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We recently addressed the question “what is outpatient drug rehab?” But a follow-up question often is: What comes after?

The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offers a useful rundown — what it calls a “Roadmap to Recovery.”

SAMHSA states: “Recovery from a substance use disorder is not a mysterious process. After the use of substances is stopped, the brain goes through a biological readjustment. This readjustment process is essentially a ‘healing’ of the chemical changes that were produced in the brain by substance use. It is important for people in the beginning stages of recovery to understand why they may experience some physical and emotional difficulties. The durations of the stages listed below are a rough guide of recovery, not a schedule. The length of stages will vary from person to person. The substance used will affect the client’s progress through the stages, too. Clients who had been using methamphetamine will tend to spend more time in each stage than clients who were using cocaine or other stimulants.”

But challenges exist to recovery. SAMHSA outlines them:

1) Friends and associates who use: You want to continue associations with old friends or friends who use. You can:

  • Participate in new activities or hobbies that will increase your chances of meeting abstinent people
  • Plan activities with abstinent friends or family members

2) Anger, irritability: Small events can create feelings of anger that seem to preoccupy your thoughts and can lead to relapse. You can:

  • Remind yourself that recovery involves a healing of brain chemistry. Strong, unpredictable emotions are a natural part of recovery
  • Engage in exercise
  • Talk to a counselor or a supportive friend

3) Substances in the home: You have decided to stop using, but others in your house may still be using. You can:

  • Get rid of all drugs and alcohol
  • Ask others to refrain from using and drinking at home
  • If you continue to have a problem, think about moving out for a while

4) Boredom, loneliness: Stopping substance use often means that activities you did for fun and the people with whom you did them must be avoided. You can:

  • Put new activities in your schedule
  • Go back to activities you enjoyed before your addiction took over
  • Develop new friends at 12-Step or mutual-help meetings

5) Special occasions: Parties, dinners, business meetings, and holidays without substance use can be difficult. You can:

  • Have a plan for answering questions about not using substances
  • Start your own abstinent celebrations and traditions
  • Have your own transportation to and from events
  • Leave if you get uncomfortable or start feeling deprived

Of course, these challenges can seem overwhelming. But help is there for you, In fact, one of the benefits of an intensive outpatient drug rehab program is to prepare you for these types of issues. Among the things you’ll learn:

  • Drug and Alcohol Relapse Prevention
  • Life Skills
  • How to Recognize, Confront and Handle Triggers
  • Health and Nutritional Study
  • Family and Relationship Education
  • Continuing Care

For a longer list, check out a fuller explanation here.