Aftercare


Two men talking“Continuum of care” is a phrase that’s commonly used in addiction treatment, but many people seeking help for a substance use disorder find themselves wondering exactly what this means.

Essentially, continuum of care refers to having a detailed plan for what services a person needs to help him or her stay sober after seeking residential treatment. This is a system where clients are guided and monitored over time as they progress through all levels and intensities of care. In some cases, this approach may be referred to as a “Recovery-Oriented System of Care” (ROSC).

There’s No Quick Fix

The most common misconception about addiction treatment is that detox and a quick inpatient stay are all that is needed to ensure lasting sobriety. Unfortunately, treating addiction is much more complex.

Addiction is widely recognized as an illness, but it’s not like getting strep throat and having your doctor write a prescription for an antibiotic. It’s more like being diagnosed with diabetes and having your doctor recommend diet changes, exercise, and blood sugar monitoring in addition to your medication.

You can live a full and productive life after being diagnosed with a substance use disorder, but you need to stay on top of your recovery. If you become complacent, you put your sobriety at risk.

Personalized Care Is Essential

No two people with a substance use disorder are exactly alike. Someone who has been abusing drugs or alcohol for many years has very different needs than someone who has only recently developed an addiction. Exposure to trauma, the availability of family support systems, and the presence of a co-occurring mental health disorder are also examples of factors that can widely influence what services are necessary after residential treatment.

Depending upon the client’s specific needs, some services that may be recommended as part of the continuum of care include:

  • Ongoing outpatient counseling
  • Intensive outpatient treatment that offers a more intensive counseling experience but still allows the client to return home each night
  • Sober living homes that serve as an interim step between residential treatment and living independently
  • Participating in 12-Step groups
  • Participating in alumni events sponsored by the residential treatment center
  • Online recovery education programs

Steps in the Continuum of Care

Every case is a little different, but the general steps in the continuum of care are as follows:

  1. Assessment: Determine the nature and extent of the substance use disorder, as well as any chronic illnesses or co-occurring mental health conditions that would complicate care.
  2. Treatment Plan: Develop an evidence-based plan for addiction treatment.
  3. Treatment: Use detox, counseling, and holistic treatment to build the skills necessary for long-term sobriety.
  4. Evaluation: Determine how successful treatment has been in helping to break old behavior patterns.
  5. Case Management: Develop a plan for ongoing care, such as intensive outpatient treatment or sober living.
  6. Extended Care: Provide the services necessary to ease the transition into independent living while addressing physiological, psychological, and spiritual concerns.
  7. Monitoring: Periodically check in with the individual to make sure there are no areas of concern.


Notice that the level of support gradually decreases as the client becomes more adept at practicing the skills necessary to manage the chronic nature of a substance use disorder.

Easing the Transition to Independent Living

Although the specifics are different for each individual, the goal of continuum care planning is to ease your transition from the structured environment of residential treatment to an independent sober life.

Your care team will help you determine what support you need to practice applying the skills you’ve learned to everyday situations. This includes:

Your continuum of care plan can help address specific goals you may have for yourself as you embrace the possibilities of a life without drugs or alcohol. For example:

Providing a Roadmap to Recovery

It may be helpful for you to think of the continuum of care in addiction treatment as a roadmap to recovery. You still need to do the work of building the skills necessary for sober living, but this approach provides you with a detailed plan and actionable steps to guide the process.

However, this does not mean that your continuum of care plan is set in stone. If you suffer an unexpected setback, the plan can be adjusted as needed. There’s no criticism or judgement, only a sincere desire to help you find the best way to move forward with your recovery journey.

By Dana Hinders

 

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Sign of Pennsylvania

St. Joseph Institute for Addiction’s rehab programs can provide you with medically supervised detox and counseling to build the skills necessary for sobriety. However, since addiction is a chronic illness, you may find it helpful to take advantage of some of these community-based resources for ongoing support.

Penn State Collegiate Recovery Center

Penn State’s Collegiate Recovery Community helps students recovering from substance abuse successfully reach their academic goals by connecting them with a variety of campus-based resources.

For example, students in need of campus housing can choose to live in the ROAR (Residence of Addiction Recovery) House. Located in the White Course Apartments, this drug and alcohol free community connects students with their peers in recovery to provide a safe and supportive living arrangement.

Support for students doesn’t end after they graduate. In addition to the student-run Lions for Recovery, there is also an alumni support group that helps graduates with substance abuse issues stay sober and take advantage of professional networking opportunities.

United Against Heroin Addiction

Formed to address the heroin epidemic in Centre County, United Against Heroin Addiction offers direct assistance to people with addiction problems, emotional support to those affected by addiction, and a number of community education and awareness programs. A key component of this process is the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), a self-designed prevention and wellness process that can be used by people of all ages to address substance abuse as well as other mental health challenges.

In addition to working directly with those affected by addiction, United Against Heroin Addiction also advocates for effective legislation to address the state’s growing opioid epidemic and additional funding for research into new addiction treatment options. All of this work is made possible by a group of dedicated volunteers.

Just for Today

Founded in 2006, Just for Today provides addiction education and advocacy for the recovery community in central Pennsylvania. They are a licensed provider of Vivitrol, a non-narcotic, monthly intramuscular injection that blocks receptors in the brain associated with the “high” from opioids such as heroin or Oxycontin.

In addition to providing general recovery services, Just for Today offers special recovery houses for veterans, as well as recovery groups and meetings focusing on the unique challenges former service members face in maintaining their sobriety.

