When looking up from deep within the valley of addiction, successful recovery can seem like nothing more than a mirage on the horizon. Thankfully it is no mirage.
With courage and effort, recovery from drug addiction is possible. Does that mean it is easy to do, is completely cured and absolutely permanent? No. Addiction, once manifested, remains a constant background presence in life.
In this quote on recovery from addiction, one Quora user describes it in a very accurate and visually impacting way. “It [the addictive voice] doesn’t have any regard for your health or well-being,” he says. “All it knows is that it wants to keep the stimuli coming at regular intervals and it will throw a fit when it doesn’t get its way. That is the enemy you must defeat in order to break the cycle. It sounds fierce and powerful when it’s being fed and cared for, but it loses its strength quickly once you start denying it want it wants. Eventually it will grow silent and fall asleep inside your brain, but it never really dies.”
Lulling the beast of addiction to sleep begins with the desire to change. Addiction doesn’t start just because one tries a drug — it sets in after prolonged use has resulted in chemical changes within the brain. While the physical effects of addiction can be cured in the form of better health and wellness, mental and emotional recovery from drug addiction is a lifelong process.
Each of these stages comes with its own sets of challenges, but in the end the rewards always make up for any difficulty in the beginning. The first stage — the desire to change — is the first step one must take on the lifelong journey to recovery.
The Desire to Change
The first stage of recovery from drug addiction is having the desire to change. The chaos left in the wake of addiction often results in a life that is almost unlivable. The negative life changes that result are very broad and can include:
- Increased isolation from friends and family.
- Increased depression and mood swings.
- Difficulty relating to people.
- Difficulty at work or loss of income.
Even when these effects are obvious, change is not easy. Drug addiction is the result of certain patterns of behavior in life. A successful recovery from addiction requires fundamental changes in daily habits. Questions to ask are:
- How do I deal with stress?
- How do I feel about my life?
- What are my life goals?
- What type of people do I hang out with?
- What is my daily routine?
It is easy to say that change is desirable — especially when it seems as though things are coming apart at the seams. Actually creating long-lasting change, however, takes work. Once the decision to change has been made, one needs to identify their best course of action.
Some guiding principles on ensuring a true path to recovery includes:
- Thinking about the negative life changes that have resulted from addiction and focusing on the desire to change those.
- Removing any environmental causes for the addiction, whether it is in the home, the neighborhood or social circle.
- Reaching out to friends and family for support. Even if loved ones have distanced themselves from the person struggling with addiction, knowing the desire to quit is there will help compel them to provide support.
- Reflecting on any attempts to quit in the past and why those attempts may or may not have been successful.
- Setting specific, actionable goals that provide a structured path to recovery.
Once the desire to change has been achieved and steps put in place, the next stage of recovery is actually getting that support. Recovery from addiction without help is not impossible, but ensuring support from friends and family while seeking professional treatment greatly increases the chance of sustained success.
Seeking Support and Treatment
Addiction is a disease that is psychologically and emotionally contagious. Recovery isn’t just for the person struggling with addiction. There may be deep wounds on both sides that have yet to heal over, but family is family and having support from loved ones is extremely important. In many cases the family will also require support and counseling to help pave the way for a successful recovery.
It may seem daunting to reach out to those who may have been isolated as a result of the drug addiction. The person struggling with addiction often experiences feelings of shame and embarrassment. By gladly and gratefully accepting help and support, any sense of shame or embarrassment can quickly turn to gratitude and relief.
Professional treatment can help uncover the root causes of addiction so they can be addressed. It can also provide a new and healthy environment in which recovery goals can be reached.
An Australian study that followed 570 heroin users for 12 months found a 14 percent recovery from drug addiction for those who continued treatment through the 12 months they were tracked. The length of time and types of treatment were also an important factor in increasing the chances for successful recovery. When considering treatment options, think about the following:
- A Unique Approach: Anyone dealing with addiction has taken a different road to get there. No two addiction experiences are the same. A program customized to the specific needs of the client is essential.
- The Counseling Factor: The disease of addiction often has specific root causes — and it affects every aspect of life. Success in treatment includes an emphasis on addressing what led to the addiction in the first place. To identify these root causes, both the client and the family are often required to participate — everyone involved in the addiction can benefit from regular counseling and assistance.
- Long-Term Follow-Up Care: Drug addiction doesn’t occur in a day — neither does proper treatment. Programs that provide continual treatment and follow up over the long term are hugely beneficial in maintaining continued abstinence. Proper treatment methods should include customized aftercare for continued success.
Once the desire to change has set in, support has been gained and treatment options selected, it is time to commit to treatment and step bravely forward in beginning to build a life without drugs or alcohol.
Living drug-free is a lifelong commitment. It really begins the day the decision to quit has been made, but intensifies as we begin to rebuild what may have been a broken life. To increase the chance of successful recovery from addiction and growth in recovery, one must:
- Have a Recovery Support Group: Whether going it alone or in a program, ensuring an honest commitment to regular meetings is extremely beneficial for a long-term recovery from addiction. Making sure meetings are adhered to not only applies to the client, but also to the family members who are seeking a positive change in their lives and their loved ones.
