In some ways, the stay at the rehabilitation facility is the easy part. Maintaining sobriety while you are out there alone, surrounded by temptations is more complicated. That’s where aftercare comes in.
Aftercare is part of the rehabilitation process – continuing to reinforce the lessons learned while in residential treatment. It can include attending twelve step meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, seeing a therapist, group therapy, or outpatient care.
An aftercare plan is usually developed in the final days or weeks of residential treatment, and must involve the patient’s family or other support network. The plans are written for the individual – some people do well attending twelve step meetings and regular therapy sessions. Others may need a halfway house where they can work during the day, but return to a controlled environment at night. The most intensive aftercare may mean staying at the residential facility for the first dangerous months. Patients who do not have family or a network of sober friends can benefit by maintaining a strict routine while learning to function in the real world.
Aftercare is not program just for the weak willed. It is an important part of every recovering addict’s care when they return home and must deal with the pressures of relationships, work, and home with easy access to drugs and alcohol. Individuals who feel alone and vulnerable can fall into familiar, destructive behaviors.
Families sometimes want to declare an addict cured when they leave rehab. Sometimes they desperately want to get on with life and consider their loved one’s addiction just a bump in the road. Sometimes they indulge in “magical thinking”- not discussing an addiction means it didn’t happen.
Over half the patients who complete rehabilitation relapse within their first year of sobriety. Returning to their old surroundings and old friends can lead to falling back on old habits. A thoughtful aftercare plan can help reinforce new habits of sobriety and healthful living.