After Rehab: Getting Your Life Back on Track

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Recovery presents a unique set of opportunities. When treatment is successful, the person struggling with substance abuse adopts a new philosophy of life, learns to make healthy choices and develops strategies to prevent relapse. Recovery provides the rare opportunity to develop a greater appreciation, care and understanding of human existence.

Life in Recovery

According to Jeffrey S. Smith for Psychology Today, there are three types of motivation for addiction recovery: self motivation, leverage and seduction.1 Each type of motivation begins with realizing you have a problem and reaching out for help. Once the need for help is established, finding a treatment program is the next and most important step. During rehab you or your loved one learn about your addiction, what contributed to its development and what you need to do to live a life of recovery. Treatment programs help the person struggling with addiction learn coping strategies to avoid addiction triggers and how to live life one day at a time.

Once rehab has ended, it’s important for the person in recovery to make positive choices, especially where his environmental influences are concerned.  According to Psych Central, the following measures can be incorporated into day-to-day life to minimize the risk of exposure to addiction triggers:

  • Identify triggers. This includes recalling past situations that resulted in engaging in addictive behaviors.
  • Have a response plan. Planning how to respond to a trigger can keep you from being caught off guard.
  • Avoid testing your limits. Unknown triggers can activate when you or a loved one is in a compromising situation.
  • Work on being well. The acronym H.A.L.T. – hungry, angry, lonely, tired – describes conditions that often trigger relapse. Taking healthy action, such as having a meal or taking a nap, can temper the overwhelming feelings these conditions cause.2

Recovery Reading List

Reading is a great tool for self-help. The following books are helpful reading for anyone in recovery:

  • The 7 Key Principles of Successful Recovery, Mell, B. & Bill, P.
  • Codependent No More, Beattie, M.
  • Beyond Codependency, Beattie, M.
  • The Gifts of Imperfection, Brown, B.
  • Now That You’re Sober, Larsen, E.
  • Ordinary Recovery, Alexander, W.
  • A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps, Carnes, P.

Health and Wellness

Having a life plan with measurable and attainable goals is also an important part of life after rehab. Your life plan should center around wellness and include the following:

  • Improve health
  • Find employment
  • Manage finances and fix credit
  • Repair relationships with loved ones
  • Keep a safe home

Regular exercise, healthy food choices, job placement services, credit repair programs and individual and family counseling are all tools you can use to help you reach your daily goals.

After rehab, it’s also important to find health care coverage if you or your loved lost coverage due to job termination or never had coverage. Private insurance, Medicaid, dependent coverage through a parent or finding coverage through HealthCare.gov are all options.

Not all health and wellness efforts require health insurance. Exercise is instrumental to recovery, and it has been proven to provide the following health benefits:

  • Increases mental sharpness
  • Alleviates stress
  • Boosts energy
  • Amplifies immunity
  • Improves heart health

Since establishing an exercise program is often part of rehab treatment, continuing with a routine can help decrease the risk of relapse.

Finding Employment

protectionWhile the prospect of finding work may appear daunting due to gaps in work history and other factors, it is important to know that persons in recovery are legally protected against discrimination. Under federal civil rights laws, recovering addicts are protected from employment and workplace discrimination. For purposes of federal law, a recovering addict may, subject to certain factors, be considered disabled. Other federal acts that protect disabled persons, and therefore may protect recovering addicts, include:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Acts (ADA)
  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973
  • Fair Housing Act
  • Workforce Investment Act3

Knowing you’re protected can help provide some reassurance about the process of looking for work. It’s also important to brush up on existing job skills and research changes in the job market. Other steps that can help include:

  • Updating your resume
  • Retraining in an old area of experience or training in a new one
  • Getting in touch with possible referral sources
  • Buying appropriate clothing for interviews
  • Identify organizations that can assist you with job searches

And remember, a prospective employer cannot legally ask whether an applicant has been addicted to drugs or in drug treatment.

Fixing Finances

Returning to work means the recovering addict is once again responsible for controlling his or her finances. Handling money mindfully and carefully is an important part of preventing relapse.4 Many people in recovery will work with a continuing care counselor who will be aware of the challenges that handling money presents and of the recovering person’s specific history with finances. The counselor’s guidance may include strategies for limiting access to money, such as:

  • Not having or carrying an ATM card
  • Giving wages/any funds received to a responsible family member
  • Structuring banking services such that a withdrawal has to be made in person

These limitations can also work as a savings device; barriers to access of money can lead to lower spending on unnecessary items, even those that are not drug-related. Saving money will be necessary to have the funds needed to repair any existing damage to credit. Good credit is a key building block to a healthy financial future, and it provides opportunities to finance major life events, like buying a home.

Tips to Repair Credit

  • Set up payment reminders to avoid credit blemishes that result from late payments.
  • If you cannot meet a bill payment deadline, do not ignore creditors as they may work with you to come up with a solution.
  • Take good care of new accounts opened because they can help raise your credit score in the long term.
  • Maintain low balances on credit cards and pay off more than the minimum balance due.
  • Avoid opening too many new accounts too quickly.

Sources: myFICO

Repairing Relationships

While addiction can devastate personal relationships, a healthy rebuilding of those relationships can happen. Relationship repair may happen as part of therapy, or as part of a structured program such as the 12 Steps, which includes a step dedicated to making amends with others.5 Having the help of a therapist or program is advisable to manage the process and respond to any stress that develops during efforts to work on personal relationships. Rebuilding trust is a centerpiece of efforts to heal relationships. Restoring trust requires that the addicted person remain abstinent, change his or her behavior, and allow time for the loved ones to heal. A person who was affected negatively by another’s addiction may love them and even forgive them, but rebuilding trust can take additional time.

A Safe and Respectful Home

If the home environment contributed to the addiction in any way, going back there after treatment may be impossible. When this is the case, housing facilities specifically dedicated to serving the recovery community can provide an answer. These sober living homes are a good option for someone seeking to live independently but in a setting with resources such as peer group meetings, 12-Step programs, sponsors, a gym, job placement services and a meal plan. A recovering addict’s continuing care counselor will be able to provide additional information on housing options.

Finding Help for Substance Abuse

A recovering addict must be exceptionally vigilant in their life decision-making. Proper self-care and a support network that includes loved ones, recovery professionals, and positive relationships provide a solid recovery foundation. If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, we are here for you. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.


1 Smith, Jeffrey. “3 Kinds of Motivation for Addiction Recovery.”Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 15 July 2015. Accessed 8 November 2017.

25 Tips for Managing Triggers during Addiction Recovery.”World of Psychology, 3 Oct. 2013. Accessed 8 November 2017.

3Back On Track: Employment During Recovery.” Back On Track: Employment During Recovery | Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. Accessed 8 Nov. 2017. Accessed 8 November 2017.

4 T, Buddy. “Managing Your Money Can Benefit Your Recovery.” Verywell, 12 Oct. 2017. Accessed 8 November 2017.

5Substance Abuse and Intimate Relationships.” Substance Abuse and Intimate Relationships. Accessed 8 Nov. 2017.