Options for Ongoing Support after Substance Treatment

After completing formal treatment for substance abuse or substance addiction, you have not reached the end of the challenges you must face while re-establishing a stable, productive daily routine. In fact, without some sort of continuing support, you have significantly increased chances of eventually losing your sobriety and, at least temporarily, relapsing back into active substance use. This is true, in part, because a return to daily life will almost certainly expose you to environments and emotional states that you associated with substance use in the past. With the help of ongoing support resources, you can learn to deal with these ‘trigger’ environments and emotions while successfully avoiding a return to substance intake.

Twelve-Step Support Groups

Twelve-step programs are well-known mutual aid groups that provide ongoing support for people recovering from an addiction to alcohol, legal medications or illegal drugs. These programs get their name because they feature a series of 12 sequential steps designed to help people in recovery do such things as admit powerlessness over the nature of addiction, admit personal shortcomings, gain perspective on their current situation, and atone for their unacceptable behaviors in the substance-influenced past. The 12-step model also focuses on mentorship relationships between participating members and regular attendance at supportive meetings. Specific 12-step groups meeting in communities throughout the U.S. include Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon/Alateen, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous and Marijuana Anonymous.

Non-Twelve-Step Support Groups

While 12-step groups are known to help people recovering from substance problems maintain sobriety, they do not fit the preferences of all individuals in recovery. This is partly because 12-step programs have a prominent religious/spiritual flavor that may not suit all tastes. Fortunately, if you do not want to take part in a 12-step group, a range of non-12-step support groups can also help you create and stick to a substance-free lifestyle.

One well-regarded example is SMART Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training), currently acknowledged as an effective approach by authorities such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Through face-to-face meetings and virtual meetings held on the Internet, SMART Recovery participants learn how to apply self-reliance and self-empowerment techniques to the task of remaining substance-free. These techniques keep recovery motivation high, help you deal with ongoing urges for drug or alcohol use, and help you understand and manage your emotions, thoughts and day-to-day behaviors.

Other support groups that do not operate on a 12-step model include Women for Sobriety, Secular Organizations for Sobriety, Moderation Management and LifeRing Secular Recovery. Each of these organizations maintains a website that details its approach to recovery support. In addition, each organization acts as a resource for other non-12-step techniques.

Peer Recovery Support Specialists

A peer recovery support specialist is a person in recovery from drug or alcohol problems who has developed the skills required to help others involved in the long-term recovery process. Because these individuals have direct experience of the substance-related challenges you face every day, they can potentially provide you with invaluable assistance. Specific forms of assistance provided by peer recovery support specialists commonly include motivation, problem solving, sober companionship, establishment of an ongoing recovery plan, outreach to people who isolate themselves during recovery, education on upcoming phases of recovery, advocacy on legal or medical matters and direct mentorship on specific recovery-related issues. Specialists employed by publicly funded organizations must meet certification requirements at both a state and federal level.

Each option for ongoing support in substance recovery has its advantages, as well as its potential disadvantages for any given individual. With the wide range of choices available, you can typically find a support approach that suits your preferences, schedule and temperament. When matched with the right support system, you have infinitely greater chances of establishing a sober lifestyle and avoiding lengthy and dangerous relapses back into active substance use.