The New You: 15 Amazing Life Skills Topics You’ll Cover in Rehab

life skills topics

When you’re recovering from a substance abuse disorder, success isn’t defined by achieving sobriety—it’s defined by maintaining it over time.  According to statistics from the NIDA, relapse rates for substance abuse are as high as 40-60%.

Some rehab centers focus entirely on detox and abstinence. But if you want the best chance of avoiding a relapse, look for a treatment program that teaches long-term skills for recovery.

Here are 15 of the essential life skills topics you’ll learn in rehab that can help you achieve a sober future.

1. Asking for Help and Reaching Out

Learning how to reach out to others for help is one of the most essential life skills that you learn during rehab. As the phrase coined by support group Alcoholics Anonymous goes, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.

You’ve already taken this first step by entering a treatment program, but it can still be difficult to ask loved ones for help when you need it. A good rehab program will teach you how to identify your true needs and communicate them effectively. Reaching out requires a great deal of courage, which you’ll work on building as you go through treatment.

2. Developing Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Many people develop a substance abuse disorder as a way to cope with stressors in their lives. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol use can only numb the pain for so long before it becomes a stressor in and of itself.

In order to maintain sobriety, you can’t just cut substance use out of your life. You have to replace it with healthy coping mechanisms such as:

  • Exercise
  • Prayer or meditation
  • Journaling or writing
  • Playing music or creating art
  • Spending time outdoors
  • Spending time with family, friends, and pets

You’ll spend a lot of your time in rehab re-training yourself to use these positive strategies when things get tough. Developing solid coping skills for addiction will help you avoid giving in to relapse urges and take back control of your life.

3. Taking Personal Responsibility

A lack of personal responsibility isn’t something that’s unique to substance abuse disorders. Many people with conditions that arise from their lifestyle, such as those who develop type II diabetes due to poor diet, try to place the blame outside of themselves.

Taking responsibility for your actions and their consequences is a common substance abuse group topic.  You may talk about developing an internal locus of control, the belief that you’re empowered and able to create change.

Changing your locus of control will help you leave the victim mentality behind. After all, it’s easy to justify substance abuse when it seems completely out of your control. In reality, while you may not be able to control all the circumstances that led you to substance use in the first place, you can control your responses and actions from here on out.

4. Developing a Routine

If unpredictability is the enemy of recovery, a daily routine is its best friend. Establishing a schedule early on in your treatment journey will help you develop good habits to replace the old ones.

When your life is run by a chemical dependency it can often feel frenzied and disorderly. A daily routine becomes an oasis of calm that lets you escape the chaos of your past life. It removes the decision-making process for small tasks, keeps your days feeling full, and ensures that you make time for the important things in life.

While you’re in rehab, your days will follow a recognizable structure. Once you leave treatment, though, keeping up with a daily routine will be your responsibility. That’s why it’s so important to work on this skill while you’re still in a safe, supportive environment.

5. Practicing Good Self-Care

People struggling with substance abuse often learn to prioritize drugs or alcohol over their own wellbeing. Over time, this can lead to a neglect of personal hygiene and grooming.

Rehab can teach you how to practice healthy self-care strategies that leave you feeling refreshed and renewed. You’ll learn to make time for the basics—taking a warm shower, washing your face, brushing your teeth—and to take comfort in the routine. If you take time to care for yourself, you’ll be able to present the best version of you to the world.

6. Taking Control of Your Health

Addiction is a disease in and of itself, but long-term substance abuse can lead to a host of serious physical and mental health conditions, including:

  • Changes in appetite
  • Disturbed sleep schedule
  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • Mental illness and psychosis
  • Lung disease
  • Cancer
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV/AIDS

Rehab jumpstarts your journey toward health by helping you detox from chemical dependencies, but it doesn’t stop there. It also teaches you how to take control of your health in a holistic way.

During treatment, you’ll learn to follow a healthy, balanced diet and to integrate exercise into your daily routine. A nutritionist, dietitian, or physician will work with you to develop strategies that will allow you to maintain these habits over time. You’ll learn how to moderate your eating and activity levels so that those things don’t become addictions themselves.

If you’ve developed any of the serious or chronic conditions listed above, the physician supervising your treatment will help you manage any medications or other interventions that you need to get your health back on track.

7. Learning How to Rest and Relax

Perhaps the most difficult part of recovery is re-learning how to constructively deal with boredom. In the past, it was easy to reach for drugs or alcohol as a way to pass the time. Now, you’ll have to lean into the quiet spaces in life without resorting to numbing activities.

Rehab can teach you the valuable skill of knowing how to be alone with yourself during times of boredom. You’ll also learn how to establish a sleep schedule without relying on alcohol or medications. Rest and relaxation will help you to feel more energetic and alert and can help you avoid getting sick.

