What to Expect in the First 90 Days After Rehab

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Completing an inpatient treatment program is a significant achievement in its own right worthy of praise. Unfortunately, as clients and their loved ones will soon learn, there is not much time for celebration when it comes to recovery. Success should always be acknowledged, but after a quick pat on the back, the next steps of recovery will come barreling down, and individuals will need to ready themselves for the challenges that await them upon life after treatment.


Transitioning back to everyday life in sobriety can be difficult and stressful. Clients will have a set of new rules and behaviors to follow, the pressures of work, maintaining relationships with friends and family, and avoiding temptations to start using again. Many patients will initially miss the easier days of staying at a rehab facility. These difficulties, however, will get easier over time as individuals progress in their recovery, learning how to balance the pressures of everyday life while maintaining sobriety.


The Ups and Downs of Early Recovery


From the euphoria of the pink cloud of early recovery to mounting frustrations that tempt clients to quit sobriety altogether, early recovery can be a whirlwind of emotional ups and downs. Aside from these extremes, clients might experience depression and isolation as they will often perceive themselves as being singled out and different. The limitations of early recovery will often lead to feelings of alienation which can easily lead to depression and previous addictive thought patterns. 


Those in early recovery should also be wary of the first 90 days of the onset of boredom. Many often report being astounded at the amount of free time available. Filling these free hours with hobbies, physical activities like exercise, or sober socialization will prove integral to creating healthy habits in daily life.


The last emotional component that recovering substance abusers should prepare for in the first 90 days is the desire to test the boundaries of their sobriety. Abstinence from all addictive substances is the best way to ensure long-term sobriety. Yet, even individuals who choose this same path may ask themselves if only one drink will lead to relapse and failure. Remaining vigilant in behavioral habits developed in rehab and avoiding potential triggers will help clients avoid temptations in the long run. 


Relapses often happen in the first 90 days, and while everyone wants to succeed in recovery, relapse is not failure — it just means starting again. Achieving long-term sobriety is a process, which includes learning from mistakes. Relapsing will also teach clients how to recover and get back on track. Patients should remember that the only constant in addiction recovery is the willingness to keep trying.


7 Steps for a Successful First 90 Days


  • Have a Game Plan: This step may occur before the first three months, during the last few weeks of a clients’ stay at a rehab facility. The key aspect to making a working game plan is to be willing to pivot and adjust that plan based on real-world interruptions and disruptions. Some initial pointers on what patients should have planned out upon leaving rehab:

  • Find living arrangements
  • Sort out local recovery meetings
  • List potential triggers
  • Establish guidelines for routines
  • Set-up work-related goals (when to return and how to balance work and sobriety)
  • List sobriety goals


Maintaining sobriety will be a life-long process which means clients will have to constantly gauge their comfort levels in sobriety and re-assess their plans throughout those first three months. Most of these initial plans can be discussed at length with an exit counselor at a rehab facility.


  • Create a Daily Schedule: Set up a routine for the day. Ideally, a client’s routine should consist of exercise, planned meals, work, and recovery meetings. Some sober socialization should be thrown in the mix to avoid feelings of isolation.

  • Attend Meetings: We suggest that clients attend the “90 in 90 days” rule in which patients attend 90 meetings in their first 90 days after leaving rehab. This will set up a decent routine to promote sobriety and help fill up the extensive amount of free time afforded to those in early recovery. They can also meet peers in their local recovery community. These 90 in 90 methods will promote a greater sense of community and allow clients to try out various meetings to find which suits their needs. Whether it be the more traditional 12-step variety in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or alternative programs like Smart Recovery, peer support is crucial in early recovery.

  • Exercise Regularly/Balanced Nutrition: Regular exercise can be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood or jogging on the treadmill at the gym. Exercise classes are ideal as they provide both sober socialization as well as exercise health benefits. These can include any gym class and yoga. Physical activities like hiking, kayaking, or biking are also fun sober activities. The endorphins released during any form of exercise are a natural deterrent for oncoming feelings of depression. 

  • Find a Therapist: Continuing care is essential to maintaining sobriety in the long term. Rehab provided most of the therapy needs for clients during their inpatient stay, but many psychological issues that motivated substance use disorder (SUD) will persist long after discharge. Aside from treating pre-existing mental health issues, transitioning in the first 90 days will be stressful, and professional support is critical at this time. Weekly discussions of issues and challenges will go a long way in learning how to cope with the frustrations and triggers of daily life.

  • Create a Safe Home Environment: A safe home environment is imperative for success in maintaining sobriety. This means creating an alcohol and drug-free space that is also free of any unnecessary stressors and triggers. This may mean moving into the home of friends/family or potentially a sober living home. There will be enough stressors from outside influences, and patients need the safety and comfort of home to handle these issues properly.

  • Explore New or Old Hobbies/Activities: Free time will seem abundant in early recovery. Clients should begin exploring hobbies, both new and old, to experience them through a sober lens. This will fill up the extensive amount of free time and allow patients to find out what they may or may not enjoy as sober individuals. 


Addiction recovery is a lifelong process that many begin with an inpatient treatment program. However, once clients complete their inpatient stay, the first 90-days of transition are a critical time for instilling healthy behaviors as habits in their daily life. If you or someone you love is struggling with maintaining sobriety following an inpatient stay in rehab, then Choice House has ongoing treatment programs that can better help patients transition into life outside of treatment. Along with a 90-day inpatient service, we also offer patients an intensive outpatient program and the chance to reside at our sober living campus. Located in the Boulder County area of Colorado, our facilities are just a short drive from the bustling city of Louisville. Patients enrolled in either outpatient services or residing at the sober living campus can maintain gainful employment and keep active social lives while still under the guidance and supervision of Choice House staff. For more information regarding Choice House’s facilities and treatment, call (303) 578-4977.

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