When being discharged from an addiction treatment program, the emotions running through a person can be empowering and exhilarating. That’s why some experts say that the most important moment is the first hour after leaving treatment, because the addict decides if what they learned in recovery will be retained or lost. Some addicts return home with no aftercare plan in place and expect to stay better. But just like a patient who leaves an intensive care unit would require additional care and support, so does a recovering addict.
Having a strong aftercare plan is a must, and it’s something that the River Source never fails to provide to clients. In fact, no client leaves without a strong aftercare plan that has been reviewed by our life coaches, counselors and therapists. The first year of recovery involves a lot of risk management, and that’s where a detailed aftercare plan can be the most effective tool that a recovering addict has.
Below are eight tips for the first year of recovery that every recovering addict and their family should be familiar with.
1. Have an Immediate Aftercare Plan
No client should leave a treatment facility without an immediate plan in place. Where are they going to go? Do they have a 12-step meeting planned for the day? It’s not uncommon for addicts to feel overconfident when leaving treatment, so they are likely to put themselves in tempting situations. Have a clear plan of action from the moment of discharge.
2. Maintain a Safe, Sober Environment
A sober living environment makes it much easier to practice sobriety skills and avoid the risk of relapse. There are formal Sober Living Environments (SLE) that can take the pressure off the family, and some experts recommend these types of living quarters for the first month after treatment. As long as your home is safe, sober and supportive, it should offer the structure that your loved one needs. Just be sure to keep all temptations away.
3. Attend 12-Step Meetings
At a minimum, a recovering addict should attend 90 12-step meetings in the first 90 days. At River Source, we recommend making these meetings a part of a long-term recovery plan because they offer invaluable support, guidance and understanding through all phases of recovery. In the beginning, 12-step meetings are especially important because they enable recovering addicts to manage stress, help others and connect with a Higher Power in a non-judgemental environment.
4. Have a Relapse Plan
Relapse is not failure. It does not mean that treatment was ineffective, or that sobriety is hopeless. It’s simply a bump in the road, and one that many recovering addicts unfortunately travel. Still, relapse is not an excuse to start using again. That’s why recovering addicts need to have a relapse plan in place so that they know what to do if relapse does occur. Make sure that the addict sticks to this plan without waiver, whether it’s returning to a treatment facility or increasing the number of 12-step meetings.
5. Continue Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders
Many recovering addicts are diagnosed with a co-occurring condition in treatment, such as depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder. This may be the first time in the person’s life that they are actually getting the help they need for the disorder, and this can greatly improve their chances of not returning to drug use.
6. Seek Individual and Family Therapy
Both individual and group therapy bring something different to the recovery experience. Individual therapy helps recovering addicts understand their inner emotions and make sense of the life they have been given. Family therapy is helpful because it allows the family to communicate with each other in a safe environment where a professional mediator or therapist is present. These interactions can set the stage for positive interactions in the future, as well as letting go of resentment and learning how to forgive.
7. Implement Alternative Therapies
Alternative therapies are necessary for managing and dealing with stress. Recovering addicts must change their way of thinking, and it will take some time before they don’t want to reach for drugs or alcohol to deal with stress. In the meantime, the integration of alternative therapies can be a constructive way to deal with stress and anxiety. Journaling, yoga, meditation, exercise or calling a sponsor are all examples of what a recovering addict can do when they feel stress creep up.
8. Make Time for Fun and Enjoyment
That’s right – recovering addicts need to remember how to live their lives again and get satisfaction and fulfillment from everyday things. Once again, this is something that must be relearned over time, as it’s hard to get enjoyment out of simple activities when you’re battling temptations. Yet with continuous effort and a supportive environment, recovering addicts will be able to seek enjoyment in activities once again. Don’t be afraid to take this time out to reward your loved one – and your family. Addiction is no easy road.