The Recovery Process & Treatment

Addiction is a complex, progressive, and chronic disease. However, it can be treated. There has been a lot of scientific research that has enabled practitioners to develop evidence-based interventions, which have enabled people to stop using substances and return to their normal, productive lives. That said, addiction cannot always be cured. It is a chronic disease, but it can be managed properly. Through proper treatment, people can counteract the powerful disruptive effects of an addiction and how this changes their behavior and brain, and finally get back in control of their own lives.

Recovering from Addiction

The recovery process usually follows six defined steps:

    1. Deciding to make a change
    2. Exploring what treatment options exist
    3. Finding support
    4. Achieving lasting sobriety
    5. Building a life that is meaningful without substances
    6. Never losing hope

The Recovery Process

The recovery process starts by understanding that you only have one body, and that this needs to be clean and sober. This is achieved by:

  • Understanding that you have a problem with drugs or alcohol and that a change must be made
  • Looking into the different treatment options, including 12 step programs, outpatient treatment, or inpatient treatment
  • Receiving support from your loved ones and others who are sober
  • Remaining sober by knowing how to recognize and respond to triggers and cravings, which is achieved through aftercare
  • Starting to rebuild a normal, productive life that includes life goals, volunteering, and new hobbies
  • Not being discouraged by a possible relapse, but rather using it as an opportunity to get back to recovery

1. Deciding to Make a Change

The recovery process starts when an individual decides that a change is needed. This can be involuntary, for instance, when it is court ordered. Perhaps you have started to understand how your life is negatively affected by your substance abuse. Perhaps your loved ones have organized an intervention to tell you that they are worried. The reason why you decide to make a change is irrelevant, what matters is that you want to make that change. This is the motivation you require to get your health and life back on track, and to stop the harmful behavior of using certain substances.

There are four lifestyle changes that can help you on the path to recovery. You need to learn how to change the way you think, and you must also learn how to change the behavior patterns that you have taught yourself over many years. These lifestyle changes are:

  • Learning how to cope with stress in different ways
  • Spending time with sober people
  • Finding ways to use free time
  • Changing your opinion of yourself

2. Exploring the Options for Treatment

Searching for a treatment facility starts by understanding that there is no one size fits all solution. You need to look at the recovery options and rehab treatment solutions that are out there. There are a number of different treatment options available, including:

  • Inpatient treatment, whereby you will live in a facility and receive treatment. Here, you can truly focus on recovering as there are no distractions and you are out of the environment that enabled your substance abuse
  • Outpatient treatment, whereby you attend regular counseling several times per week. There is also partial hospitalization and intensive outpatient treatment. Here, you have to visit centers regularly, for longer periods of time, so you can access psychiatric care and medical resources, while still being able to return to your home at the end of the day.
  • Co-occurring disorder treatment, whereby an integrated approach is used to address both a substance abuse and a mental health problem

When you compare the different facilities, you need to look at what is available and then find the program that best suits your personal needs. A few tips to help you find the right program include:

  • Making sure that the program can address all your problems
  • Making sure that the program can identify contributing factors to your issue, including problems you may have with your family or colleagues
  • Being committed

When you look at the treatment options that are available, you will generally also come across 12 Step recovery options. These options are usually incorporated into all treatment facilities, be they inpatient or outpatient. A 12 step program is designed to help people recover from addiction. There are also 12 step groups, where people are provided with social support that helps them to positively change their lives. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) recognizes the importance of these programs in overall recovery. The most popular 12 step program groups are the AA (Alcoholics Anonymous), the NA (Narcotics Anonymous), and the CA (Cocaine Anonymous).

3. Finding Support

Recovery is down to having the right support, so you should connect with peers. Thousands of people are in the same situation as you, and you can help each other to stay sober as you truly understand each other’s situation in a way that someone who has never had a substance abuse problem cannot.

The reality is that you will not be able to recover without the proper support. You need help from others, and these include your loved ones. They should understand why you are attending a treatment program, and you should ask if they can support you in this. Many people are surprised about the level of support that they receive, and you must teach yourself to embrace and accept these offers of help. If you were to try to recover in isolation or by hiding, you will quickly find that the recovery process is much more difficult, if not impossible.

Unfortunately, in many cases, your family members and friends may have enabled or contributed to your addiction. They may have enabled your behavior, or they may actually be users themselves. In this case, you will need to find a network of people who are sober outside of your friends and family. Sober friends are very important, as they can teach you new ways to be social, while at the same time understanding how hard your current situation is. You could even consider moving into a sober living facility.

