What’s Next?: Developing and Maintaining A Solid Aftercare Plan in Recovery
When a person first enters recovery, they’re often so traumatized, stressed out and disoriented that they’re not thinking of anything else beyond the next day or two. As time goes on, and they move further along in their treatment program, they start to regain their lucidity and, barring any unforeseen complication, their body and brain starts to function as it should. As the last day of their treatment draws ever closer, it becomes more and more important that they start to think about the future, specifically the steps they can take to sustain their sobriety and strengthen themselves against relapse. If they choose the right facility, they will be able to work with their therapist and treatment professionals to create a successful and realistic aftercare plan. These plans are specific to each individual patient based on the physical, emotional and lifestyle damaged they sustained during their active period of substance abuse. There are, however, some universal elements that these plans should address, including:
Physical Health – In addition to lingering physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms, patients should continue to work to address the acute and long-term medical issues they have suffered through a sustained and untreated course of substance abuse. This is best accomplished by working with an addiction-trained physician that is qualified to treat substance abuse-related medical conditions. These issues can range from something more moderate like temporary nausea or stomach pain to something more serious like liver or heart damage. It’s important to get customized care for these issues immediately to mitigate any further illness.
Emotional Stability – Addiction puts our brains through the proverbial ringer. Any aftercare plan should a defined and realistic plan for patients to continue individualized psychotherapy. While rehab helps patients to uncover the origins and roots of their addictions, their time in rehab is temporary and any breakthroughs they experience should be further explored in post-treatment psychotherapy. This will also help reinforce the coping techniques they developed in treatment to help them avoid relapse.
Lifestyle Issues – Addiction impacts every aspect of a sufferer’s life, including their finances and their relationships with their families. A solid aftercare plan needs to help patients address the lifestyle fallout they experienced when they were actively using. This level of involvement will vary based on each’s patients’ individual circumstances, but can often include factors like family therapy and job-placement or at least help transitioning back into their career.
The primary goal of an aftercare plan should be to make it as easy as possible for patients to maintain sobriety. Obstacles like family drama, financial turmoil, job loss and all the other issues that patients encounter during the initial stages of recovery make it very hard for them to move forward and keep themselves off drugs or alcohol. While developing and maintaining may requires a little bit of brainstorming and creativity, it is, very often, the one thing separating patients from relapse and lasting sobriety. With relapse rates as high as they are, patients need every resource they can possibly find.