How to Prepare Yourself for Life Outside the Cocoon of Treatment

By Lyn has years of experience relating to addiction and recovery. She earned her Master's of Social Work (MSW) and also a Masters of Arts (MA) in psychology and social work from California State University-Sacramento.

Sober Recovery Expert Author

The day you started drug treatment, you likely went in feeling sad, lost, and maybe even angry. But, while you were there, you worked through the program, learning to trade poor coping skills for better ones. You learned about addiction and found a safe place to let go of the fear and guilt you had been holding onto. You also met some great people, some who may become lifelong friends.

Now, the final day of treatment looms before you, and you have mixed emotions about stepping back into your life. You are happy to be going home but also afraid and nervous at the same time. You have spent the last 30 days or so transforming into a beautiful butterfly, and now it is time to leave the cocoon.

By having a plan before leaving treatment, you will know what steps to take to protect your sobriety and continue in recovery when you get home.

That metaphor may be a tired cliché, but it is the best way to describe how I felt when it was time for me to go home. In treatment, I felt safe and secure. The routine of the days was comforting. I was sheltered from people who didn't have my best interests at heart and surrounded by people who "got me." These people understood my pain and went through it with me.

As the last day of rehab came closer, I began to fear going back to the life I had left. I had built a brand new me out of the wreckage, but the rest of the damage was still out there. I was taking the new me to an old life that was no different from when I left.

Though I had been given the tools to face whatever was out there, I now needed the courage. For most of us, it is a difficult and scary transition. However, by having a plan before leaving treatment, you will know what steps to take to protect your sobriety and continue recovery when you get home. Here are some ways to make that transition as smooth and easy as possible.

1. Schedule what you will be doing every day out in the world and be diligent in following your plan.

Maintaining a routine is an important part of the recovery process. It provides structure and builds responsibility. Some things to consider fitting into your routine are physical exercise, meals, attending support groups and meetings, working or looking for a job, and family time. Also, don’t forget to have time for yourself as well. This could be when you work on a hobby, meditate, reflect or dream.

2. Know that depression or general sadness is prevalent after treatment.

During treatment, we all talk about how we can't wait to get home. I talked about it almost every day, so I was not prepared for the sadness that crept in as the end came closer. However, I learned that this is very common to experience, and there are ways to combat it.

The first thing you must do is realize you are feeling sad. Knowing your feelings helps you to be able to manage them. Journaling your thoughts and feelings helps you to recognize them. Talking to someone about them allows you to voice those feelings and let you move on. The single most important thing to avoid when you are down is isolation. Do not close yourself up in a dark room and spend all your time alone. Instead, get outside, be around people, go to a meeting.

3. Go to aftercare.

Another safety net once you return home is your aftercare. If your rehab offers aftercare, make sure to keep every appointment. If it doesn't, then you must make your own aftercare plan. Go to support groups, attend meetings, or see a therapist/counselor. These are places where you can process feelings about friends and family and where you will find help handling relapse triggers. Aftercare will also strengthen the skills you learned while you were in treatment.

4. Be of service to others.

One thing I did that helped me as much, if not more, than the treatment center. As I began sharing my experiences and struggles with newcomers, or those who just entered treatment, I gained confidence in maintaining my sobriety. I was able to see how far I had come, and it allowed me to let go of what wasn't important and focus on what was.

There are many ways to help someone or make a difference in their lives. You can be a big brother or sister to a child in need, volunteer at an animal shelter or local non-profit agency, be a friend to a senior in nursing, or share your story with others in recovery. Being meaningful in someone else's life gives the heart a sense of happiness and contentment that has often been missing in our own life.

Help is Available

You may have many feelings when it comes time to get back to the real world but think of it as an exciting opportunity to explore the world from a new, sober perspective. If you or someone you know is seeking help for addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.

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