What Is Addiction Recovery?
It takes a lot of guts to face up to addiction – no matter what the drug of choice. Some people are addicted to drugs or alcohol, but other people may be addicted to things like gambling, sex, hoarding, or other types of behaviors. Many people feel completely overwhelmed by their addiction, powerless against defeating it, and feel like there’s no way out. Sobriety may seem like an impossible, unattainable goal, but recovery is never out of reach, no matter how far down you believe you have gone.
Change is scary, but change is possible, and you have it within you to kick the habit. Addiction is NOT a life sentence.
Step One Addiction Recovery: Decide to Make A Change
Deciding to make a change is usually the most challenging part for most addicts. Giving up the comfort of your drug of choice, facing a change, and realizing that many things will have to change to work the path toward recovery can seem daunting and scary.
Preparing For Change:
- Keep track of your reasons for changing.
- Write down specific reasons that you want to get sober: keep it on you all the time to pull out when you’re facing a trigger or urge.
- Set specific, measurable and attainable goals, like a quit date or dates that you’ll begin to cut down
- Consider past attempts to kick the habit (if applicable) and what about those attempts worked and didn’t work. Addiction recovery is not a one-size-fits-all treatment: what works for you may not work for another person.
- Build a support network of friends and family to help you through this change. If you’re alone, try beginning one of the 12-step programs as they are full of people who have been where you are and know how to change.
- Get rid of reminders of your addiction from your home, car, and workplace. Dump your pipes, throw out your cigarettes, dispose of alcohol, or dispense of other triggering reminders of your addiction. These are incredibly unique things that may not affect all addicts equally. Throwing them out can be incredibly difficult, but so very worth it.
Step Two Addiction Recovery: Treatment Options
Treatment should focus not only on your addiction but on any other problems and mental illnesses you may have. There is no single treatment that works for every person and therefore your treatment should be tailored to your specific needs. Treatment requires deep commitment and follow-through on the part of the addict as well as his or her family. Addiction is known as a family disease, which everyone playing a part. While you, the addict, go to treatment (whatever you choose), your family also requires treatment as well. Make sure they prepare and complete treatment before you’re sober.
There are many places to look for help for addiction treatment and recovery. Not every addict requires extensive detox and weeks in rehabilitation centers, but some do. Here are some options for addiction recovery – do remember that it’s not going to be a one-size-fits-all problem – that you can try:
1) Inpatient Addiction Rehab: Many people first begin their addiction recovery in Inpatient Rehab. Inpatient rehabs do offer structured treatment programs that should be designed to address all facets of each person’s addiction and tendencies. During inpatient rehab, addicts in recovery reside in a substance-free facility and receive around-the-clock medical care and therapeutic support. In the first part of inpatient addiction rehab generally involves detoxing under strict medical care provided by nurses and doctors. Inpatient rehabs may be the best option for people battling chronic addiction, as well as those who suffer from a co-occurring mental or behavioral disorder (example: anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder.
2) Outpatient Addiction Rehabs are another form of total addiction care and treatment. Outpatient programs may offer many of the same kinds of effective treatments and therapies as inpatient rehabs, however in outpatient rehab, you’re allowed to live at home during the addiction recovery process. You can continue working and caring for your families while attending scheduled treatment sessions throughout the week. It’s important to remember that outpatient rehabs do not take place in a residential facility; which means you’re at a higher percentage of encountering triggers and relapse. Generally, outpatient rehabs are a step-down from an inpatient addiction rehab; still providing the support and therapies associated with addiction recovery without the structure of an inpatient program. Outpatient addiction rehabs tend to follow a progression from PHP to IOP setting.
- PHP or Partial Hospitalization Programs are generally the first step-down from traditional inpatient rehab in which people slowly relearn to acclimate from the highly-structured inpatient program in less restrictive ways. PHP programs tend to be much more involved in the therapy process, generally providing therapy 6 days per week about 5 hours a day. This allows patients to go home in the evening and be with their family. Partial hospitalization programs do not involve any sort of detox.
- IOP’s or Intensive Outpatient Therapy generally involves using less and less restrictive types of therapy to allow people to slowly acclimate to their lives in a measured, controlled manner, with therapy 10-12 hours a week about 3 days a week. IOP does not include any type of detoxification process
3) Continued Addiction Therapy can include regular meetings with a personal therapist, attending group meetings, and working the recovery program you’ve learned throughout the rehab process.
