Someone asked me the other day why they needed a personalized aftercare plan when leaving drug rehab.
This is what I told them:
When you leave an addiction treatment center, the journey is just beginning. This is your start. You probably think that you started back when you surrendered and first agreed to enter rehab, but that is not the real start.
No, the real challenge starts when you walk out of rehab. That is your first test.
And so many people fail it. So many people walk out of rehab and relapse within a week or two. Something like 90 percent have relapsed after 90 days. It is really pathetic, and scary.
So that is what you are up against. I am not using the data to try and scare you, but try to be realistic here. 90 percent don’t make it past 90 days clean. That is atrocious.
And so you have to think to yourself: “What am I going to do that is different than that 90 percent of folks that relapse?” Sure, you are going to avoid picking up your drug of choice, but how are you going to make that plan into reality? The danger is in saying “screw it” and using your drug anyway, even though you may not really want to.
So why does relapse happen, and what is the nature of the battle?
Relapse happens because you go back to your old life. Relapse happens because that is what is natural.
It has become natural for the addict to self medicate with drugs and alcohol. It has become normal for the addict to use drugs. That is the new “normal” for them. This is hard to erase. It becomes a way of life. So it is natural to revert back to it. Relapse is natural. Relapse is a normal response. It is not unusual for a person to relapse, or to want to relapse.
This is not a fear tactic. I am telling the truth here. Relapse is a natural thing. It should happen, unless you take serious action to prevent it.
So you need to get busy. Realize that a relapse is inevitable unless you take massive action in order to prevent it.
So how do you do that? What actions can you take to prevent relapse from “naturally happening?”
What you need to do can be summarized quite neatly with a simple, 2 step approach:
1) Don’t use drugs or alcohol no matter what.
2) Work hard to improve your life, and your self, each and every day.
That’s it. That is all the magic that it takes to create a powerful aftercare plan for your recovery.
You need a plan because relapse will happen naturally if you do nothing.
If you don’t have a plan, you will relapse for sure. For certain.
So you have to have a plan. And it does not have to be super complicated or detailed. But you do have to work hard at it. That is the secret to success in recovery: hard work.
Look carefully at the 2 steps. Step one is about abstinence. This is the baseline. You have to do this much, at least. Don’t use.
But then the whole point is the second part, the part that demands that you keep growing as a person. You have to experience growth. You have to push yourself to improve as a person.
If you sit around all day in recovery and just watch cartoons and munch cereal and you never push yourself to get a job or go to school or help others or learn a new skill or quit bad habits or do anything new and exciting with your life then what is the point anyway?
You are not here just to exist, just to avoid addiction and sit in a room and watch television all day long. You have a purpose in recovery and that purpose is to grow as a human being. You need to get out there and do stuff and meet people and make a difference in the world. If you are pushing yourself to do these things, if you are pushing yourself to try to make a real impact, if you are pushing yourself to grow and to learn, then you will do well in recovery.
That is why you need a plan. To give you permission to take action in your life, and to grow.