Basics of Aftercare
Components of Effective Aftercare
Relapse Prevention Skills
Why Is Aftercare So Important?
Getting through drug rehab can be challenging, exciting and more than a little scary. In a supportive residential or outpatient setting, surrounded by counselors and sober clients, it’s easy to focus solely on your recovery and stay on track with your goals. But in the world outside of rehab, relapse is a common phenomenon. According to statistics from Alcohol and Alcoholism, up to 46 percent of alcoholics relapse six months after receiving inpatient treatment, and up to 48 percent relapse within six months after rehabilitating in an outpatient program. The Office of National Drug Control Policy reports that long-term recovery rates from methamphetamine addiction may be less than 10 percent.
What can you do to make sure that the skills you learn and the goals you set stay with you after you graduate from drug rehab?
Aftercare could be the answer. The risk of relapse is a reality that alcoholics and drug addicts live with daily, even after years of sobriety, but if the practices of recovery continue to be part of your life, the risk of a permanent relapse may be much lower. From the time you start searching for a rehab program, look for a facility that will provide support not only during detox and the initial stages of recovery, but after you leave the treatment center.
Components of Effective Aftercare
The purpose of aftercare isn’t just to keep you from backsliding, but to help you continue to grow and become a stronger person in sobriety.
Post-rehab services may include:
- Sober living residences where you can live and work in the community while remaining in a drug-free, alcohol-free environment
- Individual counseling to address anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other co-existing mental health disorders
- Medication therapy with prescription drugs like Antabuse, Suboxone or Campral to help you stay abstinent
- Life skills classes to help you get reintegrated into the community as a clean and sober person
- Group therapy programs, like 12-step meetings, to sustain your motivation and help you learn new coping strategies
- Family or relationship counseling to continue building healthier relationships with your loved ones
- Job placement assistance to help you develop a more secure, financially stable life
- Assistance with legal matters if you are completing a court-ordered drug diversion program
Aftercare services are available on an outpatient basis, either through the treatment center where you attended rehab or through a day center in your community.
Relapse Prevention Skills
During your drug rehab program, you’ll learn how to handle high-risk situations that leave you vulnerable to a relapse. But learning about these situations in the supportive setting of a treatment center is very different from confronting those same situations in your daily life. At your aftercare meetings, you can talk about your experiences, discuss strategies for coping with real-world problems and learn from your fellow participants. As you progress through the stages of recovery, you’ll learn how to:
- Manage the emotions that increase your risk of a relapse (according to Alcohol Research & Health, both positive and negative emotions make you vulnerable to drinking and using)
- Handle social situations where you feel pressured to use alcohol or drugs
- Choose friendships and activities that support your newly sober lifestyle
- Find work or housing situations that help you transition from rehab to the real world
- Prevent a minor backsliding incident, such as having one drink, from turning into a long-term relapse
Addiction has been compared to chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension and arthritis, in that people who are afflicted with this condition have a tendency to backslide in their treatment plans. Just as a person with high blood pressure may skip their medication or overindulge in salty foods, a recovering addict may revert to his or her old behaviors. The support system that you build in aftercare will help you pick yourself up and resume your treatment plan if you have a temporary slip.
Twelve-step programs are available throughout the world, and many drug rehab programs begin to teach the principles of the 12 steps in the early stages of recovery. After rehab, groups like Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous offer support, sponsorship and recovery strategies with no membership fee. Based on the tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-step groups operate on the principle that addiction is a physical and spiritual disease; however, the programs are non-denominational, and each member is free to seek help from a higher power of his or her choosing.
In large cities,
you can find 12-step meetings around the clock; in smaller towns or rural communities, meetings may be held less often. Many recovery groups hold meetings online or by telephone, and you can get support from other recovering addicts on the Internet at any hour of the day.
The transition from substance abuse to sobriety can be hard on your body as well as your emotions. Pharmacotherapy with prescription medications like naltrexone (ReVia, Vivitrol), acamprosate (Campral), disulfiram (Antabuse), methadone or buprenorphine (Suboxone) can make that transition easier by helping you control your cravings or discourage you from drinking and using. Your doctor may also prescribe medications to help you deal with the symptoms of withdrawal. Anti-seizure drugs, sedatives and antidepressants are among the medications that are prescribed in recovery.
With some prescription drugs, like methadone or injectable naltrexone, you must go to a clinic or a treatment center to have the medication administered.
With other medications, like acamprosate for alcohol treatment or Suboxone for opiate addiction, you can take the medication at home. Whether you take your meds independently or under medical supervision, you’ll need to keep your follow-up appointments with the prescribing doctor as part of your drug rehab aftercare program.
Why Is Aftercare So Important?
Once the drugs or alcohol are cleared from your body and you’re equipped with a whole new set of life skills, you may feel stronger, healthier and more confident than you’ve felt in years. But when you’re back to the real world, surrounded by the pressures of work, relationships and social activity, your old triggers may kick in. Anger, boredom, happiness, stress and depression may cause you to turn back to your old coping mechanisms, like getting drunk or high. When the craving for alcohol, marijuana, painkillers or cocaine returns, you’ll need something more than self-discipline to keep you from slipping.
Your aftercare program acts as a safety net, providing a sense of security when your motivation wavers. Willpower isn’t enough to get you through the rehab process or to keep you sober over the long term — you need counselors, sober friends, supportive family members and possibly medication to help you avoid a relapse. Aftercare services can significantly increase your chances of staying clean after rehab, reports the Cleveland Clinic, but only if you participate actively. Your level of commitment to attending classes, groups and medical appointments may make the difference between whether or not you reach your recovery goals.
Whether you need to attend meetings daily or weekly, staying in touch with your treatment team is vital to your sobriety. The comprehensive aftercare program at Michael’s House offers multi-faceted support for the recovering addict or alcoholic. After detox and rehab, your personal growth has just begun. Statistics on the rate of relapse after drug rehab may give you the impression that recovery is never permanent, but with the help of a caring, compassionate support network, you can maximize your chances of achieving long-term sobriety.
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