Overcoming an addiction to a mood-altering substance such as alcohol or drugs is usually a three-stage process comprised of a detox, rehabilitation, and aftercare. However, while most people are familiar with what detox and rehabilitation are, there are some who are not really sure what is addiction aftercare?
The Importance of Addiction Aftercare
So, what is addiction aftercare, and why is it so important? What you should know is that while detox treats the physical element of addiction and rehab treats the psychological, aftercare is required to help with maintenance of sobriety. This is a very important but often neglected part of the recovery process.
After your treatment for addiction, you will probably return to your everyday life; this is when the job of maintaining your sobriety begins. It is something that can prove tricky for many people, especially in the early days when the risk of relapse is high. This is where aftercare can prove to be a literal lifesaver; having addiction support after rehab finishes can help you to avoid a return to addictive behaviour.
What Aftercare Options Do I Have?
One of the best resources available after a programme of rehabilitation is a local fellowship support group. You may also have additional support from your treatment provider for up to a year, but it is likely that you will be encouraged to get involved with your local fellowship support group.
Fellowship support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have been instrumental in helping millions of people around the world to stay sober after leaving rehab. AA and NA members come from all walks of life and meet regularly to help inspire and motivate each other to stay sober.
What Are Fellowship Support Group Meetings Like?
You may be aware of groups such as AA or NA but if you have never been to a meeting, you might have your own opinion of what they are like. It is probable that the reality is quite different. It is likely that you have a distorted view of these groups based on things you may have seen on TV or in the movies.
Contrary to popular belief, members of AA and NA come from all different backgrounds. Some are professionals, some are athletes, some are musicians, and some are unemployed. The only things they all have in common is the fact that they choose to be there, and they are working hard to maintain their sobriety.
It is likely that you have no clue as to what to expect from a fellowship meeting, particularly if you have never attended one before. What you should know is that these meetings are similar to social groups where the strongest beverage available is coffee. Here, members talk about their own experiences and stories and listen to talks from guest speakers.
Those who participate at these meetings do so through choice. There are some members who are only too happy to have a place where they can be open and honest in an environment where they know they will not be judged. Others prefer to stay silent and listen to what others have to say. The great thing is that nobody is forced to admit they have a problem with alcohol or drugs and no one has to talk if they do not want to.
What Will Happen at Your First Meeting?
Fellowship support groups hold open and closed meetings regularly. Open meetings are attended by members and their guests. These meetings are a fantastic way to get an idea of what happens. They tend to be an excellent choice for those who want to ease themselves into meetings. Closed meetings are for members only; guests cannot attend.
Most members arrive early for their meetings so that they can chat with friends before things get under way. For the most part, you can expect your meeting to start on time, so if you want to interact with other members, you should get into the habit of arriving a few minutes early.
If you are worried about what to expect from a fellowship support meeting, you might want to consider an open meeting initially. This will enable you to take someone with you and may serve to make you more comfortable with the process.
All you need to do is sit there and listen at your first meeting – and subsequent meetings if you prefer. If you are asked to introduce yourself, you can say your first name or another name if you prefer to stay anonymous. You could also say ‘I pass’, if you are not ready to share your name just yet.
If the idea of speaking at all makes you feel nervous or scared, you could simply arrive a few minutes later to ensure that the introductions have been done. You can then sit at the back and just watch the proceedings.
There may be some at your meeting who seem to be very confident and stable in their recovery, but remember that everyone at your meeting was once in a similar position to the one you find yourself in now. They are just further along in the process than you are. You should look at them as a window to what you could be like a few months or years from now.
Working a Programme of Recovery
When you join an aftercare support group such as AA or NA, you will likely be encouraged to work through your own programme of recovery, which may mean completing the 12-steps. You might have already been introduced to the twelve steps by your treatment provider.
The twelve steps are the foundation on which many fellowship support groups are based. They are adapted for various organisations, but as per the official AA website, they are as follows:
- Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
- Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
- Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
- Step 4: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Step 6: Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Step 7: Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Step 8: Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
- Step 11: Sought though prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
- Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The twelve steps are broken down into three sections: the decision steps (steps 1-3), the action steps (steps 4-9) and the maintenance steps (steps 10-12). As part of your treatment programme for addiction, you may have already worked through the decision steps and some of the action steps.
When you join a fellowship group after your treatment programme ends, you can continue working through the rest of them.
Do You Have to Be Religious to Join a Fellowship Group?
As you can see from the original twelve steps above, there are a couple of mentions of God, which inevitably lead many people to believe that groups such as AA are based on religious beliefs. The reality is that you do not have to believe in God to work the twelve steps. In fact, members tend to come from different religions and there are those who do not follow any religion at all.
The idea of a Higher Power is generally accepted instead of God and is based on the fact that when it comes to recovery, most people need to get strength from something or someone outside of him or herself. While some people do use God as their Higher Power, others describe their Higher Power as a force that is helping them to overcome their addiction for good.
The aim of fellowship support groups is to help you maintain sobriety upon leaving your treatment programme. Relapse prevention is a huge part of recovery and with the additional support of your local support group, you will find it easier to stay sober.
Nevertheless, there are other things that you should remember when trying to avoid a return to addictive behaviour. Knowing what your triggers are can help you to keep on the straight and narrow. This is something you will undoubtedly have worked on with your counsellor or therapist during rehabilitation.
Avoiding temptation is one of the best ways to maintain sobriety. Provided you know how to recognise your cues and how to react positively to them is essential. Some triggers are going to be more obvious than others, so you need to be vigilant at all times and avoid complacency.
To learn more about how to avoid a relapse, or if you are wondering what is addiction aftercare and why it is so important, you can give us a call. We are happy to answer any of your questions and can provide information and advice on how to access aftercare support.
If you would like more information on any other aspect of addiction recovery, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. We work with treatment providers across the UK and can find a programme to suit you and your needs.