What Comes After Rehab?
It’s a commonly held myth that recovery is a destination to be reached, attainable through rehab, and that once a person has kicked the habit, their victory (and struggle) is complete. While getting sober is certainly a victory to be celebrated, the story doesn’t end with the completion of a rehabilitation program. Recovery is, in fact, a lifestyle rather than a single destination.
In order to maintain a life of healthy, long-lasting recovery, an equally healthy aftercare plan must be in place. Aftercare is exactly what it sounds like: a plan of caring for a person’s recovery after they’ve left the rehab facility. Every aftercare plan is different, customized to each individual’s unique needs.
Just because a person has the upper hand on their addiction at the moment doesn’t mean it’s gone for good. Addiction is a relapsing disorder, because the changes in the brain that it causes cannot be rid of. New patterns of thought and behavior can be established, though, which become the brain’s new go-to pathways over addictive behaviors. Still, it is always possible to return to the old patterns.
When this happens and a relapse occurs, it’s not the end of recovery, just a stumbling block. Fortunately, aftercare can help minimize the risk of a relapse and help get one back on the path of recovery should a relapse occur.
Methods of Aftercare
There are several methods one can employ to form their aftercare program. Aftercare, just like treatment, is tailored to the needs of the individual, as there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all treatment program. Most people incorporate several methods into their aftercare program, others employ one or two. Finding the right mix for each individual is what is important.
One of the most common tools in aftercare is a 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous. 12-step programs are often full of other people who have gone through the same struggles. They have experienced the same problems, suffered through the same agony, and endured the same challenges.
12-step programs are a great environment in which people in recovery find guidance, support, and friendships that can last a lifetime. After all, there’s no better guide out of a dark maze than somebody who’s found the way out.
Another valuable aftercare resource is sober living. Sober living facilities are an intermediary step between the rehab facility and the “real world.” If an individual is uncertain they are ready to dive right back into the deep end, they can enter a sober living facility.
These facilities offer the same kind of structured environment as a rehab center, a safe place to live that helps to ensure sobriety while returning to work, school, and day-to-day activities. Sober living is intended to be an “in between” stage for a person once they have completed their rehabilitation program and need a little more time and structure before striking out on their own again.
In a sober living facility, a person will live with others who are in recovery as well and will begin to take on household chores and other personal responsibilities as they rebuild their life. If needed, they may even receive help in finding a job so they can get back on their feet.
Last but not least, therapy is a potentially very powerful tool in one’s aftercare. Addiction is a disease without a cure but it can be put into remission. That disease remains, however, so it can be a good idea for a person to keep seeing a therapist even after they have completed their treatment program.
Addiction alters brain chemistry and can have long-lasting side effects. Regular therapy can help with these issues and sometimes include medication to treat them. Therapy sessions after treatment can help you continue the work of identifying and replacing negative thought and behavioral patterns that engage your addiction. Therapy can help mediate depression and anxiety, which are common co-occurring disorders with addiction.
Why Aftercare Is Important
Some people may hold to the belief that aftercare is unnecessary and only serves to constantly remind a person about their past. This could not be farther from the truth. In reality, a solid aftercare program is extremely important in maintaining a long, healthy life of recovery. Aftercare is an active continuation of the new, healthy, and growth-oriented life that you began in treatment.
If addiction can be compared to a stalking predator, then aftercare is the fence that keeps it out. A fence isn’t a guarantee, of course, but it certainly helps. It also requires maintenance and upkeep in order to have the intended effect. The same goes with aftercare. It requires effort and isn’t a guarantee, but it’s a lot safer to have it than to not.
The most critical time in a person’s recovery is the first year out of their rehab program. Having to learn to face the world and live life without drugs or alcohol, forming new patterns of behavior can be extremely stressful. Having the support of an aftercare program to lean on can make this period a lot more manageable.
Everybody has different sources of stress in their lives and after leaving a rehab center, one no longer has an in-house therapist to discuss the problems with. During the first year, an individual’s chance of relapse could reach upwards of 85% according to statistics.
85% is a frighteningly high rate, which is why aftercare is so important. A proper support system can drastically reduce the chances for relapse to occur. Each passing year, the chance for a relapse decreases. It never disappears completely, though, which is why a strong aftercare plan and support system in place can make a powerful impact in a person’s recovery.
It’s important to develop a plan as early as possible, especially since the first year is the most dangerous in regards to relapse. Fortunately, here at A Better Today, we help each patient develop an aftercare plan that is tailored to their particular situation and needs before they complete rehab. This way, by the time they leave our facility, they already have an aftercare plan in place and are ready to face the world again, prepared for the challenges that lie ahead with a support system already set up.
Nobody is beyond help and everyone deserves the chance for a new beginning. Call (520) 288-8484 today to get the care you need and start out on your road to recovery.