Basics of Aftercare

Drug rehab can be challenging, exciting and more than a little scary. A supportive residential or outpatient settings makes the process much less intimidating. Treatment surrounds you with supportive professionals and sober peers. It lets you focus solely on your recovery and stay on track with your goals. Treatment connects you to aftercare resources that help you transition into a life of recovery with less risk of relapse.


Do I Need Aftercare?

Relapse is unfortunately common. Alcohol and Alcoholism[1] reports that studies found, “After the first month following an alcohol detoxification, relapse rates range between 19% for inpatients and 34% for outpatients and increase to about 46 and 48% respectively, after 6 months.” Without treatment, rates are even higher. This likelihood of relapse isn’t exclusive to alcoholism. Other drugs have similar, or even greater, rates. The Office of National Drug Control Policy[2] shares, “Long-term cure rates for methamphetamine may be less than 10 %, and statistics show high relapse rates six months after treatment.” You don’t have to be part of these statistics. You can make sure the skills you learn and the goals you set stay with you long after you graduate from drug rehab. You can take advantage of the support aftercare offers. The risk of relapse is a reality. If you make recovery practices a long-term part of your life, your risk is much lower. Look for a treatment center like Michael’s House. Our programs and ones like ours offer support from the earliest thoughts of recovery to years after formal treatment ends.

Components of Effective Aftercare

Aftercare involves more than direct relapse prevention. Aftercare helps you continue to grow and become stronger in life and recovery.

Post-rehab services may include the following:

  • Sober living residences that allow you to work and rejoin the community while living 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 withprescription drugs like Antabuse, Suboxone or Campral
  • Life skills classes that may include job training or parenting classes
  • Support group meetings that provide motivation and help you learn new coping strategies
  • Family or couples counseling to build healthier, close relationships
  • Job placement assistance to help you develop a more secure, financially stable life
  • Assistance with any legal matters related to drug use or drug court

Aftercare services are available on an outpatient basis either through the treatment center where you attended rehab or through community resources.

Relapse Prevention Skills

Stressed woman holding foreheadDuring rehab you learn how to handle daily stressors and emotions as well as high-risk situations that leave you vulnerable to relapse. Learning and doing are two different things. Putting new information into everyday use requires practice and support. During individual and group therapy aftercare sessions, you can talk about your experiences and your challenges. You can discuss strategies for coping with real-world problems and learn from counselors and peers. You can learn how to manage the situations and emotions that otherwise increase your risk of relapse.

As you progress in recovery and participate in aftercare, you’ll learn how to do the following:

  • Handle social situations where you feel pressured to use alcohol or drugs
  • Choose friendships and activities that support your newly sober lifestyle
  • Find work and housing that help you transition from rehab to the real world
  • Prevent a minor backslide such as having one drink from turning into a long-term relapse

People tend to backslide in their addiction treatment plans. This is normal, if not ideal, and mirrors treatment and care of other chronic health conditions. As the National Institute on Drug Abuse[3] shares, “Relapse rates (i.e., how often symptoms recur) for people with addiction and other substance use disorders are similar to relapse rates for other well-understood chronic medical illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, and asthma, which also have both physiological and behavioral components.” 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. Your aftercare support system will help you prevent backsliding. It will also help you pick yourself up and resume your treatment plan if you do have a temporary slip.

12-Step Aftercare

12-step group12-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. 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 every day of the week. 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.

Medication-Assisted Aftercare

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. These drugs do come with some addiction risk, but the benefits may outweigh potential side effects. They help you control your cravings or discourage you from drinking and using. Your treatment team will help you decide if medication-assisted treatment is right for you.

Why Is Aftercare So Important?

After rehab, you will feel stronger, healthier, and more confident than you’ve felt in years. You want to keep this feelings as you return to the real world. However, you will face pressures related to work, relationships, and your environment. Your old triggers may kick in, or you may face new ones. Anger, boredom, happiness, stress, and depression may cause old, unhealthy coping mechanisms seem appealing once more.

When cravings for alcohol, marijuana, painkillers, or cocaine return, you need support to keep you from slipping. Just as addiction wasn’t a matter of willpower, recovery isn’t an issue to try to “tough out” alone.

Your aftercare resources are your safety net. Your level of commitment to attending classes, group meetings, and medical appointments may make the difference between whether or not you reach your recovery goals.

Connecting Treatment and Aftercare

After detox and rehab, your new, sober life has just begun. With the help of a caring, compassionate support network, you can maximize your chances of achieving long-term sobriety. The comprehensive aftercare program at Michael’s House offers multifaceted recovery support. Begin your recovery on the right foot to maintain your recovery long into the future. Call us at 760-548-4032 to learn more about our immediate care programs and aftercare resources.


[1] “The Impact of Self-Help Group Attendance on Relapse Rates.” Alcohol and Alcoholism. 25 Jan 2007. Web. 26 Apr 2017.

[2] “The National Methamphetamine Drug Conference.” Office of National Drug Control Policy. Web. 26 Apr 2017.

[3] “Treatment and Recovery.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. Jul 2014. Web. 26 Apr 2017.