What if you could go to bed on your last night at your residential treatment facility and, when you wake up, you will be completely sober – and have not a struggle in the world? You will be freed from your addiction and any stronghold it may have on you! It will be time to go live your life without fear! Unfortunately, addiction recovery doesn’t really work that way. No. Recovery is hard and an ongoing challenge. As much as you want to feel like you are completely free from addiction, you know you still have the battle to face – every single day. That is why it is a promising idea to take the time to hone your skills in aftercare.
What is an aftercare program?
Aftercare programs are those programs that bridge together everything that you have learned in treatment and what you are afraid to face as you integrate back into the real world – instead of just jumping right back into life again. In other words, aftercare programs give you a chance to get one foot back in reality while keeping the other connected with some sober assistance.
This bridge was built after there was a need discovered concerning the elevated level of relapse in those who successfully complete a treatment program.
Types of aftercare programs
Everyone is different and everyone finds success in diverse ways. Therefore, to find success in an aftercare program, you need to choose a program that is right for you. A few of the types of aftercare programs available are:
- Various 12-step programs
- Sober living homes
- Halfway houses
- Group counseling
- Support groups
- Continuous individual therapy
- Meetings with an addiction specialist
- Attendance in educational settings to learn new coping and daily living skills
Or, any combination of the above.
What do aftercare programs focus on?
Aftercare programs vary depending on what type you choose. Some may focus on coping skills, others may focus on having a dedicated support system. Other programs may focus on uncovering deeply embedded emotions that stem from a rough patch in your childhood.
It doesn’t necessarily matter what each focus is, but what the overall goal of each of the programs – and that goal is to help maintain sobriety while successfully reintegrating back into society. It takes something different to help each person do just that.
Why is it important? Does it increase the chance of a successful recovery?
Depending on factors such as your substance of choice, your past, the length of your addiction, and so much more, you can have up to an 85% chance of relapsing within the first year of recovery. After all the work you put into it, taking a step back would be frustrating and could jeopardize everything.
That is why aftercare is important. Rather than stepping away from the treatment center and relying solely on yourself, aftercare programs keep you connected with individuals who want to see you succeed.
Aftercare programs are thought to increase your success in recovery by helping you:
- Increase your arsenal of coping skills
- Strengthen your support group
- Increase your self-confidence and ability to trust yourself
- Learn to become self-sufficient with your own sobriety.
How long should it last?
Aftercare programs can last for as long as you need them. They are available to help you. Until you feel confident and strong in your ability to maintain your sobriety, you need to make use of these programs.
Typically, most aftercare programs last between 90 days and one year. However, it really depends on where you are in your recovery, how far you have come, and how far you still have to go. There is no set rule on how long it should last. Although not continuously a part of an official aftercare plan, some individuals stay connected with some form of aftercare for many, many years. For example, attending AA and NA meetings or attending support groups and therapy.
Things to look for in your aftercare program
Not all aftercare programs are created equal. So, it is important to make sure you review the ins and outs of each program before you sign up. Discuss your options with your therapist to determine the best aftercare plan for you. Consider these factors:
- Speak to those who run the program and ask about the dropout. Due to the nature of the program, it will likely have a dropout rate around 50%. Anything more than this should be a bright red flag.
- Aftercare programs who like to keep their dropout rate lower will offer services that will work to combat it. For example, offering transportation to and from its program. After all, a simple dilemma of getting from point A to point B could mean the difference between relapsing or not.
- Look for a program that believes in focusing on relationships – as this will help you maintain your relationship with your support system, as well as mend broken relationships from your past. You need healthy relationships.
- The program should provide knowledge and tools of things that will benefit you and build you up for a successful recovery and successful reintegration into society. For example, financial and money-managing skills, educational skills, job skills, and parenting skills.
- Because you will need support in finding and maintaining housing and employment, you will want to ensure that the aftercare program offers services in job assistance and/or placement, as well as housing assistance.
- Why are you interested in aftercare? To avoid relapse. Therefore, the program you find should teach relapse prevention.
These are all characteristics of a program that will help you on your mission to sobriety. These can be incorporated into the several types of aftercare programs available – counseling, support groups, sober living homes, etc.
While it may be enticing to jump back into life once you complete your treatment program, it is best to do so slowly. Making the decision to incorporate an aftercare program into your recovery may just be the thing you need to avoid a relapse.