If statistics bear any truth about 2017, they reveal troubling trends with regard to substance abuse and mental health. Over 15.1 million adults in the United States suffer from alcohol use disorder (AUD) while 115 Americans die each day because of opioid misuse and addiction. Meanwhile, 40 million citizens suffer from anxiety and depression, only a fraction of whom seek treatment. Even many treated with apparent success often relapse. Can a one-on-one recovery be the answer?

A Window of Vulnerability

Individuals who benefit from a residential treatment program come out of such protocols with a better understanding of their illness and some practical techniques to deal with unhealthy desires. Yet many of them find re-entry into their workaday lives to be more difficult than imagined. In fact, the first couple of weeks are a period when all of the gains from rehabilitation can go by the wayside. The stresses and pressures of life can induce overpowering cravings and obsessive thoughts about a substance or behavior. This is not uncommon: 90 percent of alcohol abusers relapse in the first four years following treatment; the majority do so in the first year of abstinence. The longer the term of post-treatment sobriety, the lower the likelihood of relapse.

Available Resources for Post-Treatment Care

A primary factor in relapse cases is a lack of aftercare. One widely-known and popular avenue is the 12-step program. Serving as a safe forum to express feelings, fears, and confusion, fellowships like Alcoholics Anonymous boast a history of supporting sustained recoveries. In addition, people who get a handle on addictions or destructive behaviors also maintain--for an extended period--a program of counseling with a professional psychotherapist. This type of giving and take is important in sorting out the truth from the lies that so many addicts believe. To be sure, maintaining ongoing healing practices help patients to stay the course with regard to abstinence. 

Friendship: The Missing Ingredient

The operative element of 12-step groups and post-treatment therapy is that they are judgment-free zones. Patients can give voice to feelings and thoughts that they would otherwise be ashamed to do at work or even with family. Yet these appointments are periodic while life goes on without ceasing. It makes sense, therefore, that a continuous, life-on-life relationship with a person of similar interests, passions and disposition can propel a patient further on his or her recovery path. This "recovery buddy" can, among other things:

  • talk a client through the difficult passage from the treatment facility to home life.
  • remind a client of the many benefits of behavioral change.
  • help a client choose healthy friends and venues.
  • model the tools of recovery for the client.
  • keep the client honest regarding possession of substances.

This companion can reside with the recovering client, if necessary while helping to overcome obstacles and fortify resolve. When the protégé is at his or her wits' end, the companion is there to put things into rational perspective.

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