There are numerous circumstances that can lead to an individual becoming addicted to alcohol or drugs. Similarly, there are many paths that can lead someone who is suffering from an addiction to alcohol or drugs to achieve sobriety. But there are also a number of factors and situations that can lead to relapse after an individual has completed a treatment program and achieving sobriety. To be clear, a relapse refers to when an individual who has achieved sobriety reverts to his or her former substance abuse.
Unfortunately, relapse is not an uncommon occurrence among individuals who have completed addiction treatment; however, you should remember that relapse is completely and decidedly preventable.
In most instances of relapse, the cause of the relapse was lack of preparation for post-treatment life. Additionally, most experts agree that one of the biggest limitations to addiction treatment is time; most individuals who enroll in addiction treatment programs are spending between one and three months in treatment, which is often just a fraction of the time that many individuals spend in active addiction. Being that an addiction represents a habit that has been reinforced through years of behavior, it follows that sufficient time spent in treatment would be necessary for an individual to be able to overcome those years of reinforcement and essentially re-learn how to be sober.
The most logical response would be to have more patients spend longer periods of time in treatment, but that’s not always possible or realistic. For one thing, completing an addiction treatment program takes a significant investment of time and energy; even the shorter treatment programs last a month or more. Considering how more people than ever are suffering from addiction, there’s too great a demand for treatment for these programs to require extremely long periods of time to complete as this would greatly limit each facility’s capacity to offer treatment. Additionally, the time spent in treatment must often come at a sacrifice to time spent on other things, including family and career. So it’s not realistic to expect most people to be able to dedicate extremely long periods of time to addiction treatment.
That’s where aftercare comes into the picture and what it’s so important. Rather than needing to spend extremely long periods of time in a recovery program, aftercare allows individuals to use the time spent in treatment to acquire valuable skills and strategies, and then use aftercare to basically implement and reinforce what was learned in treatment.