Participating in addiction treatment is an important first step toward building an alcohol and drug-free life, but the true test of your recovery begins when you complete treatment. Saying no to addictive substances when you’re in a program that teaches people how to do so is a lot easier than continuing to say no to drugs and alcohol on your own. Reacclimating yourself to everyday life while also trying to deal with stress, rebuild relationships, apply coping skills, and overcome cravings can be challenging. That’s why aftercare is such an important part of addiction recovery.
Rehabilitation and addiction treatment programs provide the ideal environment for you to stay clean and sober. You’re surrounded by like-minded peers, encouraging staff, and caring personnel. Life outside of this type of environment can be less than ideal. Fortunately, aftercare can be a bridge of support that helps you maintain sobriety when you’re faced with challenging circumstances and life is less than ideal.
What Is Aftercare?
Aftercare is an additional phase of addiction treatment that occurs after you finish an addiction recovery program. Your aftercare plan, which is usually designed before you leave a treatment program, focuses on supporting you during early recovery and helping you prevent relapse as you establish a new life and work toward your goals. Most aftercare plans include activities, tools, and resources to help you cope with triggers, stress, and cravings, but the specific details of the plan will be based on your distinct needs. There are, however, certain components that make up an effective aftercare plan.
Common Components of Effective Aftercare
There are several different types of resources that can be included in an aftercare plan, but the most effective aftercare plans include components that can support you holistically. In addition to simply focusing on your sobriety, effective aftercare plans will also support your mental health and socio-economic needs.
Some of the most common components of an effective aftercare plan include:
- Moving into a sober living home for some time
- Checking with your counselor or case manager
- Continuing with an outpatient program
- Going to individual or group therapy sessions
- Participating in the alumni program at your treatment facility
- Finding a sponsor or sober mentor
- Attending recovery meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), or other options
- Ongoing monitoring of any mental or physical health conditions you may have
- Vocational rehabilitation to help improve your chances of successful employment
- Legal and educational assistance
- Relapse prevention programming
- Having regularly scheduled meetings with a sponsor or other members of your sober support system
Out of all these components, individual counseling and group therapy remain the most effective. Individual counseling sessions allow you time and space to process thoughts, feelings, and situations you haven’t fully worked through during addiction treatment. Group therapy sessions can help combat isolation and loneliness through support and encouragement from peers facing similar situations. But these aren’t the only reasons why aftercare is so important to addiction recovery.
Why Is Aftercare Important After Addiction Treatment?
Even though aftercare is optional, continued support during addiction recovery can be extremely beneficial. Addiction is a chronic condition. This means that addiction doesn’t go away after treatment; it’s a chronic brain disorder that requires ongoing care and management. Aftercare can provide you the ongoing support and care you need. Here’s how.
1. Aftercare can help you avoid falling back into old habits
As effective as addiction treatment is, sustaining your sobriety depends on your effective use of coping, grounding, stress management, and communication skills. Without using these skills, you can easily slip back into old behavior patterns and increase your risk of relapse. Participating in an aftercare plan can be a great way to actively use and build upon the skills you learned in recovery.
Becoming an active member of a rehabilitation program’s alumni group, attending recovery group meetings, and checking in with your counselor or case manager can help keep these newly learned skills at the forefront of your mind. As these skills become second nature to you, you’ll be less likely to rely on old habits that can contribute to harmful behaviors and relapse.
2. Aftercare can help you readjust to everyday life
Even after participating in an outpatient addiction treatment program, readjusting to daily life can be difficult. Your routine of attending treatment during the day and returning home at night will change. The amount of support you receive from others might change. The environment in which you live may change. The hours you need or have to work may change. All of these adjustments can lead to stress and anxiety which can trigger cravings. Aftercare can help you deal with these changes without compromising your sobriety.
Employment assistance and vocational rehabilitation can help you work through any work challenges or financial stress you may be facing. Group counseling sessions can help you express what’s going on in your life in a judgment-free zone. Individual counseling sessions can help you manage all the stress you’re facing by reminding you of stress-relieving techniques you’ve learned, as well as teaching you new techniques that can help ground you in the midst of challenging circumstances.
3. Aftercare can provide you social support and community
Although rewarding, recovering from addiction can be incredibly lonely. This can be especially true when addiction treatment ends. You may not see the people you’ve become accustomed to seeing on a regular basis anymore. This can lead to isolation and loneliness which can, in turn, increase your risk of relapse. Effective aftercare plans encourage you to attend local recovery meetings, alumni events, and 12-step meetings. Doing so can expand your support network and make you feel at home.
Aftercare plans can help you to build and grow a healthy community. Being around like-minded people can help you stay motivated. Spending time with sober peers can also inspire you to continue to make positive changes. Gaining new sober friends and planning activities with them can help you recognize that sobriety doesn’t have to be boring. Many addiction experts believe that the opposite of addiction is community. Aftercare can help provide the social support and community you need to maintain long-term recovery.
4. Aftercare can help hold you accountable
During the early stages of addiction recovery, accountability is critical. Many people who leave addiction treatment without following their discharge and aftercare plans relapse. Aftercare plans provide a space and time for you to remain accountable to yourself and others. Check in with your case manager. Call your sponsor. Let your mentors know when you’re having a difficult time. They’re there to help you and hold you accountable for the life you want to live.
5. Aftercare can help you maintain your mental health
Trying to live with mental health conditions on your own can easily increase your risk of relapse. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, PTSD, and trauma can make you feel like you need to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Aftercare plans can help continue to treat mental health conditions that contribute to substance use challenges. Aftercare can also help you stay in contact with counselors and psychiatrists and access medication as needed.
6. Aftercare plans can help prevent relapse
The ultimate goal of aftercare plans is to help you use the tools you learned in treatment to prevent relapse. This can look like helping you find a place to stay, holding you accountable, providing you with counseling, supporting you emotionally, providing legal assistance, or helping you find and maintain a job. But all these forms of assistance are provided to help you navigate and live life without turning to drugs or alcohol.
Helping You Live A Thriving, Sober Life
Recovery is hard. Maintaining recovery can be harder, but aftercare plans can help you live a thriving sober life. Asking for and receiving help doesn’t make you weak, it makes you wise. Take advantage of aftercare program services. They can help catapult you into the life you’ve been working toward. Contact us today to learn more.