If you’re planning for life after addiction treatment for yourself or a loved one, there may be many questions going through your mind about what to expect or do. While treatment is a structured, contained environment that provides safety and security, the thought of leaving can often be scary. Since treatment doesn’t last forever, it’s ideal to make some plans ahead of time about what will be in place for you or your loved one before getting out of treatment. I’ve outlined some things to keep in mind in your planning process.
Outpatient treatment often provides an easier transition to life outside of addiction treatment. Since outpatient takes place on a lesser scale than inpatient treatment, it offers a smooth transition from 24/7 supervision and care to being home or in sober living. In outpatient treatment, you can expect to receive both group and individual therapy which provide an outlet for difficulties that you may be experiencing, as well as the continued learning of coping skills and strategies that can further enhance your relapse prevention plan. It is ideal to set up an appointment with an outpatient provider immediately following your discharge from inpatient treatment in order to improve the continuum of care. See also “What is Outpatient Treatment” for more information about what you can expect in an outpatient program.
Building a recovery network is an important step in any aftercare plan and in order to continue on in the recovery journey. You can work on building your recovery network by attending local meetings in your area in fellowships such as: Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, any other Anonymous fellowship, SMART Recovery or Dharma Recovery. No matter the path that you choose, it’s important to be open and willing to meeting new people to expand your network of supports. By getting involved with these recovery communities, it makes it easier and more beneficial to the recovery process.
A recovery network can also consist of any friends or family members that are supportive of your recovery. Not everyone might be, so it’s important to assess these relationships responsibly. If you have someone that doesn’t support your goals to be in recovery, or maybe doesn’t follow your wishes about not drinking or using near you, then they may not be beneficial to your new journey. Navigating these relationships can be challenging, so before making any decisions on what to do about them I would talk to people that you know and trust. Sometimes we have to completely end relationships, while others we just have to put on hold for a while. It’s up to you and your support network to figure out what’s best for you. For the relationships that are in favor of your recovery, it’s good to incorporate them into your relapse prevention plan so they can help to support you and hold you accountable. It also helps to let them know what your triggers are and also what helps you when you’re going through a difficult time so that they can be there for you and offer some help.
Any healthy recovery network is going to have some variety of people, but if you don’t have anyone right now, that’s okay too. Get to some recovery meetings as soon as you get out of treatment and let people get to know you, and you get to know them. Be open to building new relationships, and your network will grow quicker than you think.
Some people return to work or school after addiction treatment, while others take their time and focus on building their recovery network and system. However, you choose to spend your time, make sure you’re using your time productively. Get involved in something that makes you feel good or useful, whether it’s work, school, volunteer work, hitting meetings, making new friends, getting in service, engaging in exercise, etc. Making good use of your time helps to build self-esteem and also helps prevent idle time that you may find challenging or triggering.
Engaging in self-care is important for any human, but particularly for those in early recovery. Finding joy and peace wasn’t something that came naturally or easily, if at all, for us in addiction. But it is really important for us to find those things in the recovery process. Maybe you had a hobby or hobbies that you enjoyed before addiction, or maybe you have no clue what you enjoy doing. Setting aside time to find things that you enjoy is a crucial part of the healing process. It doesn’t have to cost money either, so if you’re on a budget or maybe lacking income, you can find some things to do that are free or low-cost, like walking in a park/taking a hike, reading a book, people-watching, getting coffee or ice cream by yourself or with a friend, etc.
Your new journey in recovery outside of treatment may feel really unnatural and uncomfortable at times. You may have a lot of questions and feel really unsure about the whole process or what to expect. The bottom line is that there are people and places that are going to support you and your journey in sobriety, and it’s important that you make an effort to find those people, especially if you don’t already have some of them. Developing a thorough relapse prevention plan with the help of your counselor before you leave treatment is important, and following that relapse prevention plan after you leave treatment is imperative. Look within yourself for some open-mindedness and willingness to try new things and put yourself out there a bit, even if it feels weird. Do things that feel good for you. Make time for yourself. And most of all, work really hard on figuring out who you truly are without the use of substances, allow yourself to feel, and don’t beat yourself up for your journey thus far. It doesn’t always feel as uncomfortable as it may feel in the beginning, but the uncomfortability is important for us to grow.