Alcoholism is a chronic, debilitating, and potentially fatal disorder that affect both men and women of all ages, races, and social classes. However, the disease is treatable, most often with the help of a rehab center. Such facilities generally offer intensive in-patient, or outpatient treatment for their clients.

After completing a 30, 60, or 90-day treatment program, however, patients still require care. The disease is, after all, chronic. Relapse is all too common, and can be quite dangerous. If you, or a loved one, is in need of rehab for alcoholism, or drug addiction, consider a comprehensive approach that includes both an intensive period of treatment followed by an aftercare program.

What is aftercare?

Aftercare is a vital part of learning to live a sober, happy, and healthy life. Once you are out of rehab, it may seem like the work is over. You are fixed, right? Well, not exactly. Learning to apply the lessons learned in rehab is a process that needs time and focus to be fully successful. In fact, hardly anyone is “fixed,” or done with treatment, even once treatment ends.

This is not to say that there's no hope, or that there are no answers. Rather, you will find that the process of learning more about yourself and how to live a sober life is one that is infinitely rewarding. As you continue to learn, your progress will show to yourself and others. There are many paths to take on the road to full recovery. Here are a few:

Outpatient treatment

Your primary rehabilitation center may offer an outpatient program that will allow you to spend time with your family. You can fit in your meetings around work, and have a more gradual transition to a sober life.

12-step meetings

AA and other 12-step recovery meetings are available in nearly every town in the nation. If you find a regular meeting, consider becoming involved as a member. There are no fees involved, but you will be rewarded with a sense of belonging, the gratification that comes from helping others, and a support network in case you need a friend.

Sober houses

Sober houses offer a way to maintain intimate connection to the recovery community while also being able to work and visit with family. Investigate the options in your local area, as there is bound to be a sober house that is suited to your specific needs.

Do I need aftercare?

Aftercare is a vital part of sobriety. Since almost 50 percent of all rehabilitation patients suffer some form of relapse, a strong aftercare program is necessary.

No matter what form you choose, aftercare is a vital part of long-term sobriety. This is particularly true if you completed a 30-day treatment program. The 30-day model is one that was created to suit a military protocol rather than patient outcomes. As such, the 30-day model has limited efficacy and must be followed with an aftercare that keeps you focused on long-term solutions and practical present-day methods for maintaining sobriety.

During an aftercare program, you will be reintegrated with your life and all of its stressors. Your aftercare program will help you build and maintain a support system specifically geared towards addiction issues. This support network can be a great help when you really need it.

For instance, if you become a regular member of an aftercare group or an AA meeting, you will be connected to many people who are there for you when you need. If you start thinking about drinking, or if old, negative patterns resurface you can call a friend from the your program or the fellowship. You can also call an AA contact or your therapist when your job becomes too stressful or when you have difficulties in your personal life. If you have a sponsor, which is highly recommended, you can call them, too. In the early days of sobriety, it is recommended to keep close contact with your sponsor, to work the steps, and to keep an open mind.

Types of long-term treatment

Long-term treatment is vital to long-term sobriety. However, there are many different ways to trudge the road of happy destiny. During your time in an intensive drug rehabilitation program, the issue of relapse will surely arise. In that discussion, you will likely hear of options for long-term treatment, or aftercare. At this phase, you will want to consider what works the best for you and your family.

Take your time, but be certain to make a choice, or two. Many resist this notion, claiming that they need time for their family or career. While those concerns are valid, it's also true that if you cannot stay sober, both of those things are likely to suffer – or worse. Studies have shown that the more time you spend in a supportive, aftercare setting, the longer you are likely to stay sober.

Consider these options:

  • Individual counseling

    Alcoholics can make a lot of progress via individual counseling. When you seek out a counselor, be sure to find someone who specializes in the problem of addiction. Your counselor can help you get to the psychological roots of your alcohol problem. If you have worked the 12 steps, you likely have discovered patterns of thought and action that impede your progress and that may have led to your drinking problem. Your counselor can help you come to terms with those patterns. You can even learn how to recognize and overcome them before old patterns turn into a relapse.

  • 12-step programs

    AA

    Alcoholics Anonymous is just one of many 12-step programs, but if you have battled a drinking problem it's the one you're most likely to gravitate towards. It also is probably the most prevalent in your town. In the rooms of AA, you'll find like-minded people who have been through many of the same hardships you have. They may relate stories that seem like carbon copies of your own experience.

    In AA, you will have the opportunity to do the work outlined in the principle text – the 12 steps themselves. Working with a sponsor is the key of the AA program. Once you have learned to work and apply the principles of the 12 steps, you can go forward and help others. AA is a service organization, and it thrives on this sort of growth.

