Aftercare Programs for Substance Abuse

Aftercare Programs for Substance Abuse

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The road to recovery is a long and strange trip. In fact, for many people, that road is never-ending. Addiction is never conquered. At best, addiction can be muzzled and ignored. There will always be visions and feelings and ideas that could trigger even the deepest-buried addiction. For this reason, aftercare programs for substance abuse are essential for any successful recovering addict.

An addiction is like any other chronic illness, such as diabetes, ALS, or cancer. Such conditions are lifelong and do not have a magical cure. Without proper maintenance and access to a team of doctors, the chance of a relapse is high. Try to imagine someone who just got diagnosed with cancer or diabetes and then shrugs their arms in the air and does nothing to manage their illness. Such a scenario would never happen. Without addiction aftercare programs, recovering addicts are at similar risk. 

10% of adults in America suffer from substance abuse. For those trying to reach sobriety, relapses can occur 60% of the time. However, patients who participate in addiction aftercare programs experience relapses at a lower percentage.  

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Aftercare is the Final Stage of Recovery

No paths to sobriety are the same. Depending on the person and the substance, recovery from substance abuse begins when an addict yearns for sobriety. Forcing an addict into rehab can work, but forced rehab is far less successful than voluntary rehab. A study by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health conducted between 2011 and 2014 revealed that patients who receive involuntary rehabilitation died of an opioid-related overdose more than twice the amount of those who receive voluntary rehabilitation.

After the toughest battle of their lives, a recovering addict gets through detox and then months of rehab. The real struggle begins as soon as they walk out of rehab. It might be possible to remain sober, without any treatment, counseling or encouragement, though such a feat is incredibly difficult. Initial sobriety is a great feeling. However, sobriety is very fragile. Anything could trigger a relapse, destroying months, years, or decades of rehabilitation. As the name signifies, aftercare refers to treatment a recovering addict receives “after” they get out of rehab.

What is Aftercare?

Aftercare is a term for ongoing substance abuse treatment, applied once the rehab program has ended. Addiction aftercare programs are essential for any recovering addict. The three tasks that aftercare programs for substance abuse focus on are:

  1. Supporting individuals in their early recovery phase
  2. Preventing relapse
  3. Teaching recovering addicts how to achieve their life goals

Such tasks are imperative for any addict for several reasons. First, substance abuse that has transpired for a long time can, and often does, affect the brain. When an individual can only achieve happiness by consuming a substance, whether it be alcohol or drugs, the brain must be rewired to be able to function properly. 

Detox might rid a body of substances, but the physiological aspects will remain. Thoughts and emotions associated with substance abuse could linger for the rest of a recovering addict’s life. Addiction aftercare programs are the only way to treat such ingrained afflictions.

Creating an Aftercare Plan

The thought of rewiring someone’s brain to think differently sounds difficult. After all, the way we think is a result of our upbringing. When the body’s central nervous system is being altered, it can become difficult to function without such heightened benefits. How is it possible to change how someone’s mind works? It is only possible through a meticulous and time-consuming plan. 

Addiction aftercare programs begin with an aftercare plan, which is a sort of blueprint that a therapist will design along with the patient. An aftercare plan is effective in preventing relapses. 

However, anything can potentially serve to trigger a relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse has declared that a relapse is not a tragedy. According to the site, a relapse does not mean that the addiction aftercare programs do not work. A relapse signifies that aftercare programs for substance abuse need to continue.

An aftercare plan is a list of resources that could protect an individual from undesired cravings that may be encountered once treatment has ended. In other words, an aftercare plan is support for recovering addicts for unforeseen triggers.

An aftercare plan of course will be different for different recovering addicts. However, most aftercare plans include:

  • Participation in a treatment center’s alumni program
  • Remaining in a sober living facility for a length of time
  • Attending a 12-step program
  • Counseling

What Kinds of Aftercare Programs are Available?

