While a regimented structure and schedule define life in a residential treatment program, life in our at-home drug rehab program is primarily determined by your routine, lifestyle, and day-to-day responsibilities.
If you search the question “What does life in rehab look like?” online, you’ll find hundreds of articles detailing how life changes when you enter a residential drug rehab center. That’s because the question has a straightforward answer. Life in a residential treatment program is mainly dictated by a predetermined routine and schedule. While some elements of treatment can be customized to the individual, you have to follow what everyone else is doing for treatment to work in a group setting.
Try searching for “What does life look like in an at-home drug rehab program?” and you’ll struggle to find even a handful of helpful resources. Part of the reason is because at-home treatment is a relatively new approach in the addiction recovery space, but the other reason is that the answer to the question isn’t nearly as straightforward. It all depends on you.
At-home drug rehab takes the opposite approach of residential treatment centers. Instead of imposing a regimented schedule on each individual, at-home recovery offers the flexibility to provide treatment around your schedule, routine, and daily responsibilities. As a result, you can maintain a full-time job, be a parent, and even go on vacation, all while receiving the treatment you need to achieve long-term addiction recovery.
While your day-to-day routine won’t necessarily change much (outside of sobriety, of course), here’s what will.
With our at-home drug rehab program, you gain access to a dedicated sober companion (we call them Certified Recovery Agents or CRAs) with around-the-clock availability to support and guide your recovery. Your CRA can live full-time at your home, come as needed at specific times of the day, or provide remote support. The experience is fully customized around your treatment goals and needs. As you achieve key treatment milestones, the CRA can step back as you gain the confidence to navigate sobriety on your own by practicing skills in the real world.
Another significant life change is that at-home treatment provides the opportunity to start practicing newfound coping skills from day one of recovery. Immediately after leaving residential treatment, individuals often face the highest risk of relapse. After 60 or 90 days, they may think they have their addiction under control and give into old habits. With at-home treatment, on the other hand, you can immediately start integrating what you’re learning into your daily life and routine.
Having a dedicated sober companion paired with the ability to gain actionable recovery skills and tools from day one of treatment are two of the most important factors differentiating at-home rehab from inpatient and outpatient rehab. But that still doesn’t clarify what the day-to-day life of someone in at-home rehab may look like.
Again, daily life is going to look a little different for every at-home rehab participant because the schedule is fully customized around each individual’s needs, goals, and routine. However, here’s what life may hypothetically look like for the four groups of program participants we most commonly help:
Carl is the Vice President of Operations at a global enterprise in the energy industry. He travels four to five days a week for his job, often across the nation and sometimes across the globe. Because of his intense travel schedule, Carl began turning to prescription drugs to help him sleep through overnight flights and to stay alert during board meetings or while catching up on work at night. At first, he only took the pills as needed but soon realized he felt better the more he took, even when he didn’t need them.
When he returned home on the weekends, he’d overmedicate, blacking out until he had to fly out on Monday morning. He’d then overmedicate on stimulants to catch up on the work he’d ignored over the weekend. At that point, he began taking so many pills that his prescriptions would run out within days, and he had to seek out illicit substances to fall asleep or stay awake. The people closest to Carl began noticing that he wasn’t the same person when he returned home to Chicago during his weekends. He no longer had time for them or called in between flights while he was on the road.
Carl’s best friend, Lewis, showed up unannounced to his high-rise condo one weekend. Carl refused to let him in, but his friend recognized that the light was gone from Carl’s eyes, and he caught a glimpse of the bags of pills on the kitchen table. Lewis called Carl’s parents and a couple of close friends he knew he could trust and explained his suspicions. At that point, they decided to stage an intervention, but when they confronted Carl, he denied having a problem and walked out.
It wasn’t until TSA confiscated a bag of illegal pills and Carl narrowly avoided arrest that he realized he needed help. As soon as he returned home, he called Lewis and his parents and explained why he’d been so distant. They were relieved to hear from him, but he told them he was afraid to enter a treatment program. If he lost his job because he had to go off to a two- or three-month treatment program, he was worried he’d only spiral deeper into his addiction afterward. That’s when they told him about the option of at-home addiction treatment, and the more he looked into it, the more hope he found.
After being admitted into an at-home addiction program, Carl was paired with a dedicated CRA with the flexibility to travel alongside Carl. Introducing her as his personal assistant, she remained by Carl’s side during business trips, plane rides, and meetings. Initially, the goal was to get him to the point where he only took medication as prescribed. His CRA, Tina, helped him balance work responsibilities, travel schedules, detox, treatment milestones, and therapy appointments while gaining new coping skills. After a month, Carl was back to the baseline of only taking his prescription medication as needed. Because CRAs prioritize privacy and confidentiality first and foremost, nobody ever suspected Carl was working through addiction treatment, but they did notice his improved productivity and more positive, focused outlook.
Working with his psychiatrist, Carl acknowledged that he was still at a high risk of relapse as long as he was still taking medication, even as prescribed. Over a period of several months, he worked with his CRA and psychiatrist to find healthy outlets to destress on the weekends and reenergize throughout the week. He started exercising at hotel gyms, swimming in the morning, and after six months, he regained the confidence to travel and enjoy his weekends on his own without the fear of relapse. However, he still continues to call on Tina if he knows he’s going on a high-stress business trip that may increase his risk of relapsing.
