Effective drug rehabilitation programs help individuals successfully and fully address and resolve the many causes and effects of substance abuse and addiction. Individuals participating in rehabilitation treatment not only flush drugs from their system and begin to rebuild their physical, mental and emotional health, they are stabilized and supported in a safe, drug-free environment. Many individuals who complete a thorough and successful rehabilitation treatment program feel recovered and much better about themselves and about their life, and yet have great difficulty when they return to normal life environments and routines. The fact that relapse can still occur leads many individuals into the belief that addiction cannot be fully recovered from, or that rehabilitation treatment cannot actually help an individual achieve success. The truth actually lies in the meaning and purpose of aftercare treatment. The Purpose and Goal of Rehabilitation Treatment Individuals who have never experienced substance abuse or addiction, or who do not entirely understand drugs and their effects, may believe that the purpose and goal of rehabilitation treatment is to provide the individual with an opportunity to remain sober for long enough that they will hopefully be able to abstain from drug use in the future. In order to explain why individuals relapse into drug use after completing rehabilitation treatment, some may state that the individual must be choosing to remain addicted or that addiction cannot be cured. Unfortunately, both of these explanations overlook the basic cause of drug addiction and how it can be addressed and resolved. Drugs are chemicals that can override an individual’s ability to choose and decide what is best for their health, happiness and life. While initial drug use occurs by choice when an individual encounters some difficulty in life that they feel unprepared to handle, drug dependence and addiction is the condition wherein the individual is driven to continue their drug-seeking behavior through powerful cravings and the threat of painful withdrawal symptoms. An individual who is trapped in drug dependence or addiction may desperately wish to end their relationship with drugs, but cannot seem to do so on their own. It is not unusual for a substance abuser’s every thought and action from the moment they wake up in the morning to the moment they fall asleep at night to revolve around obtaining, using and recovering from drugs. Rehabilitation treatment seeks to help an individual restore himself to the life he led before drugs entered the picture. In order to do this, rehabilitation treatment must thoroughly address and resolve all of the physical, mental and emotional causes and effects of drug use so that the individual is not driven by powerful cravings or the need to suppress mental or emotional difficulties they feel unprepared to handle. Rehabilitation treatment must help the individual not only address the root causes for their initial drug use, it must also provide the individual with the skills and abilities they need in order to address future difficulties without returning to drug use. Ideally rehabilitation treatment is not based on any sort of time limits, but rather is exclusively based around each individual’s needs and takes as long as is necessary. That said, no one should remain in rehabilitation treatment indefinitely or because they are worried about returning to normal life environments and routines, since that essentially defeats the entire purpose of rehabilitation treatment to restore them to a normal, healthy life. However, no matter how thorough and detailed a rehabilitation treatment program is, the fact is that it cannot possibly anticipate every single challenge or difficulty the individual will encounter in the future. Furthermore, just because an individual encounters future difficulties does not mean that rehabilitation treatment has failed or that addiction is an incurable disease. It simply means that the individual needs further support and encouragement, something that every sober individual also needs during the course of their normal life. The Purpose and Goal of Aftercare Failure to provide appropriate aftercare services may be the weak link for otherwise highly successful rehabilitation treatment services, simply because it fails to provide a way for the individual to smoothly transition back into life. There is a significant difference between maintaining one’s sobriety in a safe, drug-free and supportive environment and maintaining one’s sobriety in the same environment in which one first turned to drugs. In fact, it can often seem as though there is a sort of chasm between rehabilitation treatment and “normal” life, and few individuals feel completely prepared to cross it. The purpose and goal of aftercare services is to help an individual bridge this chasm, and firmly set out on a stable path in life while maintaining their tools and goals in sobriety. As is the case with rehabilitation treatment, there are many different types of aftercare services available, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula. One individual who is leaving their rehabilitation treatment program may feel that they are fairly well prepared for life in all areas, while a different individual feels nervous about returning to their normal life routines and requires more thorough support. Among the many different types of aftercare services are: Individual counseling – Some individuals continue to work through mental and emotional difficulties as they re-establish normal life routines without drug use. Sometimes, simply being able to talk with a trusted individual about what one is going through in life can be enormously helpful, and can allow the individual to find solutions to problems that they are facing. Group meetings – It is not unusual for a recovering substance abuser to feel that they are alone in their struggles to achieve and maintain sobriety. Group meetings can be very helpful for such an individual because they provide him with peer support and encouragement, allow him to hear about the similar struggles that others have been going through, and most importantly, teach him about how others have been successful in overcoming difficulties that arise in life. Group counseling can also allow an individual to establish new friendships and fill their time with productive social activities that do not condone or encourage drug use. Sober living facilities – Also sometimes called halfway houses, sober living facilities provide recovering individuals with transitional housing that allows them to begin re-establishing normal life routines without completely returning to their normal life environments. Many sober living facilities require that residents contribute to keeping the facility clean and well-ordered, and individuals are encouraged to pursue employment options. Because sober living facilities are safe, drug-free environments, they can be the perfect bridge between rehabilitation treatment and normal life patterns. Cognitive behavioral treatment – Like counseling services, cognitive behavioral treatment can occur both during rehabilitation treatment as well as during aftercare. Individuals are encouraged to recognize the behaviors and decisions that are more likely to lead to drug use, and how to avoid or handle such behaviors when they occur. This treatment works to empower recovering individuals so that they build the self-confidence and self-respect necessary to maintain a sober, productive and happy life. Some additional aftercare services may include job skills development, relationship building, parenting education and more. It would be wise for an individual to research and arrange aftercare services before completing their rehabilitation treatment, so that the transition can be as smooth as possible. While it is never the intention of rehabilitation treatment to be lacking in any way, aftercare services can serve to fill in gaps that an individual recognizes when they return home after completing rehabilitation treatment, and can help further stabilize their foundation for a drug-free future.