In a study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers attempted to determine how often people stayed sober, once they’d been released from their formal treatment programs for addiction. The researchers found that almost everyone improved to some degree, but one-third remained free of alcoholism symptoms during the study period.
Entering a treatment program isn’t easy, and people who do so might reasonably want to ensure that they’ll be part of the one-third that stays completely well after the program is complete. Experts might suggest that aftercare plays a role. In an aftercare program, people have access to a variety of therapies that build upon the lessons taught in therapy, and some portions of an aftercare program cover topics that were simply not addressed in the formal treatment program. Here, experts suggest, real healing can take place and a lasting sobriety can be developed and honed. Here are just a few of the components that make up a standard aftercare program.
Support Group Meetings
The majority of the care provided by an addiction treatment program comes from a therapist, counselor or social worker. These people have medical training that allows them to both understand and soothe the distress that drug use can cause. But sometimes, people feel an intense amount of help through interactions with peers. Meeting other people who have addictions and learning from their good examples can help people to develop a more robust set of coping skills, and participation can provide people with a group of peers to lean on when times are tough. Since support groups have been proven helpful to so many people, they’re commonly part of the care provided in an addiction treatment program. But, people are often expected to continue to participate when their formal treatment programs are complete.
A study from the American Journal of Community Psychology might make this mandate a little easier to understand. Here, researchers found that participating in a 12-Step support group in the two years that followed formal treatment was associated with an increased sobriety rate. Those who went to meetings and otherwise participated in a recovery community tended to stay sober, while those who did not participate tended to relapse to addiction.
As part of an aftercare program, the treatment team might help the person to find meetings that are held in nearby areas. The team might also ask the person to outline the frequency that he or she is attending meetings, and then call to ensure that the person is sticking to the plan. In time, going to meetings, working with sponsors and otherwise following the 12 Steps of recovery can seem like a habit, and supervision might not be required.
Once people complete their treatment programs for addiction, they rarely need to head back for another round of intensive care. In fact, in a study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, only eight percent of people who completed a private addiction treatment program were required to re-enroll in the six months that followed.
However, many people who complete a program need to continue to work with their therapists on issues involving:
They might not need care every day or even every week, but they do have real issues that they need to address in order to keep a relapse at bay. Some might have a formal therapy schedule in which they see their therapists bimonthly, then monthly, then every other month, tapering as they grow more confident in sobriety. Others have an informal relationship with therapy, visiting only when they feel the need for help beginning to grow. Either format could be useful.
While therapy and support groups can be vital for people in recovery, the environment a person lives in, and the stresses a person deals with each day, can also have a huge impact on a person’s mental health and susceptibility to relapse.
While addiction treatment programs can provide people with skills they can use to improve their lives, some people need a little extra assistance with basic tasks, such as:
- Finding a job
- Securing a safe place to live
- Obtaining an education
- Dealing with a legal concern
- Pulling together a budget
- Amending a physical complaint
These are the little tasks that can make life more comfortable and less stressful, and a life like this can protect a person from the need to constantly use and abuse drugs. Aftercare programs might facilitate this kind of healing by connecting people with community resources that can help, or some programs might provide courses on site.
Enrolling people in classes regarding job placement, resume building or personal finance could give them the tools they need to live a life that’s safe and satisfying, and this could be key to their long-term sobriety success.
Sober Living Community
While some people can heal with a little outside help from a therapist, a support group or a community program, there are some people who simply can’t deal with the temptations involved with life. When they’re living at home, away from the recovery community, they feel overwhelmed with options, and a relapse might seem as though it’s right around the corner. Sometimes, people like this need a little extra help and support, so they can really take the lessons of recovery to heart.
All residents agree that they won’t use on the premises, and they might endure periodic urine tests to prove their commitment, and all residents agree to support one another on the journey to healing. There are rules regarding behavior, which can help people to learn how to live a sober life, and there is always someone nearby who is willing to listen.
A study in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment suggests that people who participate in programs like this have increased abstinence rates, mainly because they have a higher level of social support for sobriety. Rather than living in communities filled with temptation, they’re surrounded by safety, and by role models who prove that recovery is possible. For some, this is an amazing help.
Addiction treatment facilities might provide sober living homes on the grounds, allowing people to move from the building that houses inpatient care to an outbuilding for sober living when the time is right. Other programs contract with sober homes in the area.
Since social support is so vital to long-term sobriety, it’s not surprising that alumni programs provided by many addiction treatment programs are considered vital by people in recovery. An alumni program allows people to stay in contact with the friends they’ve made in treatment, as well as the therapists who provided them with care. People in recovery might be so concerned about pleasing their peers and counselors that they won’t consider a slip, and staying in touch might remind them of the hard work they’ve put in and the progress they’ve made toward healing, so a relapse is less likely.
Alumni programs also tend to provide people with fun activities, such as:
- Hiking trips
- Bowling nights
- Weekend retreats
- Game nights
These activities serve to remind people that the sober life can be both rewarding and fun, full of all sorts of activities that might be impossible to participate in if drugs are in the picture.
When it comes to essential parts of an aftercare program, a study in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs puts it best. Here, researchers suggest that just enrolling in aftercare and doing what the experts recommend is associated with sobriety, while refusing to enroll and going back to business as usual is associated with relapse. Doing something proactive is always better than allowing the addiction to go unchecked. But looking for a comprehensive aftercare program that is personalized, and that provides many avenues that lead to wellness, is likely to be best for most people.
This is the kind of help we provide at The Oaks at La Paloma. We know that all addictions are different, and that all people need different tools in order to heal. That’s why we take the time to develop an aftercare program that’s made just for you, dealing with your specific needs. If you’d like to know more about the types of components we might include in your aftercare plan, please call.