Life After Rehab for Alcoholism

Alcoholism is a dangerous condition that causes damage to you (your physical health, your mental health, your relationships), as well as those around you.

Sometimes, if your loved ones such as family and friends don’t know how to help you, their lives can be damaged by your alcoholism too, as they stress and worry about the impact it’s having on your health and on your life more broadly.

Rehab is the single most effective way for a person living with alcoholism to overcome their addiction and get started on the path to sobriety. For that reason, you might find that your loved ones try to persuade you to seek medical help and support from a rehab clinic.

Attending a rehab clinic for alcoholism will help you to live a life of sobriety going forward, and detach you from your unhealthy, negative relationship with alcohol.

But once you come out of a rehab clinic, what happens?

There are many challenges that someone with an addiction to alcohol will face after they leave rehab, and it’s important for you, and the people around you to understand what those challenges will be, how you can overcome them, and how that fits in with living a life free from alcohol and addiction.

Alcoholism: An Overview

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Alcoholism is one of the most common addictions across the world, and in the UK specifically, it is estimated that there are well over half a million people who are dependent on alcohol in some form, with less than 20% actually receiving treatment for their addiction.

Alcoholism is characterised by two main symptoms: impulsive cravings for alcohol, and withdrawal symptoms from alcohol in its absence.

The impulsive cravings for alcohol form after the addiction to the substance has developed.

Often, this addiction will develop when the consumption of alcohol has become an ingrained habit, used to deal with factors in your life. For example, if you always reach for alcohol when you’re stressed, it can become a learned reaction which can develop into an addiction.

Then, you will experience cravings for alcohol that are hard, or even seemingly impossible for you to control through your willpower.

If you have an addiction to alcohol and you try to step away from alcohol, by reducing your intake or even going ‘cold turkey’, you will experience a variety of withdrawal symptoms.

These symptoms are not the same for everyone, but will often include:

  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Erratic fluctuations in mood or behaviour
  • The onset of feelings of depression, or anxiety
  • Seizures

Some of these symptoms can progress into something much worse, and even become life-threatening.

Alcoholism is a serious medical condition, so it is highly recommended that if you want to break your addiction to alcohol you do it with the support of medical professionals in a rehab clinic.

Why is Rehab for Alcoholism so Important?

The main reason why rehab for alcoholism is so important is that alcoholism is a dangerous (and even potentially life-threatening) addiction that does damage to your physical health, mental health, and personal stability over a period of time.

It also impacts the lives of those around you, who care about you and can contribute to significant friction, and the eventual breakdown, of social relationships.

For these reasons, it is really important that an addiction to alcohol isn’t just ignored. In fact, ignoring an addiction is likely to make it worse over time, and harder to break in the future.

Therefore rehab for alcoholism, which will seek to help you to recover from your addiction and avoid relapse in the future, is perhaps the single most important step someone with alcoholism can take for the betterment of their life, and the lives of those around them.

What does Rehab for Alcoholism Involve?

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Accessing rehab, and starting your recovery journey, can be the hardest step. It involves admitting to yourself and others that you are living with a serious problem and that you want to change it but you need help.

So, if you made it that far, you should be proud of yourself.

Rehab for alcoholism is based on several core principles, which are informed by the medical and social reality of living with alcoholism.

1. Detoxing

The first step in rehab is a detoxification period. In the detox period, all traces of alcohol will be removed from your body. This will likely trigger withdrawal symptoms, and these can be painful, cause discomfort, and even lead to life-threatening complications.

Therefore, rehab will offer you a Librium-based detox, which is the safest form of detox, and you will be supported by professionals as you experience any withdrawal symptoms.

After the detox period, and after withdrawal symptoms have begun to recede, attention will turn to how you can maintain your sobriety.

To make it clear, you still have an addiction to alcoholism, and you will need defined goals and targets to ensure that in spite of that addiction, you can keep away from alcohol and improve your life.

2. Therapy for Alcoholism

A key step here is therapy. There are many different forms of therapy that a person can undergo for alcoholism, but the goal is always the same: to help you to prevent relapse in the future.

The most common form of therapy for alcoholism, as well as most other forms of addiction, is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT will aim to change your relationship with alcohol by understanding the cognitive processes which lead to negative behaviour.

During CBT, you will also attempt to uncover the root cause of your addiction to alcohol, and you assess what can be done about that problem to ensure that alcohol isn’t used again in the future.

For example, if the root cause of your alcoholism is stress in your life, CBT will help you to understand that; understand how this feeds into negative behavioural cycles; and come up with a plan for how you can reduce stress in your life, therefore, reducing your reliance on alcohol.

