News & Events

Living after addiction

in News
19 Dec 2016


People who have given up alcohol or other drugs often describe it as one of the hardest things they have ever achieved: overcoming their physical dependence, confronting the reasons they used drugs, changing negative attitudes, learning new life skills.

But the biggest part of recovery is life after addiction, practising what they’ve learned to create a different lifestyle and daily habits, rebuild relationships, perhaps find a job and new friends… and deal with life without resorting to drugs.

Some form of aftercare – such as peer networks, regular counselling or support groups – is crucial to help people transition into better ways of living and maintain recovery-based lifestyles.

The Odyssey House Aftercare Program provides non-residential support for people who have overcome addiction, including former Odyssey House residents.

The program centres on weekly individual counselling and educational support group meetings that empower clients to sustain their recovery and prevent relapse. Topics include stress management, communication skills, relationships, conflict resolution, relaxation techniques, anger management, goal-setting and assertiveness. A “dual diagnosis” group caters to clients who also have mental health issues.

On a practical level, the program helps clients enter employment or study; get accommodation; access information and other community and health services; establish social and support networks; and learn to manage finances. Leisure activities include arts and crafts, cooking classes, library visits and recreational outings.

Working out how to enjoy life without drugs is important in recovery, particularly for people who had an alcohol problem, like Odyssey House graduate Lisa*.

“It’s not easy given alcohol is so accessible and a part of the Australian way of life, but I’m determined. I spent my first New Year’s Eve after rehab with friends and had a brilliant time, proving to myself that I could have fun without alcohol. It’s great to still have access to Odyssey’s support networks such as the groups run by Aftercare,” Lisa says.

And while it focuses on healthy lifestyles and preventing sustained relapse, the Aftercare program recognises that slips can be part of recovery. Clients learn to manage these occurrences, reach out for help and use their coping skills to get back on their feet.

Rose graduated from Odyssey House in the late 1980s and knows what it’s like to pick yourself up and try again.

Rose had a traumatic and turbulent upbringing that led her to start drinking at 12, use cannabis by 14, speed at 16 and then heroin. At 20, she was sent to jail, but was allowed to enter the Odyssey House Residential Rehabilitation Program.

After nearly a year in the program, Rose left despite counsellors urging her to continue treatment. Back in the community, she was faced with the same situations: same family, friends, way of life and little support. After 18 months of being home she relapsed… so she returned to Odyssey House.

Rose completed her treatment and then participated in the Aftercare Program (then the Outpatients Program) as she established a different lifestyle.

Today, more than 30 years after she first decided to change her life, she’s a vibrant, confident, healthy woman.

“Odyssey helps you deal with lots of personal baggage and provides many practical tools to work with, but it’s your practice of it all that determines your ongoing success after rehab,” Rose says.

Challenges still arise and childhood demons hang around, but Rose has built a solid sense of self and uses the tools she learned so things don’t affect her ability to live life to the fullest.

“I’ve practised for years and been fortunate to continue to grow as a person because of this; it’s an unfolding and emerging process.”

*name changed to protect privacy