a way that doesn’t undermine your recovery.

Finally, you must remember that if you do relapse, that doesn’t make you a failure. You’re only human and even the strongest of us experience times of weakness. The most important thing to do in the case of a relapse is to seek help and get back onto the path of recovery.

    1. More Time for Hobbies


One of the best yet scariest things about leaving rehab is the amount of time you have. Where before most of your time had been spent nursing an addiction, what do you do now?

Part of living a normal life is ensuring you make time for yourself. By doing things that you love and spending time having genuine sober fun, you decrease the chance of finding yourself in a potentially compromising situation.

Here’s a list of suggested hobbies that could speak to your innate talents or lifelong passion:

      • Calming hobbies: Meditation, reading, cooking, gardening or writing
      • Healthy hobbies: Rock climbing, hiking, bike riding, jogging or dancing
      • Artistic hobbies: Playing an instrument, painting, drawing, sculpting or pottery
      • Social hobbies: Volunteering, playing a sport, joining a gym or having a game night

Making sure you’re spending time with yourself doing things you enjoy is very important. For many, however, the imperatives of your life are dictated by work or school. While things may wait for you while you are in rehab, how you address the needs of your everyday professional life will be key to maintaining a successful recovery.

    1. Easing Back Into Work or School

After spending time in drug or alcohol rehab, many do not know what to expect when returning to school or work. Often means they have lost a lot of time there, and this may equate to a potential loss in income or drop in grades. Yet for many, it’s simply not an option to stay out of work or school any longer.

Whatever your treatment duration was, when it’s completed you need to be able to transition back into a life that includes taking care of your monetary and educational needs. Having said that, the last thing you should be doing is jumping right back into a full schedule and piling on the workload.

Most recovery experts recommend you have a candid conversation with your human resources professional, supervisor or manager when you return to work. Reassuring your employer you will be able to gradually ease back into work and be productive is important to restoring trust.

You may also be attending meetings that will require schedule considerations. Being open with your work or school regarding those needs gives them an opportunity to help you meet your goals while still being a productive employee or student.

If you are finding yourself in a situation where your job or class schedule is causing you a lot of stress, it may be worth considering taking more time off or looking for other options. Going back into a stressful situation early in your recovery can invite relapse if you aren’t careful.

    1. Rebuilding Relationships

Leaving rehab means you’re thrust back into the waiting arms of friends and family. These may be the very same people who went through your addiction with you. They may be in recovery themselves.

Part of the joy of recovery is repairing what once was broken. Re-establishing healthy bonds with loved ones is essential to ensuring a healthy environment that complements the recovery process.

While not everyone may be receptive to your overtures, the rebuilding process is important. It may take time to reach everyone, but always maintain humility and allow your actions to speak louder than your words.

While you were struggling with addiction, you may not have been as clean as you wanted to be. Perhaps you stole or said hurtful things. Repairing relationships is a delicate matter. Try to put everything in a historical context when deciding what approach to take with a friend or family member.

Over time, the most important people to you will see you’re bearing the fruit of your recovery and attitudes will change. Be patient, take your time, and don’t get down when someone doesn’t immediately jump at the opportunity to forgive.

    1. Common Post Rehab Mistakes

The transition from rehab to home should be a motivating time. With the help of those you’ve been working with, your friends and your family, recovery should be sustainable.

Unfortunately, no one is perfect. People make mistakes. Obviously, you may do things that increase your chances of stumbling in your recovery.


There are also named symptoms you can fall prey to if you aren’t careful.

      • Dry drunk syndrome: Getting rid of drugs or alcohol shouldn’t be the only change you seek in building a sober life. Staying sober requires a fundamental shift of behavior. If that shift doesn’t occur and you’re still trapped in negative ways of thinking, even if you aren’t drinking or using, you could be considered a “dry drunk.”
      • Pink cloud syndrome: Of course you should be happy you’ve escaped addiction and found recovery, but there’s a danger in feeling so good you’re convinced all your problems are solved. When you lose touch with reality because you’re caught up in your own success, you could be suffering from pink cloud syndrome.


There’s no question the first year post rehab can be filled with hurdles. At times you may feel completely thrown by the challenges life throws at you, but you should know you can do it. Challenges don’t mean you just throw in the towel. You must learn how to deal with emotions like anger and resentment, avoid isolation, and find joy in taking up hobbies and meeting new people.

The bottom line is the first year after rehab may not be easy, but you are strong and you can do it. If you take it slow, maintain vigilance, and actively build a new, sober life, you can absolutely be successful. For more information on what to expect after drug rehab or what to expect after alcohol rehab, contact 12 Keys today!

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