Escaping the Stigma Drug Addiction Brings

Breaking Out Of The Stigma Of Addiction

What characterizes an addiction? The answer is a complex series of biological and psychological symptoms that begin or are traced back to the repeated use of addictive substances, which are psychoactive compounds that share a mechanism through which a person develops a physical dependence on the drug. Hallmarks of an addiction include strong withdrawal symptoms during sobriety, powerful cravings, and behavior that is not characteristic for the addict’s usual self but implies an inability to properly control their actions or think things through.

But the visceral reaction to an addict or an addiction is often much less nuanced, especially with the associations often made between addiction, drugs, and heinous crimes. Many people see addicts as emotionally and psychologically weak, as helpless, or incurable, or at worst, as pathological liars abusing those around them. That stigma is significant enough that a large portion of addicts feel the same way about themselves. Rather than see their condition as a curable illness, they feel that the mistakes they have made weigh heavily on their shoulders and their shoulders alone, and that they should feel terrible for what they’ve done – to the point that they often experience a profound level of shame. Stigma and self-stigma – they are abundant in addictions and create a looping effect. When enough people around you believe something, it becomes hard not to believe it too.

Becoming aware of the stigma and breaking it is hard work. But it is necessary work. No addict can cure their addiction while hating themselves. There’s no way you can come to terms with the things you’ve done while addicted and be at peace with the past while internalizing the stigma against addicts that many share.


Avoid Hate

Hate, trauma, undue stress. We rely on conflicts and struggles to grow and develop, but there is a point where too much is too much. You don’t need to atone for your sins as an addict and processing your addiction by internalizing the anger of others is neither effective nor healthy. Work on staying away from people who feel that your addiction is a judgment of your character as a person, and don’t engage with individuals who feel the urge to harass you because of your past.

To really progress and recover, you have to put that all behind you. One of the reasons why one of the steps in AA groups involves seeking forgiveness is not necessarily so you would be punished or so you would atone, but so you can find the closure you need to move on. The same goes for most treatment philosophies – if you’re hung up on your addiction, you cannot progress. Move past the hate, avoid it, and instead seek out compassion and forgiveness – primarily from within yourself, for yourself.


Seek Help from Friends and Family

You’re not in this alone. Only you can make the decision to get better, and only you can work through a program intended to help you get better – but that doesn’t mean it’s all your doing. To recover, an addict must rely on others, from the healthcare providers to the doctors in-charge, to the friends and family members who provide emotional, physical, and financial support along the way.

The reason why seeking help is a big part of overcoming stigma is because to ask for help, you have to admit that you need it, and that you’re willing to ask someone else to invest in you – that you’re worth helping. When you’re ready to truly seek help from others, you’re ready to escape the guilt that comes attached to the stigma of addiction.


Consider Therapy and/or Counseling

Addiction programs are important for the development of techniques to help tackle the challenges present in the early stages of sobriety. But over time, the motivation to maintain a rigid recovery-oriented lifestyle becomes difficult to maintain. Instead of relying solely on self-discipline for motivation, consider continuing to see mental health professionals long after you’ve completed a recovery program and have successfully maintained your sobriety.

You don’t have to wait until it’s too late to get help – by working with a counselor or therapist after a program, you can continue to work on issues that still persist, address cravings on a case-by-case basis and seek advice.


It’s a Long-Term Process

One should never forget that treating an addiction is a lifelong journey. One day, you may find yourself being sober for decades – but that doesn’t mean recovery has ended. Rather than understand that as a sort of prohibitive sentencing, picture it this way – to spend the rest of your life as a sober person, you have to make a matching (lifelong) commitment to sobriety.

Part of that involves reflecting on your time as an addict and understanding that your behavior while addicted does not prohibit you from being a better person or making better choices. An attitude of hate can quickly lead those who are oppressed to internalize the idea that they are worthless and incapable of change, but this is antithetical to the point of recovery, which is that you must change for the better, and that you will change for the better.

It’s important not to neglect therapy and your long-term emotional wellbeing when thinking about addiction treatment. You are never just magically cured from an addiction. You must put in the work each day to avoid needing to ever use again. The cravings are diminished and may even pass with time, but there is no shortcut, and no magic pill.

There will be moments of pain and temptation, and even a moment or two of weakness and relapse. But it’s a continued and constant commitment to your own mental health that will keep you sober, alongside heartfelt gratitude for the love and support you received from those around you in your darkest hours. By continuing to maintain a lifestyle oriented around supporting your sobriety and your commitment to those around you to stay clean, you’re not just never using again, but you’re continuing to work on other personal issues that may have ultimately fueled your addiction to begin with.


