5 Key Action Steps for Conquering Addiction
Struggling with addiction is a massive burden to bear, and it can feel incredibly overwhelming. If you’re reading this and you or someone you love is in the depths of an addiction to drugs, alcohol, or other substances, you likely have struggled with this thought. Can addiction be cured? Well, yes and no. The symptoms of addiction can be treated and a person can enter recovery, but addicts are recovering addicts all through life. With addiction similar to many other life threatening illnesses, it’s a disease that can be kept or put in remission. This might sound like a negative way to begin a blog post that is meant to offer hope, but in reality, it’s not a negative at all. Recovery is an ongoing journey, and it is a beautiful path to be on and a tremendous community of like minded people of which we can be a part of.
Is There a Cure for Addiction?
Dependency questions that I often hear include: Can you cure a drug addict? Is there a cure for alcohol addiction?
The reality is that the one true addiction “cure” is a combination of perseverance and support. Many people subscribe to the 3 tenets of Honesty, Openness and Willingness. I hope that this post outlines helpful strategies that can reach individuals at various stages of addressing their drug or alcohol addiction or that of someone close to them. I have decades of experience in the SUD (substance abuse disorder) field and I also personally continue my own journey on the road of recovery, so I want to honestly speak from a place of experience, education, and empathy with all of the information shared here on my blog.
Let’s dive in!
1. Set a Date with Yourself
When a person is ready, sick and tired of being sick and tired of where their addiction has led, they will find themselves in many various situations. Some individuals start recovery from an urgent and chaotic place, and others are meticulously planned. For example, some people’s journey into recovery is spurred by an intervention or even an adverse event, such as an accident, arrest or potential job loss. Others may be dealing with a well-hidden addiction that is disrupting life from the inside out, even if things haven’t come apart at the seams just yet. They feel that out of control feeling….
If you are in the latter category, where you have the opportunity to plan out a strategy for recovery, you may consider setting a date with yourself, literally! It may be a special occasion, such as a birthday, anniversary, or holiday, or just a date that has some significance for you. Of course, don’t jeopardize your safety and health waiting for a special date to come around, but if the idea of attaching special meaning to a specific date spurs you on, this can be a helpful psychological tool for quitting.
Detox can be a feared word in the world of recovery, as it can be a very intense period where a person feels unwell or even requires intensive medical care, depending on the addiction. For example, quitting tobacco at home with no medication or using over-the-counter nicotine patches is generally regarded as safe (though it is always best to consult your physician). However, detoxing from a severe alcohol dependency on your own can be very dangerous, medically the most dangerous or opiates likely require the medical care a hospital or detox facility can provide. This type of care includes lots of rest, checking a patient’s vitals, and sometimes the assistance of approved medications, often referred to as a MAT (medically assisted treatment).
It may seem obvious that detoxing is a step in the process of quitting, but it is important to remember that it is a unique phase of recovery that is short, intense, and should be approached with both caution, an open mind and under the supervision of medical professionals.
3. Evaluate Your Environment
After a brief period of detox, it’s time to evaluate your “normal” life and how it impacts your recovery journey. For instance, many individuals staying in a residential rehab program feel like life there has become a safe and secure bubble. It may be helpful and most likely recommended to transition into an outpatient program that keeps you involved with a committed schedule of rehabilitative activities and the therapeutic once you’re living at home. Some individuals opt for outpatient living as soon as detox is over, or even from the very beginning. It is a very personal and individual choice, I again suggest you listen to the professionals that you have chosen to guide you through this process.
All of that said, once you are back into a somewhat normal routine after quitting an addictive substance, it’s imperative to evaluate triggering environments, habits, and even people. Certain relationships, locations, and activities may need to change (at least temporarily) to keep you on track.
4. Find a Thriving Support Network
The last thing you need after quitting an addiction is a family member or friend group who is unsupportive. It is not at all uncommon for loved ones to make unhelpful statements. “You’re no fun anymore!” or “can’t you just have a glass of wine even though you’re not doing/using XYZ?” This invalidating behavior from surrounding individuals can be hurtful in that it makes the addict feel rejected, abnormal, and incapable of carrying on with activities that were once enjoyable.
After the key step of your initial personal evaluation, it is important to find a support network that is, well, actually supportive, especially if this isn’t built-in through existing friends and family members. This support network may be a supportive spouse, parent, sibling, or friend. It may also be a buddy from recovery meetings, a co-worker who has shared that they are in recovery and are there for you, or simply a sponsor. Don’t ignore larger organizations that may offer support, such as community, AA, NA, Smart Recovery and religious groups.
5. New Activities, Habits, and Memories!
It can feel intimidating in the early days of recovery to feel like you have nothing to do, your life has changed so much. I completely understand the feeling, as I have been there. The truth is, there are so many activities that can be fun and fulfilling while sober. Traveling, taking your kids to the zoo or park, enjoying community events, or having a backyard barbeque are just a few examples. The specific activities (and triggers) vary from person-to-person. Also, not every activity has to come back into play all at once. You may be able to handle your sister’s birthday party, but not your college friend’s upcoming wedding.
The main takeaway here is – stay busy! Idle time that doesn’t feel restful and rejuvenating in some way is an enemy in the world of long-term recovery. Play a lot more golf, spend more days with your family, take more long drives, or ‘insert activity’ that makes you happy. Be sure to fill the dead space. You will thank yourself for the extra effort, and your mental and physical wellbeing will almost certainly benefit you in the long run.
You may have found this blog post today when you were wondering “can you overcome addiction?”… and if you’ve made it this far, I hope I made it clear that there is no cut-and-dry cure for drug or alcohol addiction. No magic, one size fits all approach.
However, I also hope this post has shown you a few helpful and practical strategies for achieving recovery and freedom, no matter the type or extent of your addiction. There are many roads to recovery with varying levels of intervention and treatment. It is hard but nothing worthwhile is easy. Celebrate, enjoy, and live and love life again. The colors are more vivid, the memories are more real and our friendships deeper. Take it on!!