It is tempting for those who have made it through an addiction treatment program to conclude that their problems are over. Getting help for an addiction is a great achievement but it is not the end of the story. It would be fairer to say that the real work begins after the initial treatment period. This is why it is generally agreed that some type of aftercare is required, particularly during the first couple of years of recovery.
Aftercare refers to any subsequent interventions that follow the initial treatment. In the case of addiction treatment, it will often refer to the additional support that is given following release from the residential part of the program. This may occur in the form of support groups, booster sessions, counseling, or follow-up meetings. The aftercare can be in the form of debriefings, or it may involve teaching new skills and coping strategies.
Up to 50% of those who make it through an addiction treatment program will later relapse. Those who relapse may never get another opportunity to recover. This is a depressing fact, but the good news is that relapse is preventable. The highest risk of relapse is during the first 60 days following discharge from a rehab. This risk remains high for the first five years of recovery.
When the individual leaves a treatment facility they will usually be highly motivated and confident about the future. They have made it through physical withdrawals and a can now see how a life without substance abuse is possible. Their self-efficacy is high. They should rightly feel proud of their achievement. Once they return to normal living though, they can find that recovery is more of a challenge.
Staying off alcohol or drugs is harder in the outside world then it is in a residential treatment facility. There is a lot of support in rehab and the individual is protected from temptation. A return to normality can come as a shock. The individual is once again surrounded by temptation and they now lack the support found in rehab. It can be a real struggle not to be drawn back to familiar behavior.
There are a number of reasons why people relapse after a period of recovery. Motivation can wane if there is not a concerted effort to keep focused on living free of alcohol and drugs. The individual can begin to feel that their problems are behind them and that no special effort is required to stay sober. They then forget the reasons that drove them into recovery in the first place. The pain of their rock bottom is forgotten. If they fail to put enough effort into staying sober, they stop progressing and life in recovery becomes unsatisfying. They may react to this by once again returning to addiction.
Another reason why people relapse is that they fail to pick up the necessary coping strategies needed to live comfortably in recovery. Life will always have ups and downs and the individual needs to be able to handle both. Addicts will turn to substance abuse in the first place because they are unable to cope with life. If the individual just gets sober without developing new ways of coping, they will continue to struggle and may relapse.
Those who receive some type of aftercare are less likely to relapse and more likely to live longer. This aftercare can keep the individual motivated and provide support when things get difficult. The individual who goes through a treatment facility will pick up a lot of knowledge and skills, but most of the learning needs to occur during normal everyday living. As the person in recovery is faced with new problems, they will be encouraged to find new solutions. This way they will build up effective coping strategies over time.
Those who return to substance abuse tend to follow a certain pattern called the relapse process. This begins with becoming stuck in recovery. This process leading to relapse can be stopped at any time and aftercare is the most effective way of doing this. Those who continue to receive support are far more aware of relapse triggers. They are also more likely to spot the warning signs that they are moving towards a relapse.
There are a number of aftercare options. Some of these will be provided by a rehab for those who have passed through their residential program. Other types of aftercare can be arranged by the individual themselves.
* Twelve Step Groups are the most well known of all the aftercare options. The members are encouraged to attend regularly for the rest of their life. Those who are new to recovery may be advised to try to attend ninety meetings in ninety days. The 12 step program offers a way of life that works well for many people. There is also an important social element to these groups with events like conventions, conferences, and dances.
* As well as the 12 step programs, there are other Support Groups available. Not everyone is comfortable with the spiritual aspect of groups like AA, so these other groups offer a good alternative. Rational Recovery is probably one of the most well known of these other options.
* Booster sessions are offered following rehab. This is not something yet offered by many treatment facilities, but there is a lot of support for their effectiveness. These sessions occur a few months after the individual has left rehab. They will be debriefed about their experiences in early recovery, and new coping strategies and skills are taught. These sessions will have the effect of rejuvenating the individual’s motivation and reducing the risk of relapse.
* Counseling Sessions are another option for aftercare. Here the individual will be able to talk about any problems as they arise, and look at those issues that drove them to addiction in the first place.
* Dual diagnosis support is required when an individual has another mental health problem as well as their addiction. A lot of addicts can also suffer from depression or other types of mental problems that need addressing. These mental health issues can occur as a result of addiction, or they may have been there prior to addiction. Failure to treat a dual diagnosis will mean that life in recovery is unsatisfactory and can easily lead to relapse. The type of support required will depend on the nature of the dual diagnosis.