The Importance of Addiction Aftercare Programs
Attending a drug or alcohol treatment facility is usually the first step for people fighting substance addiction. While it is an extremely important step, it’s only the beginning and aftercare is equally or even more important. Sobriety is a life-long journey but people usually spend just 30 to 90 days in rehab. When they leave the treatment facility, it is often difficult to adjust to the change in routine and the return of external influences. This is where aftercare comes in. Let’s take a look at the importance of addiction aftercare programs.
What Is Aftercare?
An addiction aftercare program is a plan to support an individual who is in the early stages of recovery. It is designed to help you to avoid relapse and achieve the goals you set for yourself. It features a variety of interventions, activities, and resources designed to help them manage stressors, triggers, and cravings when intensive treatment ends. Each person’s aftercare program will vary depending on their needs.
Many people start their substance abuse journey with detox. They then go on to benefit from either inpatient or outpatient addiction treatment. While the duration of formal treatment varies from individual to individual, what’s certain is that it will eventually come to an end. Detox and treatment are necessary and extremely helpful for people battling addiction. However, they are not usually enough to ensure an individual abstains from drugs and alcohol over the long term.
Most people need ongoing support to maintain their sobriety. The best substance abuse treatment plans provide participants with comprehensive aftercare programs upon discharge.
What You Need to Know About Relapse
The prevention of relapse is a key goal of aftercare. Therefore, we’ll spend some time talking about this. Relapse refers to when a person starts using drugs or alcohol again after a period of sobriety. While it is often thought of as a single step, there are three stages to relapse.
It’s possible to start the process towards relapse weeks or even months before you actually take a drink or use drugs.
The three typical stages are:
- Emotional relapse. This is the stage in which people struggle to cope with their emotions in a healthy way. They may keep their feelings inside, isolate themselves from their loved ones, and neglect to care for themselves. Avoiding your emotions can set you up for substance use in the future.
- Mental relapse. During this stage, the individual becomes aware of their conflicting feelings toward sobriety. A part of them wants to remain sober but another part wants to give in to the cravings and they’re thinking about ways to use again. During a mental relapse, a person may also glorify their past use of drugs or alcohol while minimizing the negative consequences of their actions. They may ignore the legal, financial and interpersonal difficulties they experienced and actively seek out opportunities to get their substance of choice.
- Physical relapse. This is the stage that you may be most familiar with. It involves the act of actually using drugs or alcohol. It can start with a lapse which is having one drink or using drugs once and then quickly become a full-blown relapse in which you feel like you can’t control your usage.
The risk of relapse is at its highest in the first few months after an individual leaves rehab and 40 to 60 percent of people in recovery relapse at some point. This figure is consistent with relapse rates associated with other chronic illnesses and it is not a sign of failure. However, you can increase your chances of avoiding relapse if you avail yourself of professional relapse prevention and aftercare services.
Why Relapse Occurs
A number of risk factors can contribute to relapse. The most common are:
- Exposure to triggers. In the context of addiction recovery, triggers are social and environmental cues that make you think about drugs and alcohol. Social cues include seeing one of your former drinking buddies. An environmental cue would be driving past the bar where you used to drink or coming across drug apparatus. These cues can result in intense cravings for drugs or alcohol.
- Peer pressure. People who use drugs or alcohol may pressure you to do so especially in social situations. However, you may also experience peer pressure simply from being around people who are using. This can result in a strong urge to drink or use drugs. Spending time with people who use the substance to which you were addicted increases the likelihood of relapse.
- When individuals in recovery experience high levels of stress and don’t have the necessary coping mechanisms, they often turn to substances. This is why addiction aftercare programs are so important. Stressful situations will come up at work and in the home. Negative emotions like anger or sadness will inevitably occur at some point. Having the tools to manage them can reduce the risk of relapse.
- Interpersonal problems. Conflict is a normal part of life and it can lead to negative feelings. Without healthy ways to cope with frustration or disappointment, people in recovery can relapse. Conflict with family and friends can lead to negative feelings, including anger, sadness, and frustration. If these emotions are not properly managed, they can lead to a relapse. More than half of all relapses are linked to conflict so aftercare programs for substance abuse must include tools for handling interpersonal issues.
- Lack of confidence in your ability to stay sober. This is known as a lack of self-efficacy. People who don’t believe they can master sobriety are more likely to relapse.
- Pain resulting from illness or injury. People who have a history of addiction can find it difficult to control their use of prescription pain medications. If you’re in pain, you need to tell your doctor about your problems with substance use so they don’t prescribe opioids which are highly addictive.
- Celebration and positive moods. This may seem surprising but if you think about it, many people drink or use drugs when they want to enhance positive feelings. Birthdays, anniversaries, and graduations are often marked by substance use. Therefore, you need to have a plan in place for staying sober even when you feel really good. Your aftercare plan should put strategies in place for how you handle this.
