Aftercare: What Does Transitioning From a Recovery Center Look Like?

Addiction Recovery Publishing Addiction Recovery November 18, 2023

Aftercare: What Does Transitioning From a Recovery Center Look Like?

There is an ancient Hawaiian proverb that can still be heard on Hawaii’s Big Island from time to time. It goes “No Keia La, No Keia Po, A Mau Loa,” which roughly translates to “From today, from tonight, for forever more.” This is the proverb that we carry with us after a successful time in a recovery center. As we transition back into the hustle and bustle of our day-to-day lives, with a healthy recovery under our belt, we can confidently say, “From this day forward, my life will no longer be the same; forever. I have recovered, and I am ready to live my life fulfilled.”

Acquiring Life-Long Skills While in a Recovery Center

Part of transitioning comfortably from a recovery center has to do with what was acquired while in the recovery center. “Acquired,” meaning what skills have been learned. These are skills that we can utilize not only to remain sober but to grow as human beings.

These are life-long skills such as how to “live life on life’s terms,” how to ”PAUSE” when feeling restless, irritable, and discontent, how to cope with resentments, and how to navigate “people, places, and things,” while in sobriety. Also, these skills allow us to live our most optimal lives while leaving us open for constant positive growth because growth is essential both in recovery and in the broader scheme of life.

Aftercare: What Are the Important Tools to Take Away From Recovery?

“Aftercare” is merely a term. It has to do with how we are to live our lives after leaving the recovery center. Neither is it “one note,” nor should it be. Aftercare should always be individualized, and it should always be comprehensive. 

Now, aftercare is generally a continuation of what was being worked on while in treatment, as well as a start of new practices that have been laid out in a post-treatment recovery plan. For example, if we were utilizing a “traditional” mental health therapy while in the recovery center, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) or dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), it may be wise to continue that practice with a new therapist. 

Also, if a mindfulness practice was started while in therapy, that practice should continue and expand after leaving the recovery center. One of the beautiful things about a mindfulness practice is that it can go with us anywhere we go. This includes upon exiting a recovery center.

A Mindfulness Practice After the Recovery Center

The journal Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation offers us a comprehensive understanding of mindfulness. It states, “Mindfulness training is a promising intervention option for SUDs and relapse prevention. Mindfulness can be conceptualized as a state, trait, and practice. The state of mindfulness is cultivated during mindfulness practice and is characterized by a non-judgmental, non-reactive, present-centered attention and metacognitive awareness of cognition, emotion, sensation, and perception.” It is also an excellent tool as we transition from the recovery center.

A mindfulness practice has a lot to do with awareness (also aptly known as “mindful awareness”). This is an awareness of uncomfortable feelings and thoughts that often manifest in the mind. Instead of trying to escape or “run away” from them, in a mindfulness practice, we bring awareness to them and allow them to simply “be.” We notice how they affect us, and we also notice what happens when we react to them versus when we allow them to pass. This type of practice can be especially helpful in addiction recovery because it gives us a tool to deal with triggers and resentments that can sometimes pop up.

The Benefits of Mindful Meditation

Another mindfulness practice that we can take with us as we transition from the recovery center back into everyday life is meditation. Meditation allows us to clear our minds of all of the troubles and tribulations that we are currently facing in our lives and simply focus on nothing. Now, this is, of course, a paradox, but no one said mediation was easy. It is easily accessible, yes, but easily mastered, no. This is why meditation is referred to as a practice. The more we do it, the easier it is for us to get to the state by which meditation can work for us by calming the mind and thus calming the body.

Mindfulness and meditation can also help prevent relapse. According to the aforementioned journal, Substance Abuse and Rehabilitation, “Mindfulness is particularly suited for relapse prevention. To prevent relapse, individuals may be able to use mindfulness to cultivate an awareness of when substance use habits are triggered by substance cues even after an extended period of abstinence. For instance, by monitoring their affective state, and knowing that increased stress, despair, or anger increases relapse risk, the individual may use mindfulness to contemplate the reasons they want to maintain their recovery.” Another potentially effective way of avoiding relapse is through the mindfulness technique of journaling.

