A human cannonball is an apt description of anyone exiting a rehab. Ejection from the safe confines of a drug and alcohol treatment center carries with it a fireball of fear and myriad of raw feelings and emotions.
The risk of relapsing is greatly reduced with a solid aftercare plan in place before an individual’s discharge date. Mental illness is no different than treating the rest of the body after a hospitalization. It requires exercising brain muscles, emotions, and spiritual principles just as you would expect a course of rehabilitation to heal after surgery. Recovering from a physical injury involves taking it easy, but addicts and alcoholics in early sobriety often put undue pressure on themselves and also suffer from overwhelming guilt over their past misdeeds. Because they look and sound better as a result of the detoxification of the chemicals from their bodies they are vulnerable to the unrealistic expectations and demands of others. It’s all a set-up for failure. But newfound sobriety doesn’t have to be a sink or swim proposition. There are lifeguards to keep one’s head above water.
In my personal experience of getting sober over a decade ago— it was the aftercare where I just stepped out and imploded! And that became my focus of what I can do to help others transition from the controlled environment of a rehab center to reclaiming their lives.
There is a common misconception that when people leave treatment, they are cured, but actually, the separation from abusing the substance of choice is only the beginning because alcoholism is a progressive illness. Recovery from any addiction involves lifelong maintenance to ensure lasting health benefits. While 12-step support groups should not be discounted as they provide a haven for continued care, the reality is that nobody can live in a meeting 24/7. Education is essential, but self-knowledge is not the sole answer for treating alcoholism. Addicts and alcoholics have to practice what they learn out in the real world which beckons us from being disenchanted spectators to active and productive participants.
Even the highest functioning, successful professionals are much like wobbly infants when it comes to performing simple daily personal routines in early recovery. People often require guidance navigating chores associated with everyday living. Upon entering a treatment facility people have neglected everything from hygiene, grooming and food shopping, to financial and legal challenges. Coping mechanisms are frayed, and decision-making skills are fallible – so they need support acclimating to optimum health. Reconnecting and restoring relationships are perhaps the most difficult situations they face, and boundary setting is critical to re-entering their environments.
As a recovery coach, I come to you. We meet out in the open, free of the restrictive walls of a residential setting or therapists office, and together we create a relapse prevention plan that takes into account your personal situation. It’s customized. While the disease of alcoholism has specific common characteristics, no two alcoholics or addict’s circumstances and experiences are the same. A broad set of approaches are implemented which involve a team of addiction experts. It is a dialectical and cognitive shift in thoughts and behaviors to help people explore how the past events and trauma in their lives controlled their choices. Working with the therapy team and the family to discover the underlying issues and work through them in a healthy way, rather than in a dangerous manner of self-harm that was self-inflicted in the past. The drug, food or drink is only a symptom of the real problem, which is centered in the mind of the individual – where the disease resides.
Protecting you from being just another statistic of the all too true prognosis that relapse is part of recovery is the goal of stable aftercare treatment. The end game is freedom from addictions consuming and defining a person. If you want to go from kumbaya to kicking ass, committing to aftercare following treatment will give you a fighting chance of re-establishing your personal relationships and becoming the ‘you’ that you’ve always dreamed about being.