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The Importance of Aftercare in Recovery

Over 23.5 million Americans struggle with addiction issues. As addiction continues to surge in the United States, more and more people are turning to specialized treatment facilities to try to get themselves back on track.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Treatment Episode Data Set from 2008 shows that almost two million people in the US entered into such a facility to treat either alcohol or drug abuse issues. Over 41% of those admissions related to alcohol, while 20% and 17% of those admissions related to heroin or prescription opioids and marijuana, respectively.

It is easy, and dangerous, for people to assume that once they’ve left a treatment facility for their substance issues, their problems are over. Seeking professional help for your addiction is extremely commendable, but it is definitely not the end of the story. Your real work begins as soon as you leave. Getting your life back on track is difficult, and virtually everyone agrees that it’s not something you can do alone.

A few weeks of treatment does not signify a full recovery. Recovering from addiction is a lifelong project. Participating in aftercare services is one of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself following addiction. Aftercare programs provide constant guidance, support, counseling and a safe environment for personal development and growth. If you or a loved one has recently left a drug rehabilitation facility, it is critical to review your aftercare options as soon as possible to continue the momentum and the energy of your recovery.

Table of Contents

  1. Know the Facts About Aftercare
  2. Consider the Different Types of Aftercare Programs
  3. Understand the Common Challenges Associated With Recovery
  4. Know the Risk Factors for Relapse
  5. Seek Sponsorship in Aftercare: A Partner and Guardian in Recovery
  6. How to Be Successful in Recovery and Aftercare

Know the Facts About Aftercare

No matter what type of addiction you had when you entered a rehab facility, you can benefit from a transitional program to help you integrate yourself back into your normal life.

There are three major goals and benefits of aftercare:

1. You should be building self-responsibility and accountability. You have to start holding yourself to a higher standard than you did during your time as an addict.

2. Regain control of your finances and become stable. You will need financial independence to integrate yourself back into society as a functioning, contributing member.

3. Your need to address and stabilize your relationship with your family. Regaining the support of your loved ones is one of the most important things you’ll need to do during
recovery. Their support is a critical element of your projected success.

Consider the Different Types of Aftercare Programs

Aftercare programs can come in many different shapes and sizes. There are a number of aftercare options. Some rehab facilities provide these options for those who have passed through their residential program. The individual can also arrange other types of aftercare themselves.

12-Step Programs

12-step groups are a great option for people who want to regularly address their addiction and continue a concerted effort toward recovery for the rest of their lives. These meetings are extremely interactive and can give you the opportunity to develop long-term friends and confidants.

During these substance abuse treatment program, trained facilitators will lead you on a journey that includes:

• Admitting that without intervention, your substance abuse, chemical dependency and mental health challenges will control you.

• Uncovering and accepting the reasons that the addiction came into your life and why it’s still with you today.

• Admitting to the decisions you’ve made while under the influence of your addiction.

• Making amends to those you have affected while in the grips of your addiction, whether to alcohol or drugs.

• Admitting any undesirable choices you made along the way to recovery and immediately doing everything in your power to learn from those mistakes, make amends and move forward.

• Helping others understand the powerful spiritual — not necessarily religious — outcomes of a 12-step treatment program.

Dual-Diagnosis Support Programs

Mental health issues often accompany addiction. If they go undetected, individuals may receive fragmented treatment that fails to address the most important aspects of their addiction issues and misses the heart of the problem.

Consider the following facts about addiction and mental illness:

• 17.5 million people in the US have been diagnosed with a serious mental health disorder. Of this population, about four million have a substance abuse or dependency disorder.

About 35% of people with alcohol use disorder have a least one other mental health issue, compared with 53% of people addicted to drugs.

• 29% of people who suffer from mental health issues have comorbid substance abuse issues.


Counseling, both individual and therapy, is a crucial component of addiction recovery. Family therapy brings family members, clients and spouses together for an open and honest reflection of the behavior patterns that enabled the client’s self-destructive lifestyle.

Family counseling is a proven method for long-term addiction recovery and healing. While we understand that addiction treatment with family counseling can be hard at times, it truly opens the door for many growth and healing possibilities. Families have the possibility of making incredible discoveries and achievements together, with ongoing treatment and a commitment to everyone’s mental health.

Within the family program at Tranquil Shores, you and your family can expect to learn how to:

• Better communicate your needs to one another

• Support one another emotionally throughout the duration of the recovery process

•Establish meaningful yet appropriate boundaries

•Address a loved one’s drug or alcohol dependence

•Recognize and prevent enabling behavior

Transitional Care Programs

For some people, returning to the environment they lived in prior to their time in a rehabilitation treatment facility simply isn’t feasible. They might not have a job or any other source of financial security they can tap into to take care of themselves. Others may simply just not feel ready to return.

The stress of any of these situations can threaten long-term recovery. Sober living can serve as a bridge to help buy these people more time to be ready for independent living, and they are typically less regimented than inpatient residential care.

Understand the Common Challenges Associated With Recovery

The first days, months and even years of recovery can be extremely challenging. Some of the most common issues faced after rehab include:

Developing New Coping Skills — The importance of developing these skills cannot be stressed enough. Learning new tools for coping should be one of the first things you do. You will inevitably hit bumps in the road and you need to be ready to weather them. Transitioning from rehab to home is difficult, and if you aren’t properly prepared, your recovery will be in jeopardy. It’s important to remember you are more than capable of overcoming this.

Rebuilding Relationships — Restoring relationships can feel both physically and emotionally exhausting. You’ll have to accept the fact that the trust and bonds you spent your life establishing could be damaged. To address this, the best thing you can do is take care of yourself and show your loved ones that you’re committed to your recovery and living your best life. Unfortunately, you have to be prepared for the fact that the people in your life may not be ready to forgive and forget right away, if ever.

