This article was written by James Malervy and published by RCA.
Addiction treatment arms you with the tools you need to recover. You learn how to manage triggers, cravings, emotions, and the dangers of relapse. Treatment centers provide a highly structured environment to help you focus on your recovery and a support system to help keep you motivated. But the actual test of your recovery starts when you leave the outpatient or inpatient rehab and enter back into your day-to-day routine.
The transition from a structured treatment program to everyday life can be challenging and overwhelming, and it is easy to slip back into old patterns and habits. That’s where aftercare and ongoing support come into play.
Addiction is a chronic disease with a 40-60% relapse rate. And with such high odds, it’s essential to have a plan in place to help ward off temptation and stay the course. Aftercare programs provide you with the necessary support to help you stay on track with your recovery.
What is Aftercare in Recovery?
Aftercare in recovery is the follow-up care that one receives after treatment. It aims to support those in early recovery, prevent relapse and help them as they work toward their life goals. Aftercare plans include resources, interventions, and activities to help individuals achieve their recovery goals.
Aftercare programs are tailored to meet the individual needs of each person in treatment and may include the following:
- Sober living homes
- Peer support groups such as 12-Step, Al-Anon, or Smart Recovery
- Alum programs
- Individual and group therapy
- Medical and mental health care
- Medication management
How to Create an Aftercare Plan
A good aftercare plan is tailored to meet your specific needs and provide an ongoing support system to help you maintain sobriety. It should have measurable goals, specific strategies, and expected outcomes.
A therapist can help you create an aftercare plan tailored to your needs. They will work with you to assess your current situation, identify potential triggers and discuss any concerns you may have about the transition from treatment to everyday life. They can also monitor your progress and make adjustments if needed.
Components of an Effective Aftercare Program
Here are some of the components that an effective aftercare program should include:
Attending Sober Living Homes
Sober living homes (also known as halfway houses) provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals in early recovery. It is an important component of aftercare that helps provide a smooth transition from inpatient or outpatient rehab to everyday life.
Sober living homes have in-house rules that include curfew, chores, and visitations. In some cases, they even help residents find a job. Residents may also participate in 12-Step programs and sober activities, such as fitness classes, art therapy, and music groups. These elements come together to create an environment that helps maintain long-term sobriety.
Your case manager can help you find the right halfway home – but you can also do so yourself. Either way, you’ll need to consider your needs, budget, and location when searching for a sober living home.
Joining Support Groups Meetings
Support groups are essential elements of an aftercare program. They provide a place to connect with others in recovery, talk about your struggles, and learn new coping skills. Participation in peer support groups like 12-Step, Al-Anon, and Smart Recovery can help individuals remain motivated and accountable during their recovery journey.
12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous base their meetings on a spiritual approach to recovery and encourage members to work through the 12-Steps as part of their recovery journey. Smart Recovery is like 12 steps; it doesn’t focus on tapping into a higher power. Instead, it encourages aligning behaviors with personal values – emphasizing self-reliance and self-empowerment while providing education and support. Al-Anon is a support group for family members of those suffering from substance use disorders.
Participating in Alumni Programs
Alumni programs are a great way to stay involved and connected with a drug or alcohol rehab. They also allow you to reconnect with those you shared the rehab experience with. But beyond that, alumni programs can help you stay clean and sober by connecting you to a broader network of participants, practitioners, and community-based activities and help you build the community you need as you continue your recovery journey.
Continuing with Medical and Mental Health Care
Medical and mental health care are also essential components of aftercare. Medical professionals can help monitor physical health and address any medical conditions that may have been affected by substance use. Mental health professionals can help provide psychological support and address any mental health issues that may have been underlying your substance use disorder.
For example, if you’re still dealing with behavioral health issues such as depression and anxiety after drug rehab, your therapist may offer behavioral therapy to help you cope better.
Getting a Sponsor
When you join recovery groups such as 12-Steps, you’ll be encouraged to get a sponsor. A sponsor is someone who has been sober for a certain amount of time and can provide guidance and support. They’ll often be available to talk if you need to and can help you stay accountable on your recovery journey.
For example, they may call or text you when they know you’re feeling especially weak or suspect you’re at risk of relapse. They may also:
- Serve as a good example
- Encourage you to attend meetings and participate in group activities
- Introduce you to other members
- Offer support as needed
- Explain the 12-Step to your loved ones
- Introduce you to 12-Step literature, like the Big Book
Ongoing Therapy or Outpatient Services
If you’ve completed residential or inpatient rehab but still face challenges or triggers that threaten your sobriety, ongoing therapy or outpatient services may be beneficial. Outpatient programs can help address any unresolved issues or help you develop better-coping mechanisms while you continue living at home. Outpatient programs can take various forms, like counseling sessions, group therapy, workshops, or activities such as gardening and yoga.
Getting Support from Friends and Family
Ultimately, the most important piece of an aftercare plan is support from friends and family. The people closest to you can provide a sense of normalcy and help you stay motivated on your recovery journey. They can also serve as positive role models to help you practice healthy habits and adjust to life outside treatment. That’s why treatment programs often encourage families to participate in therapy or counseling sessions during and after treatment.
The importance of family and friends in aftercare cannot be understated. They provide emotional support and understanding and help you stay accountable in your recovery. They may call or text you to see how you’re doing and even attend meetings or activities to show their support. Loved ones may also celebrate your successes, encourage healthy behaviors and habits, spot the signs of relapse, etc., all of which can help you remain on track to a life of sobriety.
Aftercare is a critical part of long-term sobriety. It provides the necessary resources, support, and guidance to help you stay clean and sober and live a healthy, productive life. With proper aftercare planning in place, you can increase your chances of achieving lasting recovery from substance use.