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Aftercare: How to Maintain Sobriety after Rehab

Despite what you might encounter that suggests the opposite, rehabilitation works. However, it only works if you work at it too. Rehab is much like school in that the harder you try, the more you will be rewarded. If you are a substance addict and you enter into a treatment program, you enter into a social contract as well. Do everything you can to get and remain sober, and the members of our team will do everything they can as well.

Another way rehab is like school is that it can be scary to leave. For a recovering addict, rehab is a haven of safety, care, and sobriety without temptation. Upon completing a treatment program, recovering addicts are put back into the real world. Temptations come out. Triggers to use again are set off by people, places and things. It can be scary when treatment ends…

…but it doesn’t have to be.

The medical definition of ‘aftercare’ as defined by Merriam-Webster is “the care, treatment, help, or supervision given to persons discharged from an institution”. Aftercare for a recovering addict fresh out of rehab is absolutely crucial in order to avoid relapse and maintain a healthy and sober lifestyle.

The majority of rehabilitation facilities offer aftercare as an additional package when entering into treatment. However, the help of the facility is half the battle. The other half is you. So, let’s explore aftercare for recovering addicts. Let’s talk about what the aftercare offered by rehabs entails, and then let’s talk about aftercare for the self. We will conclude with the four major aspects of aftercare for a recovering addict who has recently (and successfully) completed a treatment program.

Relapse is Real

Listen. We’re not here to lie to you. Approximately four out of every five recovering addicts who complete a treatment program will relapse, according to Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Consider the following, taken from the results section: “Adults were most likely to relapse in negative intrapersonal states (66.9%; most often when coping with frustration/anger or depression) or in other intrapersonal states (95%). Within other intrapersonal states, adults were most likely to relapse when coping with urges and temptations to use either in the presence (55%) or absence (26%) of cues.”

Let’s break that down. An ‘intrapersonal state’ is essentially a scientific way of describing one’s current state of mind. Something that is intrapersonal exists only within the self. So, the first half of the statement from the study is saying that state of mind is a crucial element in relapsing. When state of mind is negative, such as during depression, as stated, relapse is much more likely.

The second half of the statement is saying that triggers (cues) are another crucial element of relapsing. This is fairly obvious, and any recovering addict will understand. Anything can be a trigger: a song, a place, a memory, a person, a dream, etc. It may be physically impossible to avoid triggers. That’s why it’s uber-important to learn how to cope with them. That being said, let’s discuss what aftercare offered from Arrow Passage Recovery consists of.

Aftercare from APR

relapse prevention planIt’s important to note that aftercare in the rehabilitation sense does not begin the first day one completes a program. Aftercare is a constant consideration in every single treatment plan. From day-one treatment to last-day dismissal, staff members will prepare you for life after rehab. You will learn and develop methods and tools to fight the urge to use again, to prevent relapse, to maintain sobriety, to face temptation.

It’s more than likely that whichever facility you choose will personalize your aftercare. Everyone is different, and everyone has different states of mind and different triggers. Treatment center staff members are here to team up with you and discover what works best to achieve peace of mind and to work through triggers.

Short of purchasing aftercare options provided by professionals, (which we discuss next), aftercare provided by rehab itself ends there. While one will indeed receive priceless information during one’s stay, treatment ends when treatment ends. This is why it’s critical to set up a personal aftercare program – one that will last the rest of your life.

Aftercare from Yourself

You read that correctly – and if you’ve put some thought into it, you see how sobriety is a lifelong job for recovering addicts. However, it will get easier in time. Humans are creatures of habit, after all, and if sobriety becomes one of the focal points of your life, it will become routine not to use. So, as promised, let’s discuss four major aspects of aftercare from yourself.

1. Surround Yourself with the Sober

The easiest way to relapse post-rehab is to hang around the people you used with. The presence of the substance, along with the peer pressure and the environment, will all but surely cause a relapse. It’s important that you establish a network of sober people. If it is alcohol or something else legal and prevalent that you are recovering from, you may find it difficult to avoid. For example, your best friends might all drink. It’s important to only be around those who will support your sobriety.

