The initial stage of getting help for an addition is a huge accomplishment, and one that is rightfully celebrated as an important, even life-saving turning point in a person's life. However, a detoxifying treatment program is not the end of recovery, but only the beginning of working to live a full sober life.
Sadly, many people struggle when they try to re-enter "normal life" after a month of treatment in isolation, and they go back to old temptations, relationships, and tensions. That is why it is so important to have a plan for aftercare, or additional support and training after steps or a program of initial recovery.
Why aftercare is needed
An initial program of withdraw from an addictive substance is usually characterized by a time of isolation, either at home or in a residential treatment facility. When addiction has taken over all aspects of your life, it's necessary to take some time away to radically reorient your life and set new patterns of being in the world.
However, if you simply view the initial 30 days of sobriety as something that "cures" you, you will be very vulnerable to relapse once you return to "normal life" and discover reminders of your addiction, old temptations, and dysfunctional relationships that encouraged addictive behavior. Aftercare recognizes the full weight of the challenge set before you – to establish new patterns of stability in your daily life so you can replace addiction with practices that help you develop a fulfilling life of sobriety.
Aftercare helps you maintain your motivation to keep your commitments, continually reminding yourself why you want to stay sober, and the steps you are going to take to live your best life possible. Sometimes life may feel like too much to deal with, as the stresses and tensions you once numbed with substance abuse become overwhelming, but aftercare can help you develop new coping strategies to deal with these issues at their root causes.
Types of aftercare
There are a number of options for aftercare. A good residential rehab program should help connect you, or even provide some of these resources. Feel free to try multiple options, see what works for you, and work with others to craft a personal aftercare program that can best meet your personal struggles and needs.
Support groups in which people struggling with addiction meet together to speak honestly about issues with which they are dealing. It is an opportunity to practice expressing your true feelings in a safe, non-judgmental space, and to hear about other people's experiences and learn from their wisdom. Those new to recovery are sometimes encouraged to go to "90 meetings in the first 90 days," to truly set stable patterns of making recovery a part of life.
Booster sessions, or new meetings that occur at the rehab center a few months after initial recovery. Attendees are debriefed about their experiences in early recovery, taught new coping strategies, and given the opportunity to rejuvenate their motivation to continue in sobriety.
Counseling sessions, meeting one-on-one with a trained professional. In a therapy setting, you would speak to him or her about how to deal with problems as they arise, and getting an expert opinion on your personal issues. Counseling sessions offer more expert advice, but do not have the same social aspect of a support group, so it might be good to look at both aftercare methods as providing different things.
Sober living, in which people committed to recovery live together and work on relationship building and conflict resolution skills as they work on experiencing daily life together.
There are a variety of options for your aftercare, and it can sometimes seem overwhelming to try to sort through them and decide what to focus on or which group may be best for you. You don't have to decide everything right now, but simply take the step to join a program and see if it is helpful for you. By focusing on doing what you need to do to get through the next moments in sobriety, all those moments will add up to a lifetime of sober freedom.