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Six Helpful Strategies for Life After Rehab

As odd as it may sound, entering rehab may be the easiest part of the rehabilitation process. Exiting rehab can be the hardest because that is when the supports and safe/controlled environment is behind you and you are at risk of re-entering the very environment that enabled your habit.

Old friends, old hang-outs and old ways of doing things tend to be comfortable, even if unhealthy. New and uncharted territory in the absence of external control can be scary and lonely Ė a similar set of emotions that may have contributed to your issues in the first place.

If you are exiting rehab, some of the strategies to help manage include;

  1. Find activities to engage in. This is the time to consider a new interest or getting back to something that was previously enjoyed yet not a part of the scene that was associated with your drug use. Keeping busy in a pleasurable activity, be it a sport, music, art or hobby helps you feel good about developing the skills associated with the activity and gives you something to engage in to take the place of the activity associated with drug use.

  2. Return to school. It is not uncommon for a persons education to slide during the period of drug use. It is also not uncommon for people to feel embarrassed about a return to their former educational facility if there was previously a decline in attendance or absence. If the thought of returning to the same educational facility feels difficult it is reasonable to consider another facility. You may also find that you need some degree of support to enable your academic participation. It may be extra help with your studies or special consideration to accommodate a learning issue. Please know that most educational facilities, be they high school, college or university have services available to support student success. Do look into the services available at your facility and take full advantage of any help that may be offered. The objective is your success.

  3. Consider volunteering. Volunteering opens up a whole new range of activities to engage in. It is usually the case that those who volunteer are also well appreciated for their support to the organization or people served by your time. Volunteering can lead to new skill development and a good sense of self for giving back to the needs of other organizations or people.

  4. Make amends. Where there has been issues with family member and where possible, seek to make amends. Old wounds can hang over your head and fester and contribute to issues that undermined well being in the first place, making drug use a desirable alternative. To the degree you can take responsibility for yourself and make amends, it opens the door to those around you doing similarly. This repairs relationships which in turn can contribute to your emotional well being and support.

  5. Ditch the drug buddies and associated activities. A return to the familiar friends and activities is only a step away from a return to drugs. We all want to fit in and if drugs were a part of your group culture, you will not fully fit within the group fully sober. There will be a pressure, directly or indirectly or self-perceived to use drugs to feel part of your old community of friends. Donít trick yourself into thinking you can handle it or that your return may be of benefit to someone else there. If you want to be a benefit to a former friend from your previous group, then lead by example and let them find you after their course of rehab. You will then be available to see them, on the other side so to speak, and not within the same milieu.

  6. Get support. With the supports and controls of rehab behind you, you may also consider the wisdom of a support group and even a sponsor.

Sobriety, clean thinking and taking a better path is challenging work. Life will feel odd and awkward until such time as you settle in to new ways of doing things with new people in new activities. Once the new becomes familiar, you distance yourself from your ways of doing things that were associated with drug use.

If you think any of the above strategies are inappropriate or simply not for you, you may want to consider your readiness to re-enter the world. Rehab is more than reduction or abstinence of substance use/abuse. It is about creating a new and more wholesome life and attitude.

If you use the strategies above, you just may be more ready than you realize and you increase your chances of success for a healthier life with healthier relationships.


Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead and the parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator. His book, Marriage Rescue is due out in spring 2013. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.



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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW
(905) 628-4847  


Gary Direnfeld is a social worker in private practice. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider Gary an expert on child development, parent-child relations, marital and family therapy, custody and access recommendations, social work and an expert for the purpose of giving a critique on a Section 112 (social work) report.


Call Gary for your next conference and for expert opinion on family matters. Services include counselling, mediation, assessment, assessment critiques and workshops.


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For information on Direnfeld's book, Raising Kids Without Raising Cane, click here.


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27 Sina Street, Georgina, ON, Canada L4P 3E9 Tel: (905) 628-4847 Email: gary@yoursocialworker.com