Detox and treatment are critical, but AFTERCARE is where the magic happens

Giving up and going to detox is a vitally important step for anyone suffering from alcoholism and/or addiction.  After detox there is usually some kind of treatment or as a lot of us like to say rehab.  While in rehab inevitably a counselor or therapist at the rehab facility will start a discussion about what your plans are after rehab is over.  This usually comes up about halfway through.  This topic would make me very anxious because even though I had destroyed my life to the point that I had nothing positive to go back to, I was somehow obsessed with the idea of going back to it!!  It blows my mind to think about that today but that’s where I was at the time.  I would typically go back home with the best intentions but relapse a short time later.  But for the grace of God the last time I was in primary rehab when that conversation came up things were different.  I resisted as usual and tried to convince my counselor of all of the benefits of me going home and all the people that needed me back there.  However, the only option I had for a place to stay was my parents’ and this time my parents had decided to not allow me back.  It was a jolt for sure to be told that my parents were forbidding me to live in my childhood home but intellectually I could understand the reasons for their decision.  I was not happy, but I accepted this as there was no other alternative (which was by design) and got on with the business of discussing aftercare.  At the time we just called it a sober house.  As I believe many do, I failed to understand how crucial aftercare was to my long term recovery.  I had this notion that rehab and treatment for substance abuse was a 30-day process which I had just completed.  I think that I had this idea because when people discuss rehab, you do not often hear after care or sober living discussed with it.  They are discussed separately in a lot of cases and making matters worse rehabs have a lot of pressure to “SELL” their services because the price is high.  They like to call it “OUTREACH” but we know better.  In an effort to sell their product rehabs seem to not want to talk about the reality that 30 days is just the very beginning, and they can have little long term effect on addicts unless we have another year or two in a sober living/aftercare environment.  However, a quick search on the internet and you can find the dismal success rate for us after just 30 days of rehab.  I was essentially forced to go to a sober house by having all other options removed and although I was angry and resentful about it at the time it turned out to be one of the most loving things anyone has ever done for me.  What aftercare did for me was the following.  After 30 days of rehab the only thing that really happened was that my head was cleared enough and I had been removed from the environment where my use was taking place long enough to see a small window of hope.  Don’t be mistaken, I was terrified and depressed, and in some cases horrified and where I had ended up in life but there was a kernel of hope.  Aftercare was the next step in this journey of hope.  I was put in a house 2 hours from my hometown where I had people around me in the same situation, house managers and an owner to maintain a safe/sober environment and prospects about a job and some sort of social life that was just attractive enough to allow me to hold on while I had an experience in Alcoholics Anonymous.  I remember the first time I detected that something different was happening.  I was home for an overnight to attend a mandatory hearing at my local district court (not surprised! Haha).  I was sitting in my living room waiting for my mommy haha to give me a ride to court.  A small innocent thought like a tiny spark in a dark dark room went off in my head.  I thought, “I can’t wait to get this court date over with and get back to the sober house, I have a life that I am building there and I want to get back to building it”  Now I probably didn’t articulate it like that in my head but that was the theme.  I believe THIS is the magic that can propel an addict or alcoholic forward and keep us attracted enough to have an experience in a fellowship and get connected to some kind of power that can lift us from the pit of addiction and remove the desire to take a mind-altering substance.  My dream is to get the millions of people that are suffering a chance for Detox, Rehab and Aftercare.  It worked for me and I have witnessed it work for thousands of people around me.  Aftercare is the key.