Last updated: 04/12/2019
Author: Addictions.com Medical Review
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Recovery doesn’t end after detox, nor does it stop after you are discharged from a treatment program. You need a good aftercare plan to help you transition from treatment to independent living, and to maintain and build on all the progress you made in rehab.
How Can I Prevent a Relapse?
Drug addiction treatment works to prevent relapse in many ways. Treatments like cognitive-behavioral therapy and group therapy help teach patients how to avoid the places, people, and feelings that could lead them toward relapse as well as how to understand their addictions and see them in a healthier way. Medications can also be utilized to stabilize the individual and minimize their experience of severe withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and other issues caused by drug abuse.
Ask for Help
It is extremely difficult to achieve sobriety––and to continue it––alone. Seeking treatment is one part of reaching out and asking for help, but talking to those who love you can also help you stay sober. Asking friends and family members to help you avoid substance abuse, to get rid of anything that even reminds you of your addiction, and to listen when you are struggling can make you less likely to relapse. Those who feel supported during their recoveries are much more likely to stay sober.
What is Addiction Aftercare?
Addiction aftercare is everything that comes after your initial treatment. These are your critical next steps once you are back on your own. The initial three months after leaving a treatment program should be guided by a strong aftercare plan that includes as many of the following elements as possible:
90 Meetings in 90 Days
A great way to begin your aftercare experience is by attending 90 support group meetings in 90 days. These meetings can be for 12-step groups like AA, or other forms of peer support. This helps you connect to a welcoming community of people in recovery and an environment of mutual support. While it’s important to build a strong connection to a particular chosen branch of mutual support that corresponds to your primary substance of use, it can be motivating to attend other kinds of support groups from time to time. The variety keeps the experience fresh, and sometimes looking at an issue from a completely unexpected perspective can provide a much-needed breakthrough.
Find a sponsor
Attending so many 12-step meetings will help you to find a sponsor to help you work the program, step by step. Find a sponsor as soon as you can.
Weekly Counseling Sessions
You should continue to meet with your counselor or therapist after rehab. Transitioning from the structure and security of a treatment program to the freedom of independent living can present a number of unexpected challenges, and working with a professional can help you face and overcome these challenges as they appear.
It is crucial to allow yourself to experience, acknowledge, and deal with emotions as they arise. Don’t suppress or avoid your feelings. Rather, make a habit of noticing how you feel and processing it, either on your own or with the help of someone you trust. Also, keep in mind that not all emotions have a concrete basis. Some feelings can float into your experience for no reason, and then float back out again as long as you don’t deny, suppress, or encourage them.
Daily Evening Inventory
It can be helpful to do an inventory of your daily experiences and actions every evening as a way to gauge your progress towards recovery. An inventory can also help you recognize any problem thoughts or behaviors that could create obstacles, or set you up for relapse.
Taking time out of the day to calm your thoughts and empty your mind can go a long way towards preventing anxiety and avoiding a crisis. If you are someone who gets anxious when they try to empty their minds of all thought, you may want to try a more active form of meditation, such as exercising while focusing closely on your breath and movements.
A strong body is needed to support a strong recovery. Not only does physical fitness help you feel better, but regular exercise also stimulates the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that is essential for pleasure and motivation. Exercise also relieves stress and allows the body to produce a more relaxed state of being naturally.
A Healthy Diet
Eating healthy, unprocessed foods provides your body with the building blocks needed to heal from long-term addiction. It also gives you the fuel you need to motivate your recovery and reach your goals. Some foods, such as probiotic-rich yogurt or kefir, can also bolster psychological health. Recent studies have shown a major link between gut health and mental health.
Good Sleep Routine
Rest is necessary to heal and recharge, and sleep deprivation can be very dangerous in recovery. By practicing good sleep hygiene (avoiding bright lights and screens before bed, limiting nicotine and caffeine late in the day, waking up at the same time every morning and going to bed as soon as you’re tired), you will naturally develop a healthy pattern of regular sleep.
Continue Your Recovery Education
Spend time reading recovery literature, watching helpful recovery documentaries, and attending educational sessions about recovery issues. You need to reinforce the things you learned in rehab in order to hold onto them, and there will always be something new and valuable to learn.
Remember that Relapse Does Occur
It is also extremely important to remember that if you do relapse, you should forgive yourself, and recognize it as a sign that something needs to change. It does not mean your treatment and your recovery have failed, but only that you need something more or different at this point in time to be able to regain sobriety and maintain it for the long term.
Early Recovery Lasts Longer Than You Think
When professionals in the field of addiction treatment talk about “early recovery,” they are referring to the first three years of recovery. It takes time for all the skills, coping techniques, and new perspectives provided in rehab to become second nature, so that sobriety starts to feel like your normal way of life. Even after sobriety is a comfortable habit for you, you should never take it for granted or neglect it. Just like with your body and mind, you must continue to take care of your recovery to thrive.