Imagine you are trying to learn a new skill. Maybe you have decided to take up the saxophone. There are lots of things to learn in order to get started, so maybe you find a teacher who can show you the basics. You learn how the horn goes together, how to position the reed, which hand goes where, and how to produce a few notes. You are on your way!
Now, imagine that your teacher tells you that once you have learned the foundational basics, you don’t need any more lessons. The instructor wishes you well on your musical journey and says they are confident that you will be a professional, in-demand musician in no time.
Sounds ridiculous, right? Sure, you might be able to stumble along and improve. You might be able to pick up some tips here and there. And certainly some folks can make the whole self-instruction thing work. But by and large, this approach—one lesson and well wishes for success—is not a good model.
A Model for Success
And if it isn’t a good model for learning the saxophone, imagine how much worse it is as a model for recovering from a substance use disorder.
Just like you need ongoing lessons to really see improvement in your musical endeavors, you need a continuum of care when it comes to your recovery journey.
What Is a Continuum of Care and Why Is It Important?
When we think about treatment for substance use disorders, the focus is frequently—and understandably—on the initial steps. We think about detoxification, the process that gets the drugs or alcohol out of our system. And we think about rehabilitation, the intensive therapy and instruction that provide a toolkit for maintaining sobriety. Because they come at the beginning and because the changes they allow and inspire can be dramatic, detox and rehab often seem like the stars of the recovery show.
And they are undeniably important. Just like you can’t play the sax until you put it together correctly and learn where your hands go, you likely can’t gain and maintain lasting sobriety without detox and rehab. But in both cases those initial steps are essential but not sufficient—which is to say, detox and rehab will get you started, but they probably won’t be enough on their own to transform your life over the long haul.
And that is why a continuum of care is so important. The word “continuum” (in addition to being a potentially handy word for Scrabble players) simply indicates that something is a continuation of an ongoing process. So, a continuum of care in the realm of recovery refers to a commitment to providing ongoing support and resources for a person who has completed detox and recovery (the first two steps on the continuum) and has now embarked on their recovery journey.
What Can You Expect from a Continuum of Care?
Our comparison to music lessons continues to apply as we think about a continuum of care for a person in recovery. In just the same way that a music teacher personalizes lessons and assignments to meet the specific needs of a given student, a continuum of care is personalized to fit the specific needs of the individual in recovery. Many things—like the strength of an individual’s support system of family members and friends, the person’s overall physical health, and the presence or absence of co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety or depression—are factored in to crafting an effective plan for a person leaving treatment.
Options that might be included in a person’s continuum of care plan include participating in an intensive outpatient program as a transitional step between residential care and independent living—or even temporarily moving into a “sober living home” shared with others who are in recovery. It is likely that making a connection with a local 12-Step (or other) recovery group would be part of the plan. And there may be get-togethers and support groups that include others who have gone through residential treatment at the same facility.
Even with this personalized plan in place, leaving residential treatment can be stressful. How will you manage triggers, cravings, and the day-to-day challenges life throws at us all? A continuum of care program assures that a recovery specialist is always available to you by phone, ready to help you in a variety of ways, including connecting you to additional resources that might serve you well going forward.
And what about relapse? Though we wish it were otherwise, relapse is fairly common for those who are newly in recovery. It may seem like a failure, but a relapse can be reframed as an opportunity. When a person returns to treatment, their personalized plan can be fine-tuned to address the issues or triggers that tripped them up and increase the likelihood of greater success going forward. Thinking of returning to treatment as another step along the continuum may be useful, especially if your relapse has you feeling hopeless and unsure whether you can ever stay sober. The continuum of care is grounded in the idea that recovery is an ongoing process.
Wooded Glen Recovery Center Is Committed to the Continuum of Care
You have probably guessed by now that Wooded Glen Recovery Center has built its programs around an approach that includes a continuum of care. We will work with you to develop a personalized plan as you return to independent living. We will connect you with resources that will serve you well, and we will be available to answer your questions—and to help should a return to treatment become necessary. We are eager to help you reach your full potential—and build a life of lasting sobriety.