Staying Sober After Rehab: How to Avoid Relapse

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Completing a drug or alcohol rehab program is a monumental accomplishment. However, many individuals have a hard time staying sober after transitioning out of an alcohol or drug addiction treatment center. This is because many people become accustomed to the structure and accountability provided while attending a rehab program. Once an individual leaves rehab, they will have to learn how to maneuver real-world responsibilities and stressors. As a result, it is important for individuals to learn how to stay sober after rehab and avoid potential relapse.

Individuals attending a drug or alcohol rehab program should be prepared to transition back into their everyday lives. This is typically done through relapse prevention education, learning emotional regulation skills, and healthy coping mechanisms. However, individuals must continue to work on their sobriety after completing rehab in order to avoid relapse. If you or a loved one have recently completed a treatment program, continue reading to learn about how to stay sober after rehab.

What is Relapse and Why Does it Occur?

By definition, relapse is the worsening of a medical condition that had previously been improved. In regards to drug or alcohol addiction, a relapse is when an individual who previously recovered from addiction begins their addictive behavior after a period of abstinence. Staying sober after rehab can be particularly difficult for a number of reasons. In order to avoid relapse, it is vital to understand what can cause this to happen as well as how to avoid it.

The common causes of relapse include:

  • Expecting recovery and sobriety to be easy
  • Boredom
  • Expecting to immediately feel better after treatment
  • Failing to understand how much work goes into staying sober
  • Thinking you can handle drug or alcohol addiction recovery on your own
  • Forcing perfectionist ideals on yourself and punishing yourself when you fall short of those expectations
  • Thinking life will be perfect and back to “normal” after you complete treatment
  • Thinking that addiction recovery will instantly solve other problems in your life, such as financial issues or relationship problems
  • Believing you won’t still have to work on your addiction once treatment is complete
  • Thinking addiction recovery has a definite end date
  • Untreated mental illnesses
  • High levels of stress

Individuals who wish to maintain their sobriety after addiction treatment must understand the amount of work and dedication that sobriety demands. Staying sober after rehab can seem like a daunting task. However, when individuals are equipped with the proper relapse prevention tools, long-term sobriety is attainable.

How to Avoid Relapse and Stay Sober After Rehab

Any recovering alcoholic or addict can see the benefits of staying sober just by reflecting on the issues in their life that relate to their drug or alcohol use. However, simply knowing that abstinence is beneficial does not stop individuals from experiencing alcohol or drug cravings. Unfortunately, without the proper coping mechanisms these cravings can quickly turn into reality. Due to this, it is important to understand how to avoid relapse after completing rehab.

Recognize Cravings

Some individuals believe that once they are sober from alcohol or drugs, they will not experience a desire to use substances anymore. While the constant desire to use substances will disappear, certain experiences or situations may cause an individual to experience a random craving. Some individuals may attempt to ignore these cravings, it is essential to recognize cravings when they arise. By acknowledging cravings, individuals will be able to understand what caused it and focus on how to avoid their desire to use drugs or alcohol from occurring again.

Build a Support System

Succeeding in life is never easy when attempted alone. This is especially true for individuals trying to stay sober after rehab. To explain, individuals in sobriety should have a system of support that includes loved ones and friends who are also recovering from addiction. When individuals have a strong support system, they are able to lean on others for help, advice, and tips on staying sober. For example, individuals may attend 12-step meetings, make new friends, involve their family members in their recovery, or reach out for help online in order to build an effective support system.

Create Structure and Routine

One of the less obvious causes of relapse happens to be boredom. While boredom may not seem like a serious issue, this can lead individuals to use drugs or alcohol in order to cope with their boredom or loneliness. As a result, individuals attempting to stay sober after rehab should create structure and routine in their lives in order to stay busy. This helps individuals from being tempted to drink or use drugs as a way to cure boredom.

Attend Therapy and Treat Underlying Conditions

Individuals staying sober after rehab should attend therapy in order to continuously improve their coping mechanisms and emotional regulation skills. During therapy, individuals are able to uncover any underlying psychiatric conditions that could potentially cause relapse if left untreated. Additionally, therapy allows individuals to understand the causes of their past substance abuse, consequently allowing them to avoid relapse.

If you or a loved one have had a hard time staying sober after rehab, contact New Jersey Interventions today to learn more about your next steps.

Medically Reviewed: July 10, 2020

Dr Ashley

Medical Reviewer

Chief Editor


All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Dr Ashley Murray obtained her MBBCh Cum Laude in 2016. She currently practices in the public domain in South Africa. She has an interest in medical writing and has a keen interest in evidence-based medicine.

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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