Drug and alcohol treatment is a considerable investment of time, motivation and money. Stopping the addictive behavior is an accomplishment worthy of pride. It’s important to realize, however, that completing treatment is just the beginning of a new life. There are bound to be many challenges down the road, and some real work is yet to come. Treatment has equipped you with many tools to deal with life and it's challenges, the time after treatment is the chance to put your "tool box" into good use. Remember, the more tools are used, the more skillful you become.
In some cases, the challenges may seem so great that recovery does not seem worth the effort. You may forget the reasons that prompted you to seek treatment in the first place and there are no around-the-clock professionals to get you through the rough patches. However, the rewards of a healthy and happy life are worth the struggle, and adequate preparation can help ease the transition.
Importance of an Aftercare Plan
Relapse is not an uncommon occurrence and an estimated 50 to 60 percent of people relapse at least once. Some people relapse numerous times. The risk of relapse is highest in the first two months after treatment, and remains high for the first five years. The risk never disappears completely. However, it’s a mistake to assume that everybody relapses. In fact, many people leave treatment and go on to lead happy, productive lives without relapse.
A workable and realistic aftercare plan is every bit as important as detox and treatment, as studies have proven that people who receive aftercare are less likely to relapse than people without a good plan.
A professional and empathic treatment center will ensure that you leave them armed with a plan that includes a diversity of tools and real life coping strategies.
Supplemental Support in Aftercare
An aftercare plan may include additional support in the form of meditation, counseling, follow-up meetings, twelve-step meetings or other support groups. It is very helpful to have a counselor travel with you to ensure a smooth transition back into real life, because you might have changed a lot, the environment most likely, has not.
Remember, willpower alone isn’t enough to get you through treatment, and it won’t be sufficient to get you through hard times after treatment. Don’t be afraid to seek out help when you need it. Don’t wait. When it comes to addressing troublesome issues, sooner is better than later. Sometimes, additional counseling with family and close friends can help create a positive support system that can bolster you through your ongoing recovery process.
Recovery is a process!
Life doesn’t stop just because you’ve been in treatment for a few weeks or months. If you’re feeling a little nervous about stepping back into life after treatment, don’t worry. A little anxiety is normal and demonstrates that you’re thinking about the challenges ahead. Be positive about your new substance-free life, but don’t expect everything to be perfect. Unrealistic expectations and over-confidence can set you up for disappointment and potential failure.
What to do if you relapse
Relapse is a setback, yes, but it isn’t the end of the world. The important thing is to get back on track as soon as possible. This may require attending meetings, seeking counseling, or a possible return to treatment. Be honest with your family and trusted friends. They are the people most affected by a relapse and they likely will be disappointed and angry. However, you will need their encouragement and support.
Think of a relapse that has happened as a bump in the road, but not a failure. In fact, it can be a powerful learning experience that increases your awareness of triggers, makes you practice learned tools even more and seek help. Chances are good that you’ll avoid future relapses.