Melinda thought her career as an actor had already peaked, and she spent her early forties looking for any work she could get. She’d always prided herself on clean living as the reason she’d aged with grace (her idea of partying was little more than a bottle of wine with dinner or a few prescribed anxiety pills before bed), and it was that grace that helped revitalize her career.
When she was beginning to wonder if it was time to leave Los Angeles, Melinda finally found a small part in a low-budget movie working with an up-and-coming director. When the film ended up gaining mainstream attention, casting directors started calling her, and after showing her spark on the big screen, her agent was getting more offers than she could accept. Her older films even began to develop a cult following, and before long, her name started appearing in the tabloids again.
In her late forties, Melinda landed the biggest role of her career—the opportunity to cement her status as a household name. Her regained celebrity status had also brought out a group of female and male admirers, many fellow actors who wanted to learn the secret to her newfound success, but also an old friend she hadn’t heard from in many years. When her old friend invited her to a party, Melinda assumed it was to celebrate her upcoming role and catch up for old time’s sake.
Little did she know, her old “friend” was jealous of her revitalized success and wanted to drag her down the same path of addiction he’d gone down. After the party, he handed her a joint laced with heroin. By the time Melinda realized something wasn’t right, she felt a sense of euphoria that was more intense and soothing than any of her anxiety medication had ever felt. It wasn’t until she awoke on her couch the following morning that she realized what must have happened. She’d experienced a high that felt better than her revitalized career, and she spent months leading up to her big project chasing that newfound feeling.
Melinda missed her first day on set, and when she didn’t pick up her agent’s calls, he showed up at her apartment. When she didn’t answer the door, he called the police to perform a welfare check since he hadn’t heard from her in more than a week. She’d told him she was going to get clean before shooting started, and he’d trusted her, but when they opened the door, Melinda had overdosed on the couch and was barely breathing.
Fortunately, one of the officers happened to have Narcan in her patrol car, and within a few minutes, Melinda’s breathing and heart rate had returned to normal. The paramedics were called, and Melinda had to spend the night in the hospital because doctors were concerned about her history of irregular heartbeat. When she woke up in the middle of the night to use the restroom, she looked in the mirror and noticed how much the past four months had weathered her face. She was no longer aging with grace, she realized.
Her agent explained the situation to the film’s producers and director, and while they were glad the root of Melinda’s problems had come to light, they couldn’t delay shooting any longer than a week. After she’d returned home from the hospital, her agent visited her and explained the situation. Fortunately, Melinda had already come to terms with the reality that she needed help. She looked at her face in the magazines and then at her face in the mirror and saw two different people—the one she wanted to be and the one she didn’t.
Melinda knew she needed help, but she didn’t want it to tarnish all the work she’d put in until now. At the same time, her agent and director wanted to ensure rumors or gossip didn’t hurt Melinda’s recovery or the success of her upcoming project. They knew conventional addiction recovery wasn’t an option. Melinda’s situation was unique, and she needed a more personalized, private approach. That’s when her agent began researching alternatives to rehab, and that’s when he discovered the at-home addiction treatment model.
In her first week of treatment, Melinda relied on her Certified Recovery Agent (CRA) to help her navigate detox, cope with withdrawals, and even begin preparing for her role. Together, they stayed on top of her initial psychiatry appointments, and Melinda gained insight into why she’d continued to seek out that high after she’d first been introduced to it. Every time she saw herself in the media or thought about her upcoming project, she felt fear that she’d lose it all again, and that fear triggered her addiction. As she worked with her psychiatrist and CRA, she began to realize that she was allowing that fear to overshadow what she still had to gain with the role of a lifetime.
In the first week of shooting, the director and producers went from wondering if they’d cast the wrong person to realizing that Melinda had been made for the role. In the mornings, she’d arrive on set before anyone else with her CRA by her side as her personal assistant. In the afternoons, she returned home and worked through the day’s anxiety with her psychiatrist as she learned and practiced new coping strategies.
Her agent was afraid that Melinda’s issues might come to light in the press, triggering a relapse, but to his amazement, her addiction and treatment never came to light. All members of Melinda’s treatment prioritized her confidentiality to the highest degree, and when the project wrapped up, she and her agent reflected that it felt like they had accomplished the impossible.
Leading up to the film’s release date, Melinda felt like she’d taken a step back in her recovery. In anticipation of the release, any mention of the project, her co-stars, or herself was enough to trigger her urge to use again. During that time, she worked with her psychiatrist and CRA to come to the realization that it wasn’t a step back; her anxiety was heightened due to her uncertainty about the outcome of the project because she no longer found an outlet in acting. Together, they worked to find a healthy outlet for anxiety—helping develop the careers of the young, aspiring actors around her.
When the film was released, it was hailed by critics as Melinda’s best performance yet. As the awards rolled in, her anxieties diminished, but she realized she’d found more fulfillment in helping the actors around her than in her own career’s success, and that path helped her sustain long-term recovery. The only people who ever learned about her addiction were her agent, the director, and those she chose to share it with.
At ALYST Health, we realize that everyone’s path to long-term addiction recovery looks a little different. That’s why our at-home concierge treatment approach is designed to accommodate as many different lifestyles as possible without compromising quality of care or confidentiality. If you or someone you care about may be battling with addiction, take our addiction quiz to determine the next steps on the road to recovery.
Originally published 4/4/2021. Updated 6/25/2021.