How to Make a Relapse Prevention Aftercare Plan
Recovery & Relapse
In order to address addiction effectively, it is imperative to look at the subject of relapse. Virtually any addict can tell you their relapse stories. Relapse doesn’t only mean the individual went through a formal recovery program and subsequently reverted to drug or alcohol abuse. They could have stopped using on their own, kept it up for a while, but faltered. This can happen over and over again. Chances are, by the time they enter a rehab program or facility, they are all too familiar with relapse. The vast majority of addiction goes entirely untreated, while many people rotate through rehab over and over again. There is a primary mistake in that approach. As an example, if you do the Twelve Step program – or some version of it – five times, yet relapse five times, could it be that the Twelve Steps are not working for you? Could it be that a different system is necessary? That is the essential difference in the holistic approach.
Addiction is Unique
Addiction is unique for each person, so each person’s recovery program should contain steps that are unique to that person. A fundamental part of an adaptable recovery program includes putting together an effective relapse prevention plan. This plan is assembled as the individual progresses through the steps of recovery. Prior to graduating, addiction specialists and the recovering addict have formulated and finalized a comprehensive post-graduation plan. Make no mistake – the recovered addict or alcoholic plays a vital role in assembling this plan. After all, it is his or her life we’re talking about. Here are some of the subjects to be covered and included in a comprehensive aftercare plan:
What Led to Substance Abuse?
They will objectively discuss the circumstances that led to their substance abuse problem. It could have been an attempt to deal with problems at school or at home, stress on the job, or an effort to numb physical pain. A person could have been an aspiring athlete, sustained sports injuries, and sought to deal with them or improve their performance through various types of drug use. These points must be gone over and steps included so these circumstances do not recur.
It is not that stress and difficulty – i.e. life itself – does not happen. It is how these difficulties are weathered and overcome that is different.
Something to be particularly alert for is prescription drugs in general – either prescribed by a doctor or simply the presence of these drugs. There are about 4 billion prescriptions written in the US every year. There are pills in the medicine cabinet, at a friend’s house, at school, on the street, and being dispensed through “pill mills” (pharmacies or clinics that prescribe or dispense prescription narcotics for non-medical uses). A former addict in the hospital for an injury or illness can be prescribed an opioid painkiller and relapse just that easily. Any friend of a recovering addict should lock away their pills (as should be done anyway) as well as their booze.
Any use of prescription meds must be closely monitored. Psychiatric drugs should be entirely avoided due to their adverse effects and addictive properties.
Negative Influences, Enablers and Causes
A recovered addict should have a good handle on who and what has had a tendency to cause an impulse to use drugs. That word, impulse, is important – as any action typically starts with an impulse. Another relevant word is compulsion. Certain situations and even specific people can cause the impulse or compulsion to use drugs.
A recovered heroin user would certainly do well to avoid associating with their “friends” that are still using. While in rehab, they should deal with any issues regarding this group of people. For example, they may decide to tell them about their recovery and recommend they do the same. If any of them are anything remotely resembling a true friend (whether they are still using or not), they will respect this.
A recovered alcoholic should take inventory of social drinking situations and what they can and cannot deal with easily, and their friends and family should take heed.
Cravings and Tolerance
A former user may still experience cravings for drugs or alcohol. These can be physical or psychological in nature. Even though they have quit using, their body or mind may seek – to one degree or another – the dopamine rush of drugs. This is an especially delicate point. Previously, often over years, the drug user had built up tolerance to specific substances but has since gotten clean.
Obviously we do not want them relapsing at all, but the point must be made that it is dangerous and deadly for them to use – even once – anywhere near the same amount or potency of drugs they were accustomed to before. A person who relapses thinking they can tolerate the same chemical rush is making a potentially fatal mistake. This is the exact situation that accounts for a certain percentage of opiate overdose deaths.
Any recovered addict must understand the subjects of cravings and tolerance. Holistic rehab, from detox to aftercare, must help provide exact ways to manage or neutralize cravings.
No one goes it alone in this world. You need friends, real ones, friends that will help you maintain sobriety. In holistic recovery, the former addict or alcoholic works with the staff to establish a stable support network. This post-graduation network consists of trusted and reliable family and friends, as well as members of the facility’s aftercare section. These are people the graduate can fall back on when needed – any time, night or day, no matter what. The support network is a vital component in the aftercare strategy.
Relocation & Vocation
It may be necessary to help the individual relocate, particularly when their former environment or situation was conducive to substance abuse. A graduate of rehab very often has to find a job. Aftercare can provide letters of recommendation, help with resumes, and help the person decide on a career trajectory through apprenticeship programs, vocational training, etc.
Focus & Goals
It is common in holistic rehab for the patient/client to embrace certain disciplines in their quest for a more fulfilling way of life. They would use drugs as a “way out” – an escape from reality – only to find themselves very trapped indeed. They land in rehab, detoxify from drugs, deal with some of their most pressing issues – but then what? It is essential for the individual to reorient themselves within a framework of holistic and healthy interests. What they decide to do exactly is individually tailored.
Some examples are physical fitness, yoga, martial arts, music, the arts and humanities, new skills, a new career, a new family, spirituality and faith – in short, a NEW START and a NEW LIFE. They should keep these pursuits at a high roar in their post-graduation life. It is a key to their recovery and continued sobriety and success.
The graduate should stay in close communication with the aftercare department and his/her support network. Aftercare ensures this happens through regular follow-up calls. If the graduate runs into trouble, this contact should be stepped-up. Communication is the key. If the person drops out of communication, it is a signal to find out what is going on.
A person who has been through rehab should not feel fixated upon or distressed about the subject of relapse. If they doubt themselves, communication is always the answer. Communication is the universal key that unlocks the doors to stable recovery.
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