Staying sober after rehab

Your recovery from addiction does not end after you leave the addiction treatment center. Maintaining an addiction-free lifestyle is a lifelong process. In your daily life, you will face temptations to return to your addiction, and following the road of sobriety means resisting those temptations, no matter how difficult it may be.

Relapse – a common problem

A relapse is when you begin to drink again after a period of sobriety. Relapses occur because of the chronic nature of addiction disease. According to the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 90 percent of people relapse into alcohol abuse four years after recovery.

Unfortunately, relapse is very common — but that does not mean that your own relapse is inevitable. If you take the proper steps, there is plenty of hope for you to continue your life drug-free and sober for the rest of your days. But it must be acknowledged that sustaining long-term recovery is perhaps the most difficult part of the recovery process.

Why do people relapse?

Relapse most often occurs because of a series of individual problems that are exacerbated by negative situations in the person’s life. Pressure grows in the person’s life until they are either convinced by themselves, or someone else convinces them that the only escape or reprieve is to return to their substance of addiction.

Others relapse because they are embarrassed or ashamed of their drinking and feel they are unable to change who they are, and these negative feelings increase the pressure to return to their substance of addiction.

The addiction serves as a “solution” or a temporary relief from one’s problems. Therefore, the key to relapse is to find alternative methods that are healthy by dealing with their problems and find real solutions.


How to prevent relapse

So how do you prevent relapsing after you leave rehab? Once you have detoxed and finished recovering in the addiction center, your next goal is to maintain long-term recovery for the rest of your life. Here are several ways that you can resist the temptation to return to your addiction:

Avoid trigger situations

First, you need to fully understand which situations are most likely to trigger you into a relapse.  Stress is one of the most common triggers of a relapse. Perhaps it is your work, a certain relationship, or a particular environment that makes you the most stressed. While one cannot avoid stress entirely, it being a part of life, still take as many efforts as you reasonably can to reduce needless stress. But if you cannot avoid a stressful situation, there are ways to cope with it.

When you are part of an addiction treatment program, you are sheltered from those who provide you with drugs and those who encourage your substance abuse. When you’ve left the program, you may encounter these people — who could even be your friends and family — and be tempted to relapse. A good treatment program will teach you how to avoid these people and situations, and keep from following a bad path.

Know your triggers

A relapse can happen suddenly and is usually caused by a trigger — a specific situation that strongly influences someone to resort to a drug or substance. Many recovered addicts have many differing triggers, but many also share triggers in common. These include:

  • A negative emotional state (feeling stressed, depressed, frustrated)
  • A positive emotional state (having fun or feeling good, and wanting to feel even better)
  • Being exposed to alcohol or drugs
  • Being socially pressured to use drugs
  • Use of another substance (for example, someone recovering from cocaine who has continued to drink alcohol is at a higher risk of relapse)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is an important part of any aftercare program, and it is an effective tool for enhancing your addiction treatment. Psychiatric Clinics of North America attest that going through CBT will increase rates of abstinence for most participants. CBT helps a person become more self-sufficient and gives them the tools to work through stressful situations, by examining how a person’s thoughts are related to their actions and changing reactions and patterns in our behavior to more healthy alternatives. It is important that one stay the entire length of their treatment in order to minimize the chances of a relapse.

Look to your loved ones

If you are afraid that you are going to relapse into your addiction, you should reach out to friends and family who you trust. The love of someone else can be an amazing substitute for a self-destructive, addictive substance.


The practice of yoga is itself a high. You are replacing an artificial high of a drug with the natural high of mindfulness. It is especially useful for those who were formerly hedonistic and chase any physical pleasures. Yoga and meditation teach one how to turn inward, drawing your attention away from external stimuli, detach your senses and redirect your attention. Eventually, you will become less inclined to be drawn to the pleasures of your physical senses (which are primarily fed by your drug addiction) and instead drawn to the satisfaction that lies within.

Other steps

Attending a support group after therapy or a 12-step program can give you the social network that you need to stay strong and keep from crumbling to your addiction. Find an alternative group of friends or family (if possible) other than those who pressure you or provide you with the drugs to continue your addiction. Even simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle can mean the difference of whether you make or break your recovery.

Relapse warning signs

There are other situations that make the chances of a relapse even more likely, such as the loss of a loved one, losing a job, health problems, divorce, financial issues, etc. These are warning signs that you or someone could be about to relapse:

  • Pitying one’s self
  • Overly confident
  • Being dishonest
  • The person spends more time with those who provide them with drugs
  • Changes in their habits, hygiene, sleeping, eating, etc.
  • Making sudden and seemingly inexplicable irresponsible actions (skipping work or school, abandoning children, etc)