What happens after alcohol rehab?

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After you leave an alcohol treatment programme, the patient goes through ongoing alcohol education, rehabilitation techniques, clinical counselling, and therapy, to help residents control their lives to ensure that the individual maintains sobriety and leads an alcohol-free life in the long run. 

When you bring your loved one home from rehab, it'll be hard for her or him to adjust back to family, work, or society. With this in mind, it's time to get the important details of aftercare down.

Here's what you need to do to ensure your loved one goes home and regains the confidence and strength of mind to avoid the stress and costs of relapses.

Arrange a safe and convenient place for your loved one

You need a safe and convenient place for your loved one to live. This could be a home or a stable centre to live in. Check whether their former environment is an ideal home arrangement for them after rehab.

  • Is the living arrangement safe and convenient for them?
  • Will your loved one be free from alcohol temptations or triggers?
  • Are the environment and community peaceful, or are they surrounded by bars and nightclubs?
  • Are the people at home supportive of their recovery, or are enablers?
  • Is the location close to medical facilities and rehab care in case of a relapse?

Establish healthy routines

Many alcohol addicts want to go back to a familiar routine and establish old habits before rehab, leaving them at risk.

  • Proper diet and exercise
  • Intake of medication
  • Partake in stress-free activities

You can provide care to your friend after rehab, but you must work closely with addiction care providers to ensure that these services are helping your loved one.

Learn where to get help medical help

An aftercare provider can get a referral to therapists, doctors, and more and guide the process.

  • Build a support network
  • Join a group or community
  • Keep in touch with the providers

Call the rehab or aftercare facility to ask if they have services such as relapse prevention, withdrawal symptoms, and counselling. You can also call the hospital to check with the aftercare team.

Help your loved one find a purpose and motivation after rehab

It's an excellent idea for a loved one who feels helpless after recovery to work through an aftercare plan before leaving rehab.

Get them to conduct meaningful activities in the community or help them find their goals again in life.

  • Do healthy activities and hobbies
  • Go for a walk in the neighbourhood or help around
  • Practice self-care

Stay alert for relapse

Do not be lulled into the false sense that he's fully rehabilitated. You'll need to keep after him with therapy and detox or aftercare services as needed. Work with your loved one to make healthy life changes.

Ask them about working to take better care of their emotional health. Provide the support they need to stay sober, focus on ways to stay involved in life, and continually checking in to make sure he's sober and stable.

Related article: Post-rehab activities for alcoholics

How to Help a Loved One After Rehab?

After a loved one finishes their alcoholism treatment, expect them to feel vulnerable, confused, and unsure about themselves.

The best thing you can do is support them in various ways such as:

  • Home: a stable environment and safe place to live conducive to your loved one's recovery.
  • Purpose: list goals that they can accomplish.
  • Health: help your loved ones manage their symptoms and illnesses by promoting health and wellness.
  • Community: join local support groups to build a network.
  • Hobbies and interests: find hobbies and activities that may interest your loved one.

Even if they have not completely healed, help them through the next few months until they get back on their feet. Do not abandon them; let them know that you are available if they need you.

Here's how you can aid them in their post-rehab recovery:

Setup a safe home and neighbourhood for your loved one

Work with the rehab facility to develop a plan to assist in the safety of the new residence. It's hard for patients to return home, which instils their drinking habits after rehab is completed.

If this is the case, a relapse is very likely to happen.

Moving to a new home can change how they think of their cravings. Help your loved one plan ahead to protect them from returning to a home where they are known to drink.

Follow up their appointments after rehab

Treating patients for addictions changes the way the brain works, and the depressed patients who remain may still be affected for years. Some people take months to get their lives back on track.

Otherwise, it is easier to seek treatment than to suffer addiction long-term.

Make appointments, even after months of sobriety. Let them talk to a counsellor about how they are fare doing in life. Make sure to tell them to always come back for regular appointments as long as they need treatment.

Have the rehab programme notify them of follow-up appointments and notify them when they are up for another round in rehab.

Find medical help in case of relapse

Put together a list of aftercare providers for specialist rehab facilities, including psychologists, counsellors, caseworkers, social workers, chaplains, aftercare specialists, recovery advocates.

You'll want to follow up with them about what services you'll need or to make arrangements for your loved one.

You will also need counselling services for the person recovering and the loved ones to address their anger issues, addictions, and depression.

Remind them of goals, such as improving physical fitness

Help your loved one set goals and then motivate him to work toward reaching them.

For example, if your loved one wants to be sober, encourage him to work toward it and believe that the treatment he received is the reason for his successful recovery.

