The recovery process doesn’t end with rehab. Aftercare programs and services help recovering addicts stay sober for the long haul.
Alcohol Rehab Aftercare
Going to a treatment facility is the first and most important step for many in their recovery from alcoholism, but it is only one step. The 30 to 90 days most individuals spend in a rehab facility is only a very small period of time compared to the many years that follow in recovery. For many, adjusting to life after rehab proves more challenging, especially the loss of the rehab routine and the reappearance of external factors and influences.
Luckily, many programs, organizations, and resources are out there to help recovering alcoholics thrive without their vice and stay sober. There are also many steps that recovering alcoholics can take themselves to minimize the likelihood of relapse.
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Aftercare Programs and Organizations
Many rehab facilities operate their own aftercare programs. The scope of these programs varies tremendously. Examples of aftercare services some rehab facilities provide include sober-living arrangements, follow-up therapy, medical evaluations, and alumni support groups. While most rehabs are very good at letting patients know what aftercare services are available, it is best to contact them if you are unsure.
Sober Living Homes
A sober living home is a residential facility for individuals recovering from substance abuse. Some are affiliated with rehab facilities and government organizations, but the majority operate independently. Sober living homes are found across the United States, but are most prevalent on the West Coast, particularly California. Sober living homes have been proven to increase the likelihood that recovering alcoholics will remain sober, as shown in many studies. While most sober living homes are designed for temporary residence of less than a year, some offer longer-term options.
Some sober living homes have a leader who creates the rules and enforces them, while others operate more collectively and democratically. Both models have proven effective, and which one is “best” depends on the individual in question. While every sober living home operates under a different set of guidelines, most share some characteristics in common, including a promise by all residents to remain sober, abiding by certain curfews, and sharing certain expenses. Most sober living homes have stricter guidelines for new residents, that are gradually lessened the longer the individual lives in the home.
Therapy and Counseling
Therapy and counseling sessions are held daily (sometimes multiple times a day) in inpatient rehab facilities and are perhaps the most critical part of the process. Continuing therapy and counseling after leaving rehab are equally critical. It is generally advised for newly sober former alcoholics to attend weekly sessions, gradually reducing frequency to bi-weekly and monthly as time goes on and their sobriety is more secure. Therapy and counseling are especially important for alcoholics with a dual diagnosis with an additional mental health condition, who need treatment for both.
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There are many types of therapy available. Some of the most popular for the treatment of alcoholism include:
- Biofeedback Therapy
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy
- Experiential Therapy
- Faith-Based Drug Rehab
- Holistic Therapy
- Motivational Enhancement Therapy
It is strongly recommended that all recovering alcoholics regularly attend support groups, especially early in sobriety. Support groups are groups of recovering alcoholics (and other substance abusers) and sometimes their families who meet and discuss shared issues. These issues range from how they came to realize they needed to get sober to how specific alcoholism treatment medications impact them. Support groups provide a number of benefits, including offering a judgment free atmosphere where members feel understood, giving a sense of stability and people to fall back on in hard times, and being a source of advice and information.
The vast majority of support groups are classified as 12-Step programs. These programs generally break down recovery into steps that all members are expected to follow. 12-Step programs are modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, by far the best known and most widely attended substance abuse group in the world. While Alcoholics Anonymous in particular and 12-step programs in general are the most popular support groups, many others are available for individuals who feel a different approach would work best for them. Although it is difficult to accurately gauge the success rate of individual groups, studies have shown that regularly attending a support group substantially increases the likelihood that a recovery alcoholic will remain sober.
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Aftercare Steps for the Individual
Sobriety is not a single action, but rather a continuous chain of actions and decisions made throughout a recovering alcoholic’s life. Many in recovery find that sobriety is hardest to maintain early in the process, and gradually grows easier as new habits, relationships, and routines are formed.
Here are some individual aftercare steps for an individual to take after leaving alcohol rehab, in a general timeline of when they should be made.
1-30 Days After Rehab
- Develop a recovery plan that includes goals and how to achieve them
- Learn how to recognize and handle negative impulses
- Find healthy and supportive living arrangements
- Organize and establish a daily living routine and schedule
- Find and attend at least two support groups to choose the best fit
- Find and attend a counselor or therapist
- Establish a support system that can be turned to when the urge to drink appears
- Incorporate physical activity and exercise on a regular basis
- Avoid taking on too much
30 – 90 Days after Rehab
- Continue regular involvement in support groups – at least once a week if not more
- Continue involvement in counseling or therapy – ideally at least once a week
- Maintain a recovery journal, including triggers and how they were overcome
- Discuss professional goals with a career counselor
90 – 180 Days after Rehab
- Begin repairing broken or damaged relationships
- Develop short and long-term goals with a financial planner
- Start focusing more on longer term goals
- Try out new hobbies, and ideally focus efforts on one or several
180 – 365 Days after Rehab
- Celebrate important recovery milestones, especially 6 months and 1 year marks
- Help others who are just beginning the road to recovery
- Develop five and ten-year plans, personal, professional, and financial
- Seek out new motivation and ways to occupy time
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What Happens if I Relapse During Aftercare?
Relapses happen, even to the most dedicated recovering alcoholics. Some studies suggest that the majority of recovering alcoholics relapse, even if only briefly. Luckily, help is out there. If you have relapsed and need treatment, don’t wait until the problem gets worse. Contact a treatment specialist now.
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