Man leaving rehab with a plan

5 Things to Do to Prepare Yourself for Leaving Drug Rehab


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Man leaving rehab with a plan

The rate of relapse within the first year following discharge from any type of treatment program ranges from 37 percent to 56 percent, according to a 2016 study. [1] Although involvement in aftercare programs is known to help decrease the chances of losing one’s sobriety, only half of the people who leave rehab actually seek outpatient care and, of those who do, even fewer stick around.

It is understandable that the transition from residential treatment to the “real world” can be stressful, especially when people have to manage their addiction issues on top of meeting their basic needs. However, there are a few strategies that can help increase one’s ability to adapt to changes and successfully re-enter life. Here are five of the most important steps to include in your post-rehab game plan.

Re-entering society newly sober will be one of the greatest challenges an addict will face, but with a game plan place, ample support and dedication it's possible to live clean and productive life after treatment.

1. Avoid situations that create temptations to relapse

Returning to the same environment that includes the harmful addiction triggers is an invitation to regress to old, destructive behavior. Temptation can be physical, such as hanging out at a bar with old friends, or it can be emotional, like depression or a sense of low self-worth. By limiting exposure to these situations, you are more apt to set yourself up for success. For several months, don’t test yourself and avoid the most obvious temptations by staying away from people and places that promote the use of drugs and alcohol.

2. Set concrete goals

The best goals are those that are specific, realistic, and measurable. Since re-entering daily life can often be overwhelming, it is crucial to limit how many goals you set and to break each one down into manageable steps. It will be useful to write down your goal, how you will achieve it, and why it is important to you. The more details that you write down, the more it will empower you to achieve it.

Be sensible and as precise as possible. For example, instead of saying, “I will regularly attend AA meetings,” state your goal as, “I will attend AA meetings three times a week.”

Also, don’t forget to regularly review and evaluate your progress.

Reaching a milestone builds self-confidence, provides direction for the future, and increases motivation to continue. Dedicate yourself to concentrating on your goals and focus on the rewards of these new behaviors so that they will become instinctive.

3. Maintain therapy sessions

Addiction is like any chronic disease, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It requires lifelong treatment paired with counseling and support.[2] With this in mind, consistent and ongoing therapy should be the standard treatment for drug use treatment success.

For many, facing daily life without using drugs or alcohol can be extremely difficult and, over a period of time, can bring an overpowering urge to return to the familiar life of using when facing tough times.

By working with a qualified addiction therapist, you’ll be equipped with coping skills specific to your new sober lifestyle and carve your path to continued success after rehab.

4. Create social support groups

A 2017 landmark study explored which factors hindered and helped individuals transition from residential rehab into the community. Researchers identified the lack of a support network and maintaining relationships with friends who continue to use drugs as major barriers to long-term sobriety.[3]

Having a circle of friends and family to support you is vital during recovery. Surround yourself only with those who do not engage in substance use and who are completely supportive of your substance-free lifestyle. This strong social network will help lift you up when you’re facing challenges in life as well as lower your anxiety.

5. Maintain emotional and physical health

As you enter a sober daily life, you have to give your body and mind that TLC they deserve. Good nourishment and a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are important to daily health and will help provide you with sustained energy. On the other hand, high-sugar and fast-food will promote lethargy and can diminish your motivation, so avoid them as much as possible.

Exercise is another area that is key to supporting your mind-body connection. It can enhance your brain chemistry and releases endorphins, which create a healthy, natural high.

You can also use meditation as a tool to help you stay calm and focused during stressful times. And lastly, never underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep. During recovery, the amount of rest you get impacts your overall well-being, thoughts, mood, and behavior.

The truth is that re-entering society and maintaining a sober lifestyle can be one of the greatest challenges a person could face. But with armed with a plan, adequate support, and unwavering dedication, it is possible to live clean and enjoy a productive life after leaving residential treatment.


1. Challenges in going from residential substance abuse treatment to the community. Retrieved online on January 2017 via

2. Counseling and Addiction. Retrieved online on January 2017 via

3. Barriers and facilitators to successful transition from long-term residential substance abuse treatment. Journal of Retrieved online on January 2017 via

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