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Transitioning From Rehab to Home

Checking into rehab is no fun. You don’t know anyone, you don’t know what to expect, and the idea of not using alcohol or drugs is pretty much unthinkable. Detox is miserable, even with medical and moral support, and detoxing in a strange place makes it even worse.

But then the worst of it is over and the physical agony passes, your appetite comes back, you start to feel lighter and more clear-headed. You make some friends and start to learn more about addiction and how it works. You feel less alone, and start to believe that life can get better.

You develop a routine that includes healthy meals, healthy sleep, manageable chores, light exercise, therapy, group therapy, more therapy, and late-night chats in the dining area with mugs of hot tea and peers who understand exactly what you’re going through.

You develop a sense of safety that you maybe haven’t felt in years. There are no alcohol or drugs anywhere nearby, but when you have a craving for them there are literally dozens of people around to help you get through it. Maybe a week, 2 weeks, or 3 weeks is the longest you’ve abstained from your drug of choice in years. And it probably feels fantastic.

However, your exit date approaches and checking out of rehab can be scary too. Your little bubble of safety is going to vanish, and the real challenge is about to start.

Being prepared to make this transition is imperative to maintaining your newfound and well-deserved sobriety. Rehab was treatment – your real recovery begins when you walk out those doors.

Leaving the Protective Bubble

While undergoing treatment, you’re essentially safe and protected from the real world. Residential treatment programs typically require that you abstain from using your cell phones. There isn’t much time allotted for television or computers, and you’re separated from the people you normally hang out (and use) with.

Not only that, but you’re given a strict daily schedule; you’re told when to wake up, when to eat, where to go for your next meeting or class, which chores you’re responsible for on any given day, and when to go to sleep.

This is all by design. Having a mandatory and organized routine helps you get used to having a daily schedule, and it also keeps things simple so that you have the time and space to heal, learn, and process the idea of living without alcohol or drugs.

Once you’ve completed your program, all those rules and routines fall away, and you’ll no longer be required to follow such a regimented schedule. And whether you enter transitional living, such as a sober living house, or go home, it can be quite daunting to suddenly have all that freedom again.

It’s important that you stay accountable and remember to use the tools that you were taught in treatment. With a solid plan in place, stable support, and a genuine desire to stay sober you can absolutely overcome the risks and challenges of maintaining sobriety in the outside world.

Making a Plan to Avoid Relapse

During treatment, you probably learned about triggers and what they are for you. It’s one thing to talk about those triggers in the safety of a rehab facility with a discharge planner, but it’s a different story when you face them head-on in your daily life. Having a plan can mean the difference between maintaining sobriety and experiencing a relapse.

During treatment, you had a set routine, and believe it or not that routine made it easier to stay sober. When you have a consistent plan and things to accomplish it’s easier to avoid thinking about your drug of choice. You should focus heavily on proper nutrition and physical activity in early recovery; staying physically fit and mentally alert keeps you stronger and better able to resist cravings and make smart choices, even when it’s difficult. 3

Have a plan for social situations and do not hang out with people you know are going to be drinking or using. If it’s unavoidable, have an exit route. Make sure you have your own car or other means of leaving a situation if it gets uncomfortable. If possible, have a sober buddy with you to keep you accountable, and to make it easier if you need to leave.

If you’re an alcoholic, stop going to bars. If you use drugs, don’t go to parties or houses where drugs will be available. Avoid people and places that will be a trigger for you.

This can be difficult at first; you may feel lonely, or like you “have no life”. But as your recovery progresses and you feel healthier and sharper, you will miss those old situations less and less. You will also make new friends, develop new hobbies, and discover healthier ways of having fun.

Accountability is crucial in recovery. It’s nearly impossible to get sober (and stay sober) without the help of other people during daily living. Stay in touch with your sponsor, sober buddy or loved ones daily. Even if you aren’t having cravings, speak to someone daily about where you’re at, physically and emotionally.6

There’s just something about speaking to another person who truly cares about you that makes it easier to stay sober. Keep those people on speed-dial and be honest with them. You are not expected to be happy and strong every moment of every day, hence the importance of accountability.

Choose your confidants carefully. Other newly sober people are great to have around because they understand exactly what you’re going through. But the more people you can speak openly about your recovery with, the better.

You want people around you who will celebrate your wins and help you troubleshoot your challenges. 5 You need people with whom you can be honest and candid. Try to avoid people who will jeopardize your sobriety.

Reflect on your life so far, and the circumstances that brought you to this point. Learn to understand what led you to use substances in the first place. Think about what you could have done better, and how you will handle difficult situations in the future. Don’t beat yourself up over past mistakes; instead, celebrate the fact that you’ve put yourself in a place where you don’t have to repeat those mistakes. 2

Recovery isn’t just about not using drugs and alcohol; it’s about creating the life for yourself that you deserve. When you were dependent on substances you weren’t thriving, but in recovery, you can.

Revisit goals that you had given up on, such as going back to school or achieving a promotion. Focus on being truly present for the next phase of your life. You may have given up alcohol or drugs, but you’ve created space for joy, wonder, and growth, and learning.

Most rehab facilities operate their own aftercare programs. They understand that you will need follow-up support once the initial treatment ends, and they will likely spend a considerable amount of time preparing you for what happens when you leave.

Follow-up support varies depending on the facility you attend, but aftercare services can include:

The better you utilize the tools that are offered, the better chances you have of avoiding a relapse. 7 When you first experience sobriety, especially if you’ve been addicted for a long time, the feelings and emotions you experience will be all over the place.

You can feel unstoppable one moment, then absolutely petrified the next; you can feel as if you never want to touch a drug or drink again one morning, then feel desperate for a drink or hit by the early afternoon.

