Content reviewed by Christian Losch, LCSW, LCADC, CEO of Pinelands
When individuals first seek recovery from substance use disorder (SUD), they probably don’t recognize recovery will be a lifelong journey. In other words, they may consider treatment to be a short-term thing. However, for lasting recovery to take place, an individual must be engaged with continuing treatment resources and sober networking opportunities. This is true even long after they have completed their initial treatment program.
Alumni programs are one type of long-term, continuing treatment option. These types of programs connect individuals who have completed treatment and are working to maintain their sobriety and overall recovery. Often, treatment facilities run alumni programs and offer different methods for the individuals in them to connect. This is especially important for patients who may not live close to the treatment facility.
Why are alumni programs important?
Everyone is at a different place in their recovery journey at any given time. Consider the following:
Perhaps two people have just begun their treatment journey. Person one has had a severe substance use problem for the last ten years. Meanwhile, person two has experienced a mild substance use problem only for the last three years. How each of these individuals responds to treatment depends on a variety of factors.
Similarly, when each person completes their treatment program, they will still be at vastly different points on their recovery journey. Person one may need to transition from residential treatment to an intensive outpatient program (IOP), whereas person two may feel comfortable transitioning back into daily life earlier on.
For both scenarios mentioned above, continuing treatment is vital for long-lasting recovery. However, what continuing treatment may look like can vary from person to person. All-in-all, alumni programs help bridge transitional gaps and create a safe space for individuals to feel empowered and stable as they transition.
1. Alumni programs provide long-term support.
One of the ways that alumni programs work is by providing long-lasting support for those who have been through the same treatment facility. After an individual completes a rehab program, the real world and their future can feel confusing and intimidating.
Although treatment helps initiate one’s sobriety, recovery truly begins when individuals leave the treatment setting. This is because, as individuals transition back into their daily lives, they become responsible for identifying and overcoming substance use triggers. Similarly, they are responsible for putting the lessons they’ve learned from treatment to use. This can be daunting without support from other alumni who are experiencing or have experienced the same struggles.
2. Alumni programs offer a variety of resources.
Another reason alumni programs are integral to recovery is that they typically offer a variety of resources and opportunities. Being an alumnus does not mean that one must attend all events or be engaged with other alumni constantly. Alumni can choose how engaged they would like to be with their program.
Fortunately, many treatment facilities will create a discharge plan with patients before they complete their treatment program. Their discharge plan will help create a schedule to lean on, including dates and times of alumni support group meetings. Additionally, facilities will inform patients of different events and activities that their alumni program offers throughout the year.
Most alumni programs also offer virtual ways to stay connected, such as a Facebook group. This way, alumni can stay connected even from afar. They can celebrate each other’s recovery victories and encourage one another when recovery gets hard.
How do alumni programs aid in relapse prevention?
One of the most vital roles that alumni programs play in recovery is preventing relapse. Research shows that most people who relapse do so within the first three months of recovery. This risk becomes most prevalent once individuals leave the treatment setting. Individuals who isolate and do not stay connected with long-term treatment are at higher risk of relapse.
In this case, alumni programs prevent relapse by offering individuals a permanent place in a recovery community. Having a strong support network can decrease relapse risk, especially because it prevents isolation. Similarly, within these programs, alumni can hold one another accountable for their sobriety and overall recovery. Without alumni programs, accountability only occurs through the self. This can be daunting for someone who is struggling with environmental triggers and cravings and doesn’t have strong personal accountability.
Alumni program at Pinelands
At Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford, we set our patients up for recovery success through our incredible alumni program. This program allows individuals to connect with peers through a combination of social media interaction and in-person, sober networking events. We host monthly and quarterly alumni meetings and events to help individuals reconnect with their commitment to sobriety. Our belief is that completing a treatment program is only the beginning of one’s recovery journey. As a result, our alumni program emphasizes that recovery is lifelong. Individuals must continue to prioritize their sobriety even after years without relapse.
Pinelands Recovery Center of Medford is a premier drug and alcohol treatment center that offers an exceptional alumni program for individuals as they discharge from treatment. We acknowledge how vital social support is when it comes to long-lasting recovery, especially once a patient leaves the treatment setting. To learn more, call Pinelands today at (877) 557-5372.