The Pitfalls That Lead to Relapse

Pitfalls That Can Lead To Relapse

A drug relapse occurs when, at some point during a person’s addiction recovery, they end up using drugs again. Usually, a relapse refers to the abuse of drugs often leading to a full-blown ‘bender’, or an excessive use of drugs and a regression in emotional and physical progress.

When a person who has gone through a recovery program relapses, they usually don’t end up only drinking one shot glass of whiskey or taking a single tab of Adderall. They go over their limits, regressing to old habits, often putting their bodies under tremendous pressure because of the changes they’ve made during sobriety.

After a relapse, recovery continues. That includes more withdrawal symptoms, more time spent working with a therapist to figure out what went wrong, and oftentimes, a sense of dread that it might happen again, or an overbearing feeling of guilt that it happened at all.

However, relapses are surprisingly common. Most people relapse within the first year after completing addiction treatment, while only 15 percent of people relapse after five years of sobriety. It takes time to recover from drug use, and a relapse or two may be part of the journey. However, relapses can pile up and turn into a chronic problem if not properly addressed and avoided. When you enter rehab or start your recovery process, it’s important to be wary of the common pitfalls that can lead to a relapse.


Withdrawal Symptoms and Post-Acute Withdrawal

The first thing that makes people relapse is early recovery itself. Withdrawal symptoms can range from unbelievably unpleasant to downright fatal (only in cases of an addiction to depressants like alcohol and benzos), and while people experience fits of nausea and even occasional shivers while going through the withdrawal process, powerful cravings are also a part of the experience.

When the brain meets an addictive drug, it is essentially confused. Our brain relies on chemicals called neurotransmitters to delegate and complete various functions, from feeling sleepy, happy, angry, or sad, to sweating and proper hormone regulation. However, drugs mimic these neurotransmitters, most often mimicking certain neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and epinephrine.

As we continue taking drugs, the brain begins to get used to the effects the drugs have on the brain and body, either by learning to metabolize the drug faster or because the drug loses effectiveness on a cellular level, because of heavily repeated usage. So, we take more drugs. Over time, these drugs don’t only induce powerful highs, but begin to cause serious negative changes in a person’s brain and body.

Abruptly stopping drug use after a person has built a tolerance to the drug and has been regularly consuming it for several weeks can cause a sudden shift in the body’s overall equilibrium, and it fights to readjust to the new drug-free norm. Many of the symptoms experienced during a drug withdrawal are the result of adjusting to sobriety. Others are indicative of the damage done by the drugs, with any indication previously numbed by consistent and repeated highs. The urge to use again as a way to stop the symptoms and bring back that sense of euphoria is very high, and it’s during withdrawal that many addicts fail to get sober.

Sober living homes and rehab facilities help addicts stay sober during the entire withdrawal period, providing medical help to reduce certain symptoms and prevent fatal withdrawal symptoms.


Old Friends and Memories

Anything from driving down a road you used to drive to pick up some drugs to hearing a certain song, being in a certain place or hanging out with certain people can serve as a ‘trigger’. While you do build a tolerance for these triggers over time, they can be very dangerous in early recovery and serve to remind you of what it felt like to be addicted. It’s important to recognize that no matter how committed you feel you are, these triggers are overwhelming and should not be underestimated in the first few weeks of recovery.

Try to avoid your old life for a while – take different routes to work, avoid restaurants and establishments that remind you of getting high, and most importantly, stay away from friends and acquaintances that are still using drugs. This last rule might last the longest, especially if your friends don’t feel obligated to respect your sobriety or your fight for recovery in any way.

Staying in a sober living environment is one way to avoid triggers, but another is to make new friends and work with your family to arrange a temporary living solution to help you stay away from things that trigger you. Not everyone shares the same triggers, and you shouldn’t necessarily be afraid of any one aspect in your old life. However, treat coming back into your old life with caution, and be aware of what you feel might be your limits. In other words, be careful not to tempt yourself.


‘Testing’ your Limits

If you have been sober for a while, it can become tempting to try and see if you’ve reached a point where you might be able to handle ‘anything’, including hanging out with old friends or heading to a club or bar without ordering a drink. While it’s certainly possible for recovering addicts to hang out at parties and stay sober, it takes time to get to the point where you can truly get around in a social setting without the urge to drink or engage in the kind of party behavior everyone else tends to engage in.

