One of the most underestimated and arguably important aspects of any alcohol or drug rehab treatment program is the implementation of relapse prevention measures. Regardless if you find staying sober difficult or easy in rehab, it inevitably gets much harder once you leave the facility. Whether it’s due to temptation, difficulty in coping with life on its own terms or perhaps a combination of both, the period immediately following treatment is most frequently associated with relapse. This is understandable since it is precisely when the patient experiences a rapid and sharp shift from their relatively secure life in treatment and forced to face the unpredictable and occasionally difficult outside world.
Relapse Prevention Programs
Traditionally, rehab facilities had little to offer patients in the way of post-rehab care. Ultimately, these facilities found themselves relying upon existing networks in the local recovery community to provide support for newly sober individuals. However, this is predicated on the recently released patient pursuing these initial contacts in the program. Today, most rehab facilities offer an intermediary route for patients, former patients and sober persons looking to give back in the form of relapse prevention programs.
The idea behind relapse prevention programs, also known as aftercare programs, is to lessen the gap between rehab and the real world. Individuals are under the care and support of both professionals and peers from rehab, while often also building new relationships with alumni of the rehab program who are still residing in the area and have longer periods of sobriety. This sense of community is critical to the early recovery process. When relapse is only one drink or drug away for anyone at any time, having a safety net during the early periods of sobriety is critical to building a foundation for long-term sobriety.
A Critical Role in Long-Term Sobriety
To say that having ties to a sober community is essential in recovery would be an understatement. However, making these social connections proves challenging for anyone, let alone the newly sober individual. Fortunately, the recovery community understands this and generally goes far out of their way to meet, greet and situate newcomers as soon as they walk in the door. But for many, the educational aspect of the rehab programming—as well as the recently formed bonds between fellow patients, counselors, and therapists—should not have to be left behind right after completing treatment.
And for the many in long-term sobriety who have thrived off of relapse prevention programs, it’s a very good thing it isn’t.