I Made It Through Treatment. Now What?

First off, you should be very proud of yourself for seeking help and taking the necessary steps to get healthy. Making the commitment to join a treatment program is a huge accomplishment in itself—finishing one is an even bigger accomplishment.

Congratulations on having the courage, fortitude, and inner strength to successfully complete your program.

Not Everyone Gets Treatment

Unfortunately, you are part of a club that is much smaller than it should be. The impact of substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health issues in America is undeniable, but not nearly enough people are getting treatment.

A 2016 federal report from the U.S. Surgeon General reported that one of every seven Americans will face substance addictions, yet only 10% of those addicted receive treatment. The economic benefits of treatment are clear—every $1 invested in viable treatment options for SUDs saves $4 in health costs and $7 in criminal justice costs.

The Surgeon General’s report called for a paradigm shift on addiction to remove the stigma, creating more patients and fewer prisoners. But clearly, there is still much work to be done.

The statistics are better for mental health issues, but millions of people still go without treatment. A 2017 survey by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that among the 11.2 million adults with serious mental illness, only 67% (or about two-thirds) received mental health treatment.

Thankfully, you beat the odds. You completed a treatment program. You should be on a path to a brighter future. But how can you ensure that you will stay on that path? 

The Work Does Not End Here

When people are in treatment, we do a good job of helping them get well. But after that, when the walls go away, many people struggle and often repeat the cycle of relapse or isolation and then treatment all over again. It can be a difficult and never-ending cycle that prevents you from breaking free of addiction and living life to its full potential.

Recent statistics show that anywhere from 70–85% of individuals will relapse and return to drug or alcohol abuse within the year following treatment. The good news is that relapse doesn’t happen overnight—research suggests that relapse is actually a gradual process, which can begin weeks or even months before a person begins using again. 

There are numerous warning signs that may indicate a relapse is on the horizon. Whether it’s you or someone you love, keep a close eye out for these signs so you can act on them promptly.

Warning Signs of Emotional Relapse

You are not consciously thinking about using, but you are setting yourself up for it by:

  • Not going to treatment follow-up or meetings
  • Going to meetings, but not sharing
  • Isolating yourself
  • Bottling up your emotions
  • Not taking care of yourself mentally or physically
  • Not eating or sleeping well
  • Relaxing self-imposed rules

Warning Signs of Mental Relapse

Part of you wants to use, but part of you doesn’t. So you go to war with yourself by:

  • Remembering people and places associated with your substance use
  • Romanticizing your substance use
  • Bargaining with yourself
  • Behaving secretly
  • Lying to others
  • Minimizing any consequences
  • Thinking about ways you can better control your use next time
  • Planning a relapse or looking for opportunities to use

Physical Relapse

Physical relapse, when you finally start using again, is the hardest stage to come back from. You may promise yourself that you will use “just once,” but physical relapse typically leads back to uncontrolled use—and the cycle of treatment and relapse starts all over again. 

Most relapse prevention programs are based on the concept that high-risk situations make a person more vulnerable to relapse. These situations can include people, places, or even feelings that lead to substance use. But sometimes, avoiding high-risk situations is not enough.

Without a long-term relapse prevention plan, most people will be unsuccessful in their efforts to remain sober. Having a solid plan in place is essential. And that is where LifeTutors comes in.

Build a Plan for Your Life

You have gone through the residential or transitional living and completed all of the therapeutic steps. So what comes next? It’s time to put boots on the ground, make a plan, and exit the cycle of perpetual treatment. 

No two people are the same, and no two plans will be the same. Your plan may include going back to school, finding work, or living independently. The key is finding the learning, work, and living environments that are best suited to you and will help you continue your sobriety. 

Instead of being a relapse statistic, you can strive to become a different kind of statistic. If you go back to school, you won’t be the only student in recovery—in 2019, approximately 840,000 U.S. full-time college students were in recovery as well.

The unemployment rate for adults in recovery is higher than the national average, but programs like the Recovery Friendly Workplace Initiative are striving to change that. Launched by the governor of New Hampshire in 2018, this initiative compiles lists of “recovery friendly workplaces” that actively hire adults in recovery.

Other states (including Rhode Island and Pennsylvania) have already followed suit.

You worked hard to get sober, but these next steps are just as important—so don’t stop now. You deserve to live a happy, self-sufficient life, completely free from your addiction.

LifeTutors Can Help

LifeTutors is a coaching program that helps young adults transition from treatment and therapeutic care to sustainable independent life. Our coaching model involves in-person support and guidance that helps our clients become independent adults through healthy living habits, positive social skills, executive functioning, physical health, and recreation.  

Call 828-417-7122 to learn how our hands-on approach can get you back to school, back to work, and back to life. 

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