Time for a Tune-Up: Why Aftercare Maintenance is Essential for Recovery
Getting sober is a huge first step in the recovery process. While that’s a vital achievement, sobriety only serves as your foundation’s cornerstone. Aftercare maintenance is how you build on that foundation.
Sustaining sobriety takes time, effort, and commitment. It’s also about navigating life’s ups and downs without relapsing. Even if you have a sustained period of recovery, it’s crucial to perform a regular tune-up of aftercare maintenance.
Recovery Maintenance After Initial Treatment
Post-treatment is an important time to get a solid foothold in recovery. After initial treatment, you may now have sustained sobriety for several weeks and gotten used to attending regular meetings. You may now start to feel like you can handle—even thrive in—a recovery lifestyle.
That’s great! We don’t want to diminish your accomplishments. However, maintaining recovery takes work and diligence.
Most relapses happen within six months following treatment. By strengthening your aftercare plan, you’ll help ensure your sobriety isn’t at-risk during this delicate time.
Steps to tune up your aftercare plan may include:
- Sober living, outpatient care, and developing a support network
- Attending follow-up appointments with your medical provider and treatment center
- Developing and practicing coping skills
- Building a solid relapse prevention plan with a mentor or counselor
- Finding a recovery community in your home environment
- Finding a sponsor and working the steps/a program of recovery
- Integrating (carefully) back into employment and the community
- Creating a new social life with interesting activities, such as:
- Taking art classes
- Exploring interesting hobbies
- Learning a new skill or trade
- Taking dance classes
- Attending events or concerts (sober)
- Playing group sports
Building social support is key to aftercare maintenance. Whether it’s a therapist or recovery group, a social network keeps you accountable for your recovery.
Sustaining Recovery with Regular Aftercare Maintenance
After sustained sobriety, you may feel confident in your recovery. Treatment may also seem like a lifetime ago. And both may be true.
However, there is a thin line between confidence and complacency. You may start to attend fewer meetings and become less engaged in the recovery community. This requires an aftercare tune-up.
While this is normal, be mindful that recovery is also susceptible to other life events. Over time, life commitments will increasingly try to take priority over your recovery.
Here are some tips to help you keep recovery as a top priority:
- Keep in touch with your closest sober friends. Set up a regular coffee date so that you’re always connected to a sober social life.
- Remember why you got sober. Perhaps keep a visual reminder. If temptation does arise, you can stay committed easier to your why.
- Attend a regular meeting. Even if it’s only once a week, this commitment can help you remember your commitment to sobriety.
- Sponsor or mentor other people in recovery. Pass on your knowledge and support. This will remind you of the effort recovery requires.
- Have a relapse plan. You may not think you’ll relapse. But it’s always important to have a contingency plan in place. Think about who to call and the steps to get back on track.
- Stay healthy. Regular exercise and healthy eating habits are great ways to promote a sense of wellness, mentally and physically.
- Be mindful of stress levels. While we all get stressed-out occasionally, living in a stressful environment may lead to chronic stress, a major trigger for relapse.
Aftercare Maintenance Includes Stress Management
Having a regular check-in about your stress levels and having stress outlets (like exercise, meditation, and therapy) are great ways to ensure you stay on an even keel. If stress becomes too much, it may be time to evaluate your employment, living environment, and relationships.
Your recovery is more important than any of these aspects of life. Because, without recovery, you may have a hard time maintaining a job, home, or relationship.