How Drug Rehab Aftercare Can Prevent Relapse
Substance abuse alters the brain and affects both physical and mental health. Detoxing and undergoing rehab don’t reverse those changes. In fact, changes in brain function can last long after drug or alcohol use stops. That’s why you need ongoing counseling and therapy to stay sober.
Types of Aftercare Programs
Aftercare substance abuse programs can be delivered in many different formats varying from group therapy to telephone counseling. Some of the most common modalities include:
- Individual therapy. Having one-on-one sessions with a therapist provides an opportunity for people to open up and discuss their problems, fears, goals, and success stories. It also allows them to get insight from a professional and learn new coping mechanisms.
- Group counseling. People who take part in group therapy are more likely to remain sober. They learn that they are not alone and benefit from positive peer pressure. At the same time, they get guidance from a professional therapist. Group counseling can improve self-confidence and boost your commitment to living a drug-free life.
- Support groups. Unlike group counseling sessions which are led by a therapist, support or recovery groups are made up entirely of people in recovery. They work together to maintain their sobriety and avoid relapse. Many people find value in sharing their challenges and achievements with like-minded people instead of just family and friends.
- 12-Step programs (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous , Al-Anon). Thes programs differ slightly in their methodology but they all involve different steps and goals which participants follow and seek to attain. Key steps include analyzing past mistakes with help from a sponsor, making amends, and learning new ways of behaving.
- Rehab alumni groups. These programs are designed to help former rehab patients stay in contact with each other and with staff of the rehab facility. Alumni groups host social events and meetings on a regular basis. By providing connections, support, and fun activities, rehab alumni groups can help people in recovery to maintain their sobriety.
Regardless of the setting in which an aftercare rehab program takes place, it should help you to:
- Maintain your recovery
- Identify ways to prevent relapse
- Fill your life with purpose and fulfilling relationships
Your aftercare plan should include a strategy to deal with relapse if it happens. You and your therapist may agree that you’ll seek emergency therapy, go back to rehab, talk to a trusted advisor or take a combination of steps. A lot depends on the severity of the relapse so your plan should be flexible.
Depending on your circumstances, there will also be some level of focus on
- Legal matters
- Mental health
- Medical treatment
- Community involvement
Misconceptions About Aftercare
Lots of people have beliefs about aftercare that aren’t accurate. Getting the facts is an important step in not only coming up with an aftercare plan but sticking to it as you transition to life after intensive treatment. Let’s look at some of the common misconceptions.
Aftercare is Too Expensive
Don’t assume that addiction aftercare programs are out of your reach before you look into them. While you will need to continue investing in your health and wellbeing, there are several types of aftercare programs and not everyone needs or wants the same services. Also, as time goes on, the level of support you need will vary.
Only “Hardcore Drug Users” Need Aftercare
Any type of addiction is serious. Regardless of how long you were addicted to drugs or alcohol or how much you used at the peak of your addiction, you will need support for a while. Aftercare is an important part of the treatment process for anyone who is addicted to a substance.
All Aftercare Programs Are Based on Religion
Because of the popularity of 12-step programs, many people assume that faith or religion-based programs are the only options. It’s important to note that you don’t need to be religious to participate in these programs. However, many aftercare programs are based on science rather than religion and you’re sure to find support that meets your needs.
What Goes Into Creating an Aftercare Plan
Many licensed rehab centers offer aftercare programs for clients. This helps people in recovery to navigate life outside of the treatment facility and it takes away some of the stress involved in maintaining sobriety. As your treatment period draws to a close, you’ll meet with a case manager or therapist to come up with an addiction aftercare plan. The addiction professional will help you to analyze your current situation and what you need to do after you leave rehab. A lot will depend on whether you have a stable job and home environment, how far along you are in your recovery journey, and how much further care you need.
Once all this is established, your therapist will help you to find local resources that cater to your specific needs. The duration of aftercare will depend on your specific circumstances but it’s not uncommon for some people to spend a year or more in active aftercare. Some people only need ongoing support for three to six months. The plan is likely to be modified as your expectations and goals change.
Get All the Help You Need from Circle of Hope
Now that you have a better understanding of what is aftercare, you’ll be better able to choose an appropriate rehab facility. A high-quality addiction treatment center will provide you with resources to help manage triggers and maintain your sobriety long after you walk through the door. While you can find support on your own after you leave a facility, it’s best to come up with a plan in conjunction with your primary therapist who knows you well.
When you enter rehab at Circle of Hope Treatment in Los Angeles, CA, you can be sure that we’ll provide the ongoing support you need. We’ll help you to identify the behaviors and habits that can support your sobriety and point you in the direction of people who can offer further guidance. If you’re struggling with addiction, contact us today to explore your treatment options and learn more about what we can do for you.