Use a state by state (in the US only) addiction recovery treatment facility near you.
Step Three Addiction Recovery: Support Network
Make recovery support group meetings a priority. It can be easy to feel overburdened with the number of meetings per day to attend, but they really are vital for continued recovery and sobriety. Look at it like this: If you had time to go to the bar or get high, you have time to make it to meetings. In meetings, you can find many people who understand what you’re going through and how to best support you.
Having close family and friends is invaluable for someone in addiction recovery, providing you have some.
Make sure to build a sober social network to replace any non-sober networks. Until they get sober themselves, you’re going to have to cut those people out to prevent triggering. Don’t visit bars, old hangouts, or places you used to use. You don’t want the chance to relapse.
You can find sober social networks throughout your meetings. If you don’t know where to find meetings, ask in therapy or consult your therapist.
Consider living in a sober-living home (especially if you don’t have a stable, safe, drug-free home environment) during the recovery period – this time is absolutely vital to your recovery.
Step Four Addiction Recovery: Manage Stress
Drug use, abuse, and addictions (of many kinds) may be triggered initially by unhealthy attempts to self-medicate with drugs and/or alcohol to relieve stress. To combat substance abuse and addiction, one must learn other ways to manage stress. Some of these include:
- Exercise – which releases endorphins (the bodies “feel good” hormones
- Yoga and meditation
- Calming music
- Petting your animal
- Tell someone close that you’re feeling stressed
- Go to a meeting
- Go for a walk
- Soak in a hot, relaxing bath
- Try smelling fresh flowers, extracts, or coffee bean
Step Five: Controlling Cravings and TriggersControlling Addiction Triggers may include:
- Avoiding bars and clubs.
- Breaking up with old drug or other addiction buddies.
- Telling any medical professionals about your history of drug addiction up front so you can work together to find an alternative means of controlling any type of pain or discomfort.
- Using prescription drugs, especially those with a high potential for abuse (sleeping pills, painkillers, anti-anxiety medications) with extreme caution, make certain your doctor knows your history of addiction before you start to take these medications
- Talk to someone about your craving while in the middle of it.
- Change your thoughts and challenge formerly held beliefs. It’s easier to remember the positive aspects of drug use and not the negative ones. Make a list (or look at a list) of benefits and consequences if it helps to remind you of why you quit.
- Urge Surf – imagine yourself as a surfer riding the wave of a drug craving, staying on top of it until it crests, breaks and turns into foam, generally cravings only last 10-15 minutes
- Distract yourself while in the middle of a craving.
- Read a book, go jogging, focus your attention on something else until the urges subside.
- Don’t resort to junk food as an alternative – it will only add stress and pounds.
Step Six Addiction Recovery: Build a Meaningful Drug-Free Life
Now that you’ve overcome your addiction, you may find that you have a lot of free time and emotions that you’re not used to having. At first, it can be helpful to go to recovery meetings (12-step or other) as often as you can to gain a sober support network but eventually, you’re going to have to recreate your life. This time, you can do it the way YOU want it to be done. That’s not to say it’s easy, but it is worth it. Here are some ideas for building up your life again:
- Adopt a pet. Pets are wonderful at making you feel loved, needed, and wanted.
- Find a new hobby – it doesn’t have to be lame.
- Learn about the things you (sober you) enjoy. They may be markedly different than the things you once enjoyed.
- Give yourself some time to reenter the real world and understand that it can be incredibly difficult at first. That’s okay – just keep going.
- Get involved in your community – replace your addiction with other wholesome activities. Volunteer, join a club, or become active in your neighborhood.
- Take care of your health.
- Get rid of the people in your life who are not good for – or to – you. You deserve better.
- Practice great self-care
- Don’t be too hard on yourself
- Learn to forgive, it’ll help you and everyone around you
- Take stock of what your biggest strengths are and see if you can find something to do regularly that showcases the things at which you excel, those that you enjoy, and those that make you feel good and accomplished
- Set meaningful, attainable goals to work toward rather than the end goal – it’s much more satisfying to accomplish things at once rather than focus on the bigger goal.
Step Seven Addiction Recovery: Relapses Happen
Relapse is a very common (albeit frustrating and discouraging) part of the recovery from addiction and abuse. Consider it an opportunity to revamp your treatment plan and learn from mistakes. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost everything, only that you need to try again. Relapse is incredibly common but no less discouraging. Understand that you can get sober – and stay sober – once again. Now, you’ll have the advantage of having been through it before. Don’t let anyone else cause you guilt or shame for relapsing – only an addict knows an addict.