Making a plan and sticking to it will greatly benefit you. Most rehabs help you design an aftercare program specified to your needs, which includes daily schedules, a meeting schedule, and who to call when you feel tempted to drink or use.

What is a Sober-Living Environment?

For many people in early recovery, jumping from rehab back to the real world is simply too risky. Old habits and relationships are hard to avoid, and it can be disturbingly easy to fall right back into the old patterns that landed you in rehab to begin with.

A sober living home acts as a bridge between rehab and the real world. They offer a safe haven to mindfully practice and embrace the lessons you learned in rehab, with the support and understanding of others who are going through the same thing. Sadly, for many people leaving rehab, a sober living house is the only option for a safe sober living scenario.

A sober living house doesn’t offer the same structure and guidance as rehab, but it does provide a safe space for recovering people to develop healthy coping skills and habits for when they return home.

Residents aren’t required to be always home; they can work, visit friends and family, and generally live life as normal – but with the safety and security of a group of live-in peers who understand what new sobriety is like.

There are generally common-sense rules and regulations in sober living homes, including requirements for attending 12-step meetings, house meetings, and a curfew. The most important aspect of going this route is developing relationships and friendships with other people who prioritize their sobriety.

Not everyone will have access to a sober living house, and it’s not necessarily the right situation for everyone. But you can create your own sober living environment simply by choosing the right people to hang around with, making the right decisions, holding yourself accountable to yourself and others, and maintaining your desire to remain sober. In the end, you must create your own sober path no matter which direction you go.

What if I Relapse After Treatment?

Relapse can be a part of the process of finding addiction recovery. In fact, recovering alcoholics relapse at a rate of 50-90% in the first four years after rehab, and for drug addicts that rate is between 40 and 60%. 1

Keep in mind that even though the statistics seem high, you don’t have to be amongst those numbers. On the other hand, if you are amongst those numbers please don’t despair. You’re not alone, and hopefully you’ve remained in contact with people from rehab who can support you as you make your way back to sobriety and recovery.

There is a difference between a “slip” and a relapse. A slip refers to a single (or a couple) instance(s) of drinking or using again, but you are able to immediately put the substances aside and continue down the sober path.

A “relapse” means you continue use after the first slip from a period of recovery. 4 Knowing whether you need to return to a rehabilitation facility depends on whether you’ve had a “slip”, or if you have fully relapsed and are using again on a regular basis.

Whether you’ve had a slip or are in the midst of a full-blown relapse, tell somebody so that you do not go through a relapse alone. You likely feel embarrassed, ashamed, and maybe frightened, but remember; you now know lots of other people who understand what it’s like to be where you are right now.

You may have heard the term “Addiction is the disease of loneliness”. Think back to before you went to rehab, and you felt so alone, like no one could possibly understand what you were going through. After treatment, you now know this to be incorrect.

You are not alone, you never have to be alone in your addiction again, and more importantly, if you call on your people and utilize the tools you’ve acquired, you’ll never have to drink or use another drug again either. You deserve to be safe, sober, and thriving.

You may not figure it all out right away, but you do have an opportunity to completely transform your life. It may not be easy, but it will be worth it because you are worth it and you deserve it.

What is Transitional Care?

Transitional care is a type of care that is designed to help people make transitioning home from rehabilitation easier. This type of care can include things like assistance with housing, transportation, and budgeting. We also provide support and resources so that women can successfully return to their homes and families.

Why is Transitional Care Important?

Making the transition home from inpatient rehab can be difficult. There are many changes that need to be made, and it can be hard to adjust even after discharge planning. Transitional care provides support and resources so that women can successfully return to their homes and families after addiction treatment. This type of long term care can reduce stress and anxiety, and set women up for success.

What Does Transitional Care Include?

Transitional care services include assistance with housing, transportation, and budgeting. We also provide support and resources so that women can successfully return to their homes and families. If you or someone you know is in need of our services, please do not hesitate to reach out.

Receiving Substance Abuse Treatment in California

Transitioning from rehab to independent living can be a challenge, but with tools and support long-term recovery is possible. Developing new habits, finding ways to have fun, and maintaining a support network can aid in continued recovery. If a slip or relapse occurs after discharge, do not keep it a secret and reach out for support immediately.

New Directions for Women in Orange County, California, offers inpatient and outpatient rehab for women struggling with substance abuse. We offer aftercare and alumni programs once rehab has been completed to continue to give support to women in recovery. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction or dual diagnosis, reach out to New Directions for Women today.


  1. NIDA. (2020, July). Treatment and recovery. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://nida.nih.gov/publications/drugs-brains-behavior-science-addiction/treatment-recovery
  2. Melemis, S. M. (2015, September 3). Relapse prevention and the five rules of recovery. The Yale journal of biology and medicine. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4553654/
  3. Grinspoon, P. (2020, November 30). How to avoid a relapse when things seem out of Control. Harvard Health. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-to-avoid-a-relapse-when-things-seem-out-of-control-2020113021512
  4. VA. (2022, March 11). Reducing Relapse Risk. Veterans Affairs. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://www.va.gov/WHOLEHEALTHLIBRARY/tools/reducing-relapse-risk.asp
  5. Laudet, A., Savage, R., & Mahmood, D. (2007, April 17). Pathways to long-term recovery: A preliminary investigation. Journal of psychoactive drugs. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1852519/
  6. Inanlou, M., Bahmani, B., Farhoudian, A., & Rafiee, F. (2020, April). Addiction recovery: A systematized review. Iranian journal of psychiatry. Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7215253/
  7. Lewis, S. E., Hopper, K., & Healion, E. (2012, January). Partners in recovery: Social support and accountability in a consumer-run Mental Health Center. Psychiatric services (Washington, D.C.). Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4547771/
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