4. Achieving Lasting Sobriety

Two of the biggest steps in the recovery process are getting sober and making sure that you go through treatment. Once you complete the treatment, however, you will need to work very hard in order to actually stay sober and not relapse. This means that you must learn how to control triggers and respond properly to any cravings.

One of the best ways to make sure you can manage your cravings is to really make a conscious effort to stay away from the scenarios, environments, and people that trigger you to use. If at all possible, this should be achieved by the following steps, which will help reduce your triggers and manage your cravings:

  • Distance yourself from the people with whom you used to abuse substances
  • Stay away from locations where substance use is common, including bars and clubs
  • Be open and honest about your history, particularly in conversations with health care professionals and physicians
  • Don’t accept prescription drugs from a physician if it can be avoided, which is why you should be open and honest about your history

You also have to make sure that you take part in a strong aftercare program. Here, you will be able to receive continued support after going through rehab, ensuring you stay committed. Some of the most common aftercare programs include sober living facilities, 12 step programs, support groups, and regular counseling.

5. Building a Life that Is Meaningful without Substances

You have to learn that you are important and valid, which you can achieve by engaging in enjoyable activities. You are now rebuilding a new life and that takes a lot of work. However, it is also critical in terms of achieving true recovery. In an ideal situation, you should be able to find things to do that make you feel important and valid. It is quite common, for instance, for people who have completed treatment to become active volunteers in their community. Starting a new hobby is also very common. It is all about setting life goals and having something to live for. This also means that you must look after your health. You have to sleep enough, eat the right food, and exercise. In so doing, you will feel better and you are also less likely to experience stress. Put together, this can help you prevent relapse.

6. Never Losing Hope

The final step is to never give up or lose hope. It is very common for people to relapse, but this doesn’t mean that you have failed. Rather, it means that you need more treatment. You must learn to forgive yourself and not see yourself as a failure, no matter how frustrating relapse can be. See it as a learning opportunity rather.

There are many reasons as to why someone may relapse. Often, it happens when people experience negative emotions. It is also common in people who are physically uncomfortable. Social pressure can also lead to relapse. Regardless of the reasons why, however, you must see it as a push for you to get back on track.

The Recovery Process for Teenagers and Young People

The above description of the recovery process is true for adults, but often looks slightly different for teenagers and young people. According to NIDA, the recovery process for teens follows just four steps:

    1. Looking for help
    2. Finding and embracing new habits
    3. Going slow, taking it one step at a time
    4. Identifying treatment

Ultimately, the exact steps you will follow during the recovery process will depend on the program that you end up going to. However, by and large, they follow the six steps described above. They also enable you to understand what relapse is, and what isn’t. Addiction is a chronic disease, and this means that relapse is highly likely. In fact, the relapse rates are very similar to those of other chronic illnesses including asthma, hypertension, and diabetes. Those illnesses, like substance addictions, have physiological and psychological elements. When a chronic illness is treated, regardless of which illness it is, deeply embedded behaviors have to be changed. Relapse, therefore, is not a sign of failed treatment. It just means that it needs to be intensified, adapted, or changed, so that it continues to meet the needs of the patient.

The 13 Principles of Addiction Treatment

According to NIDA, treatment should be offered according to 13 principles in order for it to be effective. Hence, the recovery process involves those 13 principles as well. They are:

    1. Addiction is a disease that affects both behavior and the brain.
    2. Successful outcomes are morel likely the earlier the issue is treated and addressed. However, it is never too late to seek treatment.
    3. Treatment can be effective even if it is involuntary. Often, people are court ordered to go to rehab, and they are equally likely to achieve sobriety if they complete the program.
    4. Treatment should be tailored specifically to the individual needs of the patient, understanding that different facilities and treatments work better for some than others.
    5. Treatment should be holistic, meaning it addresses all elements of a patient’s life.
    6. It should be determined whether a co-occurring disorder is present and, if so, both disorders should be treated in an integrated way.
    7. Those attending treatment should be screened for infectious diseases and they should be educated on how to avoid them.
    8. Patients have to stay in treatment for as long as necessary in order for the recovery process to be successful.
    9. Detox is important, but it is only the very first step of the overall process. If lasting behavioral change is to be experienced, then therapy and ongoing support will be required.
    10. Treatment should be centered around behavioral therapy. This often includes individual therapy, group therapy, and family therapy.
    11. Medication is often needed to treat certain elements of the overall addiction.
    12. Patients should be monitored for relapses throughout the program, including aftercare.
    13. Treatment plans should regularly be reviewed and revised so that the changing needs of the patient continue to be met.

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