Finding Purpose — During your time as an addict, you likely spent the vast majority of your days high, drunk or being in pursuit of substances. You’ll need to find new purpose and motivation in life — and that is no small task. Boredom can be a major risk factor for relapse, and so it is critical to find new ways to spend your time. Aftercare and counseling can help you do this right away by giving you a place to show up to and people to talk with.

Improving Character Flaws — Nobody is perfect, and even in recovery, it is not healthy to try and pursue perfection. You should, however, strive to improve yourself at each and every juncture of your recovery.

Know the Risk Factors for Relapse

Unfortunately, the risk of relapse for any type of addict is extremely high. Much of this has to do with the fact that your time at rehab is extremely regimented. A rehabilitation facility is a drug-free environment with constant monitoring and an absence of triggers. These environments are safe and comfortable, but they are not realistic for the long term. Your entire life changes after you leave rehab. You must often return to the environment where your addiction began in the first place — and this is obviously not ideal.

Nobody is perfect, and even if you have the best intentions, you may find yourself on a brink of relapse when you least expect it. It is important to know that the major causes for relapse often include:

Stress. Stress is essentially the top cause of relapse. Stress is unavoidable in life, but it is especially inescapable for those going through lifestyle, relationship and overall priority changes following rehab. Aftercare programs and services can help you develop the tools and skills you need to properly deal with stress and reduce your risk for relapse.

Associations With Addictive Behavior. Many different psychological, social and environmental factors can trigger you to return to substance abuse. Leaving rehab means reentering your old life, which may mean encountering some of your old triggers. To the best of your ability, you need to avoid these situations, especially early on in your recovery when you are at your most vulnerable.

Challenging or Negative Emotions. Some of the most common emotions cited in relapse are frustration, anger, loneliness and anxiety. While these emotions are a normal part of life, aftercare and therapy helps you learn to balance or eliminate these emotions.

Celebrations. Unfortunately, for many recovering addicts, parties and other celebrations remind them of the substances they used to abuse during such occasions. Avoiding these celebrations may be the prudent choice early on in your recovery, but when you do decide to go, you must be prepared to resist temptations.

Proximity to Substance. The very idea of the object of your addiction could send you spiraling. It’s important to learn the tools and strategies to avoid falling victim to this.

For many, the added pressure of returning to their environment contributes to an increased risk for relapse. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that relapse rates for people suffering from any and all substance abuse problems fall between 40 and 60 percent.

A survey of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) members revealed that 75% of people recovering from alcohol addiction relapse in their first year. After five years, that number falls to 7%. Another study, published in the Irish Medical Journal, found that, of the 91% of people admitted to a residential treatment facility for opiate addiction who ended up relapsing, 59% relapsed within the first week after discharge.

It is because of this risk that it is particularly important to enroll in an aftercare program for at least the first six months to a year following your discharge. Keep in mind that your risk remains high for the first five years into your recovery. Many people who relapse once do not end up finding another opportunity to recover. Above all else, this fact should be taken seriously.

Seek Sponsorship in Aftercare: A Partner and Guardian in Recovery

Having a sponsor is not a requirement for recovery, but sponsorship can be an extremely helpful and enlightening experience in an aftercare program. There is a myriad of benefits associated with having a sponsor during recovery — and especially during the early stages:

1. You and your sponsor can share your experiences with one another.

2. You can feed off one another’s strength and hope when you each need it most.

3. Your sponsor is always available to lend a sympathetic ear when you need someone who understands you and your struggle.

4. A sponsor will hold you accountable to your recovery. If you start slacking off from your recovery efforts or begin isolating yourself, your sponsor will call you out on it.

5. Your sponsor will have a lot of resources you’ll need for your recovery — including meeting recommendations or recovery literature to seek out.

6. Your sponsor can be your source of motivation. You’re in it together, and neither one of you will allow the other to relapse.

7. You and your sponsor could become lifelong friends.

How to Be Successful in Recovery and Aftercare

Aftercare, when adhered to and taken seriously, can work and take you very far. But having all the best resources and aftercare programs at your disposal won’t mean a thing if you, as an individual, are not fully committed to your own success and recovery. You need to be honest, open and willing to accept your past and acquire the tools to move forward in life. Other keys to success you should keep in mind as you go through your aftercare program include:

Expect Some Soul-Searching. It can be tough and very painful to face your past and your demons head-on, but the process is a necessary one. To do this, you may want to consider drafting a list of your experiences to work through with your counselor. Those experiences should ideally include your own honest analysis of why you may have turned to substances in the first place. Understanding your past is extremely important for your future.

Be Prepared to Watch, Listen, and Learn. During counseling sessions, you will meet many people who have had similar experiences as you. Even if the people in your group haven’t had the same experiences, there’s always something to learn. Paying attention during group counseling formats can help you acquire skills from other people to apply to your own life situation.

Be Open With Others. There’s no denying it — sometimes sharing your experiences with others can be painful, embarrassing or even awkward. However, only providing half-truths about your past addiction doesn’t do anyone, especially you, any favors. You need to have a willingness to try to be open and honest. Rest assured that it will help you grow personally.

Relapse Prevention and Tranquil Shores Coaching. The quality of your aftercare services can have a major effect on your ability to remain sober and live a productive life. As such, it is important to choose a program that is prepared to help you be the best version of yourself.

During the weeks, months, and years after going through our effective treatment, the possibility of relapse is very real. If you have a co-occurring disorder, then the risk of relapse and falling back into familiar, addictive behaviors are even higher.

Tranquil Shores aftercare programs are designed to minimize that risk and keep you moving forward on your journey to a completely addiction-free life. Not only do we design our Florida aftercare services around your needs, but we also use world-class, proven techniques to set you on the path to true recovery. Contact us today!

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