8. Managing Stress and Emotions in a Healthy Way

Stress and other negative emotions are a huge contributing factor in drug and alcohol abuse. In fact, research out of Marquette University has linked high stress to cocaine abuse and relapse. It’s critical to recognize stress, anxiety, depression, and other intense emotions as a potential trigger in recovering individuals.

Drugs and alcohol often serve as self-medication for difficult emotions. A rehab program will teach you how to identify and get in touch with your emotions. You’ll build the skills you need to manage them appropriately when things get tough.

9. Communicating With Others

Clear, open, and honest communication is essential to building positive relationships. If you’ve found yourself lying or covering up your substance abuse in the past, rehab can teach you how to move forward.

Saying what you mean and meaning what you say is the first step toward better communication. Other vital communication skills include monitoring your tone when speaking, listening carefully, and being understanding of other points of view. You’ll get plenty of practice with this when speaking with your care team and during group therapy sessions.

10. Finding a Job

Unfortunately, substance abuse and unemployment tend to go hand in hand. But having a steady job isn’t just important for the paycheck; it’s a great way to build a sense of personal responsibility and achievement.

Your rehab center is a valuable career resource. If they don’t offer career coaching in-house, they’ll be able to connect you with others who can help you find and keep a job. You may go through mock interviews, build a work wardrobe, or learn valuable trade skills.

Your career options are endless, so it’s important to work with your rehab care team to figure out what works best for your situation. They can help you decide whether you’ll benefit most from full- or part-time work, volunteering, or an internship.

11. Managing Your Finances

Once you’ve re-entered the workforce, it’s important to start managing your finances so you can maintain a healthy lifestyle. The money that once went to supporting your addiction now needs to pay for bills, housing, groceries, and other basic necessities.

Rehab can teach you how to make and use a budget to keep your finances on track. If you end up having extra money left over, it should go toward paying off debts and saving up for goals that support your new healthy lifestyle. Achieving your financial goals will let you live independently and take back control of your life.

12. Caring for Your Home

While keeping your home clean and livable is a real task for most of us, people recovering from substance abuse are faced with an extra set of challenges.

Rehab can help you develop the skills you need to maintain a healthy living environment. This may include setting reminders to take out the trash, do the laundry, and pay bills. It may also include working with others in your household to divide up chores.

A clean, well-maintained home provides you with a clean slate. These skills can help you turn your home from a place of stress into a haven of relaxation and recovery.

13. Avoiding High-Risk Environments

Even after you’ve achieved sobriety, certain triggers can still lead to cravings or relapse. It’s important to identify what these triggers are so you can learn how to deal with them effectively.

These triggers can be internal, like feelings of stress, or external, like family gatherings and going out. Not all high-risk cues and environments can be avoided, so part of your treatment will involve learning how to cope when you find yourself triggered. Knowing how to identify risky situations and get through them can empower you to avoid giving in to cravings.

14. Maintaining Healthy, Supportive Relationships

If your old friendships centered on substance abuse, you may find yourself having to start over with new relationships. It’s important to associate yourself with people who will be supportive of your recovery goals. But how do you go about making these new connections?

Rehab can help you develop the relationship skills you need to build stable, supportive relationships with like-minded people. You may find new friends in your support groups, by partnering with an accountability buddy, or by getting involved in your community.

You may even be able to connect with people over your new lifestyle changes. If you’ve gotten into exercise or nutrition during recovery, you might find new friendships in a workout group or cooking class. Your rehab center may be able to connect you with groups in the area that relate to your newfound interests.

15. Living Your Life One Day at a Time

Perhaps the most important skill you’ll learn in rehab is how to take life one day at a time. Your recovery journey won’t be without its ups and downs, but if you use the other skills on this list, you’ll be able to get through anything. It’s a difficult road, but the end result is worth it—and your rehab care team will be there to support you every step of the way.

These Life Skills Topics Can Help You Succeed in Recovery

A good rehab program will teach you all of these essential life skills and more. Once you’ve begun to implement them in your life, you’ll quickly begin to see that they give you the strength you need to recover from addiction. Not only that, you’ll be equipped with the tools you need to stay sober, happy, and healthy for a lifetime.

If you’re looking for a comfortable drug and alcohol detox center that understands the importance of these life skills topics, Coastal Detox may be the place for you. Our accredited facility combines medically supervised detoxification protocols with holistic treatments to give you the most tranquil experience possible. Contact us today to find out how we can help you Sail Through Detox and into the new you.

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Content Reviewed by Jacklyn Steward

Jacklyn StewardJacklyn is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) and an EMDR trained trauma therapy specialist with over 6 years of experience in the field of addiction. She has a Masters Degree in Mental Health and Substance Abuse Counseling from Nova Southeastern University.