You’re nearing the end of your treatment, and discharge is on the horizon. This can be a very exciting time–but also a scary one. The days and weeks immediately following discharge are when risk of relapse is highest. Having a good plan for life after treatment can ensure that you’re more prepared and feel less anxious about your ability to maintain long-term sobriety.
Just the Beginning
While you may be exiting treatment, this isn’t the end of your recovery journey. It’s just the beginning. By recognizing that sobriety requires ongoing work, you can decrease your risk for relapse.
The day-to-day experience of treatment is completely different than how most people live their lives. It can be tempting to return to the comfortable old habits you had before you entered rehab, but it is important to remember that the comfortable old habits weren’t what got you sober and they may not allow you to stay sober for very long.
Having a Plan
A good discharge plan should contain a number of tools that you can use to ensure you stay on track in your recovery:
- What treatment options you will continue to utilize after you are discharged – including information on your first therapy or medical appointments or how to set them up.
- Contact information for your support people – this can include professional support, like a substance abuse counselor or mental health counselor, and also informal support like your sponsor, family members, and friends.
- Information on health needs – addiction can take a toll on a person’s body, so there may be things you need to do to help ensure your physical health improves.
It is also important to think about what you want your new life to look like and how you will incorporate the skills you learned in treatment to bolster your sobriety in the future.
- Career – What do you need to do to ensure that your work life supports your recovery goals? Are there aspects of your job that could be triggers for relapse? What can you do about this?
- Family – Are there people in your family who aren’t supportive of your recovery? How can you ensure that you aren’t exposed to negativity from these individuals, especially in the earliest days after your discharge?
- Recovery Community – What meetings will you attend following your discharge from treatment? Have you found a sponsor? What is your plan for continuing to work with that person?
- Structure – Treatment provides people with much needed routine and predictability. Carrying this over into your life after treatment can greatly improve your ability to stay sober. It may help to write out a daily plan for what time you will wake up, when you will eat, what time you will go to bed, and all of the various things you will do with the time you are awake each day.
- Relapse Plan – Not everyone will relapse after they leave treatment; however, it is important to have a plan for what steps you will take if you relapse or even if you feel like you are at risk for relapsing. If you have relapsed before, it would be good to identify what signs you displayed beforehand, to help you and your treatment team more quickly identify danger on the horizon.
- Residence – Though many people return home immediately following treatment, for some people, it is a better option (or required due to legal proceedings) to move into sober living (sometimes called a halfway house). If this is part of your plan, you will want to research available options. Your treatment team might also be able to offer recommendations.
Who Should Help with My Plan?
Ideally, discharge planning would involve a wide range of people, but each person is unique, and your support system might not look like everyone else’s support system. While the clinicians on your team will ultimately determine the plan of care, the following could be people you would include in providing input for your discharge plan:
- Substance abuse counselor
- Primary care doctor
- Family – spouse, siblings, parents and “chosen family”
At Safe Harbor Recovery Center in Portsmouth, VA, we work with each client to ensure that they have a discharge plan that will meet their unique needs and goals and that they know how to continue to care for themselves after they have moved into the next stages of their recovery. We also provide support to alumni of our program.