The day is finally here. You have completed your addiction treatment program and are clean and sober. It was hard work and there were days you weren’t sure you could do it, but you did! Now what?
Some people believe once they are finished with rehab they can resume their life and pick up where they left off; just without the substance abuse. That is a very dangerous plan.
Aftercare is the term used to describe the process necessary to continue forward with clean and sober living. It includes emotional and actual steps along with support to make sure you have the best chance for a successful life.
Let’s take a look at what aftercare is.
Going home may seem like a good idea, but in many instances, it’s not. Certain things associated with ‘home’ may be triggers for relapse. These might include family members, friends who are still addicted, familiar hangouts where you used, or even personal belongings that could spark a painful memory.
A sober living home is a great transition from rehab back into the world. There are rules to follow, and accountability is required, but you are also safe and surrounded by people who are just like you. The support system is amazing, and you will soon come to view your housemates as family.
This will not be your forever home, but it will give time to become stable in your sobriety and form bonds with those you can turn to in moments of stress and doubt.
In addition to the encouragement at the sober living home, there is value in the information and resources provided through a local support group. You will be able to share your story and the success stories of others going through the same journey.
A support group follows up on the guidelines and principles learned in rehab and provides another level of accountability.
Another proven component of aftercare is one of the popular 12-step programs offered through a support group. Following the guidelines of the program greatly improves the success rate for long term sobriety.
There is a lot to learn when starting over after rehab. Even a support group can’t be there all the time with answers. Situations will arise where you need a little extra help and guidance.
This can be found through a sponsor. What does an AA sponsor do? They will spend one-on-one time with you and are available to help you with a crisis, work through triggers and support your sobriety goals.
You can find a sponsor by asking for recommendations from the group. Also, if there is someone you connected with, you can simply ask them to be your sponsor.
Addiction recovery is not a one-time event. It is a lifelong process of handling triggers and making good decisions.
There is one study that suggests about 75% of those in recovery will suffer a relapse in that first year. The good news is that a relapse does not mean a complete slide back into substance abuse.
A relapse usually begins with a trigger that causes some type of pain. Being able to recognize where you are vulnerable and what might throw you off is the best way to catch the warning signs and avoid a bad decision.
If you do experience a relapse, here is guidance to get back on track.
Most substance abuse begins with unresolved emotional pain. Engaging in therapy will help unlock the issues that may have led to the start of the addiction and can also provide coping strategies to deal with them the correct way.
Family therapy is also a valuable tool in the recovery process. Your substance abuse did not occur in a vacuum; everyone in your family was affected in some way.
Group sessions can help everyone better understand the dynamics of the abuse and a counselor can begin the healing process.
Re-building fractured relationships with family members is a key element of aftercare. Few people understand the true impact of addiction on the entire family unit.
A healthy and supportive family should educate themselves on addiction, the causes, the triggers and how their responses, both good and bad, affect the overall recovery.
There is a range of emotions from guilt, anger, sadness, loss, betrayal; and it takes time and communication to work through all of them.
Like the addict, you may also have resentment towards someone in your family and fear, especially if any of your family were part of that lifestyle with you.
For the family’s part, they need to understand the completion of a rehab program is not the end of the problems. They will need patience, understanding and participate in the ongoing work of aftercare.
Depending on the severity of the addiction and your overall history, this could mean different things to people.
If possible, find a job. In addition to the income, it provides a steady schedule to help with dependability and focus, along with being around other sober individuals in a productive environment.
It can be difficult for people in recovery to find work, but there are community resources to help get you back in the workforce. Those resources can help you polish your resume, work on interviewing skills and even put you in touch with businesses with a track record of giving people a second chance.
If you are not ready for this step, then work towards a meaningful contribution in life. Volunteer to help those coming up behind you in the addiction recovery process. Be a mentor, friend, or even a sponsor. Or, you can volunteer at a food bank, animal shelter, or any number of organizations that help others around you.
Find a new hobby, or pick up on old one. Being creative and pouring your determination and energies into something other than your addiction will help you feel accomplished, motivated and inspired.
You should be very proud of the work and progress made towards your clean and sober living goals.
Aftercare is an essential part of your recovery and has no time limit or end date. The path to a sober future is walked one day at a time.
For more information on our services and how we can help in your recovery goals, reach out.