Alumni Programs

An essential component of successful aftercare programs for substance abuse is alumni programs. Rehab is a life-changing event. Those who went to the same group therapy sessions or stayed in the same inpatient facilities are an overwhelming source of pride and confidence.

Most alumni programs have a director who will provide information and answer pertaining questions. Invitations to join an alumni aftercare program, usually occur when the individual leaves the rehab center. 

SMART Recovery

Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART) is a science-based approach to substance abuse recovery. Many addiction aftercare programs, such as the 12-step program, embody a spiritual or religious appearance to compel devotion and faith. Another striking difference between SMART and Alcoholics Anonymous, is that SMART is based on four points, as opposed to twelve.

  1. Building and maintaining the motivation to change
  2. Coping with urges to use
  3. Managing thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in an effective way without addictive behaviors
  4. Living a balanced, positive, and healthy life

SMART Recovery teaches scientifically proven methods to encourage change and to develop a more positive lifestyle. Like cognitive behavioral therapy, SMART philosophy does not dwell on the past. Instead, SMART focuses on the present and the causes of self-destructive behavior.

Sober Living Houses

Some rehab facilities like Rock Recovery Center provide sober living homes once inpatient treatment is finished. A sober living house is similar to an outpatient facility, except you live in the sober house. Patients are allowed to come and go, though there usually is a curfew that must be obeyed. Most sober living houses require that the patient sleep there for at least five nights a week. No drugs and alcohol are allowed in the sober living house. Random drug tests are also executed.  

Alcoholics Anonymous and the Birth of the 12-Step Program

The 12-step program started off as a philosophy for alcoholics. The plan was featured in a book in 1939 called Alcoholics Anonymous. Written by several members of this early organization, the book has become the foundation to treat nearly every addiction, from Cocaine Anonymous to Debtors Anonymous.

The origins of the 12-step program were an amalgamation of the early medical model of alcoholism, Christian ideology, philosophy and psychology. The wheels were put in motion almost 100 years ago when Rowland Hazard was in a session with world-famous Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung.

Rowland Hazard was once an investment banker and even a former Rhode Island state senator. Rowland had been an alcoholic for years. He hoped that Dr. Jung could help him. Rowland would stop drinking for a bit, but would always resume. He was desperate.

Dr. Jung told Hazard that his case was hopeless short of religious conversion. Even more detrimental, Dr. Jung explained to Hazard that religious conversion experiences were very rare. His advice to Hazard was to “place himself in a religious atmosphere and hope for the best.”

The psychiatrist wrote, “His craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness, expressed in medieval language: the union with God.”

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What is a 12-Step Program?

The 12-step program is a path to sobriety, based on spiritual principles. The core of the teachings are spiritual, not religious. Countless nonreligious people have found sobriety by using the 12-step program. The language of the 12-step program stresses the magnitude of God, but only as a guiding force that may be different to different people, permitting different religious interpretations.

As mentioned earlier, the 12-step program has been used to treat nearly every addiction imaginable. However, the original 12-step program was Alcoholics Anonymous. These were the first 12 steps:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. 
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. We’re entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Which Addiction Aftercare Programs Should You Choose?

The road to sobriety is long, and it will take you through unfamiliar terrain. If you or your loved ones are even thinking about aftercare programs for substance abuse, you must be congratulated. You have passed the mark of no return, and you’re in it for the long haul.

Selecting the right aftercare program will be daunting. After all, this will be the most permanent phase of recovery. It could last the rest of one’s life. Do your research.

  1. First, find out if the outpatient or inpatient center that you are leaving offers some sort of alumni group.  
  2. The counselors at your rehab will know what sort of aftercare program would work for you even better than you! Start off by getting some suggestions from your current or previous treatment providers. 
  3. After you have selected a few addiction aftercare programs, research them. Speak to the counselors and note how comfortable you feel with them. 
  4. Recovery centers are great tools to find out about aftercare programs for substance abuse. 

Rock Recovery Center is a great place to find out advice and suggestions for substance abuse recovery concerns. Contact us today. 


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