Addiction is a disease that affects a very large portion of the population. Addictions are often thought of as just pertaining to drugs and alcohol. While these substances are highly addictive and can lead to destructive consequences, there are many addictions that go unnoticed that also need to be addressed.
Sex, gambling, porn, food, caffeine, and social media are just the beginning of an extensive list of potential addictions that someone can develop. However, each person who suffers from addiction will have to face a crossroads between continuing their practice with addiction or choosing to change it.
Addiction is something that affects someone on a biological level, both in mental and physical health. Acknowledging the need for change is a huge step in recovery and showcases one of the most important skills that will be developed going further: the ability to see someone’s own self objectively and analyze their actions and thoughts introspectively. Beating addiction is a long, difficult, and extremely personal journey. However, it is a change that is possible.
Expect Large Changes
There will be no shortage of changes in someone’s life during recovery. From large-scale upheavals of someone’s world view to the minute way in which someone chooses vocabulary are all affected during this time. This constant change can be intimidating, but knowing that changes are inevitable is important in staying motivated and being equipped to handle the changes ahead. While difficult, they are all important to fundamentally address the underlying addiction.
creates the map of someone’s path to recovery. These include assessing someone’s
personal home environment, friends and social circles, venues and locations frequented, how someone spends their free time, and their stress levels and coping mechanisms.
Addressing each of these factors can help determine the risk factors in someone’s recovery, as well as help identify potential support systems that can be developed. In reality, this involves deconstructing a lot of the habits of daily life. By breaking down the different aspects that make up someone’s daily life and mindset, they can then be built back up in a way that is more in line with what someone wants in their recovery.
This baseline also contains
a biological factor. Looking at one’s own family history can also help determine where difficulties may lie, as well as potential reactions to certain medications based on the medical history of blood relatives. Looking at each of these things objectively establishes someone’s starting point. Knowing where someone is, someone then needs to know where they want to go.
Set Goals and Expectations
Different people have different goals when it comes to overcoming addiction. While some people may want to entirely eliminate their Adderall addiction or caffeine addiction, others may have more nuanced goals in mind. For example, someone who suffers from opioid addiction or porn addiction may want to overcome that aspect of their lives, but continue to drink alcohol.
People who suffer from alcohol addiction may want to be able to stop drinking every day, but still are open to having a social drink, and are looking for greater control over their drinking as a whole. Knowing where someone wants to go can help streamline the appropriate recovery techniques and give greater direction to both the patient and professionals that are helping through this difficult time.
Recovery can be more fluid than an “all or nothing” approach, and can involve someone curtailing their social media addiction to only a limited time per day. This kind of recovery is still a justifiable success, and can be obtained through personal and professional strategies.
Detoxing: The First Step
Detoxing is the first hurdle in overcoming addiction, and is also the most difficult. In order for someone to begin their sober life outside of their addictions, they first need to remove the presence of the addictive substance from the body as a whole, or be cut off from their addictive practice, like in cases of internet addiction and social media addiction.
Detox is a time where someone is admitted into a carefully curated environment where they can be safe and under the watchful eye of professionals. When someone who suffers from addiction suddenly does not have access to what their bodies are insisting they need, there are many mental and physical side effects. These are known as “withdrawal symptoms.”
They can range from minor to major depending on the person, and due to each person’s own coping mechanisms during this time, the experience will be wholly unique. Withdrawal from porn addiction will be different from withdrawal from meth addiction, and the symptoms can change from person to person in each individuals’ journey to overcome addiction.
However, there are some trends that someone can expect. Anxiety, depression, panic, aches and pains, tiredness/lethargy, nausea, vomiting, and mood swings are all common symptoms of the detox phase of recovery. This is the time when the urges to use or engage in addictive behavior are strongest, and professional staff and support systems should be around constantly in order to monitor the physical and mental health of each patient.
There is no way around it–this step is scary. However, it does end, and it is necessary for beginning to rewire the brain and challenge one’s own conceptions about the addiction at hand. Detox programs are typically about a week-long, though there can be some variance depending on the person and the facility.
Ridding someone of these traces of addiction, or fundamentally breaking the routine of an addictive action like gambling, begins the process of rebuilding one’s own mind and body in a world without access to their addictive substance or action.
