Afterthoughts about Aftercare

Treatment for substance abuse and dependence and addictive behaviors can be very extensive, as it should be, but it can create some discouragement in a person struggling and just wanted to get better and healthy. If an individual is already suffering from addiction and then hears that they have to be in rehab for at least 28 days (hopefully longer), and then attend Intensive Outpatient Treatment while (hopefully) they live in a halfway house, recovery can seem like a daunting experience. It is important to make this experience go as smooth as it possibly can, but lets be realistic, it’s going to be a struggle.

There is an age-old saying: Recovery is a Journey, Not a Destination. Although the client may not be dependent on or abusing their drug or behavior of choice, they will always be in recovery, which can be hard when the mindset is, “Fix me now so I’m healthy again.” I try to explain to my clients that there are steps to the recovery process, and if completed their journey to recovery can be positive and successful. I describe it as, “The Ladder of Recovery.”

When someone is struggling with addiction they are, “stuck” on top of the ladder. To get down, they have to go down one rung at a time. Once their feet touch the ground, they are stabilized.

  • Inpatient/Hospitalization/Rehabilitation
  • Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP)
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP)
  • Outpatient Programs (OP)
  • Individual Therapy/Counseling (Private)
  • Anonymous Meetings (AA, NA, CA)

It seems like a lot of work, but isn’t that what recovery is all about? We can put so much work into our addictions; it is only fair to put that much work into getting better. I encourage devoting at least a year to maintaining a healthy road to recovery on the ladder before branching off and weaning off of the treatment process, but all too often the aftercare plans are, “forgotten.”

Personally, I enjoy being a part of an individual’s aftercare plan; it is when the serious work begins. The individual is now released from the inpatient programs and now have to deal with the people, places, and things that triggered them in the first place. Emotions that were once masked with addiction are now emerging and we have to learn to feel them again and be comfortable with the negative emotions (depression, anxiety, anger, etc.).

It is important to note that although an individual may be on a certain rung, they can also combine treatment levels to make the therapeutic process more intensive/full time. For example, Joe may be attending Intensive Outpatient treatment, so he is attending group therapy at least three days a week, however, as a recovering alcoholic he also has to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. He discovers that he also wants an individual approach to therapy and starts seeing a private therapist for individualized therapy. He has now combined three treatment approaches, which increases his chances of accountability and responsibility to help him be successful on the road to recovery.