In the world of drug and alcohol rehabilitation, aftercare is vitally important.
It is one thing to detox. It is another to learn the skills necessary to stop drug or alcohol abuse.
Getting sober is one thing, but staying that way means finding a peace and a way to cope with life’s stressors.
While you were undergoing treatment it was relatively easy to focus on your goals and stay sober, but out in the world new challenges will arise most definitely.
Aftercare can help with:
When you have completed rehab you will still face a number of situations which may put you under stress, such as starting a new job, maybe moving to a new home, and even starting a new relationship. All these can put you into a situation where you feel uncomfortable and don’t know how to cope.
All sorts of different things can set off a relapse.
You might feel depressed. You might worry about getting a job. You might have nightmares. You could have a fight with your partner.
All these and many more can set you off down the slippery slope once more.
An aftercare program can help you to assess the dangers of picking up a drink or taking drugs.
Statistics from “Alcohol and Alcoholism” show that nearly half of all people who have been through rehab will relapse in six months or less. You have to realize that it all starts with one drink or drug; that is all it takes.
Because the danger of a relapse is so high it is important to realize that an occasional lapse may well occur, but it does not have to become a relapse.
You need to accept that you are always at risk.
In fact one way to consider yourself is to say “I am not an abstainer; I am just not drinking today” or “I am just not taking any drugs today”.
Saying this to yourself – or indeed to others – every day for the rest of your life will help you to understand that you are always at risk, but that you are not drinking or taking drugs today.
Aftercare embraces a number of different services and functions including:
You Need All The Support You Can Get
Your treatment program will have taught you what sort of situations you will face back in the community, but learning how to deal with them when they actually happen and you are out there on your own is not easy.
You need all the support and assistance that you can get.
An aftercare program can help you:
Willpower alone is not sufficient to keep you from the temptations of a relapse, and an aftercare program acts as a sort of safety net when you are confronted with emotions or situations which are a part of everyday life.
There are always challenges, and like anyone else you can suffer from anger, depression, boredom, and stress. Even happiness can cause a relapse.
You might want to celebrate a work colleague’s promotion, the birth of your sister’s baby, or just your own birthday.
Each of these situations can lead you to the point where you think to yourself – and really believe it – “Well, just one won’t hurt.”
This, of course, is true. One won’t hurt. The problem is that one becomes two, which becomes three, and so on.
You need to understand that aftercare is an ongoing situation and also that it is a two way street.
There are a lot of services available to help you but you also have to play your part. If you don’t go to meetings, or fail to attend an appointment with your therapist you are only going to put yourself more at risk.
Helping others is another way of staying clean and not only can benefit you, but the people you are helping.
Many AA programs ask people who have been in the group for some time to take on and help counsel one new individual.
You will be able to pass on your own experiences, and you will also feel the need to continue on the sober path as a role model for the person you are helping.
Some forms of helping do not actually have anything to do with recovery, but can be just as valuable a tool in enabling you to stay sober.
For example, you could help out at your local church, participate in community gardening, visit old people in a care home, or volunteer at an animal shelter.
All these activities not only benefit you, but help the community as well.
Sometimes, hard decisions have to be made.
If you have been living with someone who takes drugs on a regular basis, you may be returning to a home that is still filled with drugs. Returning to the same neighborhood may mean that you see your drug dealers every time you leave the house.
Part of your aftercare may mean leaving a long term partner, or moving to a new neighborhood where you can start afresh.
It is important to understand that aftercare is an ongoing process and, indeed, may be for life.
Even after many years of sobriety there is always a hidden danger lurking around the corner and you need to be able to recognize it when it happens and take appropriate steps to avoid it.
Temptation will always be there and you need to be aware of it.
The problem with alcohol and drugs is that they are everywhere.
Alcohol is the worst offender in this instance, because it is legal, easy to make, and on sale almost everywhere you go. If you have money in your pocket you can buy as much alcohol as you like and nobody is going to stop you.
Drugs are also everywhere, if you know where to look. The problem is that, as a recovering user, you DO know where to look.
You need to understand that when you go back into society temptation is going to be around every single corner. Your friends may visit bars and drink alcohol. Quite naturally you want to be with your friends, but now you have to be the “odd man out”. You are the only one amongst a group who is NOT going to be drinking alcohol, but is going to be drinking a soft drink.
That is the way it has to stay, but the problem is that your friends will say something like “Oh, come on, ONE won’t hurt you” or “But it’s your BIRTHDAY” or “Hey , it’s CHRISTMAS!” Remaining clean and sober in circumstances like these is going to be a serious challenge.
The same thing applies to drugs.
It becomes even more difficult if family members also drink or use drugs for the simple reason that those substances are going to be around you all the time. At least you have a choice about whether you go into a bar or not, but you don’t have a choice about where you live, unless you take the drastic step of leaving home.
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