To further illustrate this point, here’s a short story. John just got out of rehab for problematic drinking. His two best friends, Mary and Al, are both drinkers. John does not want to lose his friends, so he asks them to respect his situation when hanging out. Mary never has alcohol out when John comes over, and never mentions it. However, Al can’t help but brag about his new bar. Hang out with the Mary’s and not the Al’s of the world.

That all being said, if you are recovering from an illicit substance, avoid users at all costs. There is a thick line between people having some beers and people shooting heroin.

The hardest part of surrounding yourself with the sober will indeed be cutting out those who are not sober. If you truly care about your recovery and sobriety, though, you will cut them out. Plus, if they are true friends, they’ll understand and likely do whatever they can to help you, even if it is from a distance.

It is strongly recommended not just by us but by nearly everyone in the field to join some type of sober community. Examples include Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), church group meetings, or programs such as SMART Recovery. Taking the time to truly commit to communities such as these will not only benefit your sobriety, but allow you to meet people just like you. We’re not suggesting that every recovering addict need an entirely new friend base. However, if that’s necessary for you, then it’s necessary.

2. Prevent a Relapse

Addiction is one hell of a thing. Surrounding yourself with sober people probably isn’t enough to permanently keep you sober. Preventing relapse, (as opposed to reacting if and when it happens), is equally important as making sure you’re around the right people. We recommend creating a relapse prevention plan, something actually on paper. There are several different worksheets available with a quick Google image search of ‘relapse prevention plan’ but here are the basics.

List a few activities or forms of entertainment that keep your mind off of using. These will be your coping skills. If and when you find your mind drifting into bad territory, go do what it is you love to do that doesn’t involve using. Watch a movie. Play the guitar. Read a book. Play a video game. Order Chinese food delivery.

Whatever it is you have on your list of coping skills, just make sure it’s not harmful. DO NOT replace one substance with another. You do not want to find yourself in the same situation as before, just with another abusable substance.

Also list a few contacts in case of an emergency situation. It’s vital you actually call them if and when you find yourself on the brink of using. DO NOT use them as a lifeline. DO NOT use them as excuses to be able to use again. They are there to talk you out of it, not empathize with you after you do it.

Lastly, when it comes to preventing relapse, remember to avoid your triggers. We went over this before, but it’s critical. You know what your triggers are. Avoid them.

3. Enroll in Outpatient Care

If a support network and/or a relapse prevention plan won’t quite cut it for you, go the extra mile and get into an outpatient program, we offer one at Arrow Passage Recovery, and most legitimate facilities will likely offer an outpatient program as well. Depending on your program, you will attend once or a few times a week, and receive all of the benefits you had while staying full-time.

Outpatient substance abuse rehabilitation is perfect for those who feel uncomfortable with AA or NA or groups of the like. It offers the best of both worlds: a staff full of help and privatized care. You are able to rebuild your life while receiving the care. Consider it life prep for recovering addicts.

Slowly but surely the idea is to not require outpatient care. It’s designed to provide the benefits of inpatient care while allowing for a complete life outside of rehab.

4. Live a Healthy Lifestyle

You don’t have to eat kale and flax seed sandwiches on 12-grain. You don’t have to have intense work outs every day. The idea is simply to eat smartly, exercise reasonably, acquire some healthy hobbies, and perhaps set some goals for yourself. Just live. Breathe. Sweat. Play. Work. Just don’t use again.

Sometimes substance abuse can make the user sort of leave self-care by the wayside. Now is the time to regain/rebuild that self-care. Engage in things that truly make you happy. Regardless of the substance you were abusing, chances are you put your body through hell. It wasn’t just your mind being damaged. Treat your body well and you’ll be amazed with the return on your investment.

In Conclusion

Life after rehab can be scary. The real world seems like an intimidating place after becoming sober. The thing is, it’s not. The world is only intimidating if you allow it to be, or if you make decisions that allow it to be. Stay on the straight and narrow, as they say, and you will be okay. Perhaps the only bright side to the absolutely horrible drug overdose epidemic we currently face is the increase in help.

There are countless ways to help yourself in today’s society. There are literally too many programs to list here that are designed to help those like you who are attempting to better themselves. We have faith in you, and we will guide you through your journey of recovery. Now, have faith in yourself.