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The Importance of Alcohol Rehab Aftercare
An alcohol use disorder (AUD) is when problems arise from drinking too much or too often. This medical condition is characterized by alcohol-related problems, like interference with work, home, or family, building a tolerance, suffering withdrawal symptoms, and putting oneself at risk of injury because of drinking. About 17 million adults over the age of 18 have an AUD, and it is one of the most significant public health issues in America. Seeking treatment is vital if you suffer with an AUD. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that one third of people who receive treatment for alcohol-related problems have no symptoms 1 year later. However, sobriety doesn’t end when someone leaves treatment. Alcohol rehab aftercare is essential for long term success.
If you believe you are struggling with an AUD, contact a healthcare provider who will be able to assess you. You can also ask yourself some questions that if are answered “yes,” you may have a serious problem. These questions include:
- Have you tried to cut back on drinking, but couldn’t?
- Have you quit activities you used to enjoy because of alcohol?
- Have you continued to drink despite it causing problems with friends and family?
- Do you experience an intense craving, need, or urge to drink?
- Have you continued drinking despite it making you feel anxious or depressed?
- Have you drunk more and for longer periods of time than intended?
Finding the right treatment program might seem daunting, but a treatment provider can help you figure out your needs. The level of care depends on the severity of the AUD. The basic levels of care include outpatient, intensive outpatient or partial hospitalization, intensive inpatient, and residential. Detoxing in a medical facility is the safest way to detox from alcohol. Some withdrawal symptoms from alcohol are dangerous and potentially life threatening. Medical professionals can ease the symptoms from detox and make sure the patients’ blood pressure, temperature, heart rate, and breathing is stable.
Most inpatient alcohol rehab programs last 30 to 90 days, but the longer someone stays in rehab, the higher their success rates are. Rehab may include medication, behavioral counseling, and treatment for co-occurring mental health issues. When someone leaves rehab, their journey towards sobriety is just getting started. The choices they make after leaving treatment can predict their long-term success and whether a relapse may occur.
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Alcohol Rehab Aftercare
Alcohol rehab aftercare are options for individuals to use to be held accountable for their sobriety. This may include counseling and therapy, sober living homes, facility-based programs, support groups, and alumni groups. Many rehab centers offer aftercare services after the initial treatment is over and will inform their patients of it. A provider can help you create an aftercare plan that meets your needs. If you are uncertain, you can contact your rehab facility to find out more. Therapy and counseling are conducted daily while attending inpatient rehab, but continuing therapy after leaving rehab is just as important for recovering alcoholics.
Counseling and Therapy
Focused counseling sessions and one-on-one therapy can help people deal with their triggers for drinking, stress, anxiety, and depression and help them change the behaviors that make them want to drink. Some may also want to bring in spouses or family for group therapy. Cognitive behavioral therapy can not only help patients cope with their problems but can help them identify situations in which they are likely to drink and how to avoid those situations. The duration of therapy or counseling depends on the needs of the individual, and some may taper off until they are attending sessions only once a week or once a month. There are a variety of therapies that can be selected, based on each person’s needs, such as faith-based therapy, experiential therapy, and holistic therapy.
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Sober Living Homes
Sober living homes, which may also be referred to as recovery residences, recovery housing, and recovery homes, are alcohol- and drug-free housing for people in recovery. These communities are a great transition back to normal life after leaving a rehab facility. It is a home that people live in and come and go as they please. Stays are usually at least 90 days. This provides recovering alcoholics with a supportive community and may have mandatory group meetings and chores. Using drugs or alcohol is prohibited and the people who reside in sober living homes may be required to partake in drug and alcohol testing.
Those leaving rehab who return to the same town may find themselves faced with a greater challenge than those who get a change of scenery. In a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, researchers found that those who stayed in a sober living home had improvements in alcohol and drug use, psychiatric symptoms, arrests, and employment. These communities also help recovering alcoholics move towards employment and make connections with others who have the same goal of sobriety.
Support groups offer a space for recovering alcoholics to speak freely about their experiences, thoughts, and fears, and meet others who understand what they are going through. The most common type of support group is the 12-step program that is modeled off of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). The 12 steps of AA walk participants through achieving and maintaining sobriety. Sponsors (someone who has gone through AA and has maintained sobriety) can guide recovering alcoholics and act as a support system. Support groups like Al-Anon and Alateen are beneficial to family members of the recovering alcoholic and helps people connect who are going through similar experiences.
Those who attend support groups have benefits in treatment engagement, substance use, and cravings. People who participate in peer support groups have higher rates of abstinence, and sponsors who have a sponsee also have higher rates of abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Support group attendees are more satisfied with their treatment and have reductions in relapse rates. Recovering alcoholics who struggled with homelessness are less likely to return to homelessness if they are part of a support group. Finding a group that works for the individual is an important part of alcohol rehab aftercare and individuals should research groups in their area.
Alumni support groups are collections of recovering alcoholics, most likely from the same treatment facility, that operate in a similar way to support groups: offering care and encouragement towards one another. Those who participate in alumni programs have higher success rates. One study found that 33% of people who dropped out of treatment said they would have stayed longer if they had help with living areas, post-treatment services, and practical assistance. Alumni services result in improved residential stability and reductions in substance use. One of the foundations of any support group is the fellowship between members, and the structure provides a scheduled time for recovering alcoholics to share and decrease their chances of relapse.
Relapse and Recovery
Before leaving treatment, it is imperative to create an alcohol rehab aftercare plan. Treatment centers should be able to assist in creating a comprehensive plan. Although rehab often lasts only 1 to 3 months, many say addiction is a life-long struggle. Attending treatment is the beginning to a better life, but the work does not stop after leaving rehab. Creating a path for success will help individuals not to feel overwhelmed and tempted to relapse. Unfortunately, relapses are common but do not mean someone should give up on their sobriety. If you or a loved one has relapsed or are seeking treatment, contact a provider who can help you find the right rehabilitation center for your needs.
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