Updated 20 February 2013

What next after rehab?

The first 90 to 360 days of recovery can predict how you will manage and sustain your recovery.


Many addicts struggle to maintain their recovery after attending a primary addiction programme.

Often people with addictions and unresolved issues (commonly trauma based) are admitted to a 28-day primary programme, which can help the client to detox and to begin to admit they have a problem. The dilemma with month-long treatments is that so many issues remain unresolved, leaving the client even more vulnerable and unable to manage life.

Learning to live in recovery is very different from staying clean and sober.

Bridging the recovery gap

Addicts in recovery need a hands-on, experiential approach where they practise skills they will require on the outside. Learning to manage time, taking responsibility for organising meetings, creating CVs, meeting their sponsors regularly, preparing meals, managing house duties and budgeting are just a few examples of necessary worldly skills.

Consequences are part of life; therefore they need to be respected. Often the approach taken at rehabs is one of punishment.  Addicts in recovery have been punished enough: a reward rationale is optimal.

 In this way addicts in recovery can learn that mistakes are acceptable, but need to be faced. They need different behaviours to be challenged and worked on. Having a counsellor who treats them as an individual is so important. Taking responsibility for their choices is integral as ultimately they are the ones who live their lives.

Learning to have fun in recovery is also essential. Addicts in recovery need replacement activities such as surfing, beach walks, spiritual outdoor outings, yoga and free time where they can find their own hobbies. They need to learn that life can be interesting and meaningful without drugs/ alcohol.

One other life skill that needs to be prioritised is family work. Addiction and trauma affects the entire family. The addicts in recovery and family need to be encouraged to attend their own therapy/ self-help groups. Besides education, the family need time to heal too. Trust needs to be restored.  Boundaries need to be reinstated. Codependency needs to be processed. This too takes time.

Two years ago Capetonian Sharon Stolk envisioned a healing centre - The Spirit of the Phoenix - that offers a different way of facilitating the dreams and visions of all who pass this way. Together with registered addiction/ trauma therapist Frances Ward they have created a programme that helps addicts in recovery get through the first 90 days (or longer) – that teaches them how to maintain their recovery for themselves. 

Having worked at many different types of facilities in the UK and SA, Frances Ward believes that bridging the gap from active addiction to active recovery is essential. Continuing to look at the underlying reasons why the client has become addicted, remains traumatised or repeats unhealthy patterns is important but teaching addicts in recovery how to maintain their recovery, by learning how to respond to stressors in different ways (bodily and psychologically) is essential. One method is through a revolutionary new technique TRE (Trauma Releasing Exercises), which aims to reverse the instinctual responses to trauma and to then restore an inner sense of balance.

“We believe this process requires an ecosystemic approach that allows their body, mind and spirit to heal within a context- a social system,” says Frances. “Therefore experiencing reality, whilst feeling safe in a homely environment, is an essential element of our programme.”

(Frances Ward, press release, February 2012)

Frances Ward is the Clinical Director of The Spirit of the Phoenix Recovery Centre. For more information please contact her or Sharon Stolk on 021 782 5059, email visit


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