Recovery from drug or alcohol dependence is no small matter. It can be one of the hardest battles a person will face and requires a multifaceted effort. Thus, stepping-stone successes are to be celebrated as addicts work to reestablish their lives and their overall place in society. Feeling good about one’s advances is an integral part of the work at hand.
It’s important to remember, though, that recovery is an ongoing process. Aftercare, in particular, is a critical and often overlooked component of the journey toward a more serene and refocused life. Although it can be frustrating at times, it’s better to make a continued effort than to undo all of the positive changes made thus far.
Avoiding the Temptation
A clear reason for the importance of aftercare is the fact that when a relapse does occur, it most often does so in the early stages of the process when recovering addicts are most vulnerable. It is necessary for patients to continue avoiding situations that might leave them in danger of slipping.
Aftercare allows for a valuable transitional period in which patients can build upon their will to succeed. It helps enable them to find a physical or metaphorical safe zone that can be used to keep themselves separated from circumstances that might have led them astray in the first place. If setbacks do occur, the damage can be minimized by those trained to deal with such events. Patients are best served by not feeling like a misstep means a restart.
Help from Others, Help from Within
Therapy, support groups, and other opportunities to interact with people in a similar mind-set remind people that they are not alone in the process. These options also provide the chance to bounce ideas off of those who can relate to one’s struggles. Interaction with others in recovery can help to reduce feelings of alienation or inadequacy and allows people to learn from each other’s experiences.
There is help to be gained not only from those currently in a situation similar to one’s own, but also from people who have been there before. It is often the case that people who are further along in the recovery process have a desire to pay it forward by offering newcomers the wisdom afforded by their efforts. At minimum, they offer a listening, compassionate ear, but in many cases they provide helpful feedback and suggestions as well.
Diving into recreational and creative collaboration can provide patients with a renewed sense of meaning. Such activities allow them to channel physical and mental energy into more productive avenues and serve as reminders that life needn’t be a full-time struggle.
The development of an aftercare plan also sets a clear path for patients and allows them to reward themselves along the way as they gain renewed pride and enjoyment of life. It gives them a way to ease themselves back into society without “cold turkey” exposure away from the comforts provided by a rehabilitative environment. Working on such a plan with a professional who has extensive experience doing so can help make for a more structured and realistic methodology.
Learning What to Expect
As is so often the case in life, there’s an educational angle to take into consideration. By teaming with health workers, recovering addicts can better understand and prepare for the challenges that lie ahead of them. They will be better able to see the physical and psychological effects of continued dependence, and this will serve as motivation to stick to their plan. They’ll also learn about possible pitfalls and how they are best avoided or dealt with.
Restoring Frayed Bonds
Because drug and alcohol addiction often places a strain on the patient’s relationships with others, it can take time to regain lost trust and to otherwise mend fences. An aftercare program can help in the effort to restore damaged lines of communication. Treatment centers can provide sounding boards not only for the patients, but for their loved ones. They can serve as controlled environments, away from the distractions of daily life.
Of course, if there are circumstances involved beyond addiction, such as mental health disorders, physical ailments, or personal complications, aftercare provides a platform with which to combat those particulars as well. Comprehensive treatment may be available that is not easily obtained elsewhere.
A Recovery Toolbox
Aftercare serves a very practical day-to-day purpose as well. Patients are often able to use resources provided to them in order to find housing, transport, or employment specifically tailored toward their unique needs.
Housing might be particularly important because of the affordable living situations that could be available. Addiction often creates or accompanies financial hardship, and housing provides both physical and psychological relief while patients reintegrate with society. Of course, sober-living houses help to ensure non-exposure to alcohol and drugs in addition to the other benefits. Additionally, patients might have access to social services about which the general public may have only limited knowledge.
Sometimes patients find it difficult to maintain self-discipline from day to day. Aftercare might provide drug-testing or monitoring as a helpful deterrent.
When battling dependency, all avenues must be considered, even those that deal with tangential issues. As an example, anger management classes could offer an added benefit of reducing psychological stressors that might lead to relapse.
It’s critical that patients remember that addiction recovery isn’t a stitch-it-up injury. It requires continuing efforts to control one’s habits and surroundings in a way that affords the best chances for their ongoing success. Using all of the resources provided by health workers and peers is the best way to encourage a non-stressful return to the enjoyment of what life provides us. Patients can work towards creating an improved life plan, set new employment and relationship goals, and feel confident in their renewed ability to handle whatever they might encounter on the road ahead.