Preparing to Exit Inpatient Rehab
A Complete Checklist for Individuals and Families
When you fight back against drug addiction, an inpatient rehab center can be your home away from home for weeks or even months. It is here that you will learn more about how your addiction developed and what you can do to stop it from progressing. Preparing to leave that facility can be exciting, as it will give you an opportunity to test your sober skills in the “real world.” But leaving that facility can also be a little dangerous, if you are not prepared.
Steps for You
STEP 1: Find a Suitable Outpatient Drug Rehab Center
An outpatient program could be just what you need, when you are emerging from an inpatient program, and that might be true whether your addiction was considered severe or mild. Consider this: In a study in the journal Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention and Policy, researchers examined the recovery path of 4,165 people. The researchers found that all of these people benefitted from aftercare, regardless of the severity of their addictions.
In an outpatient program, you work with a team of skilled professionals who can help you to deepen your understanding of the sober life. You can participate in counseling sessions, either one-on-one or in a group, and you can continue to address both an addiction and a mental health issue that might contribute to your addiction. You could spend several hours each week in a program like this, or you might spend just one or two hours per week in therapy.
During research, all 4,165 people examined were found to benefit from aftercare
Talk to your treatment team in your inpatient facility, and find out if an outpatient program is right for you. The team might also help you to find a program that is suitable for you.
During research, all 4,165 people examined were found to benefit from aftercare
STEP 2: Find Sober Living
A sober living home allows you to spend time in the company of other people who are also working toward sobriety. This step can help you to avoid the temptations that come with living alongside people who do not protect their sobriety. The rules of a sober living home are strict, and they can help you to understand how others build up a protected life.
“I’d say over half of our clients go from inpatient or IOP to sober living, which is what helps them become more successful in long-term recovery,” says Chris Boutté. “I personally lived in a sober living for three or four months when I got sober in 2012, so I advocate for it with our clients in treatment and so do our alumni speakers.”
That is a very strong vote of confidence, and it is echoed by alumni of addiction treatment programs. For example, this person who would prefer to be referred to as simply “K” faced a difficult home transition. A sober home helped her to mitigate those dangers.
“For me, unfortunately, my family was one of my ‘people, places, and things’ that needed to change. My father and my step-parent have been a huge threat to my sobriety, and a part of my recovery was putting half a country between myself and anything that was that toxic,” she says. “The silver lining is that if I can do it so can anyone. I moved to Las Vegas from Connecticut with no one but my sponsor and a sober living house for support. I had to find support in the fellowship and through working a program, but when I looked, it was there.”
As K’s story makes clear, a sober living home could work a little like a sober family. The people you meet in this home could help you to build up a whole new life in sobriety. If you cannot get this support at home, you could get it in a sober home.
Your inpatient rehab center may have connections with sober living homes in your community, or your center may have sober homes on the campus. Talk with your team about the possibility of a sober home, if it seems like the right choice for you.
STEP 3: Find Local Group Meetings for Drug Addiction
According to Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, there are more than 60,000 support groups in this model in the United States alone. That means it is very likely that you will be able to find a support group close to where you are living – whether that is a sober living home or your traditional home. There are all sorts of reasons to consider going to these meetings.
Alumni member Hailey puts it this way: “What helped for my sobriety was constantly going to meetings and listen to others’ stories.”
This is a common refrain. In a meeting, you have the opportunity to learn from and listen to other people who are also working toward recovery. They have their own lessons to share and successes to relate. They are more than willing to listen to you and celebrate with you. In addition, most meetings are guided by the principles of the 12-Step movement, made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous, which can provide you with new insights into the addiction recovery process.
Your treatment team may have a list of meetings for you to tap into, or you could search online to find out about meetings to attend in your community.
There are more than 60,000 support groups in the US.
STEP 4: Get an Addiction Recovery Sponsor
Heading to meetings and learning about the 12-Step process could help you to stay sober, even when times are tough. But there may be times when you are dealing with a crisis that has not been addressed in a support group meeting. There may be times when you are having an issue outside of a meeting. And there may be times when you need an individual – and not a group – to talk to. A sponsor in your support group could help.
Boutté has written about the role of sponsorship, and he explains the role of the support group sponsor in this way: “A sponsor is there to offer us guidance and help us make better decisions than we used to. The end goal is that once a person completes their steps, they can sponsor others, and that’s what keeps 12-Step programs alive.”
Finding a sponsor can be relatively easy. In most cases, people who need sponsors simply ask senior members of their support groups for recommendations. Or, if you have been to meetings and you have met someone you like, you can simply ask that person to sponsor you. Most people want to help.
STEP 6: Resources for Employment and Recovery
A job might not be the first thing on your mind when you emerge from inpatient care, but a job could provide you with all sorts of sobriety benefits. For example, a job provides you with a place to go most days of the week, so your schedule is full and time is just not available to seek out or use drugs. A job can also provide you with sober activities and sober peers, and a job can also give you a sense of purpose.
Alumni K has this to say: “I’m goal-oriented. I need to be constantly focused on working toward something, and I prefer it if that ‘something’ involves health and helping people. My clients think I’m a miracle worker when I help them reach their fitness goals when it couldn’t be any more opposite – being able to help other people learn how to live healthier lives is what keeps me functioning.”
