Connecting with peers, formally or informally, can help maintain sobriety. Finishing residential rehab can feel like the end of your battle with substance abuse.
In reality, however, this is just the beginning of learning to live in recovery. While the work done in treatment is important, there are many challenges — both expected and unexpected — that await outside the treatment center.
To maintain sobriety during the critical first year after treatment and in the long term, having an aftercare plan and connecting with a sober community is essential. At Deer Hollow Recovery and Wellness Centers in Draper, Utah, all clients leave with a personalized aftercare plan and are hooked into an active network of alumni who act as an ongoing support system.
“I believe that it tremendously increases the chances of a person staying sober because if they feel comfortable enough to open up when they are struggling,” says Garrett Jordan, alumni services and recovery residence manager at Deer Hollow, “then I can help them in the most beneficial way for that individual.”
After treatment is completed, staff from Deer Hollow call regularly to check in on alumni, and clients are encouraged to reach out if they ever need support.
“My journey didn’t end with Deer Hollow when I coined out,” one alumnus said. “I get a call from someone at least once a month to check on me and make sure I am doing OK. I also call in a lot when I am having a hard time or need to hear a familiar voice and I am never turned away. Deer Hollow has become my safe place, and my family.”
In addition to the phone calls, Deer Hollow maintains an active social scene for alumni. Each Wednesday there is an aftercare group that discusses the benefits and challenges of sobriety. The evening combines a formal meeting with low-key conversation where alumni can talk about any difficulties they’re having or just enjoy spending time with sober peers.
“We usually will grab coffee and then attend a 12-step meeting or will grab pizza,” Jordan says.
In addition, the treatment center runs sober softballs during the summer months and sober volleyball during the winter. These friendly Friday-night games offer an alternative to the bars or other social scenes that are centered around drinking.
Jordan says that with activities being offered regularly, alumni become close with each other and with the aftercare staff at Deer Hollow.
“Our alumni feels like a family,” Jordan says. He experienced that first hand after he completed treatment at Deer Hollow.
“I know personally after graduating from Deer Hollow, it made me feel worthy when I received check-up calls on a constant basis, and was welcomed at aftercare where everybody could hangout and just talk about life and being sober and how to maintain sobriety,” he says.
Now, as alumni services manager, he tries to encourage that same warm feeling among new alums. This is important because if they feel themselves slipping they are able to open up about their struggles and get help before a full-blown relapse occurs.
“Keeping in touch with other alumni is an integral part of our jobs as alumni,” he says. “Having the personal conversation with former clients and being able to build a rapport with a client over an extended period of time makes it easier for that individual to open up if they are struggling. Then, that lets us help that person in the best way possible.”
In addition, the alumni program brings together people who are at different life stages and different points in their sobriety. New alumni who are hooked into the aftercare network can see that other people in their shoes overcame the challenge of reestablishing relationships and careers after treatment, and are now thriving.
“It's important for more experienced alumni to share their story. It makes it easier for new alumni to relate to the things we've gone through and overcome, and just maybe it can help them in some way,” Jordon says. It also helps the group focus on all the positive things that sobriety has brought to their lives.
“When I share my story, it helps me realize exactly how bad it was for me when I was using, and it reinstates that getting the right help can give you a life beyond your wildest dreams,” he says.
Deer Hollow Recovery and Wellness Centers is a treatment center in Draper, Utah, that guides clients in moving towards physical, spiritual, psychological and social recovery.