The Importance of Aftercare
Completing an inpatient or outpatient rehab program is only the first step in recovery. After finishing a program, it is critical that you stay engaged in recovery via aftercare programming to reduce your risk of relapse. Even with treatment, the risk of relapse remains due to the chronic nature of addiction.
Another reason that aftercare is important is that you may experience symptoms of post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) after completing rehab. PAWS begins about four to six weeks after a person stops using drugs and can continue for several years. This is because it takes time for the brain to recalibrate after it has been thrown off balance by substance misuse. People who experience PAWS will have some or all of these common symptoms:
- Problems regulating emotions
- Sleep disturbances and fatigue
- Trouble thinking
- Increased sensitivity to stress
- Anxiety and panic
- Mood swings and irritability
- Drug cravings
Since these symptoms can persist for quite some time after a person completes rehab, it is important to stay engaged in aftercare to help you maintain recovery.
Types of Aftercare Programs
Your post-rehab aftercare plan will vary depending on your unique needs. It may include services such as sober living environments, support group meetings, therapy, case management and more.
Sober Living Homes
Sober living homes are drug- and alcohol-free residences that allow people to live within the community after completing a rehab program. These homes are beneficial for those who do not have stable housing or who would be faced with triggers, such as family members who are still using substances, if they returned home.
Sober living homes typically have rules that residents must follow. These rules may include maintaining employment, submitting to drug screenings, attending support group meetings and performing household chores. They are often led by a house manager who provides support and enforces house rules.
Related Topic: Halfway Houses vs. Sober Homes
Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) can be a key component of your aftercare plan. These groups link you to others who are in recovery and allow you to establish social connections with people who are working toward the same goal of lifelong recovery.
Ongoing therapy or counseling can help you to stay committed to recovery. During therapy sessions, you can overcome the underlying issues that led to addiction and develop strategies for coping with stress or triggers.
Case management can be an important part of life after rehab. A case manager oversees your treatment and can provide a range of invaluable services. Services can include helping you identify resources, linking you to needed services and ensuring that you are able to stay in treatment.
Some rehab centers offer alumni programs that keep you connected to the recovery community. These programs may offer support group meetings, online resources and local events like charity races or fundraisers.