Why Is Continuing Care Planning Important to Recovery?
Recovering from an addiction doesn’t end when you leave rehab.
Like other serious medical conditions, continuing care and an ongoing treatment plan are required to maintain a healthier lifestyle. Skipping this important step of recovery can lead to relapse.
Relapse and Recovery Rates
Because of the chronic nature of addiction, relapsing at some point is likely. Relapse rates for people with addiction are similar to those for people with other chronic medical conditions such as asthma, hypertension, or diabetes, which have both behavioral and physiological components.
Treating these medical conditions involves changing behaviors; however, relapse doesn’t mean that the original treatment failed. Lapsing back to drug use indicates that the treatment needs to be adjusted or reinstated, or another method of treating the addiction needs to be tried. The relapse rates for addiction compare to those of other chronic illnesses:
- Drug addiction: 40-60%
- Type I diabetes: 30-50%
- Hypertension: 50-70%
- Asthma: 50-70%
Because more than half of all people in recovery will likely relapse, it is important to follow up treatment with continuing care. Addiction is a life-long condition just like other chronic illnesses, and additional care can reduce the chances of relapsing by helping you to live a healthier lifestyle.
Understanding Continuing Care
Being in a part- or full-time drug or alcohol treatment program arms you with the tools and knowledge to live sober. However, when you leave the program, you may not feel healthy or confident enough to use these tools alone in the real world.
While in recovery, you aren’t faced with temptations such as hanging out with drug-using friends or being near the places where you purchased or used drugs or alcohol. Obtaining substances while in treatment can be quite difficult, but going home is another story. This is when you should seek continuing care through support from family and friends, as well as professional help. A good follow-up or continuing care program should include:
- Attending support meetings
- Continuing with counseling
- Setting up family or marriage counseling
- Applying the skills learned in treatment
Types of Continuing Care Programs
There are two types of structured continuing care programs for people with addiction: outpatient treatment programs and halfway or sober living houses. Both allow for follow-up care following the completion of inpatient or residential rehab treatment.
- Outpatient treatment programs: These programs usually take place in an office or clinic location where educational or daily therapeutic group meetings are held. You will probably attend one of these programs several days a week and slowly taper off as you progress.
- Sober living or halfway houses: These are structured living settings that offer drug-free and safe environments. Some of these homes are designated as court-mandated for those who live there.
These types of follow-up programs are closely monitored to prevent relapse as they typically have counselors on staff to help in the recovery efforts. However, many of these programs are also run independently and may be unaccredited. Sober living and halfway houses are not always regulated by a governing body, so you may need to do your research first. Other types of continuing care programs include:
- 12-step meetings
- NA/AA meetings
- ALANON meeting for family members
- Sponsors or recovery mentors
- Support groups
- Medical and psychiatric referrals
- Employment and career counseling
- Continuing education and financial aid resources
Your New Life
Besides preventing you from relapsing, continuing care can also help you build a new social life. Initially, rehab opens up new opportunities and possibilities to help you reach your goals. However, reinventing a social life can take some work, too.
When you first enter your sober life, you may find yourself feeling bored, lonely, and even helpless. The activities you once enjoyed probably centered around drugs or alcohol. Don’t let that stop you from finding something new to enjoy where you can meet others and build your social life. This can include taking a class, volunteering, playing a musical instrument, or going to the movies.
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