06/03/2014 08:16 EDT | Updated 08/03/2014 05:59 EDT

What Life Is Really Like After Rehab

BSIP via Getty Images
Photo Essay From Hospital. Paul Guiraud Hospital, In The French Region Of Ile De France. Department Of Psychiatry. Patient In Smoking Area. (Photo By BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images)

So now that you have completed your inpatient addiction treatment phase, what happens now?

Life in rehab is very structured, planned and directed by the treatment team. Although this is a necessary step towards recovery, it is only the beginning of a life journey that simply has to be very different from the life lived during active addiction.

With reference to my previous blog, treatment success strongly depends upon the client's level of acceptance of their addiction and the intensive self-examination that needs to be at the foundation of a life lived in sobriety. If you view treatment as a "bubble of safety," returning to society can be extremely frightening and confusing if one is not prepared. If you were viewing treatment as a "prison," the day of discharge could easily become the day of relapse. Either way, the transition is a difficult phase.

Relapse prevention is all about knowing your addiction cycle so well that you can anticipate the triggers to use, identify the high risk situations and have a multifaceted plan of how to manage these challenges. Research informs us that the greater the number of supports available after discharge, the increased chance of success in sobriety. In a study conducted at Bellwood Health Services, 83 per cent of the clients who were actively participating in their aftercare group were continuing to succeed in maintaining sobriety six months post discharge.

In another Bellwood study, it was found that when client's employers were involved in the initial referral and follow up after discharge, the clients had an 82 per cent success rate as compared to clients who did not have employer involvement who had a 68 per cent success rate at six months post-discharge.

The key factor is not only to know yourself, but to let others know you well enough that they can be an informed support to you. Supports come in many forms, including family, friends, 12 Step groups/sponsors and employers. At Bellwood, there are weekly Aftercare support groups for both the addict and their families. The Aftercare system is structured for 18 months post-discharge. Some clients become volunteers within the Bellwood program and keep this involvement for as long as 20 years.

Giving back what they received in treatment becomes another way that they keep themselves sober. In addition to developing a good support system, life after rehab needs to include a holistic approach with new plans for ongoing nutrition, exercise, leisure interests and social activities.

The question of "Who am I now that I am sober?" must now be addressed. It is the deeper question of self-identity, values and integrity that can prove to be the greatest gift of sobriety. During treatment, clients struggle with their negative perceptions about what their life in sobriety would be like. They anticipate a life that is boring, not fun and lonely.

It is a difficult but important process to consider who you would like to be in sobriety. A spirit of exploration, experimentation and creativity can fuel this process of answering the question of "Who am I?" into being one of the most rewarding questions you have ever asked.


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