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What to do When You Leave Inpatient Treatment

If you have decided to go to inpatient treatment you are making a huge step in your life. Inpatient treatment uses clinically-researched counseling and therapy to help you stay off drugs or alcohol for good. Inpatient treatment is a great step in recovery but those who have just left might feel lost or unsure what to do next.

We get it – leaving inpatient treatment and being sober for the first time in years or decades gives you newfound freedom that might be scarier than relieving. Luckily there are several things you can do after inpatient treatment to increase your chances of success and sobriety. Let’s learn what to do when you leave inpatient treatment.

Schedule Outpatient Treatment

The best thing you can do when you leave inpatient treatment is to schedule more treatment. You can only learn and make so much progress in a normal 3 to 4-week inpatient program, but you can set yourself up for continued by enrolling in an outpatient treatment program. There are several types of outpatient recovery programs from intense to light to suit your recovery and life. We recommend starting in an intense outpatient program directly after inpatient treatment before stair-stepping down to fewer sessions as you learn and gain more sobriety.

Find Meetings and Group Resources

Group counseling and therapy are a major factor in inpatient treatment because they work. You can continue group therapy on your own after inpatient treatment to keep up the fellowship and life lessons that come from the group. The most popular group therapy in the U.S. is Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous but there are others that can help like SMART Recovery. Find one that works for you for continuous group help.

Set Goals

The only way you can achieve something is by setting a goal. Goals are helpful in recovery because they can show where you were and how much you’ve achieved. Goals are personal and can range from getting a full-time job to being allowed to spend time with your children. Lifelong sobriety is the ultimate goal, but it helps to make little goals too to monitor your own progress.

Set Boundaries

Before you leave inpatient treatment, you must set boundaries. Boundaries are designed to keep you from falling back into old habits, seeing the same old bad friends, and reduces your chance of relapse. Boundaries could include not going to a certain part of town, being home by 9, or only working a set number of hours. Boundaries help keep you plummeting down the same dark paths.


You must set up accountability in sobriety. This could be a daily phone call, a weekly group chat, or meeting with a 12-step sponsor. Adding accountability is important to hold your feet to the fire and move you forward with your sobriety.  

Sober Home

If you’re worried you’re not ready to be thrown back into the ‘real world’ you should consider sober housing options. A sober house is a temporary residence where recovering alcoholics and addicts get back on their feet. A sober home normally has ground rules including no drugs or alcohol, a certain number of hours you must spend working, going to school, or volunteering, attending 12-step meetings and more. Sober homes provide boundaries, accountability, and provide a step between treatment and full-blown reality.

long term addiction

Be Prepared for the Pink Cloud and PAWS  

There are two things you need to be prepared for after leaving inpatient therapy, the pink cloud and post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS.) The pink cloud is a term for how many alcoholics and addicts feel when they first quit drinking or using. The pink cloud brings positive moods, excess energy, and a rosy outlook on recovery. Unfortunately, the pink cloud is known as a cloud because it’s quick to disappear, leaving you with PAWS.

PAWS is a set of withdrawal symptoms that occur after acute detox and can last for several months. Essentially PAWS is your brain slowly fixing itself from all the damage done by drug or alcohol abuse. Symptoms of PAWS include trouble concentrating, depression, mood swings, trouble sleeping and more. Not being prepared for PAWS can send you right back to your drug of choice.

What Not to Do


One of the worst things you can do after inpatient treatment is nothing. Unfortunately, many believe a trip to detox or inpatient treatment ‘cures’ them and they don’t have to do anything further to avoid relapse. Drinking or using drugs takes a large part of our life. If you don’t find something positive or useful to fill that void with chances are good you’ll find yourself addicted again in short time. Picking up hobbies, trying new positive things, and using the advice above is much better than doing nothing. Addiction is like diabetes, if it’s not monitored for the rest of your life it can come back to haunt you in a big way.

Get Back into Bad Habits

The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results. If you leave inpatient rehab and do the exact things you did before treatment you will find yourself in the same situations. Nothing is one of the worst things you can do but hanging out with your same using friends, going to the same bars you drank at, or getting back into old bad habits will send you directly back to addiction. Avoid old impulses, thoughts, and places for a better chance of sobriety.

Keep on Keeping On

There are several things you can do after inpatient treatment to increase your chances of long-term sobriety, and a few things you shouldn’t do. Use the guidelines above, keep an open dialog with others in recovery, and build as many resources as possible to keep yourself from ever using or drinking again. Sobriety is a lifelong battle but you can help yourself by doing the next right thing.

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