Aftercare: The Final Step in Addiction Treatment

There is no doubt that aftercare is one of the most pivotal parts of the addiction treatment process. As the "safety net" for many addicts, aftercare is in place to assist the transition out of a drug treatment facility, and help recovering addicts remain sober.
Although addiction treatment programs are designed to equip addicts with tools and skills to remain sober, aftercare is offered to provide a more guided pathway in utilizing those tools.

Why Is Aftercare Necessary?

Aftercare can come in many forms, and it is the final step in addiction treatment. However, unlike detoxification and intensive addiction treatment before it, aftercare is the step which is most pivotal in a recovering addict's ability to remain sober, and begin to put life back together.
Skipping aftercare is akin to learning about drag racing, and immediately getting on the track to compete, without having driven a car.
There are several specific reasons why aftercare is so important, and many different ways to engage it.

Sober Living

Once an inpatient treatment program has been completed, it is time for addicts to put all they've learned and accomplished to the test. However, remaining sober at home, isn't as easy as it may have been in a treatment facility, and this is often one of the most stressful times for recovering addicts, as they face immediate pressures on many levels. These can include, but are certainly not limited to:

  • returning to a home environment with unhealthy people, like family members, spouse, neighbors, and friends who may engage in drug abuse or other dangerous behaviors
  • facing immediate pressures to find employment and/or a new residence
  • having to change habits and lifestyle choices which may not be conducive to the current home environment
  • seeing, or being in environments which have strong connections to previous drug and alcohol abuse
  • invitations or solicitation from individuals who were enablers of addiction
All of these factors, and many more can be waiting for a recovering addict, upon returning from a treatment facility.
This is the time when a sober living environment is invaluable to a successful recovery, because a sober living environment (SLE) provides a supportive transition, with an appropriate combination of independence, and sober support. The ultimate goal for a sober living environment is to provide recovering addicts with a supportive and drug free place to live, and enough independence to allow for employment, returning to school or engaging in career training.

Facing stresses and pressures in a drug riddled world is not easy for anyone in recovery, and a sober living environment provides much more than a drug-free home. Additionally, addicts are encouraged (in some cases required) to attend AA or NA meetings, submit regular drug tess, and engage in a productive means of supporting themselves.
This is one of the best, and most effective ways for recovering addicts to get a sense of sober life outside of the treatment facility, while still maintaining some level of sober structure in their lives.

Outpatient Treatment

Less structured than inpatient and sober living environments, outpatient treatment is primarily intended as an aftercare resource for individuals who have already completed an inpatient program, and no longer need that level of care. In outpatient treatment, recovering addicts can receive additional support to build upon the work completed during inpatient treatment, on their own schedule.
Patients are allowed to reside in their homes, and do whatever they choose in their time away from the aftercare program.
The additional support offered in many outpatient aftercare programs also helps recovering addicts to maintain their employment, and their heathy habits and lifestyle choices. Often, outpatient aftercare is sought after some time in a sober living environment, as a gradual "stepping down" in levels of care from addiction treatment services.

Outpatient aftercare is often comprised of three main components, which are
  1. Individual Therapy
    Similar to individual therapy during an inpatient drug rehab facility, a counselor will meet with patients on a regular schedule to discuss personal strategies for maintaining sobriety, any stressors in life which may be a potential trigger for relapse, and provide individualized support.

  2. Group Therapy
    Also similar to that of inpatient treatment, group therapy sessions usually meet regularly, and provide an opportunity for those in recovery to be among peers who have not only struggled with addiction, but also been through an inpatient program, and worked similar steps in their own recovery.

  3. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) Meetings
    These meetings are a central part of almost all aftercare programs, as they give people a constant source of peer contact, whenever they may need it. In an outpatient program, the next scheduled individual or group therapy session may not be exactly when an individual feels he or she needs support. AA and NA meetings take place several times a day, every day, in various locations. The ability to attend a meeting at any time, for group support from a sympathetic community, is invaluable for countless people in recovery.
The overall goal of outpatient aftercare is to keep some level of support in place for those in recovery from addiction, with a much heavier reliance on the individual's ability to maintain his or her own sobriety.
With these levels of freedom, of course, comes great responsibility for recovering addicts, to actively work their recovery plans and remain committed to their sobriety.

Do You Really Need Aftercare?

Yes! One of the most common misconceptions about addiction treatment is that the process is over at the end of a 30 or 45-day inpatient residential program. The process of graduating from a treatment program is a proud moment for many, as it should be, but the work does not end there.
Treatment programs provide a wealth of knowledge and support for addicts to establish sobriety, but there is an enormous difference between the environment in a controlled treatment program, and that of the home environment, where addictive behaviors can run amuck, if left unchecked.

Since addiction is a chronic disease, relapse is common, even for the most determined individuals. It is a dangerous mindset to complete inpatient treatment, and think oneself ready to return to to business as usual, with no followup support for maintained sobriety. It is imperative to take recovery seriously, and give oneself the best chance at sustained sobriety as possible, and that is why aftercare is so important.

If you, or someone you love is in need of addiction treatment aftercare options, please call us at 1-866-985-0181, to get the best possible chances of sustained sobriety and peace of mind for you, and your loved ones. We are here to help.

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