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 recover 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 a much 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 amount 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 includ:
- 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 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 you’re great at, 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: Relapse Happens
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.
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 satisfactions 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 6/2018 BSH</p