Recovery after addiction treatment: Why and what is aftercare?
By Whitney Balliett, Clinician, LADC
Once you leave treatment, recovery requires more than just staying sober and clean. What helps you get sober? To stay sober you have to do more than avoid the people, places, and things that led you to drinking. You have to do more than not drink or use. You need:
- a positive attitude
- a desire for a more fulfilling life, and
- the ability to be constantly vigilant
In this article, we explore the benefits of aftercare treatment and look at the secrets to success in addiction recovery. We’ll also take a look at those who have the highest risk of relapse. Then, we welcome your questions and comments in the designated section at the bottom of the page.
What is the secret to successful recovery?
To recover, you have to:
- Be vigilant about your emotional state in addiction recovery
- Be real about your need for support from others
- Find sober people who are healthy to surround yourself with
- Attend some type of self-help support group
- Consider ways to help others or perform service work
This should all be a part of your aftercare plan, especially if you are trying to find emotional balance and need continued support for ongoing mental health concerns.
Who’s at risk of relapse?
For years I have watched newcomers in recovery, and it seems that those who “get it” are the ones that can tell when they are beginning to “fall off the beam.” Those who are more likely to relapse or get “spiritually sick” tend to have poor insight into their own “spiritual condition” or commitment to the recovery lifestyle. These individuals, usually:
- Lack necessary self-awareness
- Are more externally focused
- Can tell others what they should be doing to manage their recovery (but can’t see their own lack of stability)
This is where vigilance comes in.
You have to be connected to others in recovery, who are going through the same things, others with long term sobriety, and those who have less time clean and sober than you. If you are asking for help in recovery and relying on others in a healthy way, you might also be able to lend a helping hand to other individuals in recovery who are struggling. That is one of the ways in which you can be vigilant about your sobriety.
Recognizing relapse behaviors
I heard a guy in recovery say once, “I can feel a lie coming on three weeks in advance.” When I heard this, I did not understand what he was talking about. But I learned that every individual who relapses experiences a sequence of events that begins with “relapse behaviors” and progresses to the point where it begins to make sense to use/drink. These behaviors involve:
- all types of corner cutting
- subtle defiance
- grandiosity, etc.
What this man was saying is that he knows what begins to happen in his life before he gets close to relapsing, he knows how long it will take before he begins to lie, which is a precursor to relapse for him.
Vigilance is the key!
You have to be able to recognize when your attitude in recovery is “slipping.” The “slipping” in the beginning is subtle, almost imperceptible. You have to know when you are losing your positive motivation.
Aftercare for addiction recovery: Have a plan!
Recovery is about following advice, suggestions, and recommendations from professionals who are addiction savvy and others with long-term sobriety. However, for success in recovery, you must “follow through” on your aftercare plan.
If you have signed up for an aftercare plan that is not suiting all of your needs in recovery, build another one with the help of a professional who understands addiction. But don’t “discontinue” the plan until another one is in place.
If you are diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder, it is critical to treat both addiction needs and mental health needs with the same level of importance. No matter what, know when you are falling off the beam!
Recovery after treatment questions
Do you have anything you’d like to ask or add? Please feel free to share your questions and comments in the section below. We try to answer all legitimate inquiries personally and promptly. In case we don’t know the answer to your question, we will gladly refer you to experts who can help.