Relapse does NOT mean you failed. Get back on the wagon, call your sponsor and your therapist, go to a meeting, check into rehab, and don’t beat yourself up for it.
Common Relapse Triggers:
- Physical discomfort
- Anger, sadness, trauma, or stress.
- Feeling happy – oddly enough, once things are going excellently in your life, you may feel like “celebrating” with your drug of choice
- Testing personal control – “plenty of people can have one drink, why can’t I?”
- Urges, triggers, and temptations – these are a challenging part of an addict’s recovery: urges, triggers, and temptations can sneak up out of the blue. If you can remind yourself that this is a temporary thing, most urges only last about 10 minutes. Try focusing on something else
- Fights and conflicts with others – if you’ve always coped with conflicts by using your drug of choice, this can be a struggle. Try to remember all of the reasons that you opted to get sober in the first place
- Social pressures – well-meaning people are often guilty of pushing an addict to “join in the fun” or “get with the party” without knowing that he or she struggles with addiction. Enough social pressure can cause someone to feel as though they really can still use.
Coping with an anger management issue is already a complex and arduous struggle, but when combined with substance abuse, it feels impossible. Whether anger led to your addiction or addiction led to your anger, the two fuel each other in a dangerous cycle. You can’t address one and not the other, but learning to overcome your anger while in addiction recovery doesn’t come easily.
The Connection Between Addiction And Anger:
Though many don’t realize it, substance abuse often co-occurs alongside anger, aggression, and violent tendencies.
Sometimes, anger comes first and leads to addiction:
- Anger issues lead to problems at work or home, leading the afflicted person to cope by using substances
- Rage becomes so overwhelming that a person seeks to numb the pain with substances
- The many stresses fester, leading a person to take out their anger and frustration by indulging in drugs or alcohol
In other cases, substance abuse preludes and leads to anger:
- Cocaine use, in particular, can cause aggression and violent behavior
- The resulting problems from increased drinking or drug use such as DUIs, relationship turmoil, financial stress, work conflicts, or job loss can create a wave of deep-seated anger, especially if many events occur at once
- Dependence on a substance can create anger and resentment in itself
The presence of anger, in general, isn’t the issue — all of us feel angry, sometimes even enraged, at one point or another. It’s an unavoidable fact of life, and common in addiction recovery. When that fury lasts for days at a time, reemerges frequently, escalates into violent behavior, and/or consumes a person completely, however, it becomes dangerous.
Perhaps the most alarming part of the anger and addiction relationship is that many don’t even realize they have an underlying anger issue; it tends to be written off as only a symptom of their substance abuse, and assume that once they’re sober, their anger will fade away. For some, the anger may fade. However those with a true anger disorder, it isn’t that simple. To truly heal your body, mind, and spirit in recovery, you must address your anger as a separate — and equally important — issue.
Anger and resentment can sneak up on you in recovery. When things are going well, it’s a lot easier to reaffirm your choice to be sober. It’s the times that stress pops up — a long day at work, arguments with loved ones you’re trying to rebuild relationships with, lingering financial problems from old habits — that it’s hard not to feel angry over all that you’ve lost. Just because you know drugs and alcohol aren’t a solution doesn’t change the fact that they used to be your crutch amid life’s many struggles, and looking ahead to brighter, sober days can feel frustratingly overwhelming.
Meditation and Anger in Sobriety:
Meditation helps to focus and ground you in the present moment — not your regretful past, not your sober future. Meditation lets you stop and really let go of your worries, even if it’s just for a few moments. Best of all, it can be done just about anywhere at any time, no special skills needed.
There are many online options for guided meditations, but don’t be afraid to conduct your own meditation sessions. It’s much simpler than you might think: clear your mind, focus on your breathing, make a conscious effort to relax your body, and just let go. Your problems will be right where you left them, but you’d be surprised at how meditation can bring them into perspective. Often, dwelling on problems makes them seem more colossal than they actually are, and even just a few moments of peace can shift your attitude on overcoming them.
Exercise For Anger Management During Sobriety:
Exercise isn’t just good for the body — it’s excellent for your mental health, and some experts even consider it vital to a successful anger management program. It can be especially effective if you’ve had violent tendencies in the past because it acts like a healthy, physical outlet for your frustrations.
