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The importance of aftercare in the recovery process - The Moon Addiction recovery services 19 Feb 2017

It is a widely accepted statistic that only 1 in 10 addiction patients who receive treatment, will achieve long-term recovery of 5 years or more. Without looking at how statistics are formulated we know that whatever the actual rate is, it is incredibly low.

The question to be asked is how do we increase the chances of a successful recovery? The answer to that is quite simply after-care (or extended care). We wouldn’t release a patient from Intensive Care without follow-up rehabilitation, support and medical assistance and addicts need and deserve the same kind of post-treatment care.

The phases of recovery, as laid out below, demand that in order for patients to have a reasonable chance at a successful recovery, continued treatment needs to be applied that deals specifically with these phases. The Extended Care Model differs in approach and content from Inpatient Treatment.

The extended care model also and most importantly proposes that the most difficult period of recovery is going to occur when most patients have left Primary Care treatment and the patient needs to be managed during this time. Much of what happens during the first six weeks of treatment / recovery is about containment and dealing with denial. Learning the coping skills required to achieve long-term recovery only become possible after about 3 – 5 months of sobriety, as by this time the brain has only begun to heal sufficiently enough for the patient to be able to process and learn anything new.

The addict is also faced with life away from the secure and structured environment of a treatment centre, which brings its own challenges. Facing these challenges with the assistance of an Extended Care model, will greatly assist in not only achieving long-term recovery but true happiness in the years to follow.

PHASES OF RECOVERY 1. Withdrawal Stage (First 7 – 14 days) Difficult withdrawal symptoms are related to the amount, frequency and type of substance use.

  • Early Abstinence (First 14 – 45 days) – “Pink Cloud” Most people feel quite good during this period and often feel “cured.” As a result, they may want to end treatment or stop attending a support groups. The energy, enthusiasm and optimism felt during this period must be directed towards building a strong recovery foundation.

  • Protracted Abstinence (First 45 days – 5 months) – “The Wall” “The Wall” is a period characterised by difficulties with thoughts and feelings caused by the continuing healing process in the brain. The most common symptoms are depression, irritability, difficulty concentrating, low energy and a general lack of enthusiasm. Relapse risk goes up during this period due to strong craving cycles. Focus must remain on remaining abstinent one day at a time.

  • Readjustment (First 5 – 7 months) The substantial brain recovery after 5 months allows for developing a life with fulfilling activities that support continued recovery. Although a difficult part of recovery is over, hard work is needed to improve the quality of life. Because cravings occur less often and feel less intense, relapse risk can increase if high-risk situations are not avoided.

  • Finally, the recovering addict has no concept of a life without alcohol or drugs and this thought is truly terrifying, with the support, care, knowledge and understanding that after-care teaches, the addict is nurtured until they can experience for themselves the true joy and serenity that recovery has to offer.