Completing an outpatient alcohol treatment program is merely the first step in overcoming addiction and forging a new life. As addiction aftercare programs often stress, successful completion of a formal treatment program is not a guarantee of ongoing addiction recovery. The person completing treatment must be willing to engage in aftercare drug treatment as well as find new ways to balance his or her old lifestyle with the new one obtained through treatment.
Having an Addictive Personality Can Make Ongoing Recovery Challenging
People prone to addiction often have an underlying tendency to seek excitement by drinking or using drugs. It can also be an escape from personal problems. This is one reason why aftercare addiction treatment services are so important. Aftercare programs provide structure and accountability in addition to practical ways to enjoy living a new and sober lifestyle. Without addiction aftercare, it is all too easy to replace the addiction to drugs or alcohol with other habits such as gambling, overeating, or working too much.
Other Challenges After Completing Treatment
Whether the addicted person completed outpatient alcohol treatment or stayed at an inpatient residential treatment center, returning to everyday life can be complicated. First, there is the matter of working to repair damaged relationships. The addicted individual may even need to find a new job or a new place to live. These things are challenging even in the best of circumstances. Added to all that is the need to connect with aftercare drug treatment support. It is a balancing act for sure, but one that is certainly achievable.
What to Expect from an Addiction Aftercare Program
An aftercare program with a holistic focus can look quite different from one that takes the typical approach of 12-step group attendance. It is relatively easy to remain sober while attending a drug treatment program with so much built-in accountability. The real test begins when clients return home and must learn new ways to deal with the challenges of life outside of treatment centers.
High-quality aftercare addiction services ensure that clients go home with a plan for how to meet challenges and seek the support and balance they need in recovery. The cost should be part of the overall program at a drug rehabilitation center. Also known as a Relapse Prevention Plan, this document created by drug counselors, families of clients, and clients themselves includes tips to get through each day sober. Most importantly, it includes numerous resources that clients can contact if they are having a difficult time and fear they may relapse without additional support.
Some people will need ongoing counseling for a time after completing treatment. Just knowing this resource is available can help make the earliest days of sobriety at home more manageable. Rather than encourage clients to attend community 12-step groups they may not feel comfortable with, a drug treatment program with a holistic emphasis will assign a counselor to clients on a one-on-one basis. It will then be up to the client to decide if he or she would like to meet in person, speak via a secure online connection, or speak over the phone.
It is also a sign of good aftercare addiction treatment services if the program recommends a quick check-in with a counselor weekly for at least the first several weeks after returning home. This gets addicted people accustomed to managing their sobriety and speaking to someone honestly about their challenges. It differs from a full counseling session as it is typically only a few minutes as opposed to one hour or more. This call is an opportunity for the client to have accountability to someone else for following the Relapse Prevention Plan. He or she will also have the chance to draw on skills and techniques learned in treatment to maintain sobriety each day.
Seeking support at home is an essential part of recovery from drug and alcohol addiction as well. Holistic residential treatment centers will help to facilitate some of these connections regardless of where the patient lives. These could be formal support groups or something a bit more non-traditional such as an exercise class or a group for budding artists. The human connection with people who share similar struggles or interests is often a powerful factor in helping to maintain a healthier lifestyle.
Vocational rehabilitation is yet another important aspect of aftercare addiction treatment services that should be included in individualized planning. This is especially important if the client has lost his or her job due to the consequences of addiction. The plan should address explaining gaps in employment, finding recovery-friendly employers, managing job stress without resorting to using or drinking, and anything else that each client feels might be a problem with employment after returning home.
How to Balance the Demands of Aftercare While Maintaining Consistent Sobriety
The most important thing for people who have completed an inpatient or outpatient alcohol treatment program and who are now in aftercare is that recovery is an ongoing process. That means learning and trying new things each day in addition to making mistakes. It is helpful to frame mistakes in terms of a temporary setback and not a permanent failure. Making mistakes early in recovery can even be helpful in achieving long-term sobriety. Here are four ways that addicted individuals can strive towards maintaining balance each day:
- Consider new commitments carefully: People who have an addictive personality sometimes have difficulty telling others no. This can become especially problematic after finishing treatment at a drug rehabilitation center because they may feel that doing whatever others ask of them is necessary to regain their trust and affection if their addiction caused strain in the relationship. Before taking on any new commitment, such as doing favors for others or a new career opportunity, the addicted person should consider whether he or she is truly ready for this and whether it is in his or her best interest. Recovering addicts often need to guard their time fiercely and put their recovery first. This might even mean saying no to continuing unhealthy relationships.
