Addiction recovery is a lifelong process and does not end at the end of rehab. Aftercare programs exist to ensure an individual remains healthy and sober for the rest of their life. Maintaining a sober life means developing healthy habits that can be sustained throughout an addict’s lifetime.

While the earlier stages of recovery are often discussed, some of the most important work comes after drug or alcohol addiction treatment ends. Aftercare and sober living programs are important in developing a variety of long-term recovery skills.

What Are Drug and Alcohol Aftercare Programs?

Drug and alcohol aftercare programs help people stay sober. The time spent in a rehabilitation facility is often only a small part of recovery from addiction. While it is crucial to create a strong foundation, the most challenging work comes after treatment is over.

Most people only spend 30 to 90 days in a treatment center. This may seem insignificant compared to the following years spent outside of the rehab center while remaining sober and dealing with the challenges of everyday life.

Fortunately, many aftercare programs have been created to help recovering addicts remain sober post-treatment. Aftercare programs can provide the support an individual needs to maintain their sobriety while readjusting to the outside world and all the negative influences it may bring.

The professionals at Cardinal Recovery know that rehab is just the first step. That is why they work closely with clients to create personalized aftercare programs that fit the unique needs of each individual. They can help you create an aftercare program that will maximize your chances of success.

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Why Are Substance Abuse Aftercare Programs Important?

A good aftercare program can prevent former drug users and alcoholics from relapsing. Studies show that anywhere from 40 to 60 percent of addicts relapse in the first month after leaving a rehab program. Even worse, 85 percent of people relapse in the first year after a rehabilitation program.

It’s no secret that addiction can be incredibly hard to deal with. A former drug user or drinker may have ingrained patterns that can be hard to break. For example, they may use drugs or alcohol to combat stress, boredom, and anxiety. They may not feel like they are unable to cope with life without substances.

Temptation is another obstacle to staying sober. An addict may be confronted with drugs or alcohol at social gatherings. They may meet people with whom they formerly used drugs or drank with, and that could trigger a relapse. Alcohol in particular is readily available and easy to access.

One relapse may be all it takes for a former addict to start using regularly again. They may see a relapse as a complete failure rather than a bump in the road. They might tell themselves that they failed at sobriety and convince themselves there is no point in trying anymore. Aftercare can help change that type of mindset.

The first year of recovery is the most important for aftercare. This is because the former addict will be dealing with big changes in their life. During this time, they need all the help they can get to navigate their new sober life. The more comprehensive the aftercare program is, the more effective it will be in preventing a relapse.

Types of Drug and Alcohol Aftercare Programs

There are a number of options when it comes to aftercare programs for addicts. Choosing a program that best meets your specific individual needs is imperative in laying a strong foundation for sober habits. From coping skills to relapse prevention, aftercare treatment is a fundamental aspect of remaining healthy and sober.

Rehab-Based Programs

Many rehab centers provide their own aftercare programs for patients that have finished their time in the treatment facility. These facility-based programs often provide arrangements into a sober living home, therapy options, medical evaluations and support groups from people who have completed the same treatment. Many facilities will make these options easily accessible to their patients.

The professionals at Cardinal Recovery can help you develop an aftercare program that will help you start your recovery journey on the right foot. Your program will be tailored to your needs and what works for you. The treatment center offers a variety of therapy options that are evidence-based and holistic. The experts specialize in treating the underlying causes of alcoholism and drug addiction to help patients embark on a lifelong recovery journey.

Sober Living Homes

A sober living home is a residence for people to stay in while they are recovering from addiction after their time in a drug and alcohol treatment center. Usually, someone who is staying in a sober living home has to contribute to the community by doing chores and following all the house rules, but are usually able to leave for work or school and return as they please.

The rules, expectations and community in these special living accommodations give recovering addicts the support and structure they need to ease their transition back to their lives. Some are privately owned, and some homes are owned by larger businesses and organizations. This type of environment can help promote long-term recovery as people adjust to a healthy, sober life.

Sober living homes are a great option to increase the likelihood that someone will remain sober. According to a study by the Alcohol Research Group Public Health Institute, their research found positive outcomes for the 300 individuals they tracked in sober living homes. They found significant improvements in levels of alcohol and drug use, arrests, psychiatric symptoms, and employment.

Therapy and Counseling

There are many types of therapy options for recovering addicts and everyone will respond differently. While treatment usually consists of daily therapy sessions, it is crucial that sessions continue during the aftercare process to remain mentally healthy and stable. Newly sober people should attend weekly sessions, whether they be individual sessions or group sessions.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is the most common form of therapy for addiction. It focuses on identifying and changing negative thought patterns and beliefs that may be causing destructive behavior. CBT aims to give patients coping strategies to deal with those negative thoughts. This way, they can prevent problems from arising or deal with them better when they do arise.

Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) is another form of psychotherapy that can be useful in addiction recovery aftercare. The main goal of DBT is to teach people skills they can use to manage painful emotions. Some of the techniques it teaches are mindfulness, emotional regulation, communication, and increasing tolerance for negative emotions.

Holistic therapy looks at people as a whole rather than just their symptoms. It focuses on the relationships between body, mind, and spirit. The goal is to raise awareness of the connections between various aspects of the self such as emotions, behavior and physical health. This can raise self-esteem and self-acceptance.

Support Groups

Well-established support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can provide a supportive group of people that a recovering addict can rely on. Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous are both 12-step programs that have been proven to help individuals get back on their feet.

The main goal of support groups such as AA and NA is to provide safe, supportive environments where people can share their experiences of addiction. The programs include guidelines that are steps for recovery. These include admitting that substance use is a problem, making amends to people who were harmed by the addiction, and continuing to take personal inventory.

The individuals who are in these support groups can relate to similar experiences and find comfort in each other’s stories. Support groups can provide a judgment-free atmosphere, advice and information and a sense of stability. In addition, families and other loved ones can also partake in these types of meetings.


Sponsorship is an important part of 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. After joining the program, new members are encouraged to find a sponsor who can help guide them through the steps. Sponsors are senior members who have been sober for at least a year and can act as role models for newer members. A sponsor can give advice, offer support and keep you accountable.

You don’t have to be in a 12-step program to find a sponsor. Anyone can be a sponsor as long as they are understanding, trustworthy, and have your best interests at heart. Ideally, you want someone who is sober themselves or at least someone who is not going to tempt you or enable you. Recovery can be challenging, but you don’t have to do it alone. The more people you have to lean on, the better your chances are of staying sober for life.

How to Implement a Substance Use Aftercare Program

Sobriety isn’t just a single decision that you make one day. It’s actually a series of decisions that you make day after day to change your life for the better. Therefore, it helps to have a plan in place to guide you through those decisions. These are some ways you can create a substance use aftercare program that will work for you.

  • Get professional help. An addiction recovery treatment center Like Cardinal Recovery can help you create a customized aftercare program that fits your personality and life. The experts can give you advice on various forms of therapy, helpful activities, and support groups. They can also provide ongoing support.
  • Plan for the long-term. Although it is impossible to predict exactly how long you will need aftercare for, you should expect that it will take time. The first few months and even up to a year of sobriety are the hardest, so your aftercare program should cover that time period.
  • Be realistic about what you can manage. One of the biggest mistakes that newly sober people make is taking on too much too early. You want to make sure that your aftercare program is sustainable and includes plenty of support from others, whether that be in the form of group therapy, a 12-step group or a sponsor.
  • Identify your triggers and stressors. If you know what people, places, or things might challenge your recovery, you can plan ways to deal with them ahead of time. Think about what healthy activities you can do to overcome cravings.
  • Keep a journal. Writing in a journal has a number of benefits. It helps you work through your emotions and understand your thought patterns better. A journal can also be a guide that you can look back on to see what your triggers are and which coping mechanisms work best for you.
  • Celebrate milestones. Staying sober can be hard work, so it is important to recognize the great job you are doing. Reward yourself for important milestones such as your one-month, six-month and year marks. Buy yourself something nice or plan a gathering with family or loved ones to celebrate. This can help you stay motivated and on track.
  • Practice self-care. Eat well, exercise and get enough sleep. Try to think positively about yourself. Surround yourself with people who care about you and support you. The better you feel inside and out, the more likely you will be to make positive life choices.
  • Commit to keep going no matter what. Realize that there is a chance that you may slip up. However, that doesn’t mean that your recovery program was for nothing. You can and should continue on with it, although you may need to modify it a bit. If you relapse, reach out to a recovery treatment center like Cardinal Recovery and they can help you get back on track again.

Aftercare for Addiction Recovery

Addiction is a disease that needs to be managed over time. While rehab is highly effective in the early stages of addiction recovery, aftercare is just as important. The chances of relapsing are highest in the first few months of sobriety and up to a year after your quit date. The best way to prevent a relapse is to explore drug and alcohol aftercare programs and find the best fit for your needs.

Are you or a loved one looking to enter into an aftercare recovery program? Cardinal Recovery is here for you and ready to help. The treatment center offers customized addiction recovery programs for every patient. Each program is created with compassion and designed to tackle the underlying causes of addiction.