Why is Aftercare So Important for Addiction Recovery?

by | Feb 5, 2022 | Addiction | 0 comments

Deciding to get help for substance abuse is essential to help someone with addiction reclaim their life. In addition to going through detox and rehab, a person with a drug or alcohol addiction needs aftercare to maintain their long-term recovery. Aftercare is a critical component of recovery and can help individuals prevent or handle relapses.

Moving Beyond Rehab

Deciding to detox and enter addiction treatment is a major step in recovery. But the reality is that treatment is simply the beginning of recovery. Once an individual completes a treatment program, they need to begin aftercare.

Any care that someone receives after leaving rehab is referred to as aftercare. Some form of aftercare may last the remainder of the person’s life, and it plays a significant role in helping someone with an addiction navigate their return to everyday life. Some of the most common types of aftercare include counseling, sober living spaces, 12-step meetings, and outpatient care. The person’s attention to aftercare can determine their success in maintaining their recovery.

Why Aftercare?

The period after a person’s initial treatment phase can be challenging as they learn to cope with triggers, stress, and cravings. Having a plan in place — complete with activities, interventions, and resources — can increase their ability to navigate any issues that may arise.

A person’s aftercare plan will vary depending on their own needs. Most plans include one or more of the following components:

  • Participating in the alumni program of the treatment program they attended
  • Moving into a sober living house for a period of time
  • Attending a recovery or 12-step meeting regularly
  • Finding a sponsor and creating a sober support system
  • Attending counseling, whether as an individual or in a group setting

The idea behind an aftercare plan is to help people in recovery remain sober and avoid relapse.

Creating an Aftercare Plan

To create an effective aftercare plan, the person in recovery should consider their own situation. This means considering their housing situation, employment, and continued treatment needs.

For instance, if they don’t have access to a safe and stable living situation, they may need to consider living in a sober house for a period. If they lose their job due to addiction, they may need assistance finding new employment.

The length of time someone must follow their aftercare plan will vary. Some may need a higher level of care only for a few weeks, while others may need more care for months. Most people in recovery will need some form of aftercare — even as basic as attending 12-step meetings — for the rest of their life.

Individuals in recovery may need to modify or adapt their aftercare plan as their needs or situation changes. They should always remain honest and open about potential challenges or issues so they can face them head-on. Not doing so only increases the individual’s chances of relapse.

If Relapse Happens

An aftercare plan can help prevent relapse but can’t eliminate the possibility altogether. If a person finds themselves using substances, they must ask for help. They can seek medical assistance to manage withdrawal symptoms. The person should also talk to their support group peers to help them begin recovery again. Finally, it is essential not to try to get sober independently. Getting help managing any cravings and negative thoughts that may come after a relapse can aid the person in resuming a sober life.

Signs of relapse include:

  • Changing priorities, where recovery becomes unimportant
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Magical thinking
  • Isolation
  • Destabilized emotions
  • Withdrawal from support groups
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • General discontent

If a friend or loved one notices any relapse signs, they can help by removing the person from the environment where they drink or use drugs. They can also contact the individual’s therapists to let them know the person has relapsed. Additionally, the family member or friend can express their concern for their loved one and offer to help them seek treatment.

Recovery is a long and ongoing process for many living with the disease of addiction. Relapse is not a sign that the person has failed or can never learn to manage their addiction in the long term. However, relapse does indicate that the current treatment method needs to be updated and improved.

Remember, Relapse Is Not A Failure

While relapse is not a failure, it can be dangerous. This is because a person’s tolerance for a drug will decline once they are no longer actively addicted. If they return to using and take the amount they were accustomed to before they got sober, they could put themselves at serious risk of an overdose.

To help prevent a relapse, a person in recovery should identify their triggers. These can be people, places, or emotions that cause the individual to crave alcohol or drugs. Avoiding these triggers is essential, especially during the early days of sobriety.

Additionally, individuals in recovery should develop a plan to manage their reactions should they encounter a trigger. This can include a variety of coping strategies, from journaling to breathing exercises.

Because drug or alcohol addiction is a chronic disease, relapse shouldn’t be considered a failure. If relapse does occur, the person in recovery should reexamine their aftercare plan. They may need to resume active treatment or modify their care in other ways.

Adjusting An Aftercare Plan After Relapse

Adjusting an aftercare plan after a drug or alcohol relapse is crucial in supporting recovery and preventing further setbacks.

Firstly, addressing the relapse openly and honestly is essential, recognizing that it is a temporary setback, not a failure. A revised aftercare plan can be developed with the help of a professional counselor or therapist. This may involve reassessing triggers and high-risk situations, identifying underlying issues or unaddressed emotions, and modifying coping strategies. Additional support systems such as increased therapy sessions, attending support groups, or involving loved ones in the recovery process may be incorporated. Self-care practices, such as exercise, meditation, and engaging in hobbies, can also play a vital role in maintaining sobriety. Regular evaluation and adjustments to the aftercare plan will help ensure it remains tailored to the individual’s evolving needs throughout their recovery journey.

Individuals who have relapsed can adjust their aftercare plan by:

  • Acknowledging the relapse openly and without self-judgment.
  • Seeking professional guidance from a counselor or therapist experienced in addiction recovery.
  • Reflecting on the triggers and high-risk situations that led to the relapse.
  • Identifying any underlying issues or unaddressed emotions may have contributed to the relapse.
  • Modifying coping strategies to address the identified triggers and high-risk situations better.
  • Increasing the frequency of therapy sessions to delve deeper into recovery and explore new coping mechanisms.
  • Exploring joining or attending support groups to connect with others who are going through similar challenges.
  • Involving loved ones in the recovery process to enhance support and accountability.
  • Integrating self-care practices, such as regular exercise, meditation, and hobbies, into the aftercare plan.
  • Regularly evaluating and reassessing the adjusted aftercare plan to ensure it remains aligned with the individual’s evolving needs and progress.

Let Us Be Your Bridge Of Hope

Bridges of Hope’s treatment philosophy is based on a comprehensive and integrated approach to addressing all issues related to substance use and mental health disorders. Utilizing therapeutically proven, evidence-based clinical practices, Bridges of Hope provides superior patient care in Indiana through its all-inclusive treatment services. Contact us today to learn more.