- Set Meaningful Goals: Achievable goals are powerful weapons in the battle with addiction. The word achievable is important because we want to be able to reach these goals and build on them. One does not cross the river without stepping stones.
- Overcoming Cravings: Cravings are normal. Having cravings does not mean recovery isn’t happening or something is wrong. The first step in overcoming cravings is to identify the trigger. Acknowledging the feeling is the first step. Talking it through, whether with yourself or someone close to you, is essential to re-wiring the brain to abstain.
- Coping Mechanisms: Though the drug addiction may have receded, that does not mean feelings go away. Emotions that had once been dulled by drugs may strengthen. What has changed is the coping mechanisms. Taking up hobbies such as journaling or simply seeking support from loved ones are positive ways to address emotional needs.
- Stress Relief: Commitment is tested when stress sets in. Developing healthy ways of coping with stress is part of keeping cravings and triggers at bay. By using techniques such as deep breathing and meditation, anyone can effectively deal with stress without reverting back to destructive methods.
- Relapse Recovery: Relapse is possible. When it occurs, often the shame and feelings of devastation that can accompany it make stepping back into recovery feel nearly impossible. It isn’t. If a relapse happens, seek support. Refocus on the desire to change and the kind of self-actualizations needed to make it happen.
From birth until death we are building our lives. Have we set the proper foundation that will carry the structure of our existence solidly into the future? After acknowledging the desire to change, seeking support and treatment, and making the commitment, the final stage is the one that lasts forever: building a drug-free life.
Building a Drug-Free Life
Re-discovering the magic of a sober life can be a profound experience. Once the chemical structure of the brain has returned to normal, family ties have been mended and a foundation has been set, it is time to reach the apex of recovery. Often this is the most difficult stage as one must re-learn how to live a healthy life, something that may have been missing for years.
Here are some things to consider when laying the foundation for a life of recovery:
- A New Routine: In the past life of addiction, a daily routine was marked by the constant chase for that elusive perfect high. A new, healthy daily routine may include jogging, reading, meditating or spending quality, sober time with friends and family. Creating a new and positive routine is the first step.
- A New Social Circle: One of the keys to ensuring a successful recovery from addiction is creating a drug-free, healthy social circle. In many cases it is the people in one’s life that help create the setting for addiction to set in. It is essential to avoid old “haunts” such as bars and clubs and stay surrounded by sober and happy people.
- Health Awareness: Recovery is both physical and mental. Having the desire to change, committing to change and building on change are all mental challenges. Having damaged the body as well as the mind, ensuring the health of our body is just as important as ensuring the health of mind and spirit. By keeping proper eating habits, exercising regularly and maintaining a healthy sleep routine, we can ensure the temple of our body is properly maintained.
- New Hobbies: During addiction, hours can be wasted using alcohol or drugs. During recovery, it is time to create new ways to occupy the mind. Do things that offer creative challenges and opportunities to use the imagination for self-improvement and learning.
- Community Involvement: One of the best ways for us to help ourselves is to help others. There is a selfless joy that comes from volunteering or serving the community. The joy of helping others is a great natural way to get that dopamine burst that once was provided by drugs alone. Offering support to others suffering from drug or alcohol addiction not only provides much-needed help, but it can also strengthen one’s own sobriety.
Constructing a new life from the rubble of a previous one is no easy task, but it can absolutely be done with the proper attention paid to the details in life. Addiction is about making the wrong choices —on the other hand, recovery is about making healthy, productive choices. Making the right choices and sticking to them can result in a true sense of enlightenment and joy, greatly improving the chances of recovery from addiction.
The Reality of Recovery
Of the entire population in the United States, there is a full ten percent recovery rate from addiction. That means 1 in 10 Americans has suffered from addiction and recovered from it. That is a huge number!
Realizing that so many Americans have suffered from addiction at one point is — no pun intended — a sobering thought. Fortunately, this also must mean that long-term recovery from addiction is not only possible, but also normal.
There are so many positives that come from maintaining a strong recovery throughout life, it is impossible to list them all, but for inspiration, here are just a few:
- Increased energy levels
- Better physical and mental health
- Better relationships with friends and family
- Better performance at work or school
- A sense of genuine happiness and contentment in life
- A stronger sense of self and emotional well-being
Achieving the goal of a truly successful recovery from addiction should be a proud achievement. With proper care, effort and determination, a life once lived in a state of untenable discord can be transformed into one of managed success and happiness.
Recovery from addiction is absolutely possible. Recovering addict David Klein was, as he puts it in this quote on recovery from addiction, “hopelessly addicted to methamphetamines.” Having used meth from his mid-twenties through his late thirties, his life was broken on every level, but his account is one that ends in hope. “I had lost everything that most people hold dear. I was at a point in my life where I knew that to continue living like I was meant I was going to die a cold, painful, and lonely death and nobody would care. I felt miserable, scared, lonely, unloved. For over 24 years now I have never felt that way again. I have not drank or used drugs in that time. So, yes, it is possible for an addict to recover.”
If you or someone you know is currently suffering from addiction, help is out there and recovery is possible. Call 12 Keys and let us show you how we can help in attaining true recovery and positive life-change for you or a loved one.
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