Once you complete rehab, an aftercare and alumni program can help you continue healing and transitioning back into your new sober lifestyle. What is aftercare for addiction recovery, exactly? And why is it so important?
What Is Aftercare for Addiction Recovery?
Aftercare addresses the ongoing support and treatment needs after completing an initial rehab program. It involves continued therapy, support groups, and other resources to help individuals maintain their sobriety and prevent relapse.
Completing rehab isn’t the end of the recovery journey. Focus and dedication are needed to stay on the path of sobriety and avoid triggers that may lead to relapse. Aftercare provides crucial tools and support to help individuals navigate these challenges and build a strong foundation for lasting recovery.
Why Is Aftercare Important?
Addiction is a chronic disease that requires ongoing management and care, much like other chronic illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease. Just as someone wouldn’t stop taking medication or attending doctor appointments for these conditions, individuals in recovery need continued support to stay on track.
Aftercare also helps individuals maintain the progress they made in rehab and build upon it. It provides a safe space to discuss challenges and receive guidance from professionals and peers who understand what they are going through.
When Does Aftercare Start?
Soon after rehabilitation ends, your coordinator or your main therapist will work with you to create a post-discharge aftercare plan. The goal is to keep you happy, healthy, and sober. The point of aftercare isn’t just to keep you from drinking or doing drugs. The intent is to keep you actively involved in recovery as you make the transition into the real world from inpatient or outpatient rehab. For many, it’s important to avoid “trigger” situations that may tempt you to begin using substances again.
Triggers refer to anything that makes you want to use drugs or alcohol again. They can be people, places, situations, emotions, or even thoughts. Triggers can vary from person to person and may change over time. Aftercare programs provide tools and strategies to identify and manage these triggers effectively.
What Is an Aftercare Program for Addiction Recovery Like?
For many, it’s important to avoid triggering situations that may tempt you to begin using it again. So, a lot of aftercare programming will involve relapse prevention and trigger management. This can:
- Help you make the right choices, from choosing not to use drugs or alcohol to eating right
- Teach you to cope with stress and strong emotions like anxiety and depression
- Help you identify your triggers and avoid them
- Teach you to minimize relapses and avoid slipping back into destructive habits
- Give you the resources to prevent relapse and make the right kind of friends
Support groups are also significant components of aftercare programs. These provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals to share their experiences, receive encouragement, and connect with others who are going through similar challenges. Finding a program that supports your recovery through evidence-based relapse prevention methods and relatable support groups can help you maintain sobriety.
What to Look For in Aftercare and Alumni Programs
Effective aftercare treatment is important. To be effective, treatment should:
- Address the individual’s drug abuse and any associated medical, psychological, social, vocational, and legal problems
- Be appropriate to the individual’s age, gender, ethnicity, and culture
- Integrate FDA-approved medications, an important element of treatment for many patients, especially when combined with counseling and other behavioral therapies
- Monitor drug use during treatment continuously, as lapses during treatment do occur
- Include family to begin rebuilding bonds through counseling, education, and support groups
It’s important to look for aftercare programs that address all of these issues. If you’re unsure what may be the right course of action for you, talk to your rehab coordinator or call Northpoint Washington’s rehab program at 425.437.3298 for details.
How Long Should Aftercare Last?
Some individuals need to follow up for years before they settle into a healthy lifestyle where they don’t require regular check-ins. For some, aftercare lasts a lifetime. It’s not unusual for aftercare activities such as AA, group therapy, or individual therapy to become a part of a daily routine.
Relapse usually happens within the first three months of completion of a rehabilitation program, so it’s important to remember that the longer you go without relapsing, the better your chances of lifelong success. Aftercare is shown to increase the likelihood of success because it gives you coping resources.
Do You Need Aftercare Once You Finish Rehab?
Anyone who enters a rehabilitation program should absolutely begin aftercare. Consider it one aspect of the entire rehab timeline. Recovery doesn’t end when you leave a treatment center. You are not somehow “cured” of your addiction. If you live with any of the following, aftercare is especially vital:
Physical Medical Issues
Many in recovery suffer from medical issues that can include:
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Autoimmune diseases
Managing these conditions by doctors unfamiliar with your addiction could lead to a relapse. Thankfully, aftercare specialists know how to deal with these co-occurring medical issues.
Mental Health Issues
A large percentage of people living with substance abuse also live with co-occurring mental health conditions. Skipping aftercare and trying to manage mental health alone or with a provider who doesn’t know about your history with substances can be dangerous. Most reputable aftercare programs will have a mental health expert to help manage your treatment. If you are looking for an aftercare program, make sure they offer mental health support.
No Support at Home
Many in recovery have lost ties with family during their time in active addiction. They may have lost friends or have friends that would not be helpful for their sobriety. In aftercare, it’s important that you be surrounded by people who understand you and want you to continue to stay healthy. Through group therapies, 12-step programs, and individual therapies, you’ll have the support you need to sustain your recovery. For those who have no safe home to go to post-rehab, sober living communities may be a good fit for long-term aftercare. These are environments free from drugs, have affordable housing, and provide emotional support to residents.
Aftercare Helps You Build a Support Network for Years to Come
Aftercare will introduce you to a wide network of individuals who have gone through a similar program or are medical or health professionals. When you participate in aftercare, you’ll have access to these amazing people.
- Alumni groups – The best rehab programs keep in touch with their program graduates and invite them to help new members. This gives you a chance to stay in touch with your new friends. It’s also common for alumni organizations to host fun, drug, and alcohol-free events for members and their families.
- Sponsors – Most 12-step aftercare programs will assign you a sponsor. This person will guide you along with your re-introduction into the world. A sponsor has already gone through the program and is still involved in the recovery process.
- Support groups – There are a number of specialized support groups depending on your addiction. Support groups aren’t limited to those in recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, either. If you binge eat, use more than one drug, or live with mental health issues, there is likely a group just for you. Talk to your rehab coordinator or search the internet for local groups in your area.
- Life coaches – When mustering the willpower and energy to choose to do healthy things for your body, it can be difficult to do it alone. Life coaches are often trained therapists or counselors who work with you to achieve your personal goals.
Your support network will be unique to you. You may choose to attend some of these options for a lifetime, while others may only be needed during the first few months post-rehab. Remember that your support network is there to provide guidance and encouragement as you navigate through life’s challenges without substances.
Call Northpoint Washington Today
Finding the right rehabilitation and aftercare program is the first step in making a big, healthy change in your life. Contact us online or call 425.437.3298 and take the first step toward a healthier future. We offer inpatient addiction treatment followed by aftercare and alumni support that can help you maintain your progress.