Addiction treatment is an important first step toward building a life free from addiciton. You learn coping skills, methods to avoid a relapse, and other important tools you can use to avoid slipping back into addictive behaviors. Treatment facilities provide the ideal environment for you to stay clean and sober, surrounded by support from peers and staff.
The true test of your recovery begins when you graduate from your program and leave the rehab facility. Saying no to drugs and alcohol is easier when you’re in a place geared toward teaching people to do so. Continuing to say no after you return to your everyday environment is an entirely new challenge.
This is why aftercare is such an important part of recovery treatment programs. Instead of completely leaving the supportive environment of treatment, it provides a step down from higher levels of care. Aftercare effectively transitions you from a more intensive program back into your daily life.
What are some examples of aftercare programs and how are they run? How can you make sure you receive the proper support after you leave your treatment facility? After all, drug and alcohol rehab is only the beginning of a lifelong path of recovery.
What is Aftercare?
Alcohol or drug detox is oftentimes the first stop for someone attending addiction treatment. Once they’re safely and successfully detoxified from all substances, they transition into an inpatient treatment program. Their entire life is structured and centered around building a solid foundation for their recovery.
Aftercare is the part of treatment that comes after a person finishes a program one of these higher levels of treatment. With the help of their treatment counselors, clients are guided to reputable aftercare programs. It is the collective plan of the treatment team to support an individual during their early recovery and help them prevent relapse while entering into their new life.
If treatment facilities dropped people back into their everyday lives with no ongoing support immediately after finishing their program, relapse rates would be incredibly high. Attending treatment for a few months does not cure alcohol and drug addiction. There is no cure for addiction; it’s a chronic brain disorder that requires ongoing care and management.
Instead, treatment equips individuals with tools they can use to stay clean and sober one day at a time. Aftercare provides another avenue of ongoing support after an individual leaves the facility. They don’t have to feel like they’re making the transition alone when they have the support of an aftercare plan.
Components of an Effective Aftercare Program
There are numerous resources, activities, and more that can be part of an aftercare plan. These vary depending on each individual’s needs and the options that a specific treatment facility offers its alumni. As you approach the end of your time in treatment, you’ll likely sit with your case manager to develop your individualized plan.
Common components of an effective aftercare plan include:
- Moving into sober living for some time
- Transitioning into an intensive outpatient program
- Checking in with your counselor or case manager
- Going to individual or group therapy sessions
- Participating in the alumni program at your treatment facility
- Attending recovery meetings, such as 12-step or another option
- Finding a sponsor or sober mentor
- Establishing a set support system to lean on after treatment
Individual counseling and group therapy are two common parts of an effective aftercare program. Individual sessions give you the space to process things you didn’t work through entirely during your stay in treatment. Group therapy provides you with support from your peers that helps you feel less alone as you transition out.
Your plan might not include every item on the list above but those are some great options to start with. Depending on your particular treatment program and case manager, you may have a good amount of say in what your aftercare program looks like.
Does Aftercare Require 12-Step Participation?
Participation in 12-step programs is a regular part of treatment programs at many facilities. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are helpful resources available to you after treatment, no matter where you are in the world. There are AA and NA groups throughout the United States and dozens of countries around the globe.
Try out a 12-step meeting if you’ve never been to one before. You won’t know whether you like it until you try it. Some still struggle with the 12-step approach, though, and would prefer not to attend. You can voice your concerns while creating your aftercare plan with your case manager. They may have alternative options you can utilize in place of 12-step recovery.
SMART Recovery and Refuge Recovery are two common 12-step alternatives. These programs put forward their own approach to staying alcohol and drug-free. If you have a hard time getting involved in a 12-step program, try a few meetings from one of these programs instead.
Preventing Relapse with the Help of Aftercare
The ultimate goal of aftercare is to help program alumni use the tools they learned while in treatment to prevent relapse. Work with your case manager to build a plan you’re willing to stick with once you finish treatment. You’re far less likely to stay sober after leaving the supportive environment of the facility if you don’t follow through on your aftercare plan.
Are you still struggling to stay sober after leaving your treatment program? Being honest with yourself and others is one of the most important aspects of recovery. Reach out to your treatment program if you find your aftercare plan isn’t as helpful as you thought it would be. The staff at your facility wants to see you stay sober and can make adjustments as necessary.
Make sure you commit to staying with your aftercare program the whole way through. You might have days that you don’t feel like going to a meeting or attending a counseling session. The more you move forward and continue showing up and building healthy habits, though, the more likely you are to stay sober in the long run.