By the time this week is out, there will be scores of recovering alcoholics completing 12-week recovery programmes at residential facilities. Untold others will be winding up detox programmes initiated by their doctors. Still others will be in the final stages of a 12-step programme. The question all of them face is one of how to sustain recovery in the weeks, months, and years ahead. This is an important question to ask and one that is equally important to answer.

Statistics clearly show that leaving a rehab programme without a solid plan for sustainability greatly increases the chances of relapse. The opposite is also true. When a recovering alcoholic has a good plan in place that includes a robust support system, sustaining recovery is made magnitudes easier. It all starts with what is known in the addiction recovery field as aftercare.

Aftercare Basics

The average private residential rehab clinic includes aftercare as part of the services rendered. Aftercare is a collection of additional services the clinic lines up on behalf of the recovering alcoholic to provide between 3 and 12 months of ongoing support. These services may include participation in a 12-step fellowship, ongoing counselling, group therapy, a job, and possible volunteer work. Participating in aftercare significantly increases the chances of making recovery permanent.

Even when a private residential clinic does not arrange for aftercare, the recovering alcoholic can arrange it him/herself. There are a number of charitable organisations and alcohol support groups that can come alongside to provide the necessary direction. The point is that the recovering alcoholic should not simply leave rehab and forget about it. It takes a concerted effort to sustain sobriety after a successful rehab programme has ended.

Strong Support System

Another key to sustaining recovery after rehab is one of building a strong support system. Doing so is not a difficult task, but it does require effort. A good place to start is at a local alcohol support group – be it Alcoholics Anonymous, a religious-affiliated group, or something else. These kinds of groups offer mutual accountability and encouragement during the darkest days of temptation. They also give recovering alcoholics the opportunity to give back by helping others.

Outside of the support group, it is important for the recovering alcoholic to be discriminating about the kinds of people he/she will surround him/herself with. The chances of relapse are much greater, for example, if the individual reconnects with old drinking friends for the purposes of spending time with them. Putting oneself back into a lifestyle that promotes drinking only increases the likelihood the recovering alcoholic will start drinking again.

Sustaining recovery requires surrounding oneself with positive people who do not rely on alcohol or other substances as a means of getting through life. Just as negativity rubs off on others, so does positivity. Finding positive people with a good outlook on life is essential to long-term recovery.

Family Support

When family are supportive of the recovering alcoholic, it is a lot easier to sustain long-term recovery after rehab. To that end, it is helpful for family members to undergo counselling at the same time the recovering alcoholic is in rehab. That counselling is critical to helping family members understand their roles and responsibilities in the process. Strong family support is necessary among spouses, children, siblings, and parents.

Spiritual Support

Lastly, many recovery programmes include some sort of spiritual component. If that spiritual element was part of successful rehab, it is a good idea for the recovering alcoholic to continue addressing that component after rehab. That might mean mediation, or other spiritual reading or practice, spirituality is of your own understanding. The idea here is to continue utilising the same types of things that enabled the recovering alcoholic to complete rehab. If the spiritual component was helpful in rehab, it would be equally helpful in sustaining long-term recovery.

You can probably see that sustaining recovery after rehab is a proactive process. It involves the recovering alcoholic taking advantage of a long list of support services and opportunities that help prevent the temptation of drinking to once again take hold in the individual’s life. Long-term recovery is entirely possible when the one working through it makes a concerted effort to sustain what they have accomplished in rehab. In the end, this should be the long-term goal of all recovering alcoholics and their families.