If you’re going to test your limits, do it one toe at a time, and with the help of a friend. Don’t just jump straight into your biggest conceivable challenge all alone. If you’ve got a sober friend, head out to a party with them and stick together. If you’re in a 12-step program, talk to your sponsor if you feel confident enough in your sobriety to see if you can enjoy yourself around other people drinking and partying. But don’t do it alone.


New Responsibilities and Challenges in Sobriety

Perhaps the biggest pitfalls to prepare for are the changes you will experience when transitioning from a rehab environment into the challenges of everyday life. Sober living homes are the perfect stepping stone, keeping you in a drug-free environment while tasking you with finding and maintaining employment, managing your own finances, keeping clean, making new friends, seeking out new interests and hobbies, and more.

All of these pitfalls can either be avoided or approached with the help and support of friends, loved ones, and professionals. While you can rely on yourself more and more over time, never to forget the importance of knowing that the people you care about have your back, and that you can always ask for help without judgment. Don’t feel pressured to progress at a faster rate than you’re comfortable with – recovery takes time, and as long as you’re staying sober, you’re doing things right.


Recovery Never Truly Ends – It’s A Lifelong Decision

Recovery Is Lifelong

Recovery vs. recovery – what might sound like a confusing comparison at first makes a lot more sense when you consider the difference between the process and the program. Recovery programs and the recovery process are two different things, in the sense that the program runs for a set amount of time, but the process is a lifelong commitment. This commitment is a commitment to sobriety, but more accurately, it’s a commitment to never again let drug use cloud your ability to live your own life and make good choices.

Yes, recovery never truly ends, but that doesn’t mean you’re locked in an exhausting battle with addiction for as long as you live. Just like living with an increased risk of heart disease, see it as a condition that requires you to adjust your lifestyle in such a way to avoid potentially disastrous symptoms. Early recovery – including the recovery programs you’re going to go through – will center around lining up and implementing these different lifestyle changes. The recovery process is about sticking to them – and that gets easier with time. There will be days when you wake up, enjoy your day, and go to bed without once thinking about using. But it may take some time.


Why Recovery Is a Lifelong Process

To be sober, you must not use drugs. To spend a lifetime in sobriety, you must not use drugs for a lifetime. Recovery is a lifelong process. The ‘end’ is when you pass away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a way to be happy with who you are and content with the way things are going long before you ever have to die.

The language around recovery as a lifelong process simply exists to remind you that there is no real way to ‘solve’ an addiction – but you can turn it into a practical non-issue. There is no way to go back in time and undo what was done, and what has happened. You will live on to carry your days as an addict with you, but they don’t have to be carried in guilt. You can use them as days that, over time, became lessons on how to live a better life. You can vow to use your sobriety to be better for yourself and others. You can use what has happened as inspiration to help others avoid similar fates and do better than you could imagine. You can leave the world a better place, and leave your family doing better than ever, despite everything that once happened.

Rather than seeking to resolve or defeat addiction, think of it as a past you can live with, and learn from.


Recovery Programs and Recovery

Recovery programs are always short-term, designed to help someone in early recovery navigate the pitfalls and challenges of being sober. Rehab programs usually only last about 30-60 days. Most other programs are roughly similar in length, from a few weeks to a month or two. Sober living homes are the exception, but they don’t act as a program – instead, they’re more of a walk-in facility where addicts can willingly reside for as long as they need to, to get a better grip on their life, work with therapists outside of the home, and reflect on where they should go from here.

Recovery programs are a good way to start the recovery process, simply because most addicts need a lot of guidance in the early stages of recovery, and that is exactly what recovery programs offer – a guided path, sometimes even in a step-by-step format, to work through some of the common early issues with sobriety like withdrawal problems, post-acute withdrawal, emotional turmoil, potential early-day relapses, and more.


Recovery Is A Choice, Not A Streak

Recovery does not end when you relapse. Recovery ends when you give up. This is an important tidbit, because while a relapse does technically mean you’ve ‘given up’ in the sense that you used drugs again, relapses are too common to simply be explained away as a lack of motivation or a feeble will. They’re a part of the process, and you may have many other moments of temptation and deep cravings (without relapsing) before it all comes to pass. If you relapse, but still want to be sober, and genuinely work towards it (by getting right back into rehab or visiting a sober living home), then you’re effectively still in recovery.

