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Starting Over During Substance Abuse Recovery

substance abuse recovery

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Drug overdoses are responsible for killing 44,000 people a year in the United States. If you’re in rehab, understand this is the first step to living a fulfilling life. But does life start after recovery? Or can you take strides to start over while still in rehab?

Rehab is about focusing on addiction recovery, both the physical and mental healing needed. But you can make positive changes while in rehab. This will help you stay sober and will help you live a successful life.

You’re on the road to recovery. But there’s no time to celebrate. Here’s how to make important life changes while you’re in substance abuse recovery.

Attend Group Therapy

Group therapy is one of the core aspects of rehab. You’ll likely be required to attend these therapy sessions. Group therapy sessions all differ.

Some include participants sharing their stories and their goals. Others teach research-driven methods that help patients take control of their addiction.

It’s not uncommon for a rehab center to have different group therapy options. These can be based on your ethnic group, your sexuality, and other factors that help patients on an individual level.

Use the 12-Step Program

In rehab, you’ll learn the 12-step program. Alcoholics Anonymous created this program and following each step will help you on your journey to recover from your addiction. These steps include:

  • Admitting you’re powerless
  • A power greater than yourself can restore you to sanity
  • Turn your will and life to a higher power
  • Make a searching and fearless inventory of yourself
  • Admitting the nature of your wrongs
  • Ready to have a higher power remove these wrongs
  • Asking a higher power to remove your shortcomings
  • Make a list of those you harmed and are ready to make amends with them
  • Make direct amends whenever possible
  • Continue to take personal inventory
  • Seek prayer, meditation, etc.
  • Have a spiritual awakening

Keep in mind, that everyone’s road to recovery is different. You can alter these steps to fit your needs and beliefs.

The 12-step recovery program helps you reflect on your life, what brought you to your addiction, and how it affected your loved ones.

Recovery can also help you think of ways to mend your relationships with loved ones and how you can make positive changes in your life.

How do you approach the 12 steps? Everyone does this differently. Some follow one step at a time. Others jump through steps and even go back to different steps. Follow this program the way it suits you best.

If you’re stuck, you can ask your sponsor. But what is a sponsor?

Have a Sponsor

If your group therapy and 12-step programs have them, it’s beneficial to seek guidance from a sponsor.

A sponsor is a senior member of common addiction groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). This individual went through the program, sobered up, and has found success in life.

You can ask your sponsor questions and you can seek their advice. Your sponsor has been in your position and is one of the best people to turn to for help as you recover from your addiction.

Individual Therapy

Along with group therapy, those in addition to rehab will benefit from individual therapy. Most rehab clinics have a licensed therapist on staff who can help identify any reasons for your addiction and how you can overcome them.

A therapist can also help you with your road to recovery. It’s normal to feel stressed and even fearful during this time. A therapist can work with you on these emotions.

Enduring withdrawals is also stressful and tiresome. A therapist can address any behaviors or stressors during withdrawal.

What about after rehab? Your therapist can prepare you for life after rehab and provide advice on staying sober and ways to refrain from using substances.

Stay Busy

Staying busy is one of the keys to sobriety. Keeping your mind occupied helps you focus on what’s in front of you and you won’t be thinking about drugs or alcohol.

Everyone finds different ways to stay busy in rehab. Some start new hobbies or find ones they did before they started abusing substances. Others create goals and work toward them while still in rehab.

The most essential tip to remember is to stay busy with healthy activities. This takes your mind and keeps it focused on new activities and off of old habits that can cause you to relapse.

Create a Routine

While this tip seems simple compared to the previous ones, a routine is more powerful than you’d expect. In rehab, you’re likely given a routine, such as when your meals are and when therapy sessions take place.

However, you can take this a step further and create your own routine. Find activities in rehab you enjoy doing. For many, this includes yoga and meditation.

Rehab is also a great time to pick up old hobbies and passions. Some examples include art, sports, music, and writing.

How does a routine help you recover? When you leave rehab, you’ll have responsibilities such as attending work and school. You’ll be on a schedule and a routine helps you organize your life and keeps you focused on what’s important.

In addition, creating a daily routine helps you set goals, even if the goals are small. For example, you can plan to spend 30 minutes doing yoga instead of 15 minutes. This will help you achieve larger goals you’ll set up after rehab.

Attend School

Even though rehab is busy, there are benefits of studying while you’re in rehab. You can get a head start on your education. So when you finish rehab, you have already achieved a lot in school and will be determined to finish.

If you’re attending college, there are Associate’s and even Bachelor’s degree courses you can take online.

Online school is beneficial because you can work on assignments and tests from the facility and you can organize your time around group meetings and other activities in rehab.

Keep in mind, many rehab centers will restrict the internet and even laptop time. It’s essential to inform the staff you need the internet and your laptop for school.

Start Working

Are you able to work remotely? Working while in rehab can also help you create a routine, focus on real-life work goals, and help you live a normal life while still in rehab.

Should you work full-time? The only way to benefit from rehab is to prioritize your time and life into rehab. While working will benefit your journey to recovery, keep working at part-time hours.

Like attending school, it’s important to explain your job to the staff because many rehab clinics restrict the internet and computer time.

Create Goals

Where do you see yourself after rehab? Do you want to work in a completely different field? Do you want to go back to school? Or do you just want to prioritize time with family and friends?

Everyone in rehab has an idea of how they want their post-rehab life to play out. In rehab, make goals on what to accomplish after leaving.

How do you create goals? It’s best to write down everything you want to accomplish and when. Keep in mind, all of your goals should be achievable but also flexible, in case you don’t accomplish or reach them immediately.

You can also make goals for rehab. For example, let’s say your goal after rehab is to start school. Create small goals in rehab that support your dream to attend school.

This can include researching schools, degree programs, and whether or not you want to attend an online school.

Spend Time With Those Who Care About You

As stated in the 12-step program, recovery is the time when you mend relationships with loved ones. This can be tough, especially if your actions hurt those you love.

Get loved ones involved in your recovery process. Ask if they can visit and take the time to call them. This will help create stronger relationships after rehab.


Volunteering is a wonderful way to spend your downtime during addiction recovery. There are many places to volunteer. These include:

  • Homeless shelters
  • Parks
  • Animal shelters
  • Library
  • Nursing homes

All of these places need a helping hand and you can help change lives.

What’s the next best place to volunteer? Addiction centers! Your own rehab facility needs help. Volunteer to be a speaker and a mentor for other patients.

Your rehab facility isn’t the only one that needs help. You can look at addiction centers in community centers and churches. These establishments will appreciate your help, especially since you have firsthand experience.

This experience will definitely come in handy if you want to become a substance abuse counselor.

Substance Abuse Recovery Is the First Phase of Your Addiction-Free Life

Is recovering from addiction impossible?

While it’s difficult, substance abuse recovery aims to physically and emotionally heal patients from addiction. To ensure you have a successful life after rehab, these healthy strategies and changes will put you on the right path.

Do you want to start school after rehab? Take a look at our degree programs.

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