A critical piece of the sobriety puzzle that many people forget, is there is no cure for addiction or alcoholism. Once treatment is complete, that does not mean you’re cured. Don’t get us wrong, getting through treatment is a HUGE accomplishment! Taking the necessary steps to get healthy and sober is monumental, however, once an individual leaves their treatment facility, their work is only beginning. Once the individual graduates a 30-, 60- or 90-day program, they will face many challenges and experience various personal setbacks that could lead to relapse or even worse, overdose.
The American Association of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) reports that 99%+ of individuals who only complete rehabilitation programs without engaging in any aftercare programs will relapse. Have you heard the phrase, “Relapse is a part of recovery?” Well—it doesn’t have to be. Stabilizing in a solid aftercare program can provide their chances of experiencing a successful long-term recovery.
Aftercare is an individually tailored plan that is implemented once your primary treatment has ended. It can include engaging in a range of services that help you maintain momentum as you move forward with strength in sobriety. Addicts require continuous care and support to remain clean and sober as true recovery extends years after the final drink or drug. Your aftercare plan must be based on your specific needs and issues to help you navigate recovery on your own.
Different Types of Aftercare
There are many different kinds of aftercare support, ranging from 12-Step groups to live-in treatment options.
1. Outpatient Treatment
Outpatient Treatment includes the patient continuing to receive care on an outpatient basis while being able to return to their home afterward. This may include group-oriented therapy or individual therapy sessions (typically one to two times per week) taken at the patient’s convenience. Outpatient treatment can include relapse prevention programs that encourage group counseling & peer support, medication management, life skills courses, psychiatric evaluations, legal and educational assistance, and 12-Step program options.
2. Sober Houses
Sober homes, also known as halfway houses, are a very popular form of aftercare. Moving back into your old home after rehab can be particularly stressful. It is recommended in many treatment facilities to separate yourselves from old “people, places and things” and this may include moving back into your old house where you participated in addictive behaviors. Individuals living in sober houses are typically expected to attend a certain number of meetings or therapy sessions, have curfews, discuss progress in group settings, and have meals together. This type of living situation helps to transition the patient back into the real world while having safe parameters around their home life.
3. Medical Support
Medical maintenance is needed for some individuals with opioid addictions. A lot of times these individuals need another level of care and this can include medication management of methadone or suboxone. With detox programs as a part of aftercare, this should include regular visits to their doctor, clinical evaluations, and drug tests to prevent abuse of these medications.
Rehabilitation centers will schedule outpatient follow-up appointments at their clinic or facility where inpatient treatment is provided. While not all treatment facilities offer check-ups, many do if aftercare is included in their program.
Why Seek Aftercare?
Currently, the National Institute on Drug Abuse states that the current relapse rate is between 40 and 60 percent. While aftercare is optional, it can be critical to ensure your success in recovery. Following a good aftercare program can be the difference between relapse and building an amazing, stable, and long-lasting recovery.
Having people to whom they’re responsible for staying sober will help prevent relapse. Relapse rates are the highest in the first few months after leaving treatment, so participating in groups with others who are also sober helps to build that accountability. It is one of the main reasons why groups like Alcoholics Anonymous really work, and you’ll have exposure to these self-help groups in an aftercare program.
Many patients that have left their lives to spend in an inpatient residential treatment center have completely removed themselves from the environment in which they used to drink or use. This gives them the time and space they need to focus on what they are learning in recovery. Acclimating back to the real world can be dangerous for these individuals because they haven’t had the opportunity to test the skills that they’ve newly learned in stressful environments. Having a buffer between residential treatment and the real world is extremely important because it gives the patient a place to still receive the support they need while managing any stressful situations that come up reintegrating back into everyday life.
3. Social Support
Receiving social support from sober buddies, friends, and sponsors can be very helpful alongside the accountability of your counselors and clinicians. Addiction can feel very isolating and shameful at times. Having a network of support from individuals who are in recovery as well gives patients a place to relate to others in a non-judgemental environment.
Your health is of the utmost importance to your entire sobriety! Health-related services provide the individual in treatment with measures to overcome cravings and reduce symptoms once they are out of direct inpatient care. This can include assessment for substance abuse and mental health, drug testing, medication services, and education.