Addiction can disrupt virtually every aspect of an individual’s life, from their financial stability to their interpersonal relationships. After completing rehab, they may feel overwhelmed by the changes they need to make.
Change is an essential aspect of sobriety—not just ending the cycle of addiction itself, but also changing mindsets, daily habits, goals, and social circles. While this doesn’t happen overnight, every step an individual takes to build healthy habits and relationships helps them build on what they learned in rehab.
Recovery Comes First
Rebuilding relationships, building a new reputation at work or finding another job altogether, treating medical issues, and sorting out legal problems related to addiction can be stressful. In some cases, when things don’t go as planned, the individual may even be tempted to relapse into old habits and return to their addiction.
Throughout the rebuilding process of establishing a new life after addiction, it’s important to remember that recovery comes first. In some cases, especially when it comes to relationships with friends and family that may have been hurt by the addiction, there isn’t a quick fix. It may be necessary at times to take a temporary step back from certain issues and conflicts to support continued sobriety.
5 Steps to Take When Rebuilding Life After Addiction
Life after rehab can feel like a fresh start. However, many people discover that even though they have a new outlook after completing an addiction program, they have to jump right back into real life and all its challenges. This includes the problems that stemmed from their addiction or perhaps even contributed to their addiction. Working through these issues is important for long-term health, happiness, and sobriety.
Step 1: Address Medical Issues
Addiction can take a significant toll on the brain and body and may have serious medical side effects that take months or even years to resolve. For example, years of drinking alcohol can cause significant damage to the stomach lining, causing nausea, loss of appetite, indigestion, and stomach pain. Untreated, this damage can lead to ulcers, reflux, or enlarged veins in the esophagus. Similarly, some illicit drugs can cause lung disease, brain damage, or abnormal heart conditions.
For many people, illicit or illegal drugs were an effective way to manage chronic pain. Even once the addiction is treated, the pain may be an everyday reality that significantly impacts their quality of life.
Integrated medical support is an essential aspect of comprehensive addiction treatment, and even after intensive treatment is completed, medical care continues to be important for recovery. Individuals who have worked through an addiction treatment program need to continue working closely with their primary care provider to treat medical addictions that stemmed from or lead to the addiction in the first place.
Step 2: Resolve Ongoing Legal Issues
Unfortunately, addictions to certain substances are viewed as crimes rather than chronic health conditions. While some substances such as alcohol, tobacco, inhalants and prescription medications are relatively accessible, other substances such as cocaine, meth and marijuana are illegal to purchase or use. In some cases, just carrying drug paraphernalia is enough to land an individual into legal hot water, resulting in fines or a criminal record.
There is a broad range of addiction-related legal problems that may require professional help for those rebuilding life after addiction. These include:
- Driving under the influence charges: A single DUI can lead to large fines and driver’s license suspensions, depending on where the individual lives. Finding a lawyer that specializes in addiction-related legal issues may help to minimize legal consequences
- Divorce proceedings: Divorce is a difficult process for everyone involved, particularly when addiction was a contributing issue. It’s important that both parties are represented fairly and treated equally in the proceedings, so it’s helpful to find a law firm that understands the complexities of substance abuse and can advocate for their client with divisions of assets and alimony determinations.
- Loss of child custody: While the courts prefer that parents work out their own custody arrangements, this doesn’t always happen. In this case, a judge must make a ruling that’s fair to the parents and in the best interests of the children involved. If addiction history is brought up during the hearings, the individual may have a difficult time making a case for their custody rights. Once again, it’s a good idea to find a lawyer that understands addiction issues and can argue those issues in court.
- Loss of professional license: Many working professionals, including law enforcement officers, doctors and accountants, could see their license revoked if they break the law because of drug or alcohol abuse. An experienced lawyer who can defend against drug licenses may be able to negotiate a settlement that may save the individual’s professional license.
Step 3: Repair Relationships that were Harmed by Addiction
The eighth step in AA is to make amends. During this step, the individual learns the importance of making up for harmful behaviors. They begin contacting coworkers, friends, and family members to apologize for the ways in which they wronged them, and they do what they can to try to make it right.
Making amends is a challenging process that requires time, patience, and dedication. Depending on the extent and nature of the individual’s previous addiction, the process may take weeks or even months.
Early in recovery, it’s normal for friends and family to maintain some healthy emotional distance from the one working towards sobriety. If they’re not receptive to the individual’s attempts to mend relationships, it can be frustrating at best and lonely and isolating at worst.
It’s important to accept that rebuilding trust takes a lot of time. In some cases, the relationship never returns to what it was prior to the chaos and heartbreak of addiction. However, with time, the individual may be able to build new connections with their friends and family.
Step 4: Work on Personal Health and Goals
Sober living programs focus on helping the individual develop the life skills necessary for maintaining regular routines, developing new hobbies and interests and taking care of physical and mental health. During this step, individuals learn how to manage their time, see to basic self-care and foster job skills that could lead to gainful employment.
For many, insecurity and low self-esteem contributed to the onset of drug use. While substance abuse can initially mask these feelings, the relief is short-lived. Over time, being stuck in the cycle of addiction can do further damage to one’s self-esteem and confidence in their ability to overcome challenges, making recovery more difficult.
Just as it’s important to work on relationships with others when navigating life after rehab, it’s necessary for the individual to work on their relationship with themself. This may include forgiving themselves for past behaviors, building confidence by participating in volunteer activities and finding new hobbies and interests.
No one is perfect, and slipping up is normal. However, slip-ups don’t need to lead to permanent relapses. Working on oneself is a lifelong process that improves the individual’s sense of well-being and supports their success.
Step 5: Get Support After a Relapse
When rebuilding life after rehab, it’s easy to be overly optimistic at first and assume that the process will be smooth and free from obstacles. This can make it all the more frustrating if the individual experiences a relapse.
Rather than feeling discouraged or doomed to failure if a relapse occurs, the individual can simply take the setback as a sign that they need more support. For many, obtaining alumni services can give them the help and encouragement they need to get back on track.
Rebuilding your life after addiction doesn’t happen overnight, but by being patient and setting your intention, you can improve your chances of maintaining sobriety.