Life after Treatment – What to Expect

It’s a mistake a lot of us – and our families – make the first time through treatment. We expect we’ll be miraculously healed after 30 days of intensive inpatient treatment. This is a huge disservice – not to mention burdensome and distracting – to us and a profoundly mislead expectation for the loved ones who will be around us in the days that follow discharge.

Helpful hint – we don’t emerge ‘healed.’

Inpatient treatment is simply the first step on a journey of a thousand miles. It’s a place to dig deep and snake out all the crap that’s been clogging our minds, bodies and spirits for longer than we might even realize. In treatment, we work through past trauma and begin the process of healing, however much it hurts. We learn skills to cope with stressful trigger situations. We get an education about addiction – how it affects the way we interact with ourselves, with others and how substances can literally change our brain chemistry. We learn the importance of self-care and ways to calm our minds though activities like art therapy, yoga and meditation. We learn we’re not alone. Through conversations with Peer Supports and other clients, we learn that despite how alone we might feel or have felt along the way, others can relate to our experiences.

And then, that day hits. Maybe it’s day 30, or 35, or 72 or maybe 90. Discharge. And we learn to walk with our newfound legs, unsure and perhaps a little unsteady, but determined.

What now? The simple and most concise answer, growth. Unyielding, uncomfortable, unwieldy growth.

Beginning aftercare. A successful recovery requires exactly what other major life changes do: a plan. The experts at Shorewood House will work with you to develop an individualized discharge plan to help ease the stress of transitioning from inpatient to whatever is next.

  • An outpatient program or therapist. Perhaps you’ve worked with an individual therapist prior to your inpatient stay or you were part of a program. Re-engaging or trying a new one out will help you begin to put into practice the skills and education you received in treatment.
  • Finding a sponsor. Having one trustworthy, go-to person who can uniquely relate and help you navigate the broad range of emotions you’ll experience is important.
  • Support groups. It’s okay to try out a few before you settle in to a group(s) that resounds with you, groups in which you truly feel heard and understood, groups that offer you healthy, sound feedback and groups that are emotionally, physically and spiritually supportive of your recovery.
  • Supportive network. While in the long-term you will be healthy enough to have friends who drink, they might not be the best option for you right now. Find a friend or group of friends who can truly understand where you’re at, support your process and make the first step in your recovery journey just a little bit easier.
  • Living situation. Before you went to rehab, it’s likely your living situation was rather chaotic. If you plan to live with (or return to living with) family, it’s imperative for your well-being that everyone you’ll be living with understands how to be supportive. Your living environment should be conducive to recovery and be free of as many potential triggers as possible.
  • Establishing a schedule. Suggestion: Keep it simple. In the first 90 days after inpatient, you’ll want to keep your schedule free of unnecessary responsibilities. If your commitment doesn’t make it into the top 3 or 5 priorities for the day, it can wait. Feeling overwhelmed is a trigger point for many, so avoid it if you can. Hold yourself to a regular bedtime and wake-up time. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Figure out what meetings or groups you’ll go to and coordinate transportation. Plan time to meditate or do an activity you truly enjoy.


Relationships with others. What got us to rehab in the first place probably also took a toll on our relationships. Those relationships are fragile and right now, so are we, so it’s important to get comfortable feeling vulnerable for a while. Know that repairing relationships take time, so don’t push it. The best you can do right now is be honest and communicate.

The relationship with ourselves. We might not trust ourselves right away. Self-doubt and the fear of relapse are common post-rehab afflictions – consider it a built-in protection for now. Just as with others, rebuilding that trust with yourself takes time, so check in with yourself regularly, be honest and allow yourself time to forgive. As you move through your first days and months of recovery, you’ll naturally begin to trust yourself again.

Staying sober. The fear of relapse is a dark cloud that follows us around for a while – it keeps us on edge and the loved ones around us on edge. Do everything in your power to stay clean for as long as you possibly can. At times, you might feel like screaming, and that’s okay! Do it. Do whatever it takes to avoid using. Today, right now, in this very moment of craving is likely to be THE MOST DIFFICULT moment. Breathe. Go for a walk. Read. Journal. Talk for hours to your sponsor (if you have one) or a sober friend (you should have one) or your dog (if you have one). Practice yoga. Practice mindfulness. Doodle. Don’t drink or use, no matter what.  Don’t make relapse an option – it doesn’t have to be a part of your recovery.

Hobbies. Before rehab, we spent LOADS of time dealing with everything that comes with addiction. Boredom is scary and dangerous, especially the first few days, weeks and months after inpatient treatment, so we need to figure out what hobbies keep our focus away from using thoughts and make us genuinely happy.

  • Centering: Meditation. Yoga. Cooking.
  • Exercise: Jogging. Walking/Hiking. Cycling.
  • Creative: Reading. Journaling. Creating art (try different mediums!). Listening to or playing music.
  • Social: Movies. Games. Volunteering.

Recovery isn’t easy, but it’s worth it, and you’re worthy. If you have questions or are considering inpatient treatment, contact the team at Shorewood House; we’ll help walk you through the process. Recovery is possible and recovery begins here.

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