An anger management exercise routine works any way you’d like, but it’s important to keep in mind any physical limitations you may have as a result of your substance abuse. Take it slow at first; yoga is a great place to start as it combines both meditation and exercise and can be adapted for various intensity levels. Incorporate it into your weekly routine, but don’t be afraid to throw in an extra session anytime your anger is getting the best of you. Going for a quick run or swimming a few laps in the community pool is a great way to burn off stress and work off all the things you can’t say or do in your new life. You’ll walk away feeling tired but likely rejuvenated, with much less angry energy swirling within.
Creative Expression to Channel Anger:
Creative expression can be used as an outlet: perhaps your overwhelming anger made you lose appreciation for the beauty of the world, so you use photography as a way to capture it. You can write out your frustrations with your recovery journey, create a story about the life you hope to leave one day or write letters to loved ones that you’re hoping to mend fences with. Dancing it out while singing along to your favorite songs is a cathartic, albeit unstructured, way to vent your frustrations.
Even if you’ve never been the “creative type,” don’t be afraid to explore that side of yourself.
Counseling For Anger Management:
Your sponsor is a great place to start when it comes to talking through your anger issues, but unless they’re trained in anger management, their ability to help you is limited. Bear in mind that though you’ll certainly want to explore and discuss, but the two issues must be addressed separately.
Find a counselor in your area who has experience with anger management techniques, especially if you can find one who’s familiar with addiction recovery. Be prepared to dig deep to really get to the root of your rage; one of the trickiest parts of anger is that often you only think you know the cause.
Your partner, siblings, children, or others may want to join you for a few sessions for insight on when your anger seems to flare up most often, when it’s most detrimental to your relationships, and how it’s affected not only your life, but theirs, as well. Your therapist can also help facilitate and guide conversations with your loved ones so that you can effectively — not angrily — resolve issues and begin to rebuild together.
Your Support System is Vital:
A solid support system is vital, but you have to be willing to ask for help. Talk to your partner, friends, parents, siblings, members of your religious organization — anyone you know you can turn to for a listening ear and shoulder. Your counselor and/or sponsor are excellent resources and certainly play an important role in your recovery, but you’ll want to have people close to you as well.
When you’re tackling the darker parts of yourself, it’s important to stay connected to those who know all parts of you, both the dark and the light.
If your anger or addiction issues have caused many of your loved ones to keep their distance, even now that you’re sober, first know that with time and hard work, your relationships can be mended.
In the meantime, talk to your sponsor or counselor about local support groups. If you’re in Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or the like, make it a point to speak up at meetings. Introduce yourself to others after the meeting, or see if someone wants to grab a cup of coffee. Suggest a group outing to the park for some fresh air and sunshine. It’s tough to get back out there and meet new people, especially early in recovery, but meetings are a great place to meet people who will truly understand your struggle; even if they don’t have an anger management issue specifically, they’ll be judgment-free of your past and will be the first to cheer you on for every step in the right direction.
In fact, they’ll be able to appreciate the gravity of even the seemingly smallest progressions in a way your loved ones can’t; that kind of understanding can make a world of difference.
Reasons To Stay Sober:
I know that this transition period is not unique to me. I’m sure many of you can knock back a few and move on with their day (or night?). That’s not okay for me. Okay, well, I could make it an option to me, it can ALWAYS be an option for me. I make the choice NOT to drink or abuse drugs.
But how does Sober You continue to abstain well the party continues? We all (should) have our own lists of why we quit our substance of abuse. I keep it with me, and you should write one too. What if you need a little more push? The following may help
1)You’re someone’s hero: While you may not know it, someone likely admires you for your choice to be sober. More often than not, your story has affected someone more than you know. Don’t shatter that by giving in to stress. Be the hero.
2. Your life is actually better this way. If you got sober, it was because your life was not what you wanted it to be. If you pick up a drink or drugs you may BAM return to addiction again, and quickly. Don’t let stress and uncertainty take that away from you.
3. Opening the door to one addiction leads to another door and another addiction. Luckily, I only ever dealt with pills as an addiction, thinking it would alleviate the pain. It didn’t.
4. You’ll want to remember this time later on. Even though it seems like life is kicking your ass, you’re probably gaining some valuable lessons, insights, and information for down the road. Drinking or abusing drugs yourself into oblivion would undo that. A few weeks (months) down the road, you’ll be glad for the chaos and stress of this time because it taught you to be stronger, as life has a way of doing.
