There is really only one reason that a recovering addict or alcoholic would struggle with aftercare:
They have failed to fully surrender yet.
In other words, if you go to addiction treatment and they suggest that you follow up your 28 day inpatient treatment stay with IOP (intensive outpatient therapy), 90 AA meetings in 90 days, and some individual counseling, then you should dive into all of those things and follow through with them perfectly.
Failure to do so will almost always result in relapse. And the sad fact of the matter is that most people who leave treatment do not follow through with all of these aftercare recommendations. Note that these examples I gave are just generalized, but most aftercare plans are going to resemble something similar to this. They usually involve some sort of counseling or therapy such as IOP, and they usually involve some sort of peer or social support such as AA or NA meetings. And again, if you don't follow through with all of it then you cannot expect to do very well in terms of long term sobriety.
So why do people have this tendency to struggle with aftercare? Essentially, the reason is because it is a lot of hard work. The perception, I believe, is that we can go to inpatient treatment for 28 days and that this should effectively cure us of our problem. That is how most of society thinks about rehab. You have a problem, go check in somewhere and get the problem fixed.
The issue with this is, unfortunately, no rehab on the planet has the power to cure addiction. Nothing even comes close to that. This is because we cannot really cure addiction at all, and all we have is a daily reprieve based on our continued efforts. In other words, you go through rehab and you start working a program. You leave treatment and they recommend all of this aftercare because you need to keep working a program of recovery. If you are at, say, 4 months sober and you stop working any sort of program in your life, guess what? You are probably going to relapse.
This is because recovery must be ongoing, it must be continuous. You are making an effort every single day to reinvent yourself, to become this better version of yourself. Sure, you will have some days that are better than others, and you may even have a day here and there in recovery in which you really slack off and do almost nothing to move the needle forward. But make no mistakeif you have too many of those slack days in a row then you will relapse. Too many days off in recovery will lead any recovering addict to relapse.
And the scary thing is that this is just as true if the alcoholic has 2 years clean as it is if they have 2 months clean. And it can also happen to someone who has 2 decades clean. Anyone who completely slacks off and stops working any sort of recovery program is headed for relapse. If you want to remain clean and sober then you have stay in the process of healthy and positive changes. Period.
So if you or someone you love is struggling to follow through with your aftercare recommendations, it means that you have not yet fully surrendered to the solution.
Keep in mind that surrender happens in stages. This is because there are several stages of denial.
So at first, when you were still stuck in your active addiction, you may have been at a point of denial in which you would not even admit that there was any problem whatsoever. You were in total and complete denial, and of course, no real progress could be made at this point. You wouldn't even acknowledge that there was a problem.
Later on, after experiencing a lot more misery and consequences from your drinking or drug use, you reached a point in which you would admit that you had a problem. You might even accept the label of addict or alcoholic at that point. But you also were not ready to dive into AA meetings or rehab, and you claimed that your addiction was unique, and that those solutions would not work for you.
Or perhaps you had been to rehab once or twice before, or maybe you had gone to an AA meeting here or there. You had tried these solutions and yet you continued to struggle with your addiction, and therefore you could claim that those solutions do not work for you. You tried and failed, right? AA doesn't work for me, you said, because you had failed to remain sober, and you went to that meeting once. That became your excuse, your rationalization as to why you should just give up and keep drinking or taking drugs. Nothing can help you, right? You are different, you are unique.
What I have just described is the addict or alcoholic who is in denial of the solution. They admit that they are alcoholic, that they have a serious problem. But they maintain that they cannot be helped by rehab or AA because they have tried those before, or they are different, or whatever excuse they can come up with.
So they worked through one stage of denial and they admit they have a problem. But they refuse to seek help, and therefore they are still in denial of the solution. Rehab won't help me they might argue. They have an excuse, or a million excuses, as to why they are not trying to fix their problem.
This is why a person fails to follow through with aftercare: They are still in denial. They may admit that they have a problem, but there are other stages of denial that you can be stuck in. And therefore they are in denial of the solution. They don't want to do the work, which is to say, they don't want to follow through and do what they are being told to do in recovery.
This will not change until the struggling addict or alcoholic goes out into the world and experiences more pain, suffering, and misery. At some point, they will reach their bottom, often referred to as rock bottom. Until they reach this point, all attempts to sobering up or getting clean are going to fall short. They might make an effort based on other incentives: Trying to please a family member, trying to save a relationship, or whatever. But they are not really making a serious attempt at recovery until they have hit rock bottom and become willing to follow through with their recovery.
Following through means that they surrender completely, they ask for help, and they follow the advice that they are given. They stop manipulating, they stop trying to control the situation, and they stop trying to control other people. This is the only state of being that can produce long term sobriety and true recovery. Once they reach this stage they become open to suggestion. They will do what you tell them to do, because they know, for the first time in their life they truly knowthat they do not have the answers for themselves. And so they become ready to listen and to learn.
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