Effective drug and alcohol rehabilitation creates healthy and sustainable habits. While the resulting changes in body, mind and spirit can be profound, these changes are also fragile in the early stages of recovery. Aftercare services help you maintain the coping skills you learned in rehab so you can continue to build a healthy, fulfilling life after graduating from a recovery program.
Even for individuals who are dedicated to recovery, return to drug or alcohol use is common. Studies show that rates of return to drug and alcohol use among adults and teenagers who have finished a rehab program are as high as 80%. Whether you’re struggling with alcoholism, prescription drug abuse, cannabis use or an eating disorder, studies show that recurrence is a common symptom of addictive behavior. In the period after rehab, aftercare services provide valuable support to help you stay committed to your recovery goals. Aftercare makes sober living a reality.
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What Is Aftercare?
Aftercare planning is one of the many ways in which the treatment of addiction mirrors the treatment of any chronic condition. An aftercare plan is, in many ways, similar to a discharge plan from hospitalization to treat a chronic condition like asthma or heart failure. In the treatment of chronic medical conditions and substance use disorders, aftercare planning must include:
- Proper understanding of the severity of the condition
- Identification of potential barriers to successful treatment
- Outpatient care expectations
- Appointment setting
- A realistic, sustainable self-management plan
- A protection plan to activate in the event of triggers
- A regrouping plan in the event of a recurrence of symptoms
Creating An Aftercare Plan
Aftercare is far from an “afterthought” to acute care — it’s one of the most important stages of the rehab process. It allows for the creation of strategies for relapse prevention and for the development of coping skills. Technically, aftercare begins once you’ve completed a recovery program and are ready to make the transition back to your community. In reality, the aftercare phase of recovery begins from the time you enter treatment. Even as you go through detox and rehab, your treatment team will work on identifying the tools and skills that you’ll need to be successful after you finish the program. Therapists and staff with thorough knowledge of a program’s resources can usher clients through the process of setting up schedules, contacts and effective treatment regimens for ongoing support after completing treatment.
Once initiated, aftercare can continue for as long as you’re committed to a healthy, meaningful life in recovery. People who stay abstinent and sober after rehab often attribute their success to participation in aftercare services like mutual support groups, 12-step meetings, alumni organizations or volunteer activities that support sobriety. These activities can help you stay connected to other people who share your goals and values and can motivate and inspire you as you create the future you really want.