Therapy can be as short as six weeks, or can continue for as long as six years (or beyond!). The most important goal of the therapy is to come up with a real plan for how you can change your behaviour.

3. Post-rehab support

After you leave rehab, you will be sign-posted and encouraged to engage with support groups. These support groups will help you maintain your motivation for sobriety, as you learn from the experiences and life lessons of other people who have had similar experiences to you.

Becoming an active member of these support groups can provide a strong positive sense of purpose (supporting others) which is a key to improving your perception of your own self-worth, and continuing with your sobriety.

There are many well-known support groups for alcoholism which will be explored more below.

Navigating Life After Alcohol Rehab

Support

Your post-rehab life is set to be filled with challenges, which will include some very difficult moments. There’s no getting away from the fact that your journey of sobriety is going to be hard.

To combat these challenges, after rehab you will need to come up with a recovery plan that is unique to you.

This plan will be key to your long-term recovery, as it sets out exactly what the challenges you face might be, and how you can surmount them. It will also include key goals and milestones that you can use to measure your progress and motivate you in moments when you’re struggling.

What will you do at a party, when you’re surrounded by alcohol? How will you interact with your friends, who might be a negative influence on your behaviour?

What reaction will you have to stressful situations, which will make you want to reach for alcohol? And what about unexpected challenges that you can’t plan for; how will you deal with them when they inevitably arise?

Without a recovery plan, you are more likely to fall back into old habits when you encounter difficult and stressful challenges. So, it’s worth really taking the time to think about your recovery plan and get it right for your needs.

How to Create a Recovery Plan

At home support

Effective plans for recovery from alcoholism often include some key points:

Defined goals, and clear, attainable steps that you take to help you achieve them. For example, avoiding drinking alcohol at social occasions by drinking non-alcoholic beverages.

Work on rebuilding relationships that have been damaged by your alcoholism. For example, starting up contact with a sibling who you fell out with about your alcohol consumption, and attending family therapy sessions with them.

Replacing your old habits and activities with ones that are healthier, and more conducive to an alcohol-free life. For example, instead of going to a pub or bar with your friends every Friday or Saturday night, go to the cinema.

Identifying what the triggers are for your alcoholism, and learning how to deal with them or avoid them.

For example, if you know that spending time with a specific person makes you more likely to drink, or if you know that your current career is not compatible with an alcohol-free life, think about what serious, tangible changes you can make to change that.

A Relapse Prevention Plan

Perhaps the most important step in a post-rehab recovery plan is a clear and well-defined relapse prevention plan. This will recognise that there may be moments when you slip up and return to the use of alcohol.

For some people recovering from alcoholism, this is an inevitable part of the journey, but it doesn’t have to be the end of your sobriety.

Your relapse prevention plan will explore how you can get back on the right path even when you’ve made a mistake. If you spent a night binge drinking, how can you return to sobriety?

This should be part of what is explored in your therapy sessions during rehab, and you will have visualised what this looks like and planned for it.

Instead of allowing this to derail all your progress, you will be forgiving of yourself and determined to make positive progress. You can get back up, and you will be resilient even when confronted by this challenge.

Most of all, it’s important to be realistic. You can acknowledge that most people who leave rehab won’t be able to achieve an alcohol-free year.

But, if you can get there, the chance of relapse decreases, and it will continue to decrease after every alcohol-free year.

What Happens After Alcohol Rehab?

Normal life will resume pretty quickly once you leave rehab, and that will mean that you will be confronted by all your personal responsibilities and challenges again.

Without proper planning and forethought, this can feel overwhelming and can be the first hurdle that a recovering alcoholic encounters.

To combat this, there will be some key planning that you should do before you leave rehab. For example, where are you going to live? What are you going to do about your employment? How will you react to triggers?

Planning for life after alcohol rehab should also include:

  • How to create a supportive and sober social circle
  • How to keep away from triggers
  • How to establish a healthy routine
  • How to create a positive home environment

Creating a New Social Life

You may come to the conclusion that your current social life is one of the factors in the development of your addiction to alcohol. This can be especially true if your social circle regularly meets to consume alcohol, and if they have a negative influence on your sobriety.

Sometimes, a social circle can unknowingly be a source of pressure, which can make you feel like you need to use alcohol to join in and fit in.

Unfortunately, as someone who is addicted to alcohol you have recognised the destructive impact it has on your life, you know that one sip of alcohol can turn into a binge drinkand that a session of binge drinking can derail your recovery.

In this instance creating a new social life, with new friends and social influences is something you should consider.

You will want to be building relationships with like-minded individuals, who have a positive influence on your behaviour rather than a negative one. You will want to think about what drug-free activities you can do with this new social group, and how that can support your recovery going forward.