- Develop a support system early: A person’s aftercare counselor can be a great source of support once he or she has completed a program at residential treatment centers. However, the counselor is only one person and often is not in close proximity due to the availability of traveling to receive holistic drug treatment. It is therefore essential to find family members, friends, co-workers, and other people struggling with addiction recovery to lean on for support. Life can seem extremely overwhelming in the early days and the physical addiction to drink or use may still be present. The ability to call on a support person at any time is invaluable in maintaining sobriety.
- Make self-care a priority: For people addicted to alcohol or drugs, taking good care of themselves goes beyond just maintaining abstinence from their substance of choice. It means striving for ideal physical and emotional health as well. This includes habits such as consuming a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, reducing stressors as much as possible, getting adequate sleep at night, and being around positive people who support their recovery whenever possible. Finding time for themselves each day, even if it is only 15 minutes, is essential to overall well-being. The activity during this time can be as simple as going for a walk or writing in a journal.
- Incorporate gratitude into everyday living: There is no doubt that going through detoxification from alcohol or drugs and then an inpatient or outpatient treatment program is a difficult process. Not only is it physically uncomfortable, but it also forces people to face unpleasant truths about themselves and their past without alcohol or drugs to dull the pain. Nevertheless, recovery can also give people the gift of a new life. Thinking of the hard work of recovery in this light makes it easier to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for the smallest of blessings that happen each day.
Work Hard at Recovery but Put Relapse in Perspective
Addiction is a brain disease that takes a tremendous amount of determination, the right professional help, an excellent aftercare program, and the support of loved ones to overcome. Although no one wants to think about it upon completion of an inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation program, the National Institute on Drug Abuse Prevention estimates that approximately 50 percent of people experience a relapse.
If a relapse should occur, the important thing is to think of it as a setback and not a failure. That can make all the difference in consuming one alcoholic drink and falling back into addiction. People in recovery may sometimes think they have blown it by consuming their preferred substance one time and that they might as well go back to active drinking or using.
However, the chances are high that will not happen if they stop to realize they made a mistake and they can reach out for help without feeling shame. After all, people with other chronic health conditions such as cancer or heart disease have setbacks all the time. They do not feel shame about it and get the medical help they need to continue their recovery. It should be no different for people who have alcoholism or chemical dependency.
A quality aftercare program is extremely helpful if a relapse does occur, especially when the addicted person is still enrolled in it. Even if enough time has passed to where he or she is not checking in with a counselor regularly, that person is a good point of contact to resume sobriety in the future if the situation ever gets to that point. An addicted person will not necessarily need to go through another treatment program if he or she can identify the triggers that lead to the relapse. After doing that, it is important to work with someone to make a plan to avoid the triggers along with what to do instead of drinking or using.
Relapse Does Not Mean That Treatment Failed – Recovery Is a Clean Slate
It can be easy to say that a treatment program was ineffective if a relapse occurs. Rather than assigning blame for what happened, addicted people and those who love them should consider the fact that addiction is a complicated and multi-faceted disease. As with all chronic diseases, it is essential to treat the root cause and continue to follow recommendations for daily recovery. With drug and alcohol addiction, causes can include deeply-rooted behaviors, trauma, mental illnesses, an escape from physical pain, and a multitude of other possibilities. It can take some time and a few false starts to uncover the root cause and learn new life patterns that support long-term sobriety.
Strive for Balance in Aftercare and Beyond
The four strategies listed above are just some of the many things other addicts have found helpful for maintaining life balance as they complete an aftercare program. Some will find them helpful while others may wish to supplement with additional strategies after getting input from their aftercare counselor or people in their core support group. Remember that recovery is a highly individualized process that often requires a flexible attitude an open mind for success.