Learning Tools to Live Life Sober While in Treatment for Addiction

One of the most important aspects of residential or inpatient treatment for drug and alcohol addiction is the implementation of life skills training. Life skills training helps prevent relapse and promotes long-term sobriety by teaching those in treatment the skills, or tools they need to be successful in their lives during and after treatment.

A residential treatment center provides addicts and alcoholics the opportunity to begin their in a safe and supportive environment. While this is a positive thing, it is important that clients also prepare for the pressures and triggers that they will face when they return home, or leave treatment. Personal Life Skills such as doing laundry, grocery shopping, and cooking may need to be practiced and relearned. Relational Life Skills like time, stress, and anger management should also be practiced to help clients prepare for everyday life after they leave treatment and return to their lives.

Importance of Progressive Living Environments for Life Skills Training

The National Institute on Drug Abuse has set the new standard for drug and alcohol addiction treatment, saying that in order for treatment to be the most successful and individual must commit for a minimum of 90 days. These 90 day programs should be progressive, designed to slowly transition clients back into their lives. Gradually teaching them the tools they need to lead happy, successful, and sober lives.

Traditional programs help clients understand their addiction, and give them distance from their triggers but do not help them learn or relearn everyday tasks that can be overwhelming in early sobriety. Progressive treatment models, or those that give clients more and more freedom or responsibility as they move through give clients the opportunity to practice some everyday tasks they will most likely encounter they leave treatment.

Throughout their time in these progressive residential treatment program clients will have the opportunity to practice real life situations like, going to a 12 step meeting, applying for a job, and communicating with their family. Having the opportunity to practice these everyday tasks with the support and cushion of their treatment staff and peers, clients feel more confident in their abilities and are more likely to succeed at these things when they leave treatment.

A progressive treatment environment is designed to help move clients towards independent living by giving them the opportunity to practice daily tasks while learning important tools for relapse prevention. By giving clients the opportunity to experience real life with the support of treatment professionals, they learn or relearn necessary life skills that will help them be successful and maintain long term sobriety once they leave. Once clients have crossed these bridges, and successfully worked through the difficult emotions attached to these tasks they are more equipped to handle life’s challenges once they leave treatment.

Examples of Life Skills Training

There are different methods of conducting life skills training for addiction, but there are some fairly common components to the many different programs.

  • Establishing a Schedule- While having a detailed schedule might not seem particularly revolutionary, a sense of regularity can help individuals transition from a treatment environment to a home environment. Additionally, a schedule can help to prevent opportunities for relapse by planning to avoid situations in which the temptation to use drugs or alcohol is present. Learning to establish, and keep a schedule during treatment helps patients learn to construct healthy routines prior to being discharged.


  • Communication Skills- With many cases of addiction, the friends and family of a patient have suffered from a breakdown in trust and communication. Some work can be done during an inpatient stay in treatment but the wounds will not be fully healed. As part of Life Skills training, clients and their staff will focus on practicing healthy and open communication so that a patient has the tools to continue to repair their family and peer relationships.


  • Regaining a Sense of Purpose- Addiction disrupts many aspects of a normal life, including occupational and educational goals. It is very common for recovering addicts to want to jump back in where they left off, but this is not always the best option. Life skills training promotes pursuing these goals responsibly and in a way that is manageable long-term.


  • Time Management- Life does not stop because of an addiction. Usually when someone leaves treatment they prepare to go to work or school. This can be extremely overwhelming emotional and financially, so life skills training will often focus on time management, organizational skills, and planning so clients can apply these skills to their lives once they leave treatment. These skills are important in terms of relapse prevention because stress is a trigger that can often lead to relapse. Practicing these simple skills will prepare students for the emotional and physical symptoms of stress and teach them how to overcome the emotions without drugs and alcohol.

Other Components of Aftercare

While the constant support of inpatient treatment is missing after treatment, it is essential for recovering addicts to locate sources of support and continuing life skills training. For many individuals, this will include programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. Additionally, some patients will seek aftercare outpatient group or individual therapy.

Guest post provided by Sober College a California drug rehab specializing in the treatment of young adults struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and other co-occurring disorders.