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A Guide to a Solid Aftercare Plan

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Making the commitment to undergo drug treatment is one of the best decisions you have ever make it your life. As you progress through an individualized treatment program, you will receive the tools, support and expert care you need in order to overcome the underlying issues of your substance abuse and help build a healthier future. Once you leave treatment and transition to your normal home life, you will need the extra motivation and support that is provided through a solid aftercare plan. Having an aftercare program in place will significantly increase your chances of sustaining your recovery in the long-term.

What is a Recovery Aftercare Plan?

Simply put, and aftercare plan in recovery is designed to help you continue working your plan of recovery once you leave the safety of a drug treatment facility. This plan is comprehensive in nature and should be a collaborative effort between you, your counselor in rehab and other experienced treatment staff. Much like your plan of treatment in rehab, your aftercare recovery program needs to be individualized to address your unique and specific needs. Overall, these after treatment plans provide useful suggestions for lifestyle changes and it contains a series of crucial steps that will increase your chances of staying sober.

Why Do I Need An Aftercare Plan?

Completing drug treatment is a major accomplishment, and you can have a sense that the recovery process ends once you walk out of rehab for the final time. The reality is that the real work in recovery begins once formal drug treatment ends. For those early in recovery, the first few weeks and months of sobriety are when they are most vulnerable to returning to the addictive behaviors and self-destructive behaviors that were normal during active addiction. In order to minimize the triggers and temptations that can lead you back to relapse, it is extremely important to focus on doing everything you can to protect your hard-earned sobriety.

A Focus on Relapse Prevention

Aftercare programs in recovery focus on the concept of relapse prevention. Preventing a relapse back into substance abuse is more than developing will power and the ability to “just say no”. Effective relapse prevention starts early and before temptation presents itself. As part of an after program, relapse prevention plans accounts for your social interactions, emotional triggers and the development of positive coping mechanisms that will help you navigate the urges to use drugs and alcohol. Effective relapse prevention hinges on the following components:

Learning About Your Individual Triggers

There are a lot of environmental, social and psychological factors that can trigger substance abuse. Whether it is a flashback to a traumatic event in your life, the presence of friends, family and others who still actively use substances, relationship problems or financial issues, these stressful situations can eventually tempt you to resume drug and alcohol use as a coping mechanism. Effective relapse prevention will allow you to identify and acknowledge these stressors and triggers early on and before they grow worse.

Coping with Cravings

Once you leave drug treatment, you’ll be faced with a lot of situations that you may not have considered during your treatment stay. Getting a new job, starting a new relationship or moving to a new home may leave you in a vulnerable state of mind that can lead to drug and alcohol use. As part of an effective aftercare plan, being able to turn to sources of support such as individual counseling or mutual self-help support group can be of great help.

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Thinking Through a Relapse

For many who are in recovery, thoughts of using drugs and alcohol are a normal part of the recovery process. If you experience success in early recovery, you may entertain thoughts that you can go back to drugs or alcohol with the expectations that you can “handle them more responsibly”. In reality, returning to drugs and alcohol after a period of sobriety most often results in unpleasant or dangerous outcomes, such as an overdose, medical treatment and incarceration. A relapse prevention plan will teach you to evaluate the potential outcome of a relapse before taking that first drink or drug.

Keeping a Lapse From Turning Into A Relapse

No matter how strong your recovery program may be, there may be those instances where you may experience a minor slip. While these small slips can be disheartening, they don’t have to turn into a major relapse. Because the chances of relapse are so high, relapse prevention education will help you learn how to cope with the occasional slip if it does occur.

What Should I Include in My Aftercare Recovery Program?

As stated earlier, the program that you will utilize after drug treatment will be highly individualized to meet your specific needs. However, all of these programs feature common items and services. For example, aftercare should include continued participation in 12-Step programs or similar support groups as well as proper nutrition, exercise, and regular individual and group counseling sessions. It is also highly recommended that you schedule specific times to work with your sponsor and also create sufficient time in your day for reflection and meditation. These concepts can be refined in intensive outpatient programs or sober living.

It is important to realize that your aftercare program should change as your needs change in recovery. While there isn’t a concrete timetable to follow in regards to making changes to your plan, a good rule of thumb is when you reach one year of sobriety. Ultimately, you must realize that recovery is a continual process, and your commitment to your sobriety needs to be persistent.

If you are looking for a solid and effective aftercare program that will give you the best chance at long-term recovery success, call First Steps Recovery today. Our experienced addiction professionals will create an individualized program of continued care that will feature essential services that will provide a rock solid foundation to build a meaningful sobriety. Approach your recovery with total confidence and call First Steps Recovery toll-free.

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