Learn New Skills
There are many new skills that need to be learned in order to continue fighting with the inevitable urges that someone will experience in their continuing fight against their addiction. There are many specific skills that someone learns in the realms of social skills, practical life skills, as well as coping and grounding strategies.
Many times in recovery, people can feel isolated in their situation. This can lead someone to relapsing back into old coping strategies. Voice plays an important role both in beginning the process as well as the ongoing care needed in recovery.
The ability to say “no” to a situation takes courage. Especially when someone is recovering from an addiction, patients need the ability to not only to say “no” to their own urges and temptations, but also express that notion to those who may present themselves as a risk. Being able to turn down an invitation to a casino when someone suffers from a gambling addiction is a difficult task, but also a necessary skill in recovery.
Saying “no” can also express a cutoff point. For those looking for control over their addiction but not necessarily eliminating it from their lives, like in the case of food addiction or sugar addiction, there is a need to moderate intake, and say “no” when a pre-set threshold has been reached.
Expressing what someone wants in a situation or how they feel is an inherently vulnerable situation. Embracing that vulnerability, confronting it, and expressing the desires that someone holds regardless is an exercise in finding their new identity outside of their addiction. Someone that wants to overcome a sex addiction may want to beat that aspect of their lives, but expressing a desire to have a healthy, meaningful relationship is a desire that should be voiced.
Looking to the Future
Voice is also used in order to formulate someone’s desire for the future. Being able to vocalize where someone wants to go in their personal and professional lives is important in establishing the pathway to their future outside of addiction. Being able to verbalize support systems, positive influences, and future goals can keep someone motivated and positive through the difficult recovery experience.
People are more than the addictions that they suffer from. Being able to express likes and dislikes or various degrees of personal interest can help someone discover the kind of person that they want to become. It can set the groundwork for certain hobbies being used as coping mechanisms and other means of self-expression. When someone has begun to see themselves outside the bounds of the addiction that they suffer from, they have already engaged in a large degree of healing.
Inpatient Recovery and Sober Living
Inpatient Recovery and sober living are a crucial part of overcoming addiction. While there, people begin to understand the importance of structuring their days. It is also a place where people can interact with other sober members and practice their social skills.
By creating a comprehensive schedule for recovery, someone can continue deconstructing their preconceived notions about a sober life, and instead, live it. They will have the opportunity to practice their voice in a group setting, as well as experiment with other hobbies and outlets for stress and energy.
Patients are encouraged to stay for a fair amount of time even after they believe that they have gleaned all the skills that they need. Having a safe space to continue practicing these social skills and instilling aspects of structure and responsibility in a sober environment will help in making the transition that much easier.
The transition from inpatient recovery to outpatient treatment is extraordinarily difficult. The skills instilled are no longer being curated for each patient, and it will be time for each person to create a structure for themselves, in an environment that may not be entirely under someone’s control.
Preparing for the Transition
There are many skills instilled through the inpatient and sober living parts of addiction recovery. Structured schedules and responsibilities, coping mechanisms, community opportunities and social skills, and activities and hobbies to keep the mind and body active are used to mitigate the chances that someone will act rashly during an urge. When someone has understood and internalized these lessons, and taken the time to continue to safely practice them, they can prepare for a transition to outpatient treatment.
This transition is difficult, as many of the safety nets that someone had before are no longer in place in the same way. A person will have to take the agency of their recovery into their own hands even more. For example, people suffering from meth addiction will be back in a world where it is once again possible to obtain, and it will fall on the individual themselves to trust in their coping skills to placate those urges as they come up.
While this can be challenging, there are also a number of freedoms that are awarded to the patient. Going forward, someone has more agency than ever over the path that their sober life will take. The important social skills, life skills, and coping mechanisms are still in place during this time, and it is up to each person to decide how and when to use them appropriately, and exercise their voice in all situations. However, there are a few ways that someone can keep these skills fine-tuned and catered to the difficulties that someone will face.
Adapting and Implementing Skills: Scheduling
Keeping a working schedule is the best way to keep track of how someone is doing in their days. Writing or typing it out can give someone a visual on how their day should look and help them take control over their own time. Amidst the massive transition from an inpatient facility to living on one’s own and attending outpatient programs, it is important to mitigate the chances for a surprise.
