A lot of people assume that completing an addiction treatment program is all they really need to do in order to recover. Unfortunately, treatment isn’t like taking your car to the shop. Treatment gives you a great start in recovery. It gets you away from bad influences and bad situations, helps you detox safely, gets you started in therapy, and it teaches you some crucial recovery skills. However, all of this is just a beginning. Addiction is a chronic condition that requires you to stick to an ongoing treatment plan. As with high blood pressure or diabetes, when you abandon your treatment plan, the condition gets worse. Transitional care is a way of making sure that the positive changes you make during treatment continue long after you leave.
When you leave treatment, you go from a highly structured environment to an unstructured environment. When you’re in inpatient treatment, pretty much everything is scheduled such as sleep, meals, therapy, activities, and free time. While this clearly has a practical purpose, it also has a therapeutic purpose. You know what to expect from each day and you don’t have to put much energy into deciding what to do, making healthy decisions, and so on. Having structure in your days minimizes boredom and restlessness and it fosters conscientiousness. This self-awareness is a personality trait that helps protect us against substance use.
It can be rather jarring to go from a highly structured environment like treatment to one where there is essentially no structure at all. Usually, a month is not long enough to make your treatment routine automatic, but it is a pretty good start. It’s a good idea to try to keep to that regular schedule as much as possible after you leave.
When you’re in treatment, pretty much everyone around you is invested in your recovery. The staff is paid to help you get sober and stay sober. Beyond that, most people choose that work because helping people with substance use issues means something to them. Most of the other people in treatment want to stay sober and many of them will support your efforts too.
It’s very different after you leave. Most people will have no idea you are recovering from addiction and some will actively make it harder for you to stay sober. There is also a lot more stress in regular life, which you were mostly shielded from during treatment. One of the first things you’ll have to do after leaving treatment is to create a sober support system as quickly as possible. Social support is one of the most important factors in a strong recovery.
Applying Recovery Skills
There’s often a big difference between theory and practice. During treatment, you’ll learn a lot of skills. You’ll learn how to manage your emotions, cope with stress, and to interact more effectively with others. You will even be able to practice these skills to some extent.
While this is great preparation, life often surprises us with new problems. It’s always important to have a plan but it’s also important to realize that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. We face new challenges all the time and having someone to help you apply your new recovery skills to real-life situations can make a big difference.
What Is Transitional Care?
Having seen some of the issues that make transitioning back to normal life after treatment so difficult for many people, what can be done about it? There are many different modes of follow-up care but they mainly fall into the three categories below.
Creating Social Support
The lowest level of follow-up care involves helping clients create some degree of social support. For example, many programs help clients get situated in external 12-Step programs so they will have an established meeting when they leave. Some programs offer alumni services that connect program graduates to alumni in their area. Some programs offer counseling services or virtual group sessions for a period following the formal program. These are not only helpful for clients but they often provide useful feedback for treatment programs.
Another common strategy is step-down care. For example, if you’ve just completed a period of inpatient treatment, you might continue on in an intensive outpatient program. This continues much of the intensive support and therapy and provides a bit of structure while giving you more freedom to live at home and work or go to school. Even if you don’t enroll in a formal program following treatment, you should find a good therapist and go to appointments at least once a week. For many people, daily 12-Step meetings help them stay on track during the first few months following treatment. The basic idea is that whatever level of care you’ve recently completed, you move down to a slightly less intensive form of treatment rather than heading straight back to normal life.
Sober Living Environment
Finally, you might consider a sober living environment to help you transition back to normal life. These are typically houses where only sober people live. Structure is a condition of living there and you can usually enjoy some support from your housemates. Usually, there is a curfew, and residents are required to do some chores, attend 12-Step meetings, and work or at least look for work.
Intensive treatment is a great start to recovery, but it’s important to keep in mind that addiction is a chronic condition that will require management for years, and possibly for life. You typically have to make a lot of changes during treatment and making these part of your normal life will take a bit of time, practice, and social support. At The Foundry, we know that the transitional period after treatment is a difficult time for people. That’s why we do everything we can to smooth that transition and make it successful. To learn more about our transitional care and our treatment programs in general, call us at 1 (844) 955-1066 or explore our website.