What Life Is Like After Treatment

According to statistics, almost 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, but only 10% of addicts ever receive treatment.

That ten percent is a startling number, and it can be due to many factors like being ashamed of one’s addiction, hopelessness due to the severity of their situation, the difficulties involved with rehabilitation and recovery, and so on.

Substance abuse treatment is an arduous process that takes a long time to complete and will take a lifetime to maintain. It’s not simply a procedure, but the adoption of a lifestyle that’s a 180-degree turn away from what the patient was used to during their addiction.

While that sounds like an immensely difficult ordeal, that also means overcoming addiction is not an impossibility. Substance abuse treatment and addiction recovery are well-studied, yet also still mired in mystery. There’s still a lot that’s not known about addiction, but there have been tremendous strides made over decades in learning how to fight it.

What can be even more difficult is walking the straight and narrow path of sobriety after treatment. The battle doesn’t end after treatment—the treatment is just the start.

However, it’s far from a hopeless scenario as life after treatment can be made much better through understanding the process and learning more about oneself as a former addict.

Getting Legal Help

Dealing with discrimination against recovering addicts is the first and most pervading obstacle one has to deal with after treatment. When you first try to get back on track after treatment, it may feel like you’re taking one step forward and two steps back.
The most important thing here is to know one’s rights. Having gone through the ordeal of struggling with substance abuse need not be a death sentence and one should be able to have the opportunity to get back on their feet.

Legal services that focus on helping people in recovery exist for this reason, as well as advocacy groups all over the country. There are also laws on the side of people in recovery who are seeking jobs, housing, education, and services, namely the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act.

Without evidence of current substance abuse or solid proof that one’s substance abuse history can prevent them from fulfilling obligations, discrimination against a person in recovery is illegal. The law dictates that past addiction should not prevent people from employment or homeownership.

Education, Work, and Finance

When one returns to their daily life from substance abuse treatment, it may seem as if they’re starting back from square one. This is especially so if they had lost their job or fell out of education during their ordeal, so getting back to it can be difficult.

However, it’s a crucial step towards recovery as it gives one something to strive for in order to regain a semblance of a normal life. This includes having an occupation that gives a chance for improvement of one’s station in life, regular income, personal and social fulfilment, and so on.

Financial destitution is a common sign of addiction due to two major factors—neglecting obligations during the period of addiction and money diverted towards the procurement of substances to sustain the addiction. Being able to get back on one’s feet financially requires deliberate effort towards obtaining a job or some other source of income.

Navigating the job market upon re-entering society as a former addict is the biggest first step towards gaining back control in one’s life. Finding work with a history of substance abuse can be difficult as employers may not be open to hiring someone who had been an addict.

If one is able to land one, it gives them a way to pay the bills and recover. However, it will be even more difficult if the job is in a field that exposes one to stress, alcohol, and drugs, like the service industry. Other options may be recommended, but many people often have such jobs as their only option.

There’s also the option of resuming higher education. It can entail greater opportunities for career and life advancement down the line, but obtaining it may be hard with no money to pay tuition. You may have to procure a student loan, which is a tough hurdle in this case.

Former addicts tend to have bad credit, which makes financial institutions reluctant to trust them with a line of credit, loans, housing applications, and so on. They often would have to file for bankruptcy or some other form of debt relief to somehow wipe the slate clean once formal treatment is finished.

However, this does not absolve them of certain realities like alimony and child support payments. This tends to be the case as married people who’ve gone through addiction would have had their marriages fail and their parenthood jeopardized due to the addiction.

Also, if one is found to have lied to creditors about the need for money during addiction, like stating they want to buy a car or house only to have the loan money be used for procurement of substances, then filing for bankruptcy won’t pull through as the debt won’t be discharged as a result.

The building that credit back up takes time, hard work, and coordination with parties involved. It’s possible to get back to a state of financial stability after addiction, but it will be a tremendous challenge.

This can’t be done well in isolation, so one should find a credit counselor or non-profit organization focused on helping former addicts to get back on their feet. It’ll be touch and go, but it’s an endeavor worth taking. The most important thing here is to not lose hope and keep at it, even when the going gets tough.

Finding Better People and Living Environment

Much of the damage that substance abuse does is dealt with one’s interpersonal relationships, through either neglect or antagonism. Much of your life after treatment will be spent in making amends and repairing relationships however you can.