Recovery is a choice, a commitment towards staying clean for the sake of a better life. It doesn’t start and stop whenever you stumble on the way to long-term sobriety.


The Sober Lifestyle

So, what defines a sober lifestyle? Sobriety, of course – but there’s more to it, as there are certain characteristics to a successful sober lifestyle that contribute to maintaining sobriety.

For one, it’s important to prioritize your mental and physical health. Replace drug use with a balanced diet, more time spent walking around or getting exercise, and time committed towards a healthy work-life balance. Regularly go see a therapist and discuss things that trouble you. Keep a journal or take the time to reflect on your day/week at the end of a day/week.

Always have a goal. It doesn’t need to be big, and smaller goals are actually better. The more achievable the goal, the better. Tailor it to your own capacity, rather than trying to mirror someone else. It could be a goal related to your career, or to personal aspirations of fitness, or towards creating better habits.

Finally, continue working on your recovery. Go to meetings and talk about being sober. Help friends or family members going through similar troubles. Speak about addiction at any available speaking engagements. Write about it. Discuss it with others.


You’re Not in It Alone

Recovery isn’t possible alone. Whether it’s professional help or help from your friends and family, it takes compassion from others to successfully make it through the hardships of recovery.

That doesn’t in any way detract from the personal achievement that is overcoming addiction, but it’s meant to remind you that it’s okay to ask help, and sometimes, we just need it. Don’t be afraid of it. Embrace the fact that you aren’t alone, and that there are people out there who care enough to see you live a better life.


How to Provide Help to a Recovering Addict?

Supporting Someone Through Recovery

When you’re helping someone work through recovery, it’s important to remember that it’s ultimately neither your responsibility nor within your power to compel them to stay sober. It’s also important to remember that addiction is a disorder, and many who try to stay sober will struggle with cravings, temptations, relapses, and a series of thoughts and urges that defy logic or their own usual behavior and temperament. It’s not easy to stay sober, and it only becomes harder when every mistake you make disappoints and frustrates those around you.

If you want to provide help to a recovering addict, remember that it’s up to them to make their way through recovery, and that sometimes, recovery can be a game of ‘one step forward, two steps back’. Be patient, compassionate, and provide your loved one with the support they need in ways you know how – helping them back on their feet, helping them find work, bringing them to and from the sober living home, and so on. Here are a few ways you can make a big impact on someone as they’re working on their recovery.


Be Available

First things first: be available. You don’t have to make it your private mission to see someone through their recovery – in fact, you shouldn’t – but being available for a chat, a call, a conversation or a quick favor can make a big difference. Sometimes, just letting someone know that you genuinely matter to them and that you care about what happens to them can make a world of difference. They may rarely call you, but they’ll know that you’re invested in them making it through this.

It’s also a good idea not to be available all the time. This can easily lead to the sort of emotional stress that isn’t good for you, either. Sometimes, if you’re the only person supporting your loved one, you don’t have a choice – but it’s recommended to work together as a family or group of friends to help someone with their recovery, rather than taking the task of helping someone all on your own.


Learn More About Addiction

Addiction is complicated, and there’s much to be learned. Different drugs have different effects on the body and brain, and drug tolerance and withdrawal alone are extremely complicated topics, with an assortment of possible symptoms, issues, complications, and concerns. Why is your friend or loved one addicted? How did it start? Does a family history of addiction play a role? What differentiates ‘normal’ behavior and addicted behavior? Is addiction a choice or a disorder? And if so, how accountable can someone with an addiction be? Where does trust come into play?

These are all complex questions, and the answers aren’t simple, each deserving their own full-length discussion. It’s safe to say that if you’re looking to help someone overcome an addiction, it helps to do your best to understand the issue at hand. Of course, there’s only so far you can go. Short of going through the same experience, addiction is unlike anything else. It isn’t anything like a craving for sweets, but it isn’t quite the same as severe thirst or hunger. The brain is manipulated into desperately wanting another fix, but there are biological, psychological, and social aspects all coming into play. The factors and circumstances vary wildly from person to person, and there’s no easy way of explaining the how, why, and what now for each individual case.


Create an Accommodating Atmosphere

Chances are that your loved one’s first step is through a rehab facility, or through a sober living home. But after that, transitioning back into normal living can still be somewhat difficult. While the outside world will always remind your loved one of days they spent addicted – especially if you don’t have the means to move away – you can do plenty to create a more accommodating atmosphere at home, specifically by clearing out any addictive substances, keeping the place clean and well-stocked for food, and adjusting to lifestyle changes oriented towards healthier and simpler living.

