Often when people talk about recovering from addiction, they’re thinking of one particular part of the process – and it is very much a process. The rehab itself. Be it some form of inpatient care or outpatient treatment, that’s what comes to mind.
Which is actually step two of the recovery process.
Step one, an incredibly important one, is detox. Nothing can happen in step two without first breaking the physical addiction to drugs or alcohol.
So that leaves, step three, one which many probably hadn’t considered but is monumentally important to a lasting recovery: aftercare.
What Is Drug Rehab Aftercare?
No need to get over complicated with a definition, aftercare is just the continued care that happens after you finish up your treatment program.
You may have heard the phrase “recovery is a lifelong process”, drug rehab aftercare is part of that.
Aftercare takes many forms, for those who have just finished rehab, it can ease the burden of transitioning back to day-to-day life – like a sober living home. For others, it may be support groups – be they the 12 step variety like Narcotics Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous or other options like SMART Recover – which can be attended for years if you so choose.
Why Drug Rehab Aftercare Is Important
Important isn’t necessarily a strong enough word; it’s critical.
The stresses of life don’t go away just because you went to rehab. The triggers, temptations and challenges that go along with life in the modern world will come rushing back once you finish your dedicated treatment program.
Dealing with that isn’t necessarily a breeze either and there’s no such thing as an “easy mode”, that’s why aftercare is vital.
It can’t be said much better than the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) puts it; “following stays in residential treatment programs, it is important for individuals to remain engaged in outpatient treatment programs and/or aftercare programs. These programs help to reduce the risk of relapse once a patient leaves the residential setting.”
Moreover, the key takeaway from a review of 2 decades worth of studies was this, “The results indicate that continuing care interventions were more likely to produce positive treatment effects when they had a longer planned duration [and] made more active efforts to deliver treatment to patients…at this point, there is convincing evidence that continuing care can be effective in sustaining the positive effects of the initial phase of care”.
Ongoing, active attention and participation in your own sobriety are key to pushing back against the possibility of a relapse. Aftercare also varies in its scope and intensity and it’s of course built around what’s going to work best for you; the beauty of it, in fact, is that you do it how you want to do it.
To that end, aftercare isn’t meant to be a hassle or feel daunting to participate in, it’s predicated on empowering you to have control over your life and to actively choose to maintain your sobriety.
Going to support groups, for example, allows you to connect with people who genuinely understand what you went through with addiction – and the determination it took to overcome it. Having people like that in your corner, that you can talk to when you feel triggered to use drugs or drink again, can be the difference between relapse and staying the course.
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Aftercare also helps you celebrate your wins; 2 months sober is a big accomplishment, so is 2 years and so is 20 years, acknowledging what you’ve achieved sets you up for even greater milestones.