Sobriety Milestones

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Sobriety milestones are key markers that measure the length of your sobriety and your progress. They are useful as they provide sobriety goals, and something to work towards which can give a sense of real purpose.

To help you achieve those milestones, here are some steps you can take:

30 days after alcohol rehab

  • Identify people who you can talk to in moments when you are struggling with sobriety
  • Reach out to a support group, and attend at least two sessions
  • Begin to build exercise into your routine, to help improve your physical and mental well-being, allow you to sleep better, and think more clearly

3 months after alcohol rehab

  • Begin to think about your career, your long-term career goals, and how you can achieve them
  • Log your progress, and challenges, in a recovery journal so you can reflect back on them and learn from them
  • Think about how you can repair your relationships and build new ones

6 months after alcohol rehab

  • Enact your plan to improve your social life
  • Work on your financial situation, and consider what steps you can take to improve it
  • Start a new regular activity, either individual or group, like martial arts, running, or 5-a-side football

1 year after alcohol rehab

  • Reflect on your experience in order to consolidate effective sources of motivation, and begin thinking about potential new ones
  • Share your experience and your success with your support groups
  • Think about your long-term future. What will your life look like in five years’ time, and what are your goals?

The Different Types of Aftercare Programmes

There will be plenty of difficult moments as you navigate the path of sobriety, after rehab for alcoholism. Recognising this, aftercare programmes are created to ensure that you can stay connected to your sobriety and live alcohol-free more successfully, even in the hardest moments.

Aftercare programmes will offer a variety of support, recognising that you may not need or want all of the options and that one or two might be especially helpful to you and your journey.

1. Individual therapy

If you find them particularly helpful, or if you believe that you still have a lot left to address, you can consider carrying on with your individual therapy after you leave rehab.

Therapy has a positive influence, and so this is a great, beneficial way to spend your time where you can address your concerns and development.

2. Sober living homes

If you know that when you leave rehab you will be going back to a negative environment, this can be one of the first major obstacles on your recovery path.

If you’re going back to a home with negative influences, with people who are drinking alcohol around you, you stand a higher chance of being unable to complete your recovery journey as planned.

So, before you leave rehab, you could plan to attend a sober living home. Sober living homes are safe, alcohol-free environments which will have a positive effect on the way in which you live your life in the short term.

Sober living homes improve abstinence rates and increase the chances of gaining or regaining employment post-rehab.

If you feel uncertain about what your life post-rehab will look like, and have concerns about the environment you will be returning to, a sober living home can be a good bridge between rehab and fully independent living.

3. Family therapy

Family therapy recognises that the damage caused by alcoholism isn’t confined to you. Instead, it is likely that your family will have also suffered because of your behaviour, leading to a collapse in relationships.

Positive family relationships vastly improve abstinence rates because you have more support, and family therapy can be an effective way to rebuild those relationships. Family therapy will consider the hurt caused, and how you can correct it while addressing any concerns that have gone left unsaid.

4. Support groups

The most well-known support group for people recovering from alcoholism is Alcoholics Anonymous. This support group is designed to put you in contact with people who have similar lived experiences to you, who you can learn from and use as a source of motivation.

You will also be able to offer your own advice and share your own experiences, which can help you to feel like you’re helping a community.

Other support groups, like SMART recovery, have different formats which can appeal to different people, so if one support group doesn’t seem to work for you, don’t give up and do try others.

How Can I Support a Loved One After They’ve Come Out of Rehab for Alcoholism?

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If a loved one has struggled with alcoholism and has been to rehab to address the condition, they may need your support once they’ve come out.

Here are some things you can do to help them along their recovery journey:

  • Be a positive influence: don’t try to get them involved in social situations which include alcohol, and don’t drink alcohol around them
  • Be there to listen: a person recovering from alcoholism has experienced some difficult moments. Being there to listen to them as they talk about those moments, if they want to, can help them to decompress and can be a huge help
  • Be there for support: tell them that you are there to help them when they’re struggling. That way, in moments when they are finding sobriety particularly difficult, they may reach out to you.
  • What would you want? Think about what you would find useful if you were in their situation, and then try to provide that.

Get Help Today

For more information and advice, please contact our dedicated helpline at 0800 111 4108.

References

[1] Non-linear relationships in associations of depression and anxiety with alcohol use

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/psychological-medicine/article/abs/nonlinear-relationships-in-associations-of-depression-and-anxiety-with-alcohol-use/4243BA296FAD1A4D99E6AFE6777620D2

[2] The Risks Associated With Alcohol Use and Alcoholism

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3307043/