Minimize clutter at home, keep spaces open and welcoming, and help your loved one move in. If you’re not living with them, then help them move back home and arrange for their place to get thoroughly cleaned up and organized, with their permission. You can even turn it into a project together and get on doing a little quick renovating to turn the place into something brand new, rather than something your friend or loved one is sure to reminisce about.


Understand the Ups and Downs

Addiction recovery is most certainly not a straight line towards easy improvement. There will be ups and downs, and it’s crucial not to set yourself up for disappointment. This isn’t meant as a discouragement, but as a helpful point: pressuring someone to make progress when struggling with a mental illness is counterproductive, and more likely to lead to relapses, as well as developing anxious and depressive thoughts.

If you’re used to knowing your friend or loved one as someone with a stoic façade, it’s important to understand that addiction treatment requires a much more open approach and is likely to lead to some changes in the personality department. Open communication, compassion, and an understanding of how your loved one is feeling – these things are more important and likely more effective than tough love or feelings of frustration and impatience regarding someone’s condition and a perceived lack of improvement.


Set Clear Boundaries

The line between enabling someone and being genuinely helpful is saying what you mean and meaning what you say. If you’re going to lay down ground rules and set boundaries, you need to stick by them. It may seem contradictory to expect a relapse but then turn around and cut off support if they overstep a boundary, but it’s important to keep in mind that relapsing should not be a condition for losing your support.

Instead, work on creating boundaries that promote open communication, honesty, and trust. Tell them that it’s okay to struggle, and at times not reach a certain goal – but it’s not okay to abuse your trust. If they relapse but are upfront about it, that’s one thing – relapsing and lying about it is quite another.


Take Care of Your Own Mental Health

Working on someone else’s mental health and taking on the role of caregiver in any capacity is not an easy task. Many Americans struggle with their own mental health issues, let alone taking on the worries and problems of someone else. Understand that if your loved one’s addiction is becoming a serious burden for your own mental wellbeing, you need to take matters into your own hands and realize that you can’t help them anymore. Don’t ignore the signs.

If you’re feeling restless, constantly sleep deprived, struggling to concentrate, feeling low, being self-deprecating and finding yourself going through moments of great sadness, it’s time to stop and consider that you should get help, as well.


Taking Your First Step Towards Sobriety

First Step Toward Sobriety

If you’re reading this, you’re part of the way there. What’s a few more steps? The road to sobriety begins with the concrete decision to get and stay sober – but it doesn’t end there. Like any lifelong commitment, the road of sobriety is endless. Getting sober in and of itself is simple in practice – don’t take drugs for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. But it’s in maintaining sobriety where things get tricky.

If your intention is to make an honest attempt at quitting drug use, you have to be ready for a long and hard road ahead. And, you have to be prepared to make a lot of changes. Paradoxically, addiction recovery isn’t about about getting sober – it’s about helping individuals with a past of addiction find ways to live a healthy, sober life, and enjoy that life. Often, years spent struggling with drug abuse can leave a very nasty set of emotional and psychological scars (and physical ones, as well).

It takes a multimodal approach to address this properly. That means not only focusing on the addiction but considering a patient holistically – taking into account their circumstances, history, risk factors, relationships, and personal challenges. Treating addiction means treating a person physically, mentally, and socially, helping them confront inner demons, reintegrate into society, and heal their bodies from years of abuse. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does start somewhere. Deciding to get started and informing yourself (through articles like this and countless other resources) is the first step. From there, it’s time for the next one.


Ask for Help

There are things a person must do on their own, and things they should do with others. Deciding to get better is something only you can do. Getting better is something you will need help with. Addiction recovery isn’t a perfect incline – there are ups and downs, valleys and mountains. Sometimes, you make progress, and sometimes you don’t. It can be frustrating, disheartening, and difficult.

We need friends and family in moments like that to remind us that what’s important is to keep on moving on, rather than getting hung up on mistakes or slowdowns. We need friends and family to keep us on the straight and narrow when we’re tempted to revert to old ways. We need friends and family to remind us that we’re abandoning a path we’ve committed ourselves to.

And, if you’re facing the challenge of recovering from an addiction, you need professional help as well. Addiction treatment has come a long way in the past few decades, finding ways to help patients from any manner of backgrounds find their right path towards maintaining sobriety, through different forms of therapy and treatment.