Creating and abiding by a schedule can ensure that someone is able to identify their responsibilities for the day and accomplish them without getting into dangerous or high-risk scenarios. Urges are going to be a constant regardless of the type of addiction, and even after years of treatment and success. There will be a constant threat of relapse, and having a schedule can help someone organize their days to avoid dangerous times or places.
Not only does this help in staying away from triggering scenarios, but it can also help provide a constant visualization of someone’s safe spaces for when urges do exhibit themselves. Schedules can keep someone busy and on track each day, as well as inform their physical locations and activities.
Without this structure, the world at large can feel overwhelming, with triggers and urges coming from every angle if someone is not prepared with appropriate coping mechanisms and supports.
Scheduling can also help limit the time that someone has to engage in addictive behaviors when they are not entirely being cut out of someone’s life. Food addiction, sugar addiction, and internet addiction often require someone to moderate their intake, rather than eliminate the addiction as a whole from their day.
Keeping a schedule can also double as a list of effective and ineffective strategies. They are uniquely created depending on each person’s recovery and goals and are thus malleable enough to address the nuance that each person experiences in recovery from addiction. Keeping these structures in place allows someone to continue to confidently use their other strategies for continued sobriety.
Keeping a Community Together
Without a community that someone can feel a part of, feelings of isolation can quickly seep back into someone’s mind, which can increase the chance of relapse. During inpatient and detox treatments, communities are constructed and curated with a therapeutic mindset, and are devoid of as many triggers as possible.
However, community is just as important even years after initial sobriety from drug, alcohol, or any other addiction. Outpatient and group therapy provide safe, ongoing care where someone can continue expanding their social circle. However, having another social circle in which someone can express themselves freely is also important for expanding someone’s own identity.
Delving into hobbies with people with shared interests or joining sports teams or groups are all important in keeping one’s social life active and healthy while creating a space where there is minimal risk for someone to re-engage with addictive behaviors. Sports and communities also provide a particularly effective way to keep both the mind and body healthy.
While there is a lot of emphasis put on the mental health aspects of addiction recovery, there are still biological factors at play. Keeping the body healthy is just as important. Not only does it contribute to someone’s overall health, but having a healthy body also creates a more active, healthy mind that is receptive to new strategies and open to new ways of thinking.
Trust and Love
Perhaps the hardest aspect to address when overcoming addiction is the idea of love and trust. Relationships will need rebuilding, and others will need to be disregarded for potential dangers. Accepting that change is important and expressing love and trust to support systems through every step can be the heart of someone’s motivation to continue recovery in the first place.
Relationships can be very complicated, especially with family members and loved ones. If someone in recovery doesn’t believe that they are worthy of recovery or love, it can inhibit the overall effects at every step of the way. People can often feel multiple, seemingly incompatible emotions simultaneously. While someone may feel that their family is mad at them, it is possible that they are both frustrated and hopeful at the same time.
It is possible to be both resentful and filled with love at the same time. Emotions are a difficult thing to grapple with, regardless of someone’s stage in overcoming addiction. Love is something that takes effort and practice, both in expression and in reception. It is a necessary component that can only be addressed through effective communication and voice, acceptance of the past, and a unified front looking to the future.
The Journey Doesn’t Have an End Date
Even years after someone has reestablished their personal and professional lives, it is still possible that someone will get urges from time to time. People recovering from addiction, especially from food addiction or sugar addiction, will constantly be exposed to triggering sights and events. Constant vigilance and use of the necessary life and coping skills are important in ongoing recovery.
Through recovery, patients are exercising their voices and gaining empowerment not just over the addiction itself, but over each aspect of their lives. This agency is important in establishing each new day, and each patient becomes an important beacon of hope for people just beginning their version of the long and arduous journey of overcoming addiction.
Giving back to group therapy programs and establishing one’s self as recovery alumni provides a picture of the successes and trials ahead for others. Alumni embody the success and personal journey that a person endures on their own paths to sobriety, and bring with them the motivation and comradery that a person desperately needs in order to begin their own expressions of community, voice, and hope.