Completing drug or alcohol rehab is a major accomplishment, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s not more work to do. During the weeks, months and even years after completing rehab, individuals in recovery are still at risk for relapse. Having a co-occurring disorder — a mental health condition that occurs along with a substance use disorder — increases the risk of falling back into addictive behaviors and self-destructive patterns. Aftercare programs help minimize that risk, and keep you moving forward on the road to a completely drug-free life.
The quality of the aftercare you receive can have a strong influence on your chances of remaining sober after you finish treatment, according to research conducted by Psychiatric Services. A plan for aftercare should be built into any comprehensive treatment program for Dual Diagnosis recovery. From the time you enroll in rehab to treat alcoholism, drug addiction, depression, bipolar or obsessive-compulsive disorder, your treatment team should help prepare you for the days following your graduation. With the right kind of assistance and therapeutic support, you can maintain your hard-won sobriety and build a solid foundation for recovery.
Addiction specialists now recognize that relapse is a hallmark symptom of addiction. If you have a co-occurring disorder like depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, the temptation to revert to substance abuse to manage your symptoms is even stronger. The primary goal of aftercare is to prevent a relapse into drug or alcohol use. By providing continuing counseling, group sessions and other schedule meetings, aftercare programs provide an extra level of accountability that helps insure that the individual has not fallen back on old habit.
Alcohol Research & Health identifies the following components of an effective relapse prevention program:
If an individual does relapse into old behaviors, the aftercare program helps them cope and better assess the situation. The peers and professionals who make up an aftercare support team help make sure that if there’s a “slip” that the person doesn’t necessarily have to go back to square one and start rehab all over again.
Aftercare programs help provide support and instruction for the family members of recovering addicts. Many times there is still a great deal of tension between the individual and the family, caused by events that occurred during the period of drug use. Other times, the individual is struggling to blend back into a “normal life” which is causing stress for the family. In both these cases, aftercare programs provide counseling and advice for the family to help get them through this difficult time.
Aftercare services for family members may include:
Addiction and mental illness can create financial instability in a household as well as emotional conflict. Some families may need assistance with practical needs like job placement, nutritional counseling, childcare or transportation. Others may require education to prevent the younger family members from falling into substance abuse. Creating a healthy home environment for all members of the household is one of the crucial objectives of family aftercare.
In Dual Diagnosis aftercare groups, members provide support and advice about the issues they face in recovery, such as:
From the day you decide to seek help for addiction until long after you graduate, 12-step programs offer experience, strength and hope. Many aftercare programs, most notably Alcoholics Anonymous, use the 12-step program structure as a means of staying clean and moving forward. These 12 steps are not for everyone; however, for millions of people around the world, the guiding principles of peer group interaction and “giving into a higher power” have provided relief and accountability for those in recovery.
After being discharged from an inpatient treatment facility, many individuals with a Dual Diagnosis find that they can make a more comfortable transition if they spend time in a sober living home. These communities offer a structured, secure environment to residents who want to concentrate on their recovery without the temptations and stressors of the outside world. During the aftercare period, a transitional residential community can provide:
Transitional communities are less structured than most addiction treatment centers, yet they offer enough supervision to provide a sense of safety for those who still feel too new in sobriety to face the pressures of daily life. Residents are expected to adhere to house curfews, attend household meetings and participate in chores. They are also expected to contribute to the house expenses by paying rent or by doing jobs in the community in exchange for their living expenses.
Throughout the recovery process, treatment for mental health disorders should be integrated with treatment for addiction to ensure the best outcome. In aftercare, mental health professionals and addiction counselors should continue to work together as members of your treatment team.
Like hypertension, diabetes or arthritis, serious psychiatric disorders are chronic conditions that typically require lifelong treatment. Managing the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety or major depression requires long-term therapy and pharmacological support as well as the encouragement provided by family members, friends and support groups. Along the same lines, the American Psychiatric Association states that addiction is a chronic, relapsing disease that may never be completely “cured,” only managed from one day to the next. The more resources you have at your fingertips, the more likely you are to make it through those first challenging months of recovery and build a long, fulfilling life in sobriety.
Dual diagnosis treatment facilities in California and Tennessee understand the importance of aftercare, and we help those who leave our facilities find programs that best fit their needs. The care and education individuals receive at our centers help them break the cycle of addiction and get a new start on life.