The Benefits of Journaling

Another effective mindfulness tool that we can cultivate while in the recovery center and continue after is journaling. According to the journal Family Medicine and Community Health, “Journaling is an adjunct low-cost, low-side effect therapy that can help family physicians in the management of common mental health symptoms that is supported by randomized controlled trials as summarised in this systematic review with meta-analysis. While study quality is overall low, the cost-benefit ratio is in favor of family physicians advocating for the use of this modality as an adjunct to other therapies for common mental health conditions.”

Journaling can help us to get all of our emotions out and right in front of us. From there, we can begin to dissect and break down what we discover. Many people avoid journaling because they are unsure of their writing abilities. The good news is that “writing skills” have nothing to do with the therapeutic benefits of journaling. In fact, some of the best journaling comes from “automatic writing,” which is a way of journaling by setting a timer and writing whatever comes to mind within that allotted time. 

It is amazing what we unknowingly hold onto, and it is also amazing how journaling can help get it out. Journaling is also a fantastic tool while in therapy because it can help a therapist better understand what is going on and help us better break down what was learned in our therapy sessions. Another effective mindfulness tool that also helps us engage with our physical bodies is yoga.

A Yoga Practice After the Recovery Center

Yoga has existed as a practice for over 3,000 years. It began primarily as a religious exercise but since has branched out into countless variations that serve a multitude of purposes. Yes, it is still used in religious practices around the world, but it is also used as a form of less dogmatic spirituality for millions of people around the world. Many people also utilize the postures and poses of yoga solely for their physical benefits. Then, there are many people around the world who use it as a whole-mind-body approach for recovery.

As with the other mindfulness tools that we’ve discussed, yoga can be an ideal recovery option because of its versatility and its ability to travel with us wherever we go. It is open to any level of students, and there is always room to grow. Even those who are considered master yogis often discuss the room that yoga still gives them to grow. Taking yoga with us when we leave the recovery center is an optimal way to stay physically healthy, mentally focused, and spiritually fit.

Yoga has countless benefits, many of which have been quantified by studies over the years. According to the International Journal of Yoga, “Yoga, a form of mind-body exercise, has become an increasingly widespread therapy used to maintain wellness and alleviate a range of health problems and ailments. Yoga should be considered as a complementary therapy or alternative method for medical therapy in the treatment of stress, anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders as it has been shown to create a greater sense of well-being, increase feelings of relaxation, improve self-confidence and body image, improve efficiency, better interpersonal relationships, increase attentiveness, lower irritability, and encourage an optimistic outlook on life.” 

One of the keywords in this description is “complementary.” This is because yoga can help to elevate almost any modality in almost any post-treatment recovery plan.

12-Step and Non-12-Step Programs After the Recovery Center

Getting involved in a recovery community after treatment can be vital to the success of our long-term recovery journey. The benefits of joining a recovery community are hard to quantify and are almost immeasurable. This is because recovery communities allow us to relate to other people who have been through both active addiction and recovery. It is this “shared experience” that helps to remind us that we are not alone. These same people are the ones that we can rely on when the “rubber hits the road,” so to speak, and we become challenged in our recovery. It is these people that will help us stay on the right path rather than relapse when we are triggered.

Some people are shy about joining a recovery community because they have been misinformed by some of the stigmas that surround them. These stigmas primarily apply to 12-Step recovery and 12-Step meetings, but they can negatively affect other forms of community recovery.

Two of the biggest stigmas that recovery communities are the “God stigma,” and the “Cult stigma.” These are the beliefs that 12-Step recovery is a religious community that requires a belief in God and that it becomes difficult to leave once you join. Neither could be further from the truth. Yes, there is a spiritual component to many recovery communities (excluding SMART Recovery), but this spiritual component is optional, and it can also be whatever one wishes it to be. This is why the term “God” is often replaced with the term “Higher Power of your understanding. 

Regarding the ”cult” stigma, the truth is, as they say in many 12-Step meeting rooms around the world, “12-Step recovery is for fun and for free.” In fact, many communities openly say that there are many ways to recover; the key is finding the best one for you.

