After Dual Diagnosis Rehab—Sober and Stable

After dual diagnosis rehab, you’ll have a fresh start. You will have withdrawn and detoxed from substances, and you will have stabilized mental health issues. With these very significant tasks accomplished, you can begin the healthy, happy, and successful life you and your family deserve. Very basically, you have to prevent relapse and maintain the gains you’ve made. From there, you can grow and develop, reaching new plateaus of recovery as you go.

Of course, some things seem much easier said than done; maintaining your sobriety and stability do take work. And, just because you feel great after a good treatment program, nothing after that is a given. An effective dual diagnosis rehab program will give you the skills you need to continue on in recovery once you’re discharged. However, the rest is up to you.

Skills You Need for After Dual Diagnosis Rehab

There are many skills you need to cope successfully with dual disorders. For example, you need to develop a good understanding of what dual disorders are, and more specifically, what your disorders are. The basics are this:

  • Dual diagnosis issues are also sometimes called dual disorders or co-occurring disorders. This means that a substance problem and another mental health problem occur at the same time.
  • Each disorder has its own nature—its own signs and symptoms, and its own needs for treatment.
  • Each disorder influences the other. Both must be stabilized for you to be in good recovery. Otherwise, relapse in one will cause relapse in the other.

If you have dual diagnosis issues, you also need a relapse prevention plan for after rehab that addresses both conditions. This means that you will have to:

  • Abstain from substance use
  • Learn triggers for your substance use, and ways to healthfully cope with them when they occur.
  • Practice consistent self-care such as adequate nutrition, rest, and exercise.
  • Take any medications needed for psychiatric issues.
  • Participate in follow up individual or group therapy
  • Follow up with a psychiatric if psychiatric medications are needed
  • Develop a support system
  • Manage stress

While all of this sounds like a tall order, it can be very manageable. After dual diagnosis rehab, you will continue therapy and medication if needed but will have a much less intensive schedule than when staying in a rehab program. Typically, your follow up sessions are done on an outpatient basis, in your therapist’s office and your doctor’s office. You may attend group therapy sessions weekly, and individual therapy and doctor appointments as scheduled. Many people find that self-help groups such as 12 Step programs like Dual Recovery Anonymous, Alcoholics Anonymous, or Narcotics Anonymous. All such services and activities give you a firm foundation of support from which to re-enter life in the community and establish a healthy lifestyle in which you are sober and stable.

Your Specific Needs After Dual Diagnosis Rehab

Certainly, not every dually diagnosed person has the same issues. Any psychiatric disorder known can be coupled with a substance problem. Similarly, any type of substance problem can be coupled with any type of psychiatric disorder. So, the possible combinations of substance and mental health issues is a very long list. One of the most helpful things you can do to invest in your own dual recovery is to learn as much as you can about the dual conditions you have. If you get to know others with dual disorders, you’ll soon learn how different any two people with dual diagnosis issues can be. For example, a person with Bipolar Disorder and an addiction may have to work toward more alone time, and less stimulating activity in order to stay sober and stable. On the other hand, a person with a Depressive Disorder and an addiction may have to work toward increasing social contact and activity in order to stay in good recovery.

A good dual diagnosis rehab program will educate you about your specific disorders, but there is always more to learn as you continue in recovery. For instance, after dual diagnosis rehab, you will gain experience in monitoring your symptoms daily, as well as managing triggers for substance use or mental health symptoms. As you go through your usual daily routine, you will find what works best for you to feel at your best. Also, as you encounter the occasional trials of ordinary life, you will gain more awareness and experience. You will also have many opportunities to learn and practice healthier coping strategies.

Staying connected with your doctor and/or therapist is a good ‘safety net’ after rehab. You will have their expertise to rely on as you resume life in the community again. Their professional feedback is invaluable as you sort out how to go about a sober and stable life. Relationships with professionals also provide a safe harbor of privacy and confidentiality that is difficult to find elsewhere. Additionally, supplementing professional help with a support system of friends and loved ones is optimal for continuing recovery after dual diagnosis rehab. Surrounded by people who understand your recovery journey, you have a good foundation from which to find your way to the milestones of long-term recovery.

Adjusting to a New Way of Life and New Sense of Self

Everyone’s different, of course. Some people with dual disorders have been addicted and struggling with unstable mental disorders for years. Others got to treatment early on in their distress. Each scenario has its own challenges, and each recovery process requires some period of adjustment. First, is surprising, and often overwhelming, to learn that we have disorders at all, much less contend with the idea of having two. As in all illnesses, we can be in denial about having an illness, or how serious an illness is. And, denial sets in for many of us when we are first diagnosed with an addiction, a mental health disorder, or both. It’s logical that a person newly diagnosed with dual disorders would have a great deal to absorb.

Tragically, addiction and mental illness are misunderstood in our culture, and the people who have either of these conditions can feel ashamed and isolated. Dual disorders carry an extra load of stigma and shame, unfortunately. There are many prejudices and stereotypes, as well as myths, about such illnesses and the people who have them. Consequently, just receiving a dual diagnosis can be burdensome. Many worry what others will think of them, and many feel bad about themselves. It is common for people with dual disorders to need support in adjusting to a new self-image after diagnosis and rehab. It is helpful while still in rehab to anticipate how you may handle such things when you go back home. What will you tell people about your absence while in treatment, for example? Or how will you describe your issues to people who know you were in treatment? Such things are all discharge preparations that an effective treatment program will help you with so you can transition back home easily after dual diagnosis rehab. Follow up care can also help you with such issues.

Your Relationships After Dual Diagnosis Rehab

Recovery of all sorts will eventually take us back to dealing with our relationships. After any sort of illness, we are likely to have relied heavily on people, been estranged from some, and even developed hard feelings and animosity with others. Both addiction and mental health problems leave us vulnerable to high emotion, impulsive and harmful behavior, poor judgment, poor boundaries, and a disregard for the feelings of others. So, it is common that after dual diagnosis rehab we will have some relationship issues to deal with. Being sober and having stability means we can give healthy attention to the relationship damage that has occurred when we were ill.

It takes time for relationships to heal, and the people important to you may need more time than you do. After all, after treatment, you are enjoying the benefits of intensive help and support. It is likely that the people in your life have not had that kind of opportunity to sort out their feelings. Also, when people have been hurt, only time can help them trust again. There may be people in your life that don’t trust you even though you are sober and stable. What they really can’t trust is that your dual disorders are under control. They will need opportunities to learn that it is safe to be close to you again.

Also, recovering from a substance problem typically means that you have to eliminate some relationships and form other healthier ones. People who have substance issues usually have ‘using buddies’, and relationships build upon using substances together. To avoid relapse, it is always a good idea to find sober people to have relationships with and to let those relationships based on substance use go. It can take some time to establish a healthy and sober support group, but it is a significant investment in your health and well-being. Recovery support groups like 12 Step programs are a great place to start.

Finally, but not least importantly, if you have a partner or spouse who has gone through your dual illnesses at their worst, it is very likely that the two of you have a great deal to talk about, and possibly to heal from. Chances are your dual diagnosis rehab program involved your partner or spouse in some way. However, couples find it very helpful to follow up after rehab with some counseling sessions together. Your significant other is also transitioning to a new life with you after active illnesses and rehab. You two will find your ways into the recovery process, too.