5. A hangover will kick your ass. Hangovers make everything worse. Everything. If you’re already stressed out and overwhelmed, a pounding head and turning stomach will not help. In fact, it will do the opposite—it will just make everything seem less achievable.
6. You’ll avoid making stupid, drunken/high decisions. If you’re sober, you’re no stranger to a past where you woke up in the morning with major regrets from the night before. When life is already kicking your ass, the last thing you need is additional stress created by choices made while intoxicated.
7. Your emotions shouldn’t dictate your life. Yes, this is easier said than done. But really, being stressed out and uncertain about points in life is normal. There is nothing unique about it, it’s just something you have to push through and feel. Numbing won’t do any good because the stressors will still be present, waiting to be confronted.
8. You’ve worked hard for your sobriety. Actually, I can’t speak for you. But I’ve worked harder for these two years of sobriety than I’ve worked for most things in my life. The last thing I want to do is throw that all away so that I can de-stress for a few hours. Because that’s all it would be—a few hours—and then back to reality. It’s not worth it.
9. You won’t have to explain yourself. Again, I can only speak for myself, but I know if I were to get wasted again, it would be in front of about 50 people who know I am sober, including my friends. I would have a lot of justifying to do, which would just result in shame and guilt. I kicked shame and guilt out of my life a long time ago, and they can stay out for good now.
10. If you were strong enough to get sober, then you’re strong enough to get through this, too. (Whatever “this” may be.) Getting sober hard. Therefore, this chaotic time of my life has got nothing on it. Nothing. If I can get and stay sober, then I can make it through this stressful few weeks without losing that sobriety. I can, and I will, one day, one hour, one minute at a time.
Additional Addiction Recovery Resources:
Alternatives to 12-Step Groups:
While many people do find great help and fellowship in the 12-step programs, others may not find it helpful. Here are 4 other addiction recovery resources (we do not claim that these organizations are any worse or better than others)
1) Women for Sobriety: is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping women discover a happy New Life in recovery from Substance Use Disorders.
2) SMART Recovery: To support individuals who have chosen to abstain, or are considering abstinence from any type of addictive behaviors (substances or activities), by teaching how to change self-defeating thinking, emotions, and actions; and to work towards long-term satisfaction and quality of life.
3) Secular Organizations for Sobriety: is a nonprofit network of autonomous, non-professional local groups, dedicated solely to helping individuals achieve and maintain sobriety/abstinence from alcohol and drug addiction, food addiction and more.
4) LifeRing: is an abstinence-based, worldwide network of individuals seeking to live in recovery from addiction to alcohol or to other non-medically indicated drugs
Recovery 12-Step Groups:
After detox and recovery, most addicts find they benefit from continued recovery and sobriety support. The most common support program for recovery from many addictions and other mental issues is based on the 12-step (Anonymous) programs. All 12 step programs are based on the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program, founded in 1935 and based on the premise that the only way for a person to overcome his addiction to alcohol was to reach out and talk to other people who are struggling with recovery. In 1953, Narcotics Anonymous was granted permission to use the AA format and after that, there was an explosion of groups that tailored the 12-step program to their particular type of recovery. Today, the 12-step programs (also known as the Anonymous Programs) cover almost every addiction and mental condition. If you or someone you love is struggling with an addiction, you may find help or advice with one of these programs. The websites for each program typically includes various useful information about the disease, the program itself, and links to local meeting schedules.
Here is a list of programs with links to their websites where applicable:
- Alcoholics Anonymous, (AA)
- Narcotics Anonymous, (NA)
- Gamblers Anonymous, (GA)
- Marijuana Anonymous (MA)
- Workaholics Anonymous (WA)
- Sex Addicts Anonymous (SAA)
- Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA)
- Emotions Anonymous (EA)
- Food Addicts Anonymous (FAA)
- Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA)
- Cocaine Anonymous (CA)
- Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA)
- Debtors Anonymous (DA)
- Pills Anonymous (PA)
- Overeaters Anonymous (OA)
Other 12-step support programs for friends and families of people in recovery:
- Al-Anon/Alateen – for the families of alcoholics as alcoholism is a family disease.
- Adult Children of Alcoholics -for adult children who grew up in an alcoholic home.
- Nar-Anon -for the families of addicts
Last audited 11/2018