Treatment is Multifaceted

There is no one best way to treat an addiction. Sure, it always starts the same – but the specifics are highly dependent on each individual case. Take, for example, a teen struggling with depression, episodes of self-harm and suicidal ideation, and an addiction to benzos like Valium and Xanax. These issues feed into each other, and together they present a very complicated case wherein a patient struggles with several different issues, each deserving their own course of treatment. The best way to approach something like this is by considering it all in a single, multifaceted approach.

No one’s like is simple. Everything is complicated. Everyone faces unique circumstances, unique problems and challenges, and requires a unique treatment approach. Everyone has a different experience and that means different things. We can’t equate one person’s suffering with another, and we can’t equate one person’s treatment (or progress within said treatment) with another.

You won’t know how best to get better until you work with someone who has the experience to tell you what you’re going to have to do next. Even then, you may try different things before something feels and seems effective. Some people swear by their newfound passion – from a career path to marathon-running – as the reason they broke their addiction to heroin. Others attribute their recovery to family. Others are still struggling, years after. No matter what happens, the most important message is to keep on going.


Don’t Give Up

There is no failure in addiction recovery. Even relapses are little more than missteps and opportunities to learn from. When you relapse, it’s for a reason. Maybe you were slowly losing the motivation to stay committed to your sobriety. Maybe you need a different approach. Maybe you were triggered by a deeply disturbing series of events and need help to work through these events before you turn to drugs again.

Or maybe something else spurned the relapse, and you just need a sober living home and some time to work things through to the point where you’re more comfortable and confident with your sobriety and your ability to live life out in the normal world.

The only way to fail recovery is to give up altogether. So, don’t. No matter how bad things get, any pain and struggle will come to pass – and you’ll find yourself making more progress than ever before. Don’t give up, keep trying, and work with both professionals and your loved ones to forge ahead.


You’re Not Alone

Or at least, you never should be. Even without a family to call your own, there are countless sober groups dedicated to helping newcomer members feel like they’re part of something greater striving to be better. What matters is the feeling that you belong – that you’re accepted, and that you’re not intrinsically bad, but have the potential to make the best of yourself, no matter what once was.

It takes a lot of self-love to get to that point, as well as compassion and acceptance from others. Sober groups as well as friendships and families are meant to help you get to the point where you don’t just go through the motions to save your own life from addiction, but genuinely believe that you can live a successful and fulfilling sober life without ever needing drugs again, with the ability to rely on those closest to you when things get really hard and the urge becomes unbearable.

It all starts with the first step. From there, you just need to put one foot out in front of the other.

Tips for Reconnecting with Family and Friends

Reconnecting with Friends & Family

Reconnecting with family after struggling with addiction can sometimes be very challenging. Sometimes, an addiction can tear a family apart, and in some cases the damage done can seem irrevocable. In rarer cases, it truly is irrevocable.

The loss of friendship during an addiction can also hurt – on all sides. And mending that takes time and effort, with no guarantee of success. There is no way to guarantee that any of your attempts at reconnecting with those you cared about will be successful. However, the bond of family and the bond of friendship is precious. It’s lifegiving. It’s lifesaving, in many cases. And it’s worth fighting for. Regardless of how things will look a year or two from now, you should definitely make every effort to reconnect with family and friends.

But the big question is: how? It’s not an easy process, and it’s a little different for each case. It depends entirely on how things ended; where you left off. Nevertheless, here are a few basic tips for reconnecting with family and friends to help you get off on the right foot.


Are You Ready?

The first thing you must decide is whether you’re ready to do this. There’s little sense in getting to work on interpersonal relationships when you’re still largely struggling with yourself and your own inner turmoil. Every has an inner battle they’re fighting, sure – but there’s a difference between the everyday struggle to be better, and the unique deconstruction and reconstruction that occurs through the early stages of addiction treatment, rehab, and recovery.

Addiction treatment is a lot about taking a step back to evaluate how you got to where you are, where you want to be, and the struggle you have to go through to make it from point A to point B. Throughout that time, you may be battling thoughts of self-loathing and guilt, anger and sadness. These are not good times to focus on striking up relationships with other people, especially people from the past. The pain of rejection after a heartfelt attempt at reconnection can be soul crushing and can leave you in a relapse.