Repairing relationships after addiction can seem impossible. People close to addicts tend to be subject to dishonesty, abuse, and/or neglect that can render their relationships irreparable due to anger and distrust. Failed marriages, broken friendships, and estrangement are common.

It’s not impossible to mend relationships with people who once cared, but it’s not a cut and dry process. It takes time to heal those wounds, effort to rebuild bridges, and sincerity to make it all possible. But it can’t be forced; if someone stubbornly doesn’t want to get back in touch, not much else can be done.

Some of those relationships just can never be fixed, but those that can should be cherished. During a person’s most desperate times, friends and relatives tend to leave. If there are people who still remain in one’s life despite what happened, that means they’re the ones who do genuinely care.

However, there are people that shouldn’t stick around. Such people are those who either encourage substance abuse or create an environment that facilitates it. They may be addicts themselves or just don’t care about your well-being in general.

A former addict should put effort into having better friends, preferably sober people who understand one’s situation. Those who may partake in alcohol and drugs should take care to not consume such substances around a former addict to avoid creating an environment that encourages relapse. Friends worth having for a former addict are those who willingly do this.

One may also want to get back into dating after rehabilitation and recovery. Plenty of people may be apprehensive about dating a former addict, but it’s no good to lie about not having a history of substance abuse at all. Honesty builds trust, and relationships are built upon trust.

What’s fundamentally important for a former addict is to regain a sense of community with the people around them. Whether it’s getting back with people or finding new ones, it’s important for them to be aware and be understanding of one’s past addiction.

Adopting New Activities

This is more than just about replacing the addiction with something else. It’s also having a more productive and fulfilling life, which can do a tremendous amount to keep you away from the temptation of returning to substance abuse.

In the long term, it works even better than just a magic pill that takes away the addiction since it addresses the factors that lead to substance abuse in the first place. You don’t just improve your health and well-being, but also give you more reason to get up every morning.

Regular exercise is important as it helps the body recover from the ravages of substance abuse. The same thing goes with proper nutrition, which is having a healthy diet that’s devoid of the junk that one may have often consumed before. Having a consistent fitness routine and learning how to cook healthy food for oneself goes a long way to building a better life.

Learning new things is another productive way to recover from addiction. It can lead to lifelong passions that one can dedicate themselves to, professional opportunities that can improve one’s station in life, and wisdom that helps one become a much better person overall.

Getting enough rest is also crucial to recovery. Whether the past substance abuse involved either stimulants or depressants, that addiction has most likely done a number to the body in various ways. Getting natural sleep without any help from substance can take a while, but getting one’s body back to a normal circadian rhythm is both a sign of recovery and a boon to it.

One Day at a Time

The saying “take it one day at a time” is repeated when it comes to recovery from addiction for good reason. Being able to fight the good fight every single day won’t be easy, but it’s certainly not impossible. It can be made easier by following a few key principles.

Setting realistic and achievable goals is a habit that can be practiced from day one. A goal must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound. Perhaps you want to get healthy again and be in shape or get your career back on track.

Set a goal that lets you take a step towards that direction, achieve it, then set the next goal to get you even closer. As you take your life one day at a time, you should also achieve one goal at a time. However, to achieve those goals, having good habits is key.

Changing your habits from bad ones to good ones is an ordeal onto itself, but it’s crucial to recovery. It can be done by making small, incremental changes over time that then lead to bigger changes. This investment of effort and mental fortitude can pay off big in the long run, not only to distance oneself from addiction but also in becoming stronger and better as a person.

This can be supplemented with therapy and learning how to discuss one’s past substance abuse. Being properly wary of relapse is about being alert but not anxious. It’s about learning what triggers one to crave for a substance or gravitate towards environments that may encourage its consumption.

It can also be about learning healthy coping mechanisms that let one survive and thrive in a post-addiction environment. This consists of reacting to situations with calm and sobriety, being able to treat other people better, and learning how to love oneself.


Life after treatment can be as challenging as the treatment itself, if not more. It may seem like a contradiction to leaving one’s past behind by acknowledging and being comfortable with it. However, acceptance is indeed the last stage of grief, and understanding one’s flaws are the key to becoming a better human being.

Recovery from addiction is going to be a lifelong battle, but it’s one worth fighting. What makes the struggle easier to deal with is knowing that it’s a battle that many others fight as well.

If you can find other people to help with your battle, then you need not fight alone and you can be stronger by having others lend you their strength as well.