What You Should Know About Addiction Aftercare
It’s not surprising that aftercare following drug or alcohol rehab helps people remain sober. Aftercare—with addiction treatment—has come a long way since the days when people were discharged with a list of 12-step meeting locations.
Behavioral health specialists now know that addiction is a chronic disease with relapse rates similar to other diseases like diabetes, cancer and hypertension. They also know that the underlying reasons behind substance abuse are different for each person, so it makes sense that aftercare plans be individualized.
“Aftercare entails much more than AA meetings,” says Venita Washington, M.S., who oversees the JavelinSM continuing care program at The Ranch Mississippi drug rehab. “Focused, ongoing management of this disease is critical for long-term success.”
Components of a Successful Aftercare Plan
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a successful life in recovery should include the following components:
Supportive home life/family
Returning to a healthy environment after addiction treatment is an important piece of long-term recovery. In fact, research has shown that when recovering individuals perceive that they have support from family, it lessens their chances of relapse. If home will not provide a healthy environment that supports sobriety, a sober residence or halfway house could be a better living arrangement, especially in those early months following addiction treatment.
12-step mutual aid support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and alternatives to the 12 steps such as Refuge Recovery® and SMART® Recovery can provide valuable peer support and accountability in recovery. These types of groups are more accessible than ever with thousands across the country meeting several times a day as well as online meeting options for many.
Healthy self-care practices like exercise, meditation and mindfulness, proper nutrition, taking prescribed medications as instructed, attending to spiritual needs, and engaging in sober activities that feel fulfilling can help people abstain from drugs and alcohol. Regular exercise, meditation and proper nutrition have positive effects on the reward center of the brain. Religious and spiritual activities help people feel connected to something bigger than themselves and the isolation of addiction.
One-on-one counseling with a mental health professional helps people continue addressing the specific underlying issues that have contributed to their substance misuse, which are different for everyone. Being aware of these challenges and continuing to work on them can mitigate the drive to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Research has shown that a cognitive behavioral therapy approach is particularly beneficial for people struggling with substance abuse.
Community of sober peers
Connecting with other people in recovery is a valuable source of support in maintaining sobriety. Having people who understand the struggles of addiction to lean on in times of distress and also to socialize with is important in the pursuit of a life free of drugs and alcohol.
Washington explains that continuing care needs to encompass all of these components, not just one. These days, many treatment centers work with clients upon discharge to make sure these resources are in place for them.
“Some treatment centers like The Ranch Mississippi go the extra mile in continuing care,” says Washington. In addition to thorough aftercare planning, the treatment facility offers an optional one-year continuing care plan, called the Javelin Program that helps past clients stay connected and accountable in that first critical year of recovery. “Javelin includes sober coaching, drug testing and weekly communication as well as a weekly group where people in recovery can discuss their issues and receive open and honest feedback, leaning on others for strength and hope,” says Washington.
Considering Treatment? Here’s an Aftercare Checklist
Entering drug or alcohol rehab is a difficult decision and stressful time. Many people may be so focused on getting into treatment and what their day-to-day life will look like that they don’t pay attention to what aftercare resources the treatment center will help with upon discharge.
If you or a loved one is considering treatment options, here are a few questions you should ask in order to plan for life after treatment:
- Do you offer relapse prevention training during treatment?
- Will you work with my current therapist/referent during treatment to provide a seamless transition of care following drug rehab?
- Does your facility provide aftercare planning and what resources are included in this?
- Does your treatment facility offer reintervention services if needed?
- Following inpatient treatment, do you have an outpatient program or can you recommend one in my area if needed?
- Can you connect me with sober-living options following treatment if needed?
- Can you connect me with a therapist and/or psychiatrist following treatment if I don’t already have one?
- Do you offer aftercare groups and/or have an active alumni base?
The work of sobriety begins in alcohol or drug rehab and will be a lifelong journey. Ensuring you’ll have proper support measures in place for the first several months when relapse rates are high is an important part of the recovery process and taking care of yourself.
Choose a better life. Choose recovery.