Some of the struggle will always be there, but it’s at its worst in the first few months. You need professional help and therapy to begin with – and when you feel like you’re ready to deal with more than your own emotions, you’re ready to reconnect.


Show Your Commitment

The saying that “actions speak louder than words” is very valuable, and very true – especially when you’re trying to regain someone’s trust. Gaining someone’s trust is hard enough but regaining someone’s trust can require a Herculean effort. And in that same nature, you’ll have to show your commitment through actions rather than speeches.

Start by focusing on your sobriety. This is a difficult task in and of itself, but it can be made a little easier through treatment. If you have someone supporting you, or can afford it, it’s important to consider seeking out continuous help after the initial rehab program is over. Outpatient programs are one option, but an even better choice would be a sober living home. Here, you can focus entirely on getting your life back together without the temptation of using again.

By demonstrating that you’ve been clean for a set amount of time, by demonstrating that you’ve been holding down a job or continuing your education, and by demonstrating that you’re consistently attending local meetings and making a daily effort towards your recovery, you can help alleviate the major fear looming over your loved ones – that despite what you might say, the addiction will get a hold over you once again.

It’s through addiction that people break the trust of those they love, through lies and unkept promises. And it’s the memory of those that remains freshest in the minds of your friends and family when you tell them that you’ve changed for the better. Making an effort to show through months of hard work that you’re dedicated to that change is a good first step towards regaining their trust.


Talk to Your Family and Friends

Once you have the opportunity to set up a meeting, do so. You could pick your own place if you’ve got one, to show how you’ve been handling life. Or you could meet on neutral ground, at a restaurant or place you used to enjoy. From there, it’s time to talk.

You cannot make excuses for what happened. There’s also no sense in blaming it on the drink, pill, or needle. It’s true that addiction changes the way the brain works, and that the cravings are overpowering. It’s true that addiction causes people to do things they regret. But the only way past that chapter of your life is to accept that you’ve done what you did, and that you have to live with the consequences of those choices.

Acknowledging that is a much bigger step than some might realize. The ability to take full responsibility for one’s mistakes and not deflect or seek blame is important for sobriety, and it’s important for regaining someone’s trust. Your friends and family have to know that you understand the severity of how things went down.


Or Start with Writing

Verbally expressing your innermost thoughts to someone face-to-face can be difficult. While it’s an important part of reconnecting, you might not want to start things off that way. It can be a little easier and partially cathartic to write your thoughts down instead, and then decide to pass them on as mail, online or on paper, or delivered in person.

You can also write for yourself. Keeping a journal or just taking the time to collect your thoughts on paper now and again can help tremendously in any journey of recovery.


It Won’t Happen Overnight

It takes a lot of time for wounds to heal, and a lot of time for trust to reform completely. Chances are that you will face some struggles in that department. It will likely take more than one try to reconnect with your loved ones. But it’s worth the effort.

Recovery Is A Journey, But Starts with a Single Decision to Get Help

Taking The First Step To Recovery

Drug recovery is a lifelong commitment. The current official government stance on addiction is to understand it as a brain disease, in the sense that it shares many characteristics with a chronic condition, one that is recurring and manageable through consistent treatment.

That isn’t to say that addiction is like diabetes. Rather than a medical comparison, it’s more apt as an analogy. Drug use begins as a choice, but addiction has nothing to do with what a person really wants. And as things begin to look even more desperate – as it becomes obvious that you’re struggling with an addiction you can’t control, putting at risk your livelihood, your reputation, and your relationships – the urge to use and drink becomes even stronger.

In other words, anyone can get addicted, simply because of the way drugs interact with the cells in the brain and cause a major change in the structure of the brain. But anyone can get treated, too. Treatment can be the difference between life and death, in the case of addiction – but unlike chicken pox or malaria, there is no cure. Addiction doesn’t entirely go away. Lots of time spent completely sober can help the brain recover massive portions of lost grey matter and reverse the damage done by drug use, including damage done to your cognitive abilities and reasoning. But the memories remain, and the chance that you might slip into a total relapse if you try drugs again remains as well. That’s why it’s crucial to get help.


Why Many Don’t Get Help

Many feel they don’t need it. Some feel they need it but don’t have access to it. Others feel that treatment might not work, or they simply don’t want to take on the stigma of being an addict (until it becomes too difficult to hide).

As with many things, the reasons are all extremely varied and difficult to pinpoint. Sometimes it’s a combination of things. Sometimes it is just plain denial, and the feeling that despite the signs, they still feel “in control”.

