The time following treatment is one of the riskiest and most challenging times for individuals trying to build lives in recovery. While in treatment, individuals are strongly supported by a team of therapists, peers in recovery, 12-Step mentors and support staff. They are removed from their normal lives, so face far fewer relapse triggers. They can immediately process difficult situations and emotions in a healthy way. Once treatment is concluded, however, our clients often are overwhelmed by the outside world, which they have not faced sober in a long time. They will encounter difficult relationships, the stress of responsibility, emotionally triggering situations and regular temptation. Drugs and alcohol are prevalent everywhere, so the potential pitfalls are many.
While the recovery tools and emotional coping skills clients learn in treatment are incredibly effective, the practical application of those skills in the real world is much more challenging than in a treatment setting. Additionally, the nature of addiction as a “chronic relapsing brain disease” means our clients are battling a mind that might not be fully healed. Research on addiction shows us that it usually takes a minimum of 90 days for the brain’s neural pathways to change. Depending upon how long a client has been in treatment, their brain’s neural pathways may not have fully re-wired. Clients may still be battling cravings caused by a brain that still tells them they need drugs or alcohol.
All these factors combined mean that a thorough aftercare plan is absolutely critical for ongoing recovery. Guardian’s aftercare services help our clients stay strong in the first year after treatment.