So you’ve been kicking butt in rehab— self-improvement and esteem at an all time high — but then it hits you, your stay is almost up. You tried to stave off the worries and self-doubt, reminding yourself that your cravings are under control and your doctors have implemented a continuum of care for your medication management. Everything will be fine. It’ll be easy to prevent a relapse. Right?
While staying sober during treatment is an incredible accomplishment, once you have left the facility and reenter the “real world”, the challenges increase in size and frequency. No matter how prepared you are to go out on your own, life will still eventually result in stress, or you may come face-to-face with an old trigger.
In a research study compiled by Vista Research Group, 15% of people polled reported relapsing in the first few days and 34% in the first month. While a relapse is never the wanted outcome, returning to substance use following time in treatment is even more dangerous in recent years due to the influx of fentanyl within street markets. In fact, the ease in which someone can access fentanyl or fentanyl-laced drugs has severely increased the likelihood of death during a single relapse.
Your ability to maintain your sobriety and prevent a relapse is largely dependent on whether or not you continue relapse prevention techniques after completing treatment. According to Vista Research Group’s data, two avenues of continued care are particularly effective in combating cravings and preventing a relapse — regular attendance in support groups and living in a sober living community after treatment.
Sober Support Sustains Sobriety
Connecting with one or more recovery support meetings that you genuinely enjoy attending is a huge help in your recovery. The supportive peer relationships you develop during daily, weekly, or monthly meetings can have a huge impact on your success in sustained recovery. Creating a space of your own within your sober community helps you to prevent a relapse because it solidifies a support system for times of stress, worry, and doubt.
Out of the individuals who participated in VRG surveys at one and 1 months post-rehab, 42% of those who reported having not attended support meetings were able to be contacted and confirm their sobriety over the course of a year. On the other hand, 59% of those who reported attendance at recovery groups during the first month maintained their sobriety, and 72% of people who attended for at least 6 months were sober for the year following treatment.
Another way of looking at VRG’s data is that 46% of people who reported continued participation in recovery meetings remained sober, and 8% of people who reported appearances at meetings in the early stages of their recovery stayed sober too. In contrast, only 26% of people who engaged in outside support groups were unsuccessful in preventing a relapse.
It’s important to remember, however, that recovery from addiction is possible without the utilization of a 12-step organization. That being said, Vista’s research involving the immersion into recovery support communities like AA, NA, or SMART Recovery can be exceedingly beneficial for those in recovery who wish to prevent a relapse.
Sober Living Helps to Prevent a Relapse
While the logic seems rather evident, we find it helpful to reiterate the fact that sober living homes help sober people sustain their sobriety. In fact, Vista’s research supports the validity of sober homes, stating that “patients who lived in a sober group home for at least the first month after discharge were 15% more likely to be in recovery at one year than those who did not.” In addition, the data recorded that individuals remaining in sober living for 6 months post-treatment were “37% more likely to be abstinent at one year post-treatment compared to those who didn’t.”
Based on previous Vista studies, we know that a person’s ability to abstain from substance use and prevent a relapse directly correlates to the amount of time spent in SUD treatment, it makes perfect sense that the extension of one’s treatment through continued participation in the safe, supportive sober networks found in 12-step recovery groups and sober living homes would assist in the preservation of their recovery and abstinence from substance use. The fact that an individual’s time in treatment indicates the likelihood of success in recovery also lends to the fact that those who attend short-term inpatient programs will find more success should they join a sober living community post-treatment.
You have worked so hard to make your recovery possible, so the best way you can continue to help yourself is by planning ahead and establishing an effective after-care program to help sustain your recovery long-term.