Addiction is a serious chronic disease, and just like any other chronic disease, a lengthy treatment plan is required to successfully transition a person into recovery. Addiction cannot be cured with a magic pill or with an expensive resort-style 30-day program on the beach. Addiction requires a carefully planned individualized program, starting with detox and residential treatment, then continuing with what’s called aftercare, which can last months or even more than a year. For example, if you were in a severe car accident that required hospitalization or surgery, it is likely you will need some form of physical therapy to slowly heal the body. Substance abuse aftercare is the same idea. Aftercare slowly helps a person transition into normal life as a sober person, providing multiple networks of support, coping skills, and action plans for recovery.
If you are serious about saving your own life then you should not skimp on addiction treatment. You should participate in every stage of the process, take suggestions, get out of your comfort zone, and put in a genuine effort. Unlike many other diseases, to treat addiction, the patient must be completely willing and wanting to get better. If you do not want to get better, then no amount of treatment will help you. If you do want to get better, then there are many amazing programs that will provide you with multiple layers of support and life skills that will lead you to a happy and successful recovery.
When looking for a program, you should always ask about the types of substance abuse aftercare that the facility offers or if they feed into partnered programs. Some treatment centers do not provide aftercare and instead recommend separate aftercare programs, halfway houses, or sober living. Though substance abuse aftercare may seem to be in the distant future when you are getting ready to enter treatment, it is important to figure out if there will be a plan of action for after your residential stay. Leaving residential treatment without a plan is very risky and can easily lead you right back to your old way of living. It’s important to know what a successful substance abuse aftercare program includes because you could be skipping extremely helpful steps in the recovery process. Some treatment facilities may feed directly into a sober living facility, which very well might be “too much freedom” for early recovery. Here are some things that a proper substance abuse aftercare plan should include:
Intensive Outpatient Treatment (IOP)
After a residential stay at an addiction treatment center, it is best to then attend an intensive outpatient program. Many times IOP is offered by the same treatment center. IOP consists of many of the same groups, therapy, and life skills training that inpatient treatment offers, but instead, it is only for several hours certain days of the week and you get to go home at the end of the day. Sometimes IOP is every day or every weekday. IOP is considered one step down from residential treatment and still provides extensive support. IOP will help you start to get a job, find hobbies, form healthy relationships, and can even help with family problems. IOP will conduct drug screenings to ensure you are staying sober and they will monitor how well you are adapting to “normal life.” Some people may be recommended for a longer stay in residential treatment if they find themselves overwhelmed by sobriety once in IOP. This is why IOP is so important. Early recovery requires a lot of support and people to call at a moment’s notice.
Halfway House… Then Sober Living
A halfway house and sober living are not the same. Sober living homes are often simply apartment complexes or houses that sober people live together in. Sober living can help you meet new people in recovery, expand your network of support, and stay away from easy relapse opportunities – like parties with alcohol. Sober living can be useful, but it is usually recommended later on in recovery. For early substance abuse aftercare, a halfway house is always recommended. Halfway houses are a great place to live while attending IOP and can be extremely useful for transitioning into recovery. A halfway house is exactly what it sounds like- halfway between staying at an addiction treatment center and living on your own. Halfway houses typically include staff that can support residents, enforce rules and curfew, and conducts drug tests. Halfway houses still allow freedom so that you can begin to experience sober life, find hobbies, and meet sober people. But, at the same time, they provide extensive structure, life skills training, and accountability. At larger halfway houses, sometimes they offer a “3 quarters house,” which is essentially sober living. Some people may move out of a halfway house and into their own home or they might first decide to try a sober living community. Most halfway houses and IOPs can help you determine what’s best for you and if you are ready to live on your own.
Another extremely important part of substance abuse aftercare is support networks and/or fellowships. It is highly recommended to join a 12-step fellowship or a secular equivalent like SMART recovery. These programs provide a fellowship of like-minded individuals who can support each other in their recovery. You can find new friends at these fellowships, learn coping skills for sober life, find new hobbies, and find rewarding ways to give back to the community. Giving back to the community and helping other people in recovery can be extremely rewarding. Many people claim that sober fellowships saved their life. Sober fellowships can provide lifelong substance abuse aftercare at no cost. These groups are free to join and welcome new members with open arms.