If you or a close family member have recently completed a substance rehab program, it’s normal to feel some anxiety over the situation. After all, as the cliche goes, “rehab is only the beginning”.
There is some truth to this. Now it’s understood that substance use disorder is caused by substances gradually causing major changes to a person’s brain. When an affected individual doesn’t have the drug in their system, they don’t feel “normal”, which triggers substance misuse and continues the cycle. Thankfully, we also now know that a full recovery from SUD is almost always possible, given time.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends a 3-6 month minimum recovery period as we now know that it takes about that much time for the brain to heal from drug-related trauma.
Unfortunately, most rehab programs that are available to most people with SUD are shorter than this. Given that many people cannot afford to stop working to focus on recovery, the best that could be hoped for usually is for the individual to receive a good foundation for their recovery in rehab. This means that in many cases, recovery is up to the decisions a person makes after their time in rehab.
Below are some of the things to think over right after you finish a short-term residential or intensive outpatient rehab program. You can talk things over with our team at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers to learn more about your post-treatment options.
1.) Do I need a transitional home?The period immediately after rehab is the most dangerous for people with severe SUD. Even before you complete rehab, your physician may already be giving you some idea about whether or not you could benefit from entering a transitional home program.
These programs can effectively limit your exposure to relapse triggers immediately after you finish rehab. Unlike regular rehab, transitional home programs allow residents to have employment and income-earning opportunities — critical for low-income individuals as well as those anxious about rejoining society. Many even require individuals to be currently employed or actively seeking employment.
2.) Can I benefit from taking a short break?
People with mild SUD could consider taking a short vacation after finishing rehab. The period immediately after rehab could be very emotional and scary, and taking some time by one’s self, could be a great way to get some perspective if the risk of relapse is relatively low.
The destination should ideally be a place where it’s more difficult to source drugs. Nature trips, for this reason, could be an excellent option. Just taking time off work and other responsibilities to get reacquainted with supportive family and friends can also be another good way to spend time right after rehab.
3.) What can I do to avoid triggers?
After rehab, chances are that a lot of your emotional and mental energy will be spent on avoiding relapse triggers that could continue the cycle of drug use. You will have to start applying the principles of trigger avoidance that you learned in rehab. You may have to, at least temporarily, cut off people who cause you to use drugs and alcohol. You may also want to switch jobs or careers if those were the things making it difficult to stay sober. Finding good support groups and post-rehab therapies should also be a priority.
4.) Should I move to a different place?
Perhaps the biggest decision you’ll have to make is whether or not you should move to a different place to avoid your triggers. If your immediate environment (i.e. a bad neighborhood, close family members who also use drugs or alcohol) is a primary cause of your substance misuse, then it’s important to consider moving away until you’ve sufficiently recovered.
5.) Should I help others in the same situation?
Helping others with SUD through volunteer work or more direct means can help you gain a perspective on your own recovery, giving you a better appreciation of what you’ve managed to achieve so far. A UK-based study even suggests that volunteerism and community-based support can be more effective at preventing relapse than medical intervention.
However, volunteering is not for everyone — at least not right away. While the decision of helping others with SUD is ultimately going to be a personal one, it can make an impact on your long-term recovery.
Completing a rehab program is often just the first step in what may be a lifelong recovery process. While you may have to make some hard decisions, the things you choose to do immediately after rehab can make a big impact on how sustainable your recovery is going to be.
If you or a loved one need a transitional home or want to explore other treatment options, the folks here at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers are ready to listen. Good luck, and stay well!