After Rehabilitation: Here Are Some Tools

Seeking help for alcohol or drug dependency at a residential recovery unit is the first step toward beating addiction and regaining control of your life. And recovering people can use the tools they learned in rehab to begin the intense challenge of avoiding relapse.


"Residential recovery programs aim to help patients build stability in their lives so they can avoid relapse within the first 90 days of treatment—the period with the highest relapse percentage—and beyond," says Tim Sheehan, Ph.D., dean of the Hazelden Graduate School of Addiction Studies in Minnesota. "These programs also give patients the opportunity to talk to others recovering from addiction."


Patients can continue to use this support system after leaving the recovery unit to learn how to deal with daily stresses without drugs or alcohol.


Dr. Sheehan offers these tips on how to continue with treatment and avoid relapse after leaving a recovery unit.

Maintain stability

If you're recovering from addiction, keep your life and routine as stable as possible. You shouldn't make significant life changes when you return home from a recovery unit.

"In the beginning, it's wise not to travel, accept a new job, move to a new home or make any drastic life change that can induce stress and lead you to resume drinking or using drugs," says Dr. Sheehan.

It is also best to avoid places and social gatherings associated with your past drinking or drug use that can serve as triggers to relapse.

Seek support

Join a support group —Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous—that fits your needs. "Each group is different, and we encourage people to do some research to find one that's the right fit," says Dr. Sheehan.

You can get information on these support groups, which are widely accessible throughout the country, from your treatment center, the Internet or your local library. Studies have shown that people who avoid relapse and continue with recovery attend support meetings regularly. Dr. Sheehan also recommends seeking a sponsor, preferably someone who understands the recovery process and is a member of a 12-step program. A sponsor serves as a mentor and coach while providing free emotional support.

Take timeouts

As part of the long-term recovery process, Dr. Sheehan suggests introducing meditation into your daily routine. "This meditation may take the form of a daily reflection or just a period of quiet time," he says. "Some people in recovery schedule a time each day to talk with their sponsors or have special days set aside to attend support meetings."

Through these forms of meditation, you can engage in self-inventory and self-assessment. These periods assist you in checking your needs and learning not to misinterpret feelings of loneliness, anger or even hunger as an urge to drink or use drugs.

"This process allows the person in recovery to become in tune with emotions and be aware of their triggers," says Dr. Sheehan. "Self-awareness paves the way for continued abstinence and eliminates the opportunity for relapse."

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