Women for Sobriety

Founded in 1975, Women for Sobriety is self-help recovery group for women offering face-to-face meetings as well as online chats and a 24/7 forum. They are not affiliated with any other recovery organization and operate by the philosophy ” “Release the past – plan for tomorrow – live for today.”

Although Women for Sobriety is based in Pennsylvania, they have members from throughout the U.S. and Canada. In June, the organization hosts an annual three-day conference to help members take the next step in their recovery.

Hearts for Homeless

If substance abuse issues are related to a lack of stable housing, Hearts for Homeless can help by provide temporary shelter, access to case managers, and 24/7 support. The organization serves those who are currently homeless as well as those who are in danger of becoming homeless.

In addition to offering connections to substance abuse treatment resources, Hearts for Homeless can provide job search assistance and help navigating problems with the criminal justice system. They are one of the few community shelters open during the day and encourage residents in need to drop in whenever they have questions or need a place to get away from the elements.

Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs

This state-run website helps you learn more about your insurance coverage for substance abuse treatment and provides a searchable directory of care providers within the state.

You can also use the site to search for your local county drug and alcohol office. Staff members at these offices are able to provide personalized assistance finding addiction treatment options, with a focus on free or low-cost choices for individuals who do not have adequate insurance coverage.

Centre Helps

Centre Helps offers a 24-hour hotline at 800-494-2500 or 814-237-5855 to help residents in crisis. In addition to answering questions about addiction treatment and recovery resources in Pennsylvania, they can provide answers about financial assistance for low-income people, help for victims of domestic abuse, and resources for the disabled.

If you’d rather talk to someone in person, you can visit the drop-in center that is open weekdays from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm at 410 South Fraser Street in State College. At the drop-in center, you can request a case manager who will be able to provide personalized assistance tailored to the specific challenges you are facing.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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How to cope with cravings

You may leave rehab feeling like you’ve got your addiction under control, but cravings are a normal part of the recovery process.

Cravings are often described as a feeling of intense hunger for alcohol or drugs. When you’re experiencing a craving, you might feel like the abused substance is calling out your name so strongly that you can smell or taste it. You might experience physical symptoms associated with anxiety, such as a rapid heartbeat and headache.

Addiction is a chronic illness, which means you’ll likely face some form of cravings for many months or even years to come. However, once you learn which tactics work to keep your cravings under control, they’ll decrease in both frequency and intensity.

1. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to making a deliberate effort to focus your attention on the present moment. When you’re having a craving, mindfulness meditation can help you increase awareness of your personal triggers and control emotions that are triggering the urge to use.

Focusing your attention on your breathing and the sensations you’re experiencing in the moment will help you see that uncomfortable emotions are only temporary. You can learn to think of cravings as visitors to your mind that you’re under no obligation to welcome or obey.

2. Distract Yourself

Cravings are short lived, with research showing that intensity diminishes after 15 to 30 minutes. This means the best way to beat a craving may be to simply distract yourself until it passes. For example:

  • Watch a movie
  • Read a book
  • Spend time in nature
  • Write in your journal
  • Draw, paint, or engage in a creative hobby
  • Listen to music

Since stress is often a trigger for cravings, enjoyable distractions will also help you manage the situation by lowering your stress level.

3. Remove Yourself from Dangerous Situations

If you’re feeling the urge to use because you’re surrounded by reminders of your old life, you need to remove yourself from the situation. Continuing to hang around places and engage in activities that you associate with using sets you up for relapse.

Be honest with the people in your life about what triggers your cravings. If you know that going back to your favorite bar is going to make you crave a drink, you shouldn’t be risking your sobriety by putting yourself in a dangerous situation. Anyone who doesn’t support your commitment to staying clean doesn’t deserve a place in your life.

4. Avoid Entertainment that Glorifies Substance Abuse

Songs, TV shows, movies, video games, and books that make substance abuse seem glamorous can trick your brain into a craving. Surrounding yourself with portrayals of people who’ve overcome addiction is a better alternative, since inspirational stories can help strengthen your resolve to stay clean.

Entertainment is also a common person-specific cue for cravings. Person-specific cues are triggers that are unique to each individual, such as associating a certain song with drug use because it was playing the first time you got high. A 2015 study found that person-specific cues have a stronger effect on cravings that substance-specific cues such as the presence of bottles, lighters, or drug paraphernalia.

5. Call a Friend

Knowing when to turn to your support network is an essential part of building a successful sober life for yourself. If you’re struggling with a craving, reach out to a supportive friend or family member. Talking to someone about what you’re feeling can help strengthen your resolve to not fall prey to your cravings.

Talking also helps you remember the negative consequences of using. When you’re faced with a stubborn craving, it’s easy to fall prey to the trap of only thinking about the benefits of drug or alcohol use. Your support system can help remind you of how much you have to lose if you give in to temptation. They can also bring you back to reality by reminding you that using “just once” is likely to lead to a complete relapse.

6. Go to a Meeting

Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups play a vital role in maintaining sobriety by providing you with access to a community of people who understand the challenges you’re facing. Going to a meeting can help you manage cravings by reminding you that you’re not alone and showing you that a lasting recovery is possible no matter what obstacles you’ve struggled with in the past.

12-step meetings are available in almost every community, with larger cities having multiple meetings per day. This means you can find a meeting to attend even if you’re away from home. If you’re struggling with transportation issues, contact a meeting leader to see if another member can provide a ride.

By Dana Hinders

 

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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