Remind your loved one of his accomplishments - which have a role to play in the recovery process. Prompting aftercare services and detox/rehabilitation services will motivate them to continue rehab.

Participate in aftercare service communities

You can help your loved one stay motivated to go back to treatment by keeping him focused on aftercare.

Tell him about the services he will receive after he finishes rehab and focuses on the aftercare activities he needs to do to stay sober. You can also encourage your loved one to participate in one of the rehab aftercare services.

To determine how much support your loved one will need, talk to his rehabilitation facility to decide what services he needs aftercare services. Your loved one will need a transitional support plan.

Types of Follow on Care after Rehab

There are numerous programmes for ongoing care to promote a healthier lifestyle for the patient.

Common types of alcohol aftercare services include individual therapy, support groups, 12-step meetings, family support, and more.

Their services range from advice to one-on-one counselling.

There are also more advanced services such as outpatient counselling, chemical treatment centres, residential treatment, low-harm alcohol rehab programme, and relapse prevention services.

Individual counseling

In individual counselling for alcoholism, the therapist talks to the alcoholic to find out about the problem, his current level of sobriety, and his goals.

It focuses on the problems which led the individual to his addiction and how he can change. In such counseling, the counsellor focuses on moral responsibility and an individualised plan for recovering.

Checkups and monitoring

This is where they receive a thorough evaluation that looks at their lifestyle and where alcoholism occurred.

It looks upon the nature of what were the contributing factors of alcoholism and how they have changed, what treatments they have sought, what they still need to improve on, and what kind of support they need from different professionals.

Psychological counseling

If they have a mental illness, physical illness, or disability that they will need mental or physical help, they can start receiving mental or physical assistance.

For alcoholics who have experienced mental illness, they will be referred to a mental health professional. In the case of chronic alcoholism, they will need psychotherapy.


The sessions follow a structured schedule, or each client is assigned an individual counsellor who can direct a combination of group sessions and one-on-one sessions.

Each client must attend and complete all sessions, which experienced clinical therapists lead.

While there is no one solution for all alcoholism patients, a combination of individual and group sessions can provide an individualised approach to treatment for alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Contingency management

It is a long-term, well-considered plan of recovery that will keep them out of the alcoholic black hole and on a productive path of recovery.

Therapists monitor how the patient fares well in family interaction, work placement, or community service.

12-step programmes

Patients are told to change their habits and begin making progress in recovery.

They're told to face their weakness and commit to a life of abstinence, and then they are taught how to overcome alcohol addiction by establishing a healthier routine.

Community services

An aftercare treatment team works together to determine what kind of community-based treatment is appropriate and serves their needs best.

Community services and counselling may consist of group sessions, volunteering, and skills and workshop training.

Support groups

They attend support groups to get an idea of what other alcoholics went through, what they need and want, and how they got sober.

The group meets together to do different activities and learn new skills while sharing their battle with alcoholism.

Even after a person goes into rehab or has an alcohol problem, they seek help and enrol in aftercare services to know how to deal with their addiction.

Aftercare and counselling sessions are where the person learns how to deal with their addiction better. The different types of therapy done aftercare include how to deal with their situations.


How to Build an Alcohol-Free Social Life after Rehab?

If you have a loved one or a family member that has gone through alcoholism and rehab, you can support their recovery and build an alcohol-free social life through:

Living in a clean and safe neighbourhood

Being sober in rehab makes it easier to cut ties with the environment where your loved one consumed alcohol. However, it could be different once they're back in society.

Families can clean up the home or move to a safer and sober neighbourhood ideal for the person's recovery. Moreover, the individual gets to connect and commune with his or her neighbours healthily.

Find sober friends

Addiction triggers often come from friends, colleagues, or family members. What you need to do is find sober friends to socialise with. They can help you curb drinking habits after rehab.

Temptation can grow, and relapse may likely happen if the individual socialises with the same people enabling them to drink alcohol. If your loved one wants to stay sober, let him or her socialise with sober friends.

Build new and healthy relationships

Attempt to form healthy social ties by regularly seeing your family and friends. Choose to work on health and recovery for yourself, but do not do so in isolation.

Join support groups that focus on helping and rehabilitating others in the community.

Join healthy communities and groups

Build relationships by joining community-based groups that are alcohol and drug-free or focus on healthy lifestyles.

Become a healthy and social member of the community by adopting healthy, new lifestyles that promote a healthy mind, body, and spirit.