Also, as previously mentioned, there are many options for recovery communities post-treatment centers. Yes, the most popular is 12-Step recovery, but there are other non-12-Step options. Two of the most popular are SMART Recovery, which eliminates any mention of God and focuses on self-empowerment, logic, and known evidence, and Recovery Dharma, which focuses primarily on Buddhist principles.

An Appreciation for Nature After the Recovery Center

Another application that can travel with us anywhere we go after we leave the recovery center is an appreciation for nature. While true, we may not always encounter the majestic beauty that we get to engage with on Hawaii’s Big Island, such as the live volcanoes, waterfalls, and the seemingly endless shining Pacific Ocean, the concept holds steady.

That concept is gained via nature immersion therapy, which allows us to reconnect to ourselves by reconnecting to the world around us. According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Nature therapy is defined as ‘a set of practices aimed at achieving preventive medical effects through exposure to natural stimuli that render a state of physiological relaxation and boost the weakened immune functions to prevent diseases’. Unlike ‘specific effects’ that are typically anticipated from pharmacological treatments, nature therapy seeks to improve immune functions, prevent illnesses, and maintain and promote health through exposure to nature, with the consequent attainment of a state of relaxation.” 

There may be no better place in the world to experience nature therapy than right outside the recovery doors of Exclusive Hawaii Rehab’s luxury 30-acre property. But, when we take what we learned and experienced with us, we can utilize the experience to find a sense of peace, serenity, and tranquility no matter where we go. This is what aftercare looks like. It is not boxed in; rather, it expands to the entire world around us. Another experiential therapy that we can incorporate into our recovery aftercare also utilizes nature. That is horticulture therapy.

Utilizing Horticulture Therapy After the Recovery Center

While at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab, there is an opportunity to really get our hands in the dirt and see what it feels like to engage with nature. This is done by cultivating the very fruits and vegetables that feed us on Hawaii’s Big Island. Now, this is horticulture therapy at its best.

Horticulture has been utilized for a long time as a way to relieve stress and practice mindfulness. This was before it was even considered an effective therapy, and we now have results showing how much it really is.

According to the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Horticulture could have emotional benefits, such as reducing stress, reducing psychiatric symptoms, stabilizing mood, and increasing the sense of tranquility, spirituality, and enjoyment… It could help people reduce fatigue and restore attention and cognitive ability… It could increase self-efficacy, self-esteem, and quality of life… Horticultural therapy could provide a forum for developing group cohesiveness and a sense of belonging… [And] it could help people to engage in purposeful activities and develop a sense of accomplishment and productivity.” This should leave little doubt regarding the benefits of horticulture therapy, and all it takes is a little dirt, water, love, and care. The rewards of recovery are well worth it.

Getting the Recovery Tools Needed for Healing at the Cellular Level With Exclusive Hawaii Rehab

While there have been many great choices for recovery aftercare discussed here, there are still many more options for long-term success at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab. These are options like surf therapy, nutrition therapy, and infusion therapy, just to name a few more.

Recovery is just about stopping the way we used to live. It is more about choosing how we want to live our lives moving forward. Acquiring certain skills in the recovery center that we can take with us is part of that. On the Hamakua Coast on Hawaii’s Big Island, we like to say “Noho me ka hau’oli,” which means “Be happy.” This is our goal at Exclusive Hawaii Rehab. Yes, to recover, but to be happy while doing it.

Making the right choices after an initial stay at a residential recovery center is crucial for maintaining an effective, healthy, successful long-term recovery. Exclusive Hawaii Rehab gives our clients the tools they need to enjoy a successful long-term recovery after they leave the treatment center. These tools include insights on nutrition, mindfulness, motivation, and the benefits of journaling. If you feel like you or someone you love is struggling with issues of mental illness, addiction, or both, we can help. For more information on why recovering on Hawaii’s Big Island is a unique experience that will help to elevate one’s recovery while also leaving them inspired as they leave, please reach out to Exclusive Hawaii Rehab today at (808) 775-0200.