Having a strong support system has been identified as one of the greatest protective factors against relapse after drug treatment. After finishing a drug rehab program, clients can continue to rely on a support network that includes members of their treatment team, family and friends, and their peers from the rehab center. Aftercare planning is a vital component of any comprehensive drug treatment program, as this service helps to maintain sobriety when the client is back in the community.
Some of the activities recommended in an aftercare program include:
- Joining an alumni program for graduates of the drug treatment program
- Attending local 12-Step meetings
- Participating in recovery organizations
- Volunteering for public service groups
- Staying in a sober living environment
Sober living homes act as a bridge between rehab and life in the community by providing a drug-free environment where residents can practice their new coping skills. Life in these homes is structured by a series of rules that support sobriety, yet residents have a great deal of independence and freedom. Attendance at regular meetings, adherence to a curfew, and participation in household chores are required at most sober living houses.
A study of 245 recovering individuals dwelling in sober living homes found that after six months, 12 months, and 18 months, these residents had shown improvement in several key areas of recovery, including alcohol and drug use, employment, criminal behavior, and psychiatric symptoms. This study, published in the Journal of Substance Abuse, indicates that residents of sober living environments are more likely to avoid relapse than those who rejoin the mainstream community immediately after rehab.
Relapse prevention is one of the primary goals of an aftercare program. Clients in aftercare are encouraged to practice their alternate behaviors and newly acquired coping skills as they confront the challenges of life in the community. Sustaining long-term sobriety is not a matter of luck or chance, but the result of commitment and effort on the part of the recovering individual and loved ones. An effective drug treatment program gives its clients the tools they need to sustain the benefits of rehab long after leaving the facility.