You did it. You mustered up the courage to admit that you had a problem and entered a treatment program. You went through the therapy sessions, the group meetings and the educational talks. You put in the hard work and completed the program. Now you are ready to leave treatment. Some people would say you are finished but completing a treatment program is just the beginning of recovery, which is a lifelong journey.
You are probably excited about your life after rehab, but you may also be feeling a little nervous. During treatment, you were in a highly structured environment that was deliberately free of triggers and temptations. Now you are going back into the real world with all its challenges. You may be returning to work or school, or perhaps you will be looking for a job. You will need to create your own daily routine, making sure that you incorporate restful sleep, regular exercise, nutritious meals and some type of mindfulness discipline. You may need to repair relationships with family. You may find yourself wanting to spend time with old friends, and yet you have been told that spending time with old friends could lead to picking up old habits, which could lead to a relapse. This is when your treatment center’s alumni program can be helpful.
What Is an Alumni Program in the World of Rehab?
If you are like many people, you may not have been aware that drug and alcohol treatment centers even had alumni programs, but many of them do. Just as colleges and universities do, many treatment centers keep in touch with their alumni – the people who have completed the program.
While alumni programs vary from center to center, most of them offer a combination of social and educational events. Social events can range from simple functions like potlucks, attending a local sporting event and setting up an outdoor movie night. An educational event could feature a guest speaker discussing some aspect of recovery. Often, interested alumni work with staff members to plan and execute these events.
Some treatment centers have a staff member to work with alumni. In addition to events, the staff member is often responsible for staying in touch with alumni via phone calls or texts and could moderate a closed group on Facebook. The alumni staff member can also serve as a resource for alumni, providing them with referrals to therapists, sober living houses or access to recovery tools. No matter what a center’s alumni program looks like, its purpose is to provide ongoing support to alumni and keep them in contact with the treatment center and the larger recovery community.
Alumni Programs Provide Support
When you finished your treatment program, you undoubtedly left with a discharge plan to serve as a guide for success in recovery. Creating a support network was most likely one of the items in your plan. For many people leaving treatment, finding a 12-step meeting to attend on a regular basis is an integral part of their support network. Your treatment center’s alumni program can also be part of your support network.
In attending alumni events, you are expanding your network of sober friends. It’s essential to have a sober support network because it’s helpful to spend time with people who know what you are going through because they’ve been through it, too. With alumni from your treatment program, the connection is even closer. Participating in alumni programming can be a great way to stay in touch with people you met in treatment.
You may find that it’s easier to talk openly with alumni or staff from your treatment program because of the connection you already have with them. Although people new to recovery are encouraged to find a sponsor in their 12-step meetings, you may not feel comfortable opening up to someone you don’t know well. It may be easier to find a fellow alum who has been out of treatment longer than you have to serve as a sponsor of sorts, and this can provide you with accountability in the early days of your recovery.
Preventing Relapse through Community
Being active in your treatment center’s alumni program can help to prevent you from relapsing. According to the Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford, most relapses occur in the first 90 days after leaving treatment. During the early stages of recovery, you need to surround yourself with people who are also in recovery – people who have been through addiction and recovery and share the same goal of sobriety that you now have.
Although most experts will encourage you to be careful about spending time with old friends who could trigger you to drink or use drugs again, you also need to be cautious about isolating yourself. People in early recovery tend to isolate themselves to avoid temptation, yet isolation can lead to depression, which can lead to a relapse. Having a strong support network can prevent you from having a relapse or help you get back on your path of recovery.
If the treatment center you went through has an alumni program, it can provide the one thing that all of us need the most: community.
It has been said that there is strength in numbers, and this is undoubtedly the case with recovery. Having a support network of other people who are working on their recovery and who value sobriety can help you on your own journey. Being active in the alumni program offered by the treatment center you attended is a great way to bolster your support network and have sober fun. A strong support network is one of the best defenses against relapse. At Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford, we recognize the importance of having a support network and a sense of community. Our alumni program is one of the ways that we continue to support the people who have been in treatment here. The people who have come to us for help with their journey of recovery will always be a part of the Pinelands community. If you would like information on this and other programs at Pinelands, call us at (877) 557-5372.