Early recovery is one of the most straining times for anyone who has completed a residential stay at a rehabilitation treatment facility. Whether you were in a program for 7-14-21 or 30-plus days, the next few months of your life will have a strong impact on your recovery success moving forward. Is our recovery journey finished after we complete a treatment stay? Far from it actually—continuing aftercare is crucial to long-term success.
What is a Continuum of Care?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), a plan for continuously addressing your substance use disorder is critical for long-term success. What began in rehab needs to continue back in your community. The continuum of care includes residential treatment (which you have just completed), outpatient treatment, recovery residences, and community-based peer recovery supports. While each of these aspects of the continuum of care model may vary in length, evidence shows that incorporating all elements into your recovery plan ensures a high chance of thriving.
Similar to residential treatment, clinical aftercare takes the form of outpatient treatment services. This is most often an extension of group and individual therapy and can take place over the course of 8-16 weeks. Directly after residential treatment, many individuals complete what is considered a regimen of intensive outpatient—engaging in group and individual therapy multiple times per week. After a month or two, stepping down to regular outpatient care is typically achieved. This consists of weekly individual therapy sessions, which are often utilized to monitor progress and process new experiences in recovery. While not everyone completes outpatient clinical aftercare, it is highly recommended for any individual who does not complete at least 90-days of residential treatment.
Recovery often begins in clinical treatment—residential or outpatient—but begins to take root back in your community. The rest of your life in recovery will be outside of the confines of clinical-based care, and will likely involve surrounding yourself with a community of peers also in, or supportive of, recovery. Peer-based recovery support services are designed to help build a community of support and accountability, while you learn how to live a life built upon recovery-focused principles. For some, this looks like mutual-aid support meetings; for others, it looks like a recovery high school or a collegiate recovery program. For the best chance of thriving in your recovery, peer-based aftercare and recovery supports should be incorporated into your plan from day one.
Recovery residences are a form of peer-based recovery aftercare, designed to offer a transitional living environment focused on early and mid-stage recovery. After completing a residential treatment program, many individuals elect to stay up to an additional 90-120 days at a recovery residence. This allows for the completion of an outpatient clinical program, while also allowing for a safe and supportive environment to adjust to your new lifestyle. While not all recovery residences are the same, you should look for a National Association of Recovery Residence certified home. This will ensure that the residence you are staying at has shown a commitment to early-recovery and peer-based support.
The Role of Mutual-Aid Groups
Mutual-aid support groups (e.g. 12-step meetings, SMART recovery, Refuge Recovery, etc.) are a large component of most of the 23 million Americans living in long-term recovery. Mutual-aid meetings are an extension of peer recovery supports that help to create common fellowship and accountability amongst those living in recovery from addiction and other behavioral health disorders. While 12-step mutual-aid groups are the most common in the United States, you should incorporate a mutual aid group that best supports your personal recovery. For some, this is 12-step groups; for others, it may be the CBT-based SMART recovery. Whichever group style you select, the important part is to engage on a regular basis with your peers. Once the formal aftercare is complete (outpatient programs and your stay at a recovery residence), these mutual-aid groups are your strongest connection to the recovery community.
Life Skills Education
For many of us in recovery, we are learning a brand new way to live. Often times when our substance use started, we began to neglect basic tasks and responsibilities—or perhaps never learned how to complete them in the first place. Supporting your recovery through continuing to learn how to take care of your basic needs is crucial to finding success. Whether it is learning how to cook, wash clothes, create a budget, or how to interview for a job—learning basic life skills will equip you for a life in recovery. Many of these life skills will be a part of a recovery residence program, however, if they are not, finding a way (either in your community, church, or someplace else) to learn them will help immensely in the long run.
Relapse does not have to be a part of your recovery, though it certainly can be. Often times, those old places, people, and things are still present in our lives after a stay in rehab. While engaging in outpatient and staying at a recovery residence can help build resilience against these, it is also paramount that you create a plan to minimize the risk of triggering environments and activities as part of your aftercare plan.
Early recovery, and even long-term recovery, is about finding a balance between not picking up drugs and alcohol and finding positive ways to live life on a daily basis. Staying sober after rehab is not only possible but often times socially rewarding if your aftercare plan includes most if not all of the items above. Incorporating clinical and peer-based recovery supports will give you the best chance for success and is something the staff at The Recovery Village Ridgefield thrive at. If you are wondering what your recovery plan should look like, contact us today to give yourself the best chance in your recovery.