Leaving rehab is usually a celebratory time. People discharge rehab feeling very strong and certain they will not relapse on drugs. They have gone over and over what they need to do in order to stay sober. Any good rehab will warn its clients how easy it is to lapse back into the old lifestyle. Plans are set, barriers against using drugs or alcohol are put in place, and the person goes home.
Here are some tips for staying sober:
1. Get plugged in. Find a recovery group that has strong, consistent members. Teenagers often feel awkward about walking into new situations. However, this is truly life or death and it is worth overcoming the embarrassment. Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery are two types of groups that can be very helpful. There is a Celebrate Recovery just for teenagers called The Landing.
2. Find a new hobby. Old habits and activities remind teens of when they used to use drugs or alcohol. New hobbies don’t have the old associations. If you used to get stoned and then listen to loud music, it’s time to hike instead. If these are hobbies where a social group can be joined, even better.
3. Recognize that it is easy to stay sober around sober people. Your teenager no longer has a physical need for their drug because they overcame that in rehab. There will be a psychological attraction to the drug for a long time after the physical need has disappeared. Teenagers who come home and immediately get involved with wholesome kids have a much lower rate of relapse. On the contrary, teens who come home and see old friends have a high rate of relapse.
4. Be honest. Parents, you need to allow your teenagers to tell you if they are having cravings. They need to be able to tell you without you getting really upset. If they can come to you, then you can help them through it. Discuss your plan for this ahead of time. Agree that if they are having a craving you will take them down to the beach and just walk with them, or something like that.
5. Do not assume you are immune to relapse. Teenagers comes out of rehab overconfident. This means they call old friends and sit to the side while friends use. Before long they just take a drag on a cigarette. Then it’s, “I just used pot once. That’s not really a serious drug though.” Quickly they are all the way back into it whatever they went to rehab for in the first place.
Following these 5 tips will really help your teenager keep their sobriety after rehab. It is a challenging thing to do. With the right attitude and focus though, it’s entirely achievable. Probably the most important two tips on this list are the ones discussing social groups. Teenagers are heavily, heavily influenced by peers. Being around clean and sober people makes recovery much easier.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT