If you’re a doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional in the process of completing (or have just completed) treatment for a substance use disorder (i.e., alcohol and/or drug dependence), you’ve very likely heard a trumpet blaring in your ear about the importance of… aftercare!
Indeed, given the medical establishment does not currently have a cure for substance use disorders, addiction specialists emphasize that when a healthcare professional “finishes” a stay in rehab (i.e., completes treatment for a chemical dependency), their number one priority ought to be engaging themselves in a quality aftercare program of recovery.
You may well be asking, “Well, what might that look like?”
Since addiction affects all areas of our lives, a quality aftercare program will necessarily utilize a multi-pronged approach to address all the dimensions of a person who’s seeking ongoing recovery. Here are a few key elements to consider.
To continue healing from the physical dependence on alcohol and/or drugs after treatment, certainly we must abstain from drinking and drugging, one day at a time, no matter what. However, we must also maintain a daily protocol that addresses the psychological and behavioral factors that can act as obstacles to our getting better.
Though a substantial portion of treatment typically focusses on healing and transforming the psychological and emotional aspects of addiction—which commonly are significant contributors to a person’s turning to alcohol and/or drugs in the first place—clearly those aspects not yet healed must be dealt with in an ongoing manner – i.e., healed, changed and replaced.
Those who have longtime recovery have a saying, based on their own experience: “Recovery involves changing, from the ground-floor up, the way we feel, think and act.”
So, after a chemically dependent healthcare professional goes through medical detox (if deemed necessary), and treatment has assisted them in their healing and equipped them with skills and knowledge needed to cope with their lives, relations and careers in healthy ways, still they require something to help them stay sober for the long haul.
A March 2020 article on recovery after rehab points out, “Adjusting to life after rehab has its challenges, especially because of the loss of routine provided by the rehab program. External factors and influences resurface, which means the patient has to put what they learned in rehab to the test. This can be an overwhelming experience, which is why aftercare is important.”
Most treatment centers that specialize in helping healthcare professionals recover from substance use disorders have excellent aftercare programs already in place. Some maintain their own “sober living” facilities– residential living quarters for people who’re recovering, which offer extra support as they readjust to life after rehab. Some offer continued therapy and counselling, post-treatment, as well. And some treatment centers provide “alumni support groups.”
Although every sober living home operates under a different set of guidelines, most share some characteristics and policies that ensure the likelihood that all residents will remain sober and strengthen their recovery.
Additionally, most treatment facilities continue offering therapy and counselling sessions to graduating clients in aftercare. The benefits of greater self-awareness and emotional healing, understanding about the nature of addiction, and clarity about possible triggers and how to avoid or address them can be invaluable when one leaves rehab and starts applying what they’ve learned in treatment to their experiences in “the real world.”
A variety of post-treatment support groups are usually highly recommended for those leaving treatment. Whether it’s groups of recovering alcoholics or addicts, whose purpose is to maintain sobriety and help others do the same, these “fellowships” offer up a network of people who understand what it is like to struggle with addiction, and can provide psychological, emotional and spiritual support for the person in early recovery.
If you or some healthcare professional you know is in the grips of alcohol and/or drug addiction, seeking help in the form of medical detox (if deemed necessary) and treatment is the first step. Following up with a quality aftercare program can ensure a life of freedom from active addiction, one day at a time.