The importance of Aftercare

Alcohol and drug addiction is a complex, demanding and frustrating chronic condition, but effective treatment can help to improve the lives of people who struggle with it. Addiction treatment is not a process that ends after an initial treatment program. Taking steps to live an alcohol- and drug-free lifestyle is a long-term commitment. The process can include a wide variety of treatment options and supports. As part of the continuum of care, the Aftercare component is a vital part of overall long-term recovery.

Alcoholism and drug addiction are life-long illnesses for which there is no cure. Spending 30 days in an inpatient treatment facility is a very good beginning, but there is more work to do. This is where an aftercare plan of ongoing support can give a newly-sober person the tools and support he or she needs in order to make it through their early recovery phase with their physical and emotional sobriety intact.

Although the duration for any formal treatment will vary (30, 60, 90 days), it will approach an ending point. Ongoing recovery maintenance efforts are encouraged to continue. This is where careful aftercare planning becomes very important. Substance abuse treatment programs will include referrals to aftercare programs and supports during the discharge planning stage of the treatment episode.

What is Aftercare?

Aftercare is a general term used to describe any ongoing or follow-up treatment that occurs after an initial treatment program is completed. The main goals of aftercare  programs include:

To maintain recovery from substance abuse.

To find ways to prevent relapse.

To achieve a life filled with rewarding relationships and a sense of purpose.

One of the most dangerous times in early sobriety is the period directly after an individual completes a treatment program and returns home. During this time, a person has more freedom than they had during their treatment stay and are now forced to deal with daily life stressors once again. One of the biggest challenges is trying to find an entirely new network of friends. Without the proper support in place, a newly sober person may become overwhelmed and return to active alcohol or drug use as a means to cope with these uncomfortable feelings.

Another reason why continuing support is essential is that in some cases, long-standing substance abuse can alter normal functioning of the brain. Some of these changes may not instantly reverse once a person has stopped the use of alcohol or drugs. The mental and physical effects of chemical addiction serve to reaffirm the need for long-term support.

An Aftercare plan is comprised of many elements, including counseling, therapeutic services, support groups, recreational activities, and more. Aftercare can help secure long-term recovery by connecting with sober people and resources, from substance abuse specialists to other individuals who are walking the road of recovery. An individual can receive guidance on mending relationships and learn how to cope with work issues without the use of drugs or alcohol. Possibly the most important aspect of Aftercare is that it is done in real time; as situations arise, they can be dealt with.

Support groups and social networking offer recovering people the ongoing encouragement and support they need to sustain a long-term recovery. Both TAP and TARP have Aftercare groups that meet regularly to provide encouragement and support to recovering individuals and their family members as well.

For more information on Aftercare groups, call TAP at 800-253-8326 or TARP at 800-522-8277.