What to Expect When You Leave Rehab

man leaving with suitcase; what to expect when you leave rehab, Castle Craig

Your life changed the moment you walked into a rehab. Now that your treatment is over, it’s about to change again. For some, the notion may be exciting; for others, terrifying. Life will not be the same as it was, in both good and challenging ways. But regardless of the challenges you are likely to face, life is undoubtedly about to get better. The key to managing your feelings and recovery is knowing what to expect when you leave rehab.

You know that feeling when you come home from a long holiday, and things don’t look quite the same, even though nothing has changed? Well, you’re about to experience something similar. However, it may be more dramatic, since you’ll now be looking at your “old” life with a sober pair of eyes. The first few days or weeks will have the most impact, and may not be as easy as you think.

There Is No Sunshine Without A Little Rain

You’re likely to encounter some difficulties and discomforts being back at home, even if you don’t expect any. While in rehab, you may have grown comfortable in the safe and protected environment. You didn’t have to worry about temptation, you’re surrounded by like-minded people, and you have all the support you need right at your doorstep.

Because of this, many people, especially those who had to deal with a complicated addiction, are actually scared to leave once their treatment is complete. It might take a moment to kick in, but there will be a time when you’ll ask yourself, “Can I really make it on my own now?”

Although aftercare planning and relapse prevention training partially prepare you for departure, doing it is your responsibility. Aftercare only teaches you the skills you’ll need. It is in the real world where you finally put them into practice. Therefore, in order to be mentally ready for your newly sober life, it can help to know exactly what to expect when you leave rehab.

A False Feeling of Freedom

Coming home provides a major sense of accomplishment and plenty of things to look forward to. It may mean being back with your partner, family, pets, or friends. It may mean finally moving ahead in life or going back to a job you love. Or you might just be thrilled by the idea of sleeping in your own bed again.

Of course, it is important to take pride in all that you’ve achieved, but you should never be overly confident in recovery. Remember, addiction is a lifelong illness that you’ll have to deal with, to some degree, for the rest of your life.

Just because you went through rehab doesn’t mean you’re “cured” and it certainly doesn’t mean that you can relax. This is a crucial time in your recovery and doing nothing is not an option. Recovery has to be your priority.

Expect to Lose Relationships When you Leave Rehab

One of the most difficult things to come to terms with when you leave rehab is having your social circle change. This might mean losing old friends, making new ones, or amending your relationships with others.

It is hard for many people to say goodbye to or distancing themselves from those in their past life, but it is often necessary. For example, drug-using friends, a toxic partner, or unsupportive family members will all hold you back from your recovery. It will be even more difficult if there aren’t other people available to take their place.

For this reason, it is advised to build a circle of support as soon as possible after leaving rehab. Finding and attending a local fellowship is one place to start. You should know who you can call or where you can go if things get to be too much.

While making new friends is important, you shouldn’t overwhelm your social calendar too much. Being early in recovery, you need to make sure you have plenty of time for yourself.

Out With The Old

Just like friends may come and go, so will other aspects of your life. There are a lot of things that will no longer be part of your daily routine. For example, if you used to drink, now you’ll likely have to avoid your favourite bars.

If you find that your living or working environment is not suitable for maintaining sobriety, you may have to leave that behind as well. Some of these things are minor, but some are not. It is best to avoid major life changes in early recovery, but in some cases it may be necessary. Learning to let go in the beginning will help avoid stress, which can trigger relapse. Knowing that these are the things you can expect when you leave rehab will help you cope when they happen.

Remind yourself that you are now a new person and have a fresh start. Recognising this will help you move on even when you get nostalgic. To get in the mindset of things, it can try doing a “spring cleaning” of your life in general. For example, clean out your house, refresh your wardrobe, get a new hairstyle, or get involved in something that you’ve never done before.

You May Be Bored or Busy

Now that you’re not using, you will find that you have a lot more free time on your hands. Boredom can be dangerous in early recovery because you may start reminiscing about the old days when you were using. There is a reason why in rehab patients have a strict schedule. Having a set routine helps keep you focused on getting better instead of being distracted.

Some suggestions for staying busy, which may also be useful for making new friends, include:

  • Taking on a new hobby
  • Joining a sports team
  • Volunteering
  • Going back to work or taking on a new job

Of course, your situation may also be quite the opposite. Putting your life back together, especially if there are a lot of problems to deal with, can keep you overwhelmingly busy. That, however, is not ideal either. You should stay busy, but not too busy.

You may be tempted to jump straight back in, but that can set you up for failure. Aim to have a structure to your days that gives a balance between work, socialising, and sobriety. You need to make sure to have time for recovery-based activities, such as meetings and counselling sessions, and you also need to be able to focus on self-care.

The transition period between rehab and the return home will be likely to require some adjusting. For example, if you plan on going back to work, you may want to take on a part-time schedule in the beginning. So long as you expect that you will need to carefully manage your boredom and activities when you leave rehab, this should help you to avoid relapse.

The Temptation to Use Will Be There

Just the act of coming back to a place that reminds you of your previous life, or running into old friends, old haunts, can be triggering. Never mind if you’re forced to face your addiction directly. It’s a good idea to identify potential problems ahead of time, so that you can avoid them or be ready to deal with them.

In addition, you may be free of cravings right now, but they will come back eventually. Make sure you are prepared. In addition, take note of such situations and learn from them – why or where they happened, what you did, and what helped.

Relapse Can Happen

Relapse is common in recovery. If it does happen, it is most likely to occur within the first six months after treatment. It is not inevitable by any means, but it can happen to anyone. It is not a sign of failure. Long-term recovery is still your goal, but relapse can often strengthen your commitment to staying sober.

Because the rate of relapse is high, you should be ready with a plan of action to enable you to respond positively. You should also learn to recognise the warning signs of relapse, and ask those around you to do the same and tell you what they see.

What to Expect When you Leave Rehab: Tips to Cope

Use The Fellowships

The acronym HALT {Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) is a useful list of “don’ts and dangers” in early recovery, because any of those four states is likely to put you straight into the victim role. And in that role, “poor me” soon leads to “pour me”.

How should you deal with the situation if you find yourself in HALT mode? Well, an AA meeting will address all four states, because it is a place to talk, find friends, de-stress, or at least find tea and biscuits. Give it a try, preferably the day you leave rehab.

If you consider your rehab to be a place of safety, sobriety, and support that helped you turn your life around, you’ll find that AA and other fellowships may substitute in its place.

Stay Committed to Recovery

Adjusting back to normal life may be easy or hard. Regardless, it is important to put your recovery and well-being first and stay committed to it. This is why Castle Craig has always placed a strong emphasis on continuing care. It is one of the keys to preventing relapse.

Patients at Castle Craig are carefully prepared for their departure. They are not only taught a variety of skills but also provided with a list of local resources they can turn to at any time. All patients completing treatment are also free to come back to aftercare sessions, which are held at Castle Craig weekly.

Of course, there are situations where despite being sober and stable, you just don’t feel ready to return to normal life. There are also those who, for a number of reasons, require a longer stay than the standard primary treatment programme provides.

In such cases, Castle Craig can provide extended care. Although a patient continues to live on site and attend therapy, the extended care unit gives a little more freedom. It can be a great option for those seeking an easier transition from rehab to home.

If you’re interested in our residential treatment programme or extended care units, you can inquire about more information on our website, via email at [email protected], or by giving us a call at +44 1721 788 472.