What Are Aftercare Programs?
For many, the process of recovery from alcohol addiction does not come to an end after detoxification or even after the completion of a residential or outpatient treatment program. Indeed, maintaining and protecting one’s sobriety is often a lifelong endeavor. That’s why aftercare programs, which are designed to equip those in recovery with the tools needed to navigate the new landscape of their lives, are so crucially important.
Studies have shown that those who engage in aftercare programs are far more likely to remain abstinent from alcohol than those who do not participate in such programs. With the recidivism rate for individuals in recovery from alcohol addiction so high, there’s no room to discount the significance of quality aftercare.
Aftercare Programs: Staying In A Sober Living House
One of the main contributing factors to relapse, especially in the early stages of recovery, is returning to an environment in which one was previously abusing drugs or alcohol. Familiar triggers, including places where one used to drink and friends and acquaintances one used to drink with, can be too powerful for someone whose sobriety is still fragile.
That’s why sober living houses exist. These aftercare programs, which are often self-funded and based around 12-step philosophy, provide a safe and stable environment free from drugs and alcohol. Individuals work together to stay sober, maintain the shared living space by doing chores and other tasks, and own the responsibility of paying rent and becoming contributing members of the community who can, in turn and over time, help others recover from addiction as well.
The length of a stay in a sober living house can vary. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recommends staying in a sober living house for at least 90 days, but many facilities allow individuals to stay as long as they like as long as the rules governing the house’s operation are followed and respected. For those looking for a sense of community and structure after rehab who aren’t quite ready to return to the stressors and triggers of their old lives, a supportive sober living house could be the right choice to continue progressing and advancing in recovery.
Attending Recovery Meetings
Regular recovery meetings, such as those offered by Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), can be instrumental in giving support and guidance to someone in early recovery. These types of aftercare programs are some of the most well-known, and a circle of chairs spread out in a vacant gym, church, or conference room is a common image when it comes to depictions of recovery and addiction in popular culture.
Some of the benefits of attending recovery meetings may include the support one receives from other addicts or alcoholics who are able to relate, empathize, share stories, and offer advice. These types of meetings could also be used to find a sponsor- someone who would serve in a mentor-like capacity to provide encouragement and guidance to an individual looking to guard their burgeoning sobriety.
Recovery meetings are often based around the 12 Steps, which is a philosophy of treating addiction that involves admitting that life has become unmanageable, getting connected with a power greater than self, making right by those one has previously wronged in their former lifestyle, and trying to help other addicts and alcoholics get sober.
12-step programs can often be very spiritual in nature and allow the attendee to define their relationship with God or a higher power in whatever terms they choose. This philosophy may not be empowering or effective for some, however, which is why many alternatives to 12-step programs exist. Organizations like SMART Recovery provide a more scientifically-based foundation for treating addiction and are just as valid as 12-step programs for those seeking support in recovery meetings.
Drug and alcohol addiction can often co-occur with a variety of mental health and mood disorders, which can make getting and staying clean stressful and challenging. That’s why one key element to consider for those looking for aftercare programs is therapy. Some inpatient and outpatient treatment centers offer aftercare or continuing care once an individual completes the acute and intensive phases. This type of aftercare usually consists of participating in therapeutic process groups once a week or individual therapy.
Therapy can be a loaded word, and many people have negative associations or experiences when they try to imagine getting help from a therapist. But there are dozens, if not hundreds, of different types of therapy. That means if one form is a poor fit, there are always alternatives that might work better.
One popular form of therapy is Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This can involve working to view one’s thoughts objectively, identify and analyze negative thinking patterns, and replace harmful beliefs and thoughts with more empowering messages instead. There’s also Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which involves making peace with unpleasant emotions and learning tools to create harmony in the relationships in one’s life.
Additionally, someone in recovery could benefit from play therapy, art therapy, music therapy, family therapy, or a host of other options. By releasing trauma, addressing deep-seated concerns, and making progress in one’s interpersonal and intrapersonal life, it’s possible to gain a new understanding of oneself and one’s addiction that could be hugely beneficial in maintaining lifelong sobriety.
Changing Lifestyle Choices
It’s easier and more rewarding to stay sober when feeling healthy and taking good care of oneself. Things like getting vigorous physical exercise, maintaining a nutritious diet, and practicing mindfulness techniques like yoga and meditation are all ways to promote inner health and wellness. Often, alcohol abuse can contribute to poor dietary choices and a sedentary lifestyle, so there can be a lot of room to improve these areas for the individual in recovery. Consider this a golden opportunity: the ability to make lasting, meaningful changes that will allow for a longer and richer life.
Getting Help Now
There’s no shortage of aftercare programs and resources for the individual in recovery. That’s why, if you’re looking to get clean and sober from alcohol, there’s no reason to hold off any longer. Contact a treatment provider now to learn more about treatment options.
Author: William Henken | Last Edited: June 23, 2022
Medical Reviewer: Dayna Smith-Slade