K works as a trainer in a gym, and her work seems to help her feel more connected to her 12-Step goals. When she goes to work, she feels as though she is contributing and giving back to her community. That makes her feel good about herself. All of that could help her to stay sober in the future.
Jobs can be beneficial, but they can also be a little hard to find. According to May 2016 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate is about 5 percent. That is a relatively high number, and it suggests that many people are looking for work. A community resource could help you to:
Your discharge team can help you to find out about the programs in your community.
STEP 7: Recovery and Relapse
Boutté says, “A common misconception is that after a person is discharged from treatment, they’re cured. That’s not the case. Recovery from active addiction is an ongoing process.”Even when your treatment program is complete, you have more to learn and more to do. Sometimes, your learning process will involve a relapse.
When people think about relapses, they often think about a moment when a person suddenly made a mistake and slipped back into addiction. In reality, a relapse is a process, and it can take a long time to complete it.
In an article produced by the American Bar Association, the authors say some 75 percent of people in recovery experience a relapse within the first year of that recovery. For most people, relapse is a process that begins with discomfort, pain, and a lack of adjustment.
In your rehab program, you may have the opportunity to take courses on the rehab process. Pay attention during those courses, and think about how they might apply to you and your life. When you are preparing to leave the facility, think about the people, places, and things that could trigger an urge to relapse. Then, work with your counselor to identify what your relapse might look like. Then, identify what you could do to deal with those early warning signs when they appear without relapsing.
75 percent of people in recovery experience a relapse within the first year of that recovery
Importance of Family Support in Recovery
Family can provide key support during the early days of the recovery process. Alumni Nik C. says it best: “I’m so lucky and grateful to have a family that supports me in everything I do. My dad and sister have always been by my side in recovery.” With support like that, handling the challenges that are bound to appear is just a little bit easier.
Providing love is the top job of the family of a person in recovery. But there are other specific things a family can do to help prepare a person for the transition from facility to home.
STEP 1: Deliver empathy
Inpatient treatment programs can take months to complete, and when the work is through, the family might be ready for the person to leap right back into routine, everyday obligations. The person in recovery might not be quite ready to handle all of those steps.
That’s why Boutté recommends that family members learn a little about addiction. He says, “I believe it’s extremely important for the family to be supportive. When loved ones take the time to understand the disease of addiction, they can have an empathetic view of someone who is trying to get sober.”
Before the person you love leaves the facility, read up on how addictions develop, progress, and are treated. When your loved one is somehow upsetting or exasperating on the return home, think about those addiction lessons. That could help you to provide the love and understanding the person needs as they heal up.
When asked about families can learn about addiction, Boutté says, “There are a variety of different options. The AA Big Book has chapters called ‘To The Wives’ and ‘The Family Afterwards,’ and there’s even one directed towards employers. Another book I read that gave me a lot of great information about the disease of addiction was called Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy by an author named David Sheff.”
STEP 2: Provide support
As mentioned, a person in new recovery has many steps to take and tasks to accomplish, including finding gainful employment. But some of these steps take time to complete, and sometimes, people in new recovery need to lean on their family members until they get all of those details nailed down.
Alumni Hailey had that support. She says, “My family was my biggest support. They helped me financially and emotionally. They’re starting to trust me again! I couldn’t ask for a better family.”
Her experience demonstrates the value of providing support to someone in recovery. Those dollars spent to help keep someone safe and the time spent in showing someone they are loved could be key to helping a new sobriety to strengthen and grow.
STEP 3: Communicate consequences clearly
For some people in recovery, a family member or a trusted friend can provide insights that just were not available in the inpatient treatment program. For example, alumni K said this about her sponsor: “My sponsor was the first person in my LIFE that saw me get drunk, saw the monster I turned into when I get drunk, who when I spoke to after said to me, ‘I’m not mad at you, I have the same disease.’ It showed me there were people that weren’t just going to condemn me for struggling. It gave me hope there was a way out.”
Straight talk like this can help people in recovery to deepen their understanding of the disease. And in some cases, talk like this could help people to understand the risks of a return to a drugging or drinking life.
A family might choose to place rules and regulations on the person in recovery, so the consequences of a relapse are made very clear and very consistent, or a family might choose to follow in the steps of a sober home and have a family meeting once weekly, just to let everyone clear the air. Either could be great options. The family should ensure that everyone is on board with the method chosen, and that everyone will agree to follow the plan as it is laid out.
STEP 4: Attend therapy
Addictions don’t just touch the lives of people who use. They can also impact the lives of everyone in the family. Family behavior therapy is designed to address all of that damage, so the entire family can come to a new understanding and a new sense of healing. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, family therapy like this has demonstrated positive results in both children and adults. That means it could be a good choice for almost any family out there.
Many families start family therapy before the person leaves the inpatient rehab center. That foundation of therapy allows the family to build connections and mend relationships before the person comes home. But it is never too late to start therapy. Families that begin the work once inpatient rehab is complete might get significant benefits too.