Living In Sobriety
Building A Successful Aftercare Plan
Where Recovery Begins
Addiction started when either alcohol or another drug started to build up a steep cost of continuance…meaning, if you continued to use, you would eventually lose your family, your job and everything else important. During sober moments, you looked at what the drug was costing you and made an admission that led to a decision. The admission was that you are powerless over your drug of choice; the decision was to seek help.
So you entered treatment; the first step toward living in sobriety. Detox was difficult, the withdrawal was arduous and then the meetings, groups, counseling sessions and other facets of rehab left you with little time to ponder what comes next. But there is life after substance abuse treatment and it is the most important part of your life. Now you get a chance to live sober. You have been given an opportunity entirely too few addicts take advantage of. In the final days of your Intensive Outpatient treatment, you have been tasked with making an “Aftercare Plan” and then going out and living the healthy life of a sober individual. It’s a scary thought, a truly frightening thought because you are afraid that you won’t be able to make it. Questions keep coming to mind.
Questions that Haunt
Knowing who you have been and who you want to become, you have been asking yourself some fear-based questions that keep coming up and intruding on what should be a joyful time.
- What am I going to do if my buddies tell me “C’mon, man. The bar is the only place to watch the game and even if you have one beer it won’t hurt.”?
- My mom’s sick now. What if she gets really sick or…dies? How am I going to handle that?
- I have such bad luck with work. What if I can’t get a job?
- My car was impounded and my license taken away. How do I get around? How do I navigate the bus system if it comes to that?
Everyone has questions about failure and rejection. No one is immune. But, these questions become less daunting the more you plan for your future. If you follow the advice of your counselors and build a secure aftercare plan, some of these questions will be immediately answered and you will have planned for other roadblocks when they arise.
How an Aftercare Plan Promotes Sober Living
Living sober is difficult for someone who has been imprisoned by an addiction. People turn to substances because they are an easily gained coping mechanism; they are stress relievers in a world that forces stress and demands release. During rehab, you learn healthy coping mechanisms, but without a plan that reminds you to use these new stress relievers returning to substances is only a matter of time. The substance is what you know, but the plan shows you a better way.
Discover a Purpose
The first step is to sit down with a counselor and discuss what you want your life to be. What are your passions? What hobbies do you have? What makes you happy and content? When you leave rehab, the activity decreases. Where you were tasked with going to group sessions, individual sessions, meetings, etc. which filled your days, now you may find yourself bored. Rediscovering your pre-substance passions will help in building a purpose that will carry you past those moments of boredom.
Also, allowing the counselor to help you form a daily plan is key. By filling the day, there is less likelihood that you will become bored. It is a good idea, at least at first, to have a plan that takes every waking minute into account.
Building a New Mindset
Addiction and the need to get your next fix was your reality. But that has changed. Now you want to live a life that is productive, has purpose and is free of the entanglements of substance abuse. Every day you have to realize that you have a chronic illness that is not “cured” just because you went through treatment. Every day needs to be filled with a healthy program that cements your sobriety.
When you build your aftercare plan, keep your continued health in mind. How?
- Continue to be connected to after care recovery: groups such as NA, AA, smart recovery, 12 steps type groups, continuing to work with your sponsor on a regular basis, completing the 12 steps of recovery will help you forge that sober life.
- Make health a daily priority through exercise and nutrition.
- Build and solidify sober relationships: sober friends, continuing to engage in the last treatment center you went to, such as the AKUA alumni program and staying connected to treatment teams to keep accountability.
- Have a clear outline of goals: life after treatment may be hazy and sober living may seem daunting. If you have clear and reachable goals, you are more likely to progress to a steady and manageable sobriety.
- Continue to work with a therapist, case manager and a psychiatrist if needed: A third party voice (someone who is not a personal friend or family member) will keep you grounded. If you start to slip back into unhealthy habits, they will recognize them and talk to you about them.
- Take care of any medical/medication needs.
In this way you feed your entire person and maintain health from a whole-body approach. People to remind you how much you want to stay sober, a healthy body, a clear mind and friends that encourage you through this transition. As SAMSHA (the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration) says, recovery encompasses health, home, purpose and community.
What Does an Aftercare Plan Look Like?
Every plan, like the people who make them, is unique. You have different needs than anyone else and your plan should reflect that. However, some elements of aftercare planning are consistent.
- Make a list of meetings you will be attending when you leave.
- List contact people who can provide you support.
- Make a list of what you are going to do daily to stay clean and sober.
- List people and places that you feel that you should avoid.
- Make a list and clearly define goals and commitments.
- Make a statement of commitment that you can return to as a sober prompt.
- Make a relapse plan that helps you determine: if you relapse, what will you do?
- A list of contacts and numbers: counselor, sponsor, etc.
- List your daily responsibilities and define your routine.
- Make a specific list of goals that is all-encompassing: it should include emotional recovery goals, spiritual recovery goals, social goals, health/fitness goals, financial goals, education goals.
- A detailed list of triggers and how you can either avoid or cope with them.
Your plan may include other elements, but these are necessities – this sentence doesn’t make sense. When you are making this plan, be very specific and include others. The specificity helps you adhere to the plan, and letting other people know what your plan contains provides you with needed support.
The Treatment Center has Specific Goals to Fulfill Also
When you are making a plan, you will speak with several people to make sure that the plan is both realistic and will lead you to a sober lifestyle. The treatment center will support your recovery by:
- Being responsive and respectful to health beliefs, practices and cultural/ linguistic needs of diverse people and groups.
- Actively address diversity in the delivery or services.
- Seek to reduce disparities in access and outcomes.
- Focus on a preventive approach that simultaneously supports building resiliency, wellness, measurable recovery and quality of life
By making these commitments, nobody is left behind; nobody falls through the cracks. Your treatment team is completely invested in your success. It does not matter what your addiction was, who you are or what you want to become, you know that you have a large group of support behind you. Keep the number handy and call or stop by when you need additional support.
Living the sober life is not easy, so you need to be prepared. Having an aftercare plan is the first step, but you have to make it work. By engaging with your support system and following a detailed plan, you can have a sobriety that is rewarding and permanent.