Pursue hobbies and interests

After rehab, get your loved one to engage in things that they enjoyed doing pre-alcoholism kick-in. It's important for sobriety also to be as fun and lively as possible.

Explore hobbies that allow you to gain self-confidence, such as arts and crafts, graphic design, or sports.

Travel to a remote or peaceful place

Reprise the detox process through travelling to a remote or peaceful area. Commune with nature and find some variations to the familiar to curb alcohol addictions. It could be fishing, hiking, camping, or a respite to city life.


Volunteering increases one's social skills and helps them figure out their place in the world.

Get in touch with the charitable organisations in your area, and start helping. Many homeless shelters ask volunteers to perform various tasks, from cleaning and serving meals to gathering and organising donations.

Going to classes and workshops

Some people might want to take classes when they get out of rehab, as they worry about their social life.

Classes and workshops help keep them active and socialised after being in a treatment centre for the last few weeks.

After rehab or sobriety, there is a recovery process for alcoholics trying to make it in this world. This includes quitting drinking or drinking less to quit drinking completely.

Another thing that alcoholics do is go through some community service or counselling.

This is the post-recovery from alcohol after one has completed rehabilitation and has been sober for a certain amount of time. Rehabilitation and rehab will not have much aftercare provided.

The purpose of this is to let the alcoholics heal from the harmful effects of alcohol and their experiences and help them to improve their life.

How Do I Recognise the Signs of Relapse?

A return or a "slip" to an alcoholic lifestyle of binge drinking is called a relapse, and there are many recognisable signs of relapse of a loved one. 

Alcohol relapse is when a recovering alcoholic reverts to alcohol consumption. Here are signs to watch out for.

Emotional relapse

Anyone who has experienced alcohol intoxication and subsequent mood swings knows that alcohol can provoke emotional relapses.

Studies have found that alcohol relapses are not only behavioural but, emotional triggers often cause them.

Emotions like -

  • Anger
  • Defensive
  • Denial
  • Isolation
  • Guilt
  • Sadness

- Are common signs of a possible relapse.

It provokes individuals to return to old habits. When our brain and body are in the middle of emotional distress, our mind cannot distinguish between an emotional relapse and a normal bodily state, leading us to re-engage with alcohol.

Mental relapse

Certain stressful life situations trigger mental and drug, and alcohol addiction, and that causes feelings of depression and anxiety.

As a result, the person often goes through periods of binge drinking to self-soothe and feel "safe" for a few hours.

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Post-traumatic disorder
  • Other mental health conditions

Serious mental health condition is much more likely to occur in people who experience high levels of stress.

High levels of stress produce fatigue, which sometimes leads to anxiety and depression. Most rehab patients often give in to relapse due to stress.

Physical relapse

A physical alcohol relapse occurs when someone consumes excessive alcohol to curb negative emotions and ways of thinking.

If a person realises that he or she is physically relapsing, it means he or she is experiencing the physical manifestation of alcohol abuse.

Physical alcohol relapse can take a physical form such as:

  • Nausea
  • Darkness in eyes
  • Strong smell
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Bright red urine
  • Food cravings

Relapses are common, but they do not indicate that an individual has failed recovery. Instead, an alcohol relapse should be re-evaluated to know a person's triggers and responses to bolster relapse prevention mechanisms.

The cause is not random. It is evident. The circumstances that led you to drink in the first place are typically prevalent.

These include:

  • Sudden compulsive behaviours
  • Denial and defensiveness
  • Returning to former alcohol-enabling friends
  • Mood changes
  • Missing therapy
  • Absences in events, work, and sessions
  • Borrowing money
  • Changes in hygiene, appearance, and lifestyle

When you see your loved one going through these signs, it's better to check and monitor whether it's because it triggers in:

  • Negative living environment
  • The neighbourhood is close to bars and nightclub
  • Stressful workplace
  • Experiencing challenges in life
  • Undergoing extreme emotions

The signs of alcohol relapse can be subtle, and some are not always noticeable. Relapse is often attributed to cognitive issues or changes in other areas of life that disrupt well-being.

If you or a loved one is making progress from alcohol addiction, but the possibility of a relapse is high, call Abbeycare Scotland or Abbeycare Gloucester and learn more about our relapse prevention programme.

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About the author

Laura Morris

Laura Morris is an experienced clinical practitioner and CQC Registered Manager with over twenty years experience, over ten of which have been as an Independent Nurse Prescriber.

She has held a number of senior leadership roles in the substance use and mental health sector in the NHS, the prison service and in leading social enterprises in the field.

Last Updated: January 11, 2024