If you’re dealing with an addiction yourself, or have a loved one who is, it’s important to remember that addiction does not have to be a life sentence. It is a disease that can be treated and managed to help the person suffering to take their life back.
How does addiction treatment work?
The best treatment is a holistic combination of different approaches, which must be tailored to a person’s specific circumstances. Some people need to work through the process by going into an in-patient rehab program, and others can do it in their own space, with support from professionals and loved ones.
Let’s look at what’s involved in addiction recovery:
The desire to make a change in life must come from within. It may take some time before the person involved is prepared to acknowledge the problem, and commit to taking action. These things can sometimes help:
- A written record of how often a substance or process is used
- Seeing clearly how behavior negatively impacts the life, career and physical, emotional and mental health of the individual
- Understanding how loved ones are affected
- Getting all the recovery information together in one place
- Knowing that there is support available and where it can be found
The longer someone has been using a substance, the more commitment and support they will need to get through the process.
Getting support for an addiction
Luckily there is a wealth of resources and professional support out there. Psychologists, doctors, counsellors, support groups, 12-step meetings, religious organizations and/or social workers can all help in different ways. Using and leaning on the services available to addicts in recovery, greatly improves the likelihood of success.
This type of treatment helps to:
- Identify the root cause that triggers the craving for a substance; and
- Teach life skills that help the person cope better with stressful situations and cues that would normally lead to substance abuse.
Without these steps, recovery will never be sustainable. Life happens and there are always people and situations that need to be dealt with, so finding ways to manage them constructively is essential.
Medication can be useful from several different perspectives. For example:
- During the initial stages of treatment, it can help to manage emotional and physical withdrawal symptoms
- It can help the body adjust to doing without the particular substance
- It can reduce the effects of stress triggers that might otherwise lead to a relapse
- Medication can also help deal with any underlying personality or behavioral disorders.
The nature of addiction is such that relapse is certainly possible, even likely, so it’s best to accept early on that it might happen. The key is to take immediate action to get help and get back on the road to recovery, using the experience to understand more about what triggers cravings.
The 12-step program
Many treatment centers use a 12-step support program that covers all of the above, plus other aspects of treatment. The steps, which can be followed by anyone, are:
- Admitting powerlessness over the addiction, which moves us out of denial into acknowledging that there is a problem, and that the root of the problem is our own behavior and attitude
- Acknowledging that we can’t do it alone and that a higher power (which could be spiritual, or a therapist, process, group or mentor) can help
- Surrendering control to that higher power, which gets our ego out of the way
- Doing a personal inventory of the thought and behavior patterns that no longer serve us
- Admitting to ourselves, the higher power and one other person what we have done wrong
- Being ready to work on ourselves, with the help of others
- Asking the higher power for help in doing this
- Making a list of people we have harmed, with the willingness to make amends
- Contacting those people and making amends, unless doing so would cause harm to them or someone else
- Continuing to do a personal inventory, admitting when we are wrong and taking action accordingly
- Maintaining a connection with that higher power and continually seeking guidance and strength to continue with the process
- Continuing to practice the process and helping others in need
These steps are done with the help and support of a sponsor who has been through it themselves. Attending a recovery support group is also extremely helpful as everyone there understands exactly what they are going through. The members of the group learn from each other through sharing their experiences and coping tools.
Building a new life after addiction
There’s a good chance that the people, places and activities contributed towards the addiction problem. During recovery, it makes sense for individuals to stay away from negative influences as far as possible, instead putting their energy into new interests. These could include:
- Learning a new skill or experimenting with a new hobby
- Joining a social or community group
- Volunteering to help at an event or a charity
- Eating and sleeping well
- Getting healthy exercise that they enjoy
- Spending time in nature
- Doing something creative, like painting, woodwork or even coloring-in
It’s also important to have something to look forward to, so setting goals, not only for the recovery process, but also for life, is very helpful. The goals can be big or small, and must be meaningful in order to work.
The road to recovery needs to be walked one step at a time, avoiding high-risk situations, applying coping tools, getting support where necessary and building a life worth living for. It’s well worth the journey.