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Thursday, December 19, 2019

Life After Treatment: Managing Addiction as a Chronic Illness

There’s a common fallacy in addiction medicine that going through rehab is a “cure” for substance misuse disorder. However, the day you get discharged from inpatient treatment is when the genuine work of recovery begins.

Like other chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma or Crohn’s disease, addiction is a lifelong disease. A significant part of your success in recovery is learning to manage your symptoms and maintain your physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.

A Critical Transition

Before you exit your treatment facility, you will need to work with your family and team of clinicians to create an aftercare plan that addresses your short- and long-term needs and helps you avoid relapsing. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all aftercare plan. Some people return home, while others choose to enter a sober living house or an inpatient treatment program to continue working on their recovery goals in a structured environment.

Factors to consider when deciding how you will manage your illness immediately after getting discharged from treatment include:
  • Your history of drug and alcohol use
  • Any co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety
  • Your decision-making ability and impulse control
  • Your family’s ability to provide support
  • Your unique sobriety goals
  • Your willingness to participate in individual and group therapy

What Is a Wellness Recovery Action Plan?

A wellness recovery action plan, or WRAP, for short, can be a tremendously helpful tool for people in early addiction recovery. Creating a WRAP is a largely self-directed process and can take whatever shape is most helpful to you. Since the WRAP concept initially emerged in 1997, researchers have identified its effectiveness, and it has been listed on the National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.

Though everyone’s WRAP will be different, here are some elements to include in yours.
  • A sober support network: Loneliness can be one of the most dangerous relapse triggers. Before leaving treatment, plan to continue seeing a therapist and participating in regular group meetings. Have friends and family members who understand what you have been through and why it is essential for you to protect your sobriety above all else.
  • A medical treatment plan: Before leaving treatment, have your health care plan lined up, including a general practitioner as well as a psychologist or other specialists, as appropriate. Make sure all your health care providers are aware of your unique needs and that you are managing addiction as a chronic illness.
  • A list of known triggers: In recovery, you will need to avoid specific people, places and things that remind you of when you were in active addiction. Doing so will reduce the likelihood that you will backslide into your old habits.
  • Relapse prevention planning: While you can take steps to control some of your triggers, others might pop up without warning. For example, perhaps you’re watching a movie, and one of the scenes takes place in a bar. Having a contingency plan in place can help you turn to healthy habits to cope with sudden cravings or powerful memories that might arise. You can also establish what you will do if a relapse occurs.

Moving Forward With Your Life

Admitting you have a chronic illness and that you need help to manage it is part of getting better, but you also need a robust short- and long-term set of strategies to support a lifetime of wellness and recovery.

At Hope Academy, we can help you learn to manage your addiction and establish new, healthy habits and coping skills. To learn more about our programming for young adults, contact us today.
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