You’ve just completed a rehab program for a problematic relationship with drugs or alcohol. Congratulations! It might feel like you’ve reached the end, but in many ways, this moment is the true beginning: the beginning of a sober life, which can be wonderfully like the old life but also looming and scary in its unfamiliar newness. A freshly-out-of-rehab patient must not be fooled into thinking that their life can go back to exactly how it was before, but neither should they be intimidated by the thought that everything must change.

Here are seven great tips for staying sober after rehab — to balance everything that was wonderful about the old you with the new you.

1. Create healthier habits. 

One of the most seemingly daunting tasks of coming back to your life as a newly sober individual is sorting out what you “can” and “can’t” do anymore.

This process can be a blessing in disguise: a chance to discover who you truly are on the inside and what parts of the “old you” deserve to live on in the “new you.” To be alive is to grow, and this period of renewed growth can mean pruning away dead branches to make room for healthy ones.

Some healthy habits that can reduce the risk of relapse include:

  • Prioritizing sleep
  • Following a nutritious diet
  • Practicing good hygiene habits
  • Making time for yourself, including time for relaxation 
  • Exercising regularly 

2. Identify a support system.

Having a support system is a critical component of staying sober after rehab. Having friends who can offer specific support, in the form of helping you to stay abstinent from drugs and alcohol, is essential. Support may occur through the following behaviors:

  • Being available to talk when you are experiencing stress or cravings 
  • Encouraging you to stay engaged in recovery through attending meetings or going to counseling
  • Participating in substance-free activities with you, such as going out for coffee, taking hikes or seeing movies
  • Agreeing not to consume alcohol or other substances in your presence

General supporters, those that wish for your well-being in only a general sense, can be helpful. But specific supporters understand that your well-being must come through abstaining from drugs or alcohol. Even though general supporters do want what is best for you, specific support has a much bigger impact on continued sober living. Try to make sure that in moments of need, when you’re at your weakest, you turn to a specific supporter rather than a general one.

3. Change your environment.

One of the top rules of recovery, according to experts, is that you must avoid people, places and things associated with your addiction. This means that after completing rehab, you cannot spend time at old hangouts where you used to use drugs, nor should you contact your friends who are still active in addiction. 

Changing your environment might mean joining a gym, contacting old friends who do not misuse substances or finding hobbies that don’t involve going to places associated with your substance use (such as bars, corner stores or neighborhoods with significant drug activity). 

4. Maintain follow-up appointments.

Your rehab provider will likely refer you to follow-up appointments with a counselor or other addiction professional within your community. They may also refer you to local support group meetings to help you stay engaged with the recovery community.

While you may think that you no longer need to attend appointments once you complete a formal rehab program, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Participating in follow-up care can play a critical role in relapse prevention.

5. Find healthy ways to manage stress. 

Stress has been identified as a trigger for drug cravings, which means that stress can also increase your risk of relapse. If you’re committed to staying sober after rehab, it’s important to find healthy ways to manage stress. 

Stress management can involve practicing relaxation techniques, prioritizing work-life balance and learning to identify when you need to take a break. Pouring into others may be part of who you are, but if you don’t also care for yourself, you are setting yourself up for relapse. 

6. Create purpose and meaning in your life.

Research suggests that a lack of meaning and purpose in life can increase the risk of ongoing addiction. This occurs because people may use substances to fill the void that exists when they lack meaningful social interactions or a life purpose with which they feel connected. For some people, their career or vocation is what gives meaning to their life — for others, it’s hobbies such as sports or crafting. And others may derive meaning from important relationships, such as those with their children. 

In the period after rehab, it’s important to fill your life with tasks that bring meaning and purpose. Think about what you’re doing when you feel your best, or consider the aspects of life about which you feel most passionate. If you’re having difficulty cultivating meaning and purpose, you may benefit from talking with a spiritual leader or bringing up your difficulties in a counseling session. 

7. Consider an aftercare program or sober living housing.

You don’t have to go straight from the structured setting of rehab back to living regular life. A brand new life as a sober individual is first and foremost exciting, but going back to complete freedom after the close supervision of inpatient or outpatient rehab can also be daunting, and that’s completely okay. Many people choose to enroll in either an aftercare program or a sober living house as a gradual phase between the steps of rehab and unsupervised sober living.

What Is an Aftercare Program?

An aftercare program may involve any or all of:

  • Continued one-on-one therapy
  • Recurring group therapy meetings
  • Continued education programs
  • Continued access to resources
  • Access to medication
  • 12-Step programs

Aftercare programs can provide sober individuals with the tools and resources to prevent relapse, as well as offer a support network.

What Is Sober Living Housing?

Sober living housing, also known as a halfway house, is a temporary residential facility one can reside in for a period after rehab, involving any or all of:

  • The freedom to come and go as one pleases — subject to only minor restrictions, such as submitting to drug testing 
  • A caring environment free of drugs and alcohol
  • House responsibilities to encourage a return to dependable and resourceful behavior
  • Continued emotional support and bonding with others in sobriety

Sober living housing can be a great in-between for rehab and returning to the environment you were in before you got sober. If you think it might be right for you, including it in your aftercare plan can be beneficial to your recovery journey.

At The Recovery Village Palmer Lake, we offer quality aftercare programming to help you stay connected to support after you complete a higher level of care, such as an inpatient or intensive outpatient program. Contact us today to learn more about our Colorado-based rehab facility and our full range of service offerings, which includes medical detox, inpatient rehab, partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient programming.

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Editor – Abby Doty
Abby Doty graduated from Hamline University in 2021 with a Bachelor's in English and Psychology. She has written and edited creative and literary work as well as academic pieces focused primarily on psychology and mental health. Read more
Medically Reviewed By – Jenni Jacobsen, LSW
Jenni Jacobsen is a licensed social worker through the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board. She has seven years of experience working in the social work field, working with clients with addiction-related and mental health diagnoses. Read more

Melemis, Steven M. “Relapse Prevention and the Five Rules of Recovery.” Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, September 2015. Accessed June 8, 2023.

Preston, Kenzie & Epstein, David. “Stress in the daily lives of cocaine and[…]rs, and cocaine use.” Psychopharmacology, 2011. Accessed June 8, 2023.

Carreno, David & Pérez-Escobar, José Antonio. “Addiction in existential positive psycho[…]ng-centered approach.” Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 2019. Accessed June 8, 2023.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.