    AA also offers opportunities for you to find social outlets. Depending on the size of the recovery community in your town, you might find AA sponsoring dances or bake sales, and weekend recovery-oriented retreats. There are even leadership opportunities, if you wish to take your involvement to the next level.

    Cocaine Anonymous

    CA is a fellowship that adheres to the original text of Alcoholics Anonymous, while also catering to those whose drug of choice was cocaine. Even if you never saw cocaine in your entire drug-use history, you might find a home among the CA fellowship.

    Narcotics Anonymous

    Though this is a 12-step fellowship, NA has its own set of steps and literature. If your primary difficulty was with alcohol, you may still appreciate NA meetings. There, you can gain a broader perspective on the world of recovery.

    Al-Anon

    Your spouse or significant other may need to sort out issues related to your alcoholism, as well. The rooms of Al-Anon are full of family members who are discovering new life strategies. Many in Al-Anon even work the 12 steps as a means towards cleaning out the wreckage of the past and finding a new perspective on life.

  • Family therapy

    The family is often the hardest hit by alcoholism. Discuss the option of family therapy with your spouse and determine whether you would like to pursue joint, individual, or some blend of approaches. As you sort through the difficulties of the past, you will likely discover ways to create a better present-day experience, and create a brighter future for everyone.

  • Group therapy

    While some consider AA, and 12-step groups in general, to be a form of group therapy, they don't take the place of a true group therapy setting. Group therapy is a focused, psychological approach that addresses addiction and its attendant difficulties. Groups may be comprised of many different sorts of people, but seek out a group that is focused on addiction and recovery.

    You might find groups that are comprised of couples, or groups that also cater to particular sexual orientations, religions, or even professions. If you have an individual therapist and you feel you could benefit from a group approach, discuss your particular needs and concerns.

  • Sober living houses

    Sober living houses are a fantastic way to integrate back into your life while also remaining rooted in your sobriety. Every day when you come home, you'll be greeted with fellows who are likely eager to go to an AA meeting, discuss important issues, or simply laugh.

    There are as many kinds of sober living home as there are people. Some have rather strict rules, while others are more like boarding houses with drug tests. There are sober homes that focus on religion, some have regular 12-step oriented meetings, and there are sober houses to suit your sexual orientation.

  • Pharmaceuticals

    Pharmaceuticals offer great help to many people. Discuss your relationship to pharmaceuticals with your therapist or the counselors at your primary drug rehab. If you have a dual diagnosis, you likely need to manage your mental illness through medicines. Alcoholics and addicts frequently discover their drugs of choice as a result of seeking relief from a mental health condition. If you experience a particularly high or low experience as a result of your condition, you may be more likely to relapse.

  • Church and spiritual assistance

    For many, church or spiritual practice is a vital part of sobriety. Your pastor or priest may be available for counseling, and the church also offers opportunities for involvement that extend far beyond regular services. Through a spiritual or religious practice you can discover social activities, volunteering, and possibly groups focused on enhancing and prolonging sobriety.

  • Meditation

    Meditation is accessible to everyone and it is a growing practice in the United States. Through meditation, people claim to discover more about themselves and their mind. They discover a new sense of peace and calm, and a state of well-being that helps them manage the most stressful events life can offer. If you are interested in meditation, you can learn to practice on your own, or you can seek out meditation groups in your local area.

Choosing aftercare

With such a wide variety of aftercare programs available, it's possible to find one that will suit your long-term goals. In fact, you can even create your own sort of aftercare program that is composed of many sobriety-focused activities. To make the most of your sobriety, consider the sorts of activities you need and proceed toward them. Here is a list to consider:

  • Career guidance and counseling
  • Sober sports leagues/teams
  • Spiritual retreats, seminars, and even weekly activities
  • Lectures and discussion groups focused on personal growth
  • Anger management courses
  • Stress-reduction activities such as yoga or meditation
  • Individual counseling
  • Group counseling
  • Family therapy
  • Yoga
  • Creative activities including art classes or creative writing workshops

Success of aftercare

The longer you remain in active recovery, the longer you are likely to remain sober. Lisa Onken of the National Institute on Drug Abuse stated that the longer one practices the tools of abstinence and recovery, the longer one will stay abstinent, if not sober. This is reflected in one of the maxims of AA, which recommends that newcomers attend 90 meetings in 90 days.

"You have to figure out how to be abstinent. You still have cravings. You still have friends offering you drugs. You still have to figure out ways not to use. The longer you are able to do that, the more you are developing skills to help you stay abstinent." – Lisa Onken, NIDA

Onken's statement is based on science, and AA's is based on more casual observation, but they essentially agree. There are tools for you to learn that will enable your sobriety. These tools are likely very foreign and perhaps terribly uncomfortable at first. However, with practice, you will learn to adopt them as though they had been with you from birth. Joining and sticking with an aftercare program and practicing recovery on a daily basis will give you success over the long term.

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