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How to Prevent Relapse With Addiction Recovery Aftercare


Completing a substance abuse program of any kind is a huge accomplishment, especially detox or inpatient rehab.

You left your entire life as you knew it as an addict. You made a great sacrifice. You put in the time and the effort to get sober. You received your tokens and certificates, you learned all new coping skills, and you are motivated to stay sober.

While you feel confident in your recovery, don’t stop now.

Prevent Relapse With Addiction Recovery Aftercare

Aftercare may be one of the most important elements of your recovery process.

This is the stage you begin implementing all that you were taught during detox and initial treatments. Some call the period following detox the “rehab high”, meaning the feeling of being sober, more sober than you have been in years, makes you feel like you are on a high. This is a scary place to be and all the more reason to have an aftercare plan. This is also the stage where you are most vulnerable and can relapse.

Aftercare programs have proven to produce positive results in people who complete their entire treatment plan. Unfortunately, sometimes counselors struggle to engage clients for a long term period. Clients are eager to get back home with their families and some feel they do not need aftercare to help them remain in recovery. However, just the opposite is true. This false sense of confidence can lead you to make unhealthy decisions. Although your intentions are superior, it takes a long time and a lot of ups and downs to truly be confident in your recovery. Aftercare programs are a sure way to enhance this confidence.

Benefits of Aftercare

There are benefits to every type of aftercare program. There are even positive benefits for your family and close friends when they attend aftercare programs with you. If you are all on the same page, there is less room for error.  You just need to find the right aftercare program with the right counselors to meet your needs.

Relapse rates are much higher for the addicts who do not follow an individualized aftercare plan. Even if you just choose one form of aftercare, you will have a better outcome. Knowing the difference between the types of aftercare programs can help.

Types of Aftercare

Aftercare can include inpatient or outpatient treatment and usually follows a detoxification period, even if brief. Included in an aftercare plan can be any or all of the following: individual counseling, group therapy, family therapy, and 12 step programs. Of course your success rate increases when you participate in a variety of programs. The more therapy you receive, the better your recovery will be.

Individual therapy usually implements cognitive behavioral techniques that teach you how to change behaviors that otherwise may lead to relapse. For instance, it can teach you how to cope with cravings for alcohol or drugs.

Group therapy has many advantages. It allows you to offer support to others while also receiving support from your peers. It also offers a lot of educational information about recovery and opportunities for conflict resolution practice.

Family therapy is where you and your family get help. They learn how to help you in your recovery and you all learn how to set necessary boundaries. Sometimes your family members will need to learn how to function with you being sober and they also need to develop a plan of action in case you relapse.

12 step programs are similar to group therapies. They offer continued support from people who are going through the exact same thing as you. Alcoholics anonymous and narcotics anonymous are the two major types of 12 step programs.

Skills Training

Looking to the future, aftercare plans may begin including skills training, which has been proven to benefit the clients who have a history of addiction. Avoiding relapse can seem impossible without skills such as emotion regulation and conflict resolution skills.

Let’s say you have been sober for six months. You are doing great except you just lost your job. On top of that a few days later you are in a car accident but can’t afford to fix your car. Now you have no job and no car. A few weeks after that you get an eviction notice from your landlord because you are late on the rent. Your stress level is at an all-time high. Your emotions seem like they are on a never-ending roller coaster. Being able to regulate your emotions during times like this is so important for your recovery. If you are not able to regulate emotions then you will be extremely vulnerable. And when your old drug buddy shows up with a “free sample”, you are more likely to say yes, sending you into a full blown relapse situation.

Dealing with conflict for any addict is hard because relationships in general are hard. Addicts are not the greatest at maintaining positive relationships so it makes sense they can’t deal with conflicts in relationships very well. You have to learn to be assertive and stand up for yourself when necessary. You must also learn to have healthy arguments, where you can disagree with someone but it doesn’t have to escalate into a fight. The emotions that accompany fights can lead to relapse. It can seem much easier to take a pill to help you zone out from the effects of an argument. However, learning to deal with those emotions properly will aid in your successful recovery.

Creative Planning

The good news is that you can create an aftercare program just for you. There are counselors for just about every problem so it makes it easy for you to develop an individualized aftercare plan. Develop your plan based on your needs whether it is with substances, finances, sex, career, or family relationships. The older version of aftercare is gone. While you still need help with the traditional elements of triggers and relationships, aftercare plans today are much more realistic and are different for each person.

Be creative with your aftercare. Getting help in all areas of your life is beneficial. Make a list of the areas in your life that could possibly cause a trigger for relapse. Then add that area to your aftercare plan, find someone who can teach you, and implement what you learn.

Nobody ever said recovery is easy, which makes you appreciate your accomplishment even more. Participating in aftercare programs shows your level of commitment to your recovery and to your drug free self. Stay strong and stay committed. You are a recovery rock star.  Be proud of yourself!