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The Benefits of an Alumni Program

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What Happens After Rehab?

If you’ve recently completed an addiction rehab program, it’s important to find ongoing support to help cement your new clean and sober lifestyle. People often participate in some form of aftercare to help them stay on the right path and to maintain sobriety. Alumni programs are valuable aftercare resources that can provide support and enhance your recovery efforts.

What is an Alumni Program?

The importance of aftercare.Many rehab facilities offer alumni programs for people who have just completed an addiction treatment program. These programs are a form of aftercare for those interested in receiving ongoing support from others who went to their same rehab facility. Further, you can also provide encouragement to others in the program. In this way, everyone who is a member of the program can give and receive support, which can reinforce sobriety and community. You also remain in contact with the treatment staff from your specific program.

In addition to social support, alumni programs offer different ways for you to practice and build upon the relapse prevention skills you’ve learned in rehab. These skills can include:1

  • Stress management skills, such as how to remain calm or deal with anxiety.
  • Social skills, such as how to meet and interact with people.
  • Cognitive coping skills, such as how to stay in touch with your feelings and avoid negative thoughts or behavior patterns.
  • Problem-solving skills, so that you can handle daily triggers.

Practicing these skills with others who are also in recovery can help you maintain and strengthen your recovery efforts so that you’ll be better equipped to deal with the challenges and triggers you may face in everyday life.

What to Expect

What to expect at your first meeting.

Addiction recovery is a lifelong process.

Recovery can be challenging at times, so having a positive support network can help you stay strong and avoid the temptation to relapse when the going gets tough. Alumni programs are one way to connect with others who have been through what you are going through. People who participate in an alumni program include new graduates, graduates who have considerable time in recovery, and treatment center staff. This is a particularly valuable benefit of an alumni program, as you can stay in touch with people you have developed relationships with during your treatment program.2

The elements of an alumni program can vary by program, but some of the common elements may include:2,3

  • Weekly meetings.
  • Addiction education workshops.
  • Monthly sober activities.
  • Group sessions run by former graduates who have been sober for a considerable length of time.
  • National meetings.
  • 24-hour hotlines.
  • Social media groups.
  • Email connections.
  • Annual reunions.
  • Assistance with finding other forms of support (such as 12-step meetings or transitional/sober living homes).

These elements help you stay involved and connected to the recovery community on multiple levels; you can choose to participate in as many of these activities as you want based on your individual preferences and needs. Most programs send calendars and newsletters to keep participants informed on upcoming events.2

The community of an alumni program is usually very strong, as the goal is to help each other through all phases of recovery. For many, alumni programs can be a long-term form of support.3

How will it Help Me Stay Sober?

Recovering and maintaining sobriety.As with other forms of aftercare, the main goal of an alumni program is to help you stay sober. There are inevitable bumps along the path to recovery that can be challenging at times. By connecting you with others in recovery, you will benefit from their camaraderie and support, which can be beneficial during all phases of recovery, particularly if you encounter strong cravings. For example, you can call the alumni program hotline for encouragement and advice or reach out via social media outlets during a crisis.2

Additionally, the ongoing education and skills training courses offered by alumni programs can help strengthen and build upon your existing relapse prevention knowledge. This is another way that alumni programs help you maintain sobriety. You receive increasing insight about recovery and participate in continual learning opportunities through workshops, meetings, and education sessions.

People who are dealing with addiction and recovery may sometimes feel isolated from the rest of society, especially when “fun” means drinking and partying. It’s important to be able to let loose and have fun in positive, healthy, and drug-free ways. Participating in an alumni program can be an enjoyable way to connect with others through get-togethers, alumni events, and other socialization opportunities.2 Everyone in an alumni program shares the common goal of remaining sober. Having the support from people who understand your journey, struggles, feelings, and setbacks can make all of the difference.

Relapse Risk Factors

Relapse symptoms to recognize.

Remember that addiction is a chronic, relapsing condition. In fact, the relapse rates for addiction are similar to the rates of other relapsing diseases, such as diabetes. For example, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), diabetes has an approximate relapse rate of 30-50%, while drug addiction has a 40-60% relapse rate.Different factors can increase your chances of relapse, and being aware of these factors can help you avoid or better deal with them when they arise.

Some common relapse risk factors include:5,6,7

  • Psychological stress from work.
  • Family and relationship problems.
  • Psychiatric problems, e.g. depression or anxiety.
  • Social cues, such as meeting people with whom you previously used drugs.
  • Environmental cues, such as smelling drugs or walking on a street where you used to buy drugs.
  • Exposure to drugs.
  • Cravings.

Having a positive support network is crucial to staying on the path to recovery. An alumni program can help you avoid relapse by offering you a strong support network of people in recovery so that you can better manage and cope with stressors and triggers to use.

Ongoing Support & Recovery

An alumni program isn’t the only way to help avoid relapse and stay sober. Relying on other forms of aftercare and relapse prevention can provide you with the optimal chances of maintaining and building upon your recovery progress.

Some of the other aftercare options you can combine with an alumni program include:9

  • Individual therapy.
  • Group therapy.
  • 12-step groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA).
  • Sober living homes.
  • Supportive case management.
  • Recovery high schools.

Recovery is a lifelong process, but with the proper support, you can help increase your chances of success. Having a sober support system consisting of encouraging and empathetic individuals is an invaluable part of recovery.

Sources

  1. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2005). Substance Abuse Treatment for Adults in the Criminal Justice System. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 44. 5. Major Treatment Issues and Approaches. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  2. Desert Hope. What Are the Benefits of Utilizing Alumni Programs Post Addiction Treatment?
  3. Powers, T. (2016). What is an Alumni Program in Addiction Treatment?
  4. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): How effective is drug addiction treatment?
  5. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition): Why do drug-addicted persons keep using drugs?
  6. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction: Treatment and recovery.
  7. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  8. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2015). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment: A Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP 45). Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  9. Mass.gov. Substance Abuse Services Descriptions.

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