By Jack Gilbert, LCSW, Clinical Director at The Ranch PA Recovery from drugs and alcohol doesn\u2019t begin and end in residential addiction treatment. It\u2019s a lifelong journey that takes persistence and hard work. It\u2019s one that doesn\u2019t typically follow a straight line, but zigs and zags, curves, meanders and sometimes changes directions. Life After Addiction Treatment When you leave drug rehab, you might feel like many people: nervous, but also invigorated and optimistic. Perhaps you\u2019ve been off drugs and alcohol successfully for several weeks. You\u2019ve been taking care of yourself, eating and sleeping well and exercising \u2014maybe for the first time in years. You\u2019ve had time and space to focus on yourself and getting better with the guidance of mental health professionals and the support of sober peers. Because of the hard work you\u2019ve done, you feel great, and you\u2019re enthusiastic about this new, promising life in recovery that awaits outside the door.\u00a0 At this point, it is not uncommon for some people to make the mistake of prematurely disengaging from treatment. I like to remind people new to recovery that it\u2019s difficult work. However, it is also incredibly rewarding and fulfilling work, and your ability to remain sober depends on it. It\u2019s not uncommon to relapse\u2014even more than once\u2014and that can be part of the process for some people. This isn\u2019t to say that you shouldn\u2019t be excited and confident about your newfound sobriety, or that despite your best intentions, you\u2019ll relapse. Many people don\u2019t. But your chances for success are better if you\u2019re realistic about the challenges you\u2019ll face and plan for them. This way, the proverbial rug won\u2019t be pulled out from under you if life after drug rehab treatment doesn\u2019t unfold as you\u2019d expected. 5 Things to Remember When You Leave Drug Rehab 1. Drug rehab is the first step. Let\u2019s begin by dispelling a myth about completing drug rehab. Finishing a stay at an addiction treatment center means you\u2019re currently sober and have started your recovery. You\u2019re not \u201cfixed,\u201d and you\u2019re not \u201ccured.\u201d You\u2019ve begun the process of getting well, and hopefully staying that way. There\u2019s still much work to do. 2. Addiction is a disease. A substance use disorder by definition is an incurable disease. Relapse rates hover between 40-60%, similar to other chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Addiction can be kept in remission through continued diligence to remain sober, but it\u2019s not curable. The type of support needed and the time spent working on recovery in order to keep symptoms at bay varies from person to person. 3. Underlying issues are complex. Depending upon your length of stay in drug rehab and ability to engage in the treatment process, you\u2019ll develop insight into some of the reasons you\u2019ve abused drugs and alcohol. Because addiction is a complex disease with multiple causative factors, it\u2019s not possible to address and heal from all of your issues during a finite period of time in treatment. That\u2019s why it\u2019s extremely important to continue attending support groups and participating in an intensive outpatient treatment program (IOP) and therapy following drug rehab. Some people require additional support, such as sober living programs. 4. You need the support of loved ones. Families are complicated, especially when substance abuse is involved. They\u2019re also an important part of a successful recovery. In fact, research has shown that people in recovery who feel they have the support of their loved ones are less likely to relapse. It\u2019s important that your loved ones are part of your support network by becoming educated about substance use disorders, how best to support you in recovery, as well as how to take care of themselves while helping you. 5. Recovery is difficult, not impossible. People do get better and go on to live fulfilling lives free of drugs and alcohol. I\u2019ve seen it happen countless times in my work. There are an estimated 23 million Americans in recovery from substance use disorders. You can be one of them. Make sure you have a plan in place before leaving treatment. Set up regular appointments with a therapist. Attend family or couples therapy. Know where you can regularly participate in groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Refuge Recovery or SMART Recovery. If possible, ease the transition back into everyday life by taking part in an outpatient program or living in a sober-living residence with others in recovery. Be hopeful. Be optimistic. But also be intentional and tireless in your recovery work, especially in the first critical year of sobriety when the risk of relapse is at its highest. Recovery isn\u2019t easy, but it\u2019s well worth it.