The decision to enter a treatment facility for substance abuse is probably one of the most courageous actions someone will ever take.
Preventing relapse is a crucial aspect of addiction treatment, and it starts the first day of a recovery program. As part of a comprehensive continuum of care, identifying steps to take after rehabilitation discharge helps ensure lifelong wellness. This is sometimes referred to as a discharge or aftercare plan.
The First Year Is the Foundation
After you complete rehab for substance abuse, you’re like a seedling planted in fresh soil: there are many considerations for nurturing your strong growth. Your environment and associations; a regular pattern of work, activities, and socializing; clarity and unfiltered emotions; habits and behaviors; and coping mechanisms are all aspects that require revised approaches.
Whether you completed a 30-, 60-, or 90-day inpatient program or intensive outpatient treatment, adapting to daily life and all those considerations requires deliberate awareness and intent. During treatment, you might have also just begun to delve deeper into any root causes or conditions contributing to your addictive behavior. As you face these head-on, you’ll need an assortment of techniques and applications to help you move forward.
Unfortunately, the National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that 40-60 percent of people with substance use disorder relapse. This doesn’t mean treatment failed. However, it’s a critical indicator that treatment and possibly aftercare methods must be modified to address further needs of whole person wellness.
This is one of the primary reasons why discharge planning needs to be individualized and thorough in order expand on what you learned in treatment and to prepare for the new life you’ve chosen.
What a Discharge Plan May Look Like
How you and your treatment facility professionals create an aftercare program involves a number of components based on your specific course of recovery. No one single approach is the golden ticket for success. A discharge plan isn’t simply about refraining from drug or alcohol use: it’s about crafting a life of deliberate awareness and intent in all areas, including psychological, physical, emotional, legal, vocational, and social.
The scope of a discharge plan may include many of the following:
- Some form of continued counseling, whether individual or group
- Medically-supervised and authorized medication treatment for co-occurring disorders
- 12-Step meetings to cope with the substance challenges previously experienced
- Family involvement, such as therapy or special sessions
- Continued outpatient treatment or a sober living residency
- Random drug testing, both during treatment and especially if a necessary requirement by an employer
- Life skills training, such as job training, parenting guidance, and financial management
- Additional classes, such as yoga, meditation, exercise, and anger management
- Facility-sponsored alumni, online support forums, and continuing care groups
You’ll work together with your facility counselors and medical experts to develop a discharge plan, and have it in place when you complete treatment.
It’s important to remember that each discharge plan is a living document of recommended applications. As your treatment continues to progress, it may be necessary to revisit action points like the ones above and modify them in some way. You may also want to add/delete points reflective of your current state of being.
You’re evolving, as is your recovery. Structure is important to provide you with the foundation you need, but you’re the only person who can say when you feel triggered, threatened, uncomfortable, or challenged. In some circumstances, you may require extra support to move through a difficult situation in order to come out on the other side still committed to your sobriety and able to use the benefit of hindsight to understand how certain methods or applications work for you.
It’s also important to remember that like other chronic health conditions, one stay in rehab may not be enough to manage your condition effectively. As more medical experts recognize addiction as a brain disease, this aligns with other serious health issues such as asthma, hypertension, arthritis, COPD, diabetes, and other chronic illnesses. Those conditions often aren’t controlled indefinitely with the first course of treatment or medication. Your initial rehabilitation may be just the start of a line of treatment methods used to enable your wellness.
This is often a tenuous topic to navigate with other people who may only be familiar with the myths and stigmas surrounding addiction. They may be so hopeful for you that once your time in rehab is complete, they believe you’re “cured”. If a problem occurs, they don’t know how to handle it. But you do.
Use your discharge plan as a lifeline, and tug on your support network to help you recognize when you feel the rise of key emotions or behaviors compromising your ability to stay sober. This enables care providers to review your continuing care components, and mobilize right away to further treatment. You’re never alone in your quest for sobriety.