The Hard Work That Begins After Rehab

Four stages, five stages, six stages – there are countless ways to interpret the recovery process, the rehabilitation process, and every other aspect of dealing with addiction and its consequences. But when it comes solely to the post-rehab, there isn’t much of a guide on how to work through the issues presented by life after the initial step of “stopping” an addiction. Residential treatment, also known as rehab is a vital step in the right direction for countless people – but too often, it’s not enough.

Many people choose to tackle their new life alone after treatment. Others go to support meetings for a while until they figure out what works best for them. Others yet fall into a vicious and repetitive cycle. But to understand post-rehab, we must start at the beginning.

What Is Residential Treatment?

Residential treatment involves being interned at an institution with professionals present to help you initially recover from addiction. Every residential treatment program can be unique in some shape or form, by offering a new treatment or focusing on a specific element of rehab. But residential treatment is, for all intents and purposes, a medical institution facilitating the immediate detoxification and post-detox stages of early recovery. It starts with getting the patient “clean” and then helping them through a series of treatments designed to get them to decide on their best path towards a more long-term recovery.

Residential treatment is limited – it helps a patient out of addiction, but once that patient leaves the facility, it’s up to them and their willpower to stay on the path of recovery, seek out recovery resources, and continue going to meetings. For many, that isn’t easy to do – specifically because the transition from living at a residential treatment facility to going back out into the real world can be a drastic one.

Treatment facilities are sheltered places, meant to keep patients away from drugs and focused on their recovery. But without the strict and rigid programming of a treatment facility, recovering patients must fall back on their own ability to keep motivated – which is tough when you’re dealing with recovery, job search, confronting old wounds, and dealing with any other consequences.

Emotionality After Rehab

Right after rehab, the first thing most patients struggle with is the sheer drastic change. Life is different outside of an addiction, and that ties back to the reason so many get hooked, to begin with. Addiction comes either in the form of an emotional addiction or a physical dependence – in the case of the latter, the consequences of dependence can still form an emotional bond between a patient and their drug or drugs of choice.

In an emotional addiction, the biggest struggle is that the addiction itself is a coping mechanism against bigger, tougher issues – issues that are only exacerbated and inflamed by a lack of proper resolution. When residential treatment strips away the blindfold of an addiction, all the issues created prior and during the addiction come to light.

This leads to irritability, depression, feelings of guilt or helplessness, and a list of other symptoms related to the uncertainty of what to do next. This stage is the first of post-rehab, and the hardest to get through. Many people relapse because of the temptation of making everything go away (superficially). The first challenge, then, is to deal with that craving and replace it with different, healthier habits and activities. Obviously, this isn’t easy and it doesn’t happen overnight.

Emotional rollercoasters after rehab are common, and they swing both ways. While many people struggle with depression in general – as many as 6.7 percent of the adult US population – there are some that feel “high on life”, for lack of a better phrase. This is referred to as the pink cloud by AA circles, and like mania, it’s dangerous in that it can encourage reckless behavior, and usually results in an emotional crash afterwards.

This is simply a stage that will have to run its course until the situation normalizes, and you naturally adjust. It’s wrong to assume that this stage will “make or break” a recovery. Instead, this varies most from individual to individual based on length. Some people get out of residential treatment, fired up and motivated, and they completely obliterate their insecurities and work their way through any chance of depression. They don’t let anything slow down their freight train of optimism, but neither are they so out of it that they lose touch with reality.

Others take much longer, constantly falling back into the same cycle of rehabilitation and addiction – until someday, something “clicks”, and they attain the motivation they need to bust through the cycle.

There’s no way of knowing which path you’ll take until you take it, but both are just fine. Addiction is an individual struggle, and there’s no point comparing your pain to those of someone else, due to the difference in context, experiences, circumstances and personalities.

Rationality After Rehab

After the initial stage of recovering from the shock of post-recovery, it’s time to think long-term. When you’ve gotten into a rhythm of living – whether alone or through an outpatient program (OP), a support group or just your friends and family – it’s time to leave addiction behind.

While it’s true that recovery is a life-long journey, there comes a time when the addiction should become a thing of the past. Your battle with addiction is an old chapter, and instead, you’re fighting and struggling through life itself, finding your purpose, pursuing your goals, and working towards being a provider, protector or nurturer for those you love and hold most dear.

That’s where accountability becomes your greatest tool. Just like how motivation is important for getting your life back on track and shielding yourself against the temptations of a relapse, accountability is your friend when it comes to turning your back on addiction entirely. You’ll learn to find solace and happiness in sobriety, rejoice in the clarity of being able to feel a full spectrum of emotions, cherish every moment of happiness, and stay strong in moments of sadness.

If you’re out of residential treatment and you’re struggling to keep it together emotionally, find a job, deal with your friends and family and still maintain all your recovery goals, then it’s a good idea to get some help in easing back into life rather than jumping into it headfirst. Post-rehab programs such as an IOP and PHP can help you organize your life, deal with your emotions, and regain control step-by-step.