Learning New Life Skills in Drug Rehab


By Staff Writer

If you’re struggling with addiction, you may think 30 days of drug rehab will be the cure for your drug or alcohol problem. But sobriety is just the first step of addiction recovery. After a 30, 60 or 90 day addiction treatment program, you will likely get sober, but you may be lacking the skills to maintain your sobriety in the face of daily stressors.

The Cost of Addiction

When a person becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, their life skills, maturity, and ability to cope with stress and responsibility often come to a standstill. As a result, they may have gaps in their knowledge of fundamental life skills that must be filled in order to achieve lasting recovery. Some of these gaps may include:

  • Resume writing and interview skills and on-the-job training
  • Basic self-care and hygiene
  • Responsibility for belongings and living area
  • How to make healthy food choices and plan and prepare a meal
  • How to effectively manage time to achieve daily goals and utilize leisure time without getting bored
  • Social skills, such as the ability to resist impulses and get along with others despite their differing opinions and idiosyncrasies

“By the time individuals come to us, they are usually malnourished physically, emotionally and spiritually,” said Kristine Emry, LCSW, the director of clinical services at Sober Living by the Sea, a renowned network of addiction treatment centers in Southern California. “The goal of our extended care program is to help our patients become whole again and start to reintegrate into daily life by learning skills that strengthen their sobriety.”

Repairing the Damage in Long-Term Drug Rehab

At Sober Living by the Sea’s extended care addiction program, patients have the freedom to go to work, attend school and enjoy the surrounding community, while receiving ongoing substance abuse treatment. Residents enjoy a number of sober activities, such as surfing, sailing, team sports, and visits to local amusement parks and museums, which help combat boredom and introduce people to hobbies that they can get excited about.

Sober Living by the Sea also offers an educational and experiential life skills series designed to fill in any knowledge gaps in the areas of budgeting, meal planning, stress management and related skills. Patients live in an apartment-style setting, where they cook, clean and take care of themselves. As part of their life skills training, they have the option to participate in any of the following:

  • Supervised grocery shopping trips to learn how to read food labels and plan meals
  • Budget planning using Mint.com, a free resource that provides feedback on spending habits
  • Meetings with a licensed dietician to discuss myths, facts and fears around food

Patients also cook family-style meals with oversight from their house parent and sit down at the dinner table together. For some patients, this is the first time they’ve eaten this way since they became addicted to drugs or alcohol.

“Family dinners are a great way for people in early recovery to form bonds and find healthy ways to relate to each other,” said Emry. “It’s also an opportunity to reflect on where addiction has taken them and what they missed out on in terms of the family experience.”

As part of their substance abuse treatment, patients attend educational sessions about recovery, relapse and the 12 Steps, led by Sober Living staff and guest speakers. Patients also attend 12-Step meetings in the community and meet with their sponsors.

It is also important for people in early recovery to learn more advanced skills when they are ready, such as investing, resume-building, applying for jobs and finding their own apartment. This way, when they leave drug rehab, they have achieved more than sobriety – they know how to lead a productive, well-rounded, drug-free life.

“What our patients like most about the life skills series is that it teaches them about more than following rules,” said Emry. “It teaches them how to connect with people and actually begin to live better.”

Living Life to the Fullest

Addiction impairs every area of a person’s life. As such, an important part of recovery is not only removing drugs from your life but also replacing what addiction has taken away.

The good news is that you can take steps to repair the damage and make every day of the rest of your life the best it can be. By participating in long-term drug rehab, you can reclaim your physical and emotional health as well as your ability to live your life to the fullest.

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