What’s most surprising about addiction statistics is that only about 11 percent of people who actually need help get it. The rest don’t get the treatment they need to get better. There are some figures that suggest that most people who struggle with addiction get better “over time”, but there are thousands of Americans who die to their addiction every year, who could have been helped through a proper treatment plan, or a sober living home. All it takes to get started is the first step.


Making That One Choice

The choice is quite simple – do you want to live, or not? It’s not just about overdoses, paralysis, brain damage, organ failure, years of hospital debt and countless costs – it’s also about the fact that addiction robs you of your life, your interests, your relationships, and your ability to love all of the things that make this world so unique, refreshing, and exciting.

Sobriety might seem dull or boring, but the ability to see things for what they truly are give you the ability to experience life in a way you never would while still addicted – without the terrible side effects of an addiction.

Many people turn to drugs because they feel hopeless, almost as a form of prolonged suicide. Instead of giving up completely, they do so a step at a time. Treatment helps with that as well. Getting the help you need doesn’t mean magically getting transformed into someone who doesn’t want to use drugs anymore. It’s a gradual process that only works if you want it to. That’s right – that’s the most important part.

If you’re not in this, it’s going nowhere. That first step is just your first step, and that means there’s going to be a lot of steps after it. But it’s the first one that’s most important right now, because it’s what is going to pave the way for everything thereafter. Addiction robs you of a life you never knew you could have, while recovery opens your eyes to the possibilities of what might happen if you really gave living a go.


You Are Not Alone

In every sense of the word, you’re most definitely not meant to be alone in this. The only thing you’re doing alone is making the choice to start and continue treatment – the commitment you make to recovery is entirely your own, and it’s not something anyone else can do for you.

However, that doesn’t mean you’re alone. It’s perfectly normal and encouraged to rely on the love and support of those you care about throughout the process of recovery. You need the help of experienced recovering addicts and medical professionals to help you through some of the toughest times. And alongside you are hundreds of thousands of Americans all across the nation, going through similar struggles and challenges, trying to get help, commit to their treatment, and figure out who they’re going to be and what they’re going to do in sobriety to stay clean and be happier.

It’s okay to ask help – in fact, it’s important to know when to ask for help. Being way in over your head is not something you should ever be ashamed of, and it’s normal to make mistakes. Some mistakes are much bigger than others, but when certain decisions are made in the wrong context and in the heat of the moment, they can seem like a good idea.


Helping a Loved One Get Help

If your loved one is struggling with addiction, convincing them to get help is important, but can potentially be very difficult. You can’t force your loved one to get better – you can force them into treatment, and there is such a thing as court-mandated rehab – but it’s only by a person’s own volition that the recovery process can start to work.

If your loved one is refusing to get help, then you will have to convince them that they need it. Don’t jump on the big guns and start bringing in professional help against their will – instead, arrange an intervention with others in the family to specifically address why you and the rest of the family and/or friends think that your loved one has a serious problem with alcohol or drug use.

Then consider asking how they feel about getting professional help. Some people don’t understand the full extent of how their behavior is affecting others until they’re confronted with it, and that can be the catalyst necessary to get them to take that first step.


The Holidays Are A Perfect Time for Recovery

Holidays Are A Perfect Time For Recovery

The holiday season is known for cheerful memories, scents of good food, cold wind in the air, endless caroling, and memorable family nights. But there’s something else about the holidays that makes them the perfect time for recovery.

Drug recovery is hard. It’s really, really hard. Getting sober is fine but staying sober is much more difficult. This is especially true earlier on in recovery, where most recovering addicts continue to struggle and wrestle with cravings, temptations, and thoughts of guilt, shame, and emotional pain. This pain drives many to try and drown it out by relapsing, continuing the cycle.

It’s specifically in this crucial, critical time that we all need self-love, compassion, forgiveness, and hope. People who are facing the prospect of completely changing their lives and doing a reversal after weeks, months, or even years of regrettable behavior and life-changing mistakes are tackling an enormous task. This is coupled with the stress and pressure of adapting to the responsibilities and necessities of real life – all without a major coping mechanism. But through the holiday season, many recovering addicts have a reinvigorated chance to commit to a new life.


The Holidays Are for Family

First and foremost, the holiday season is for family and traditions. Whether your family is your biological family or the friends and assorted loved ones who helped you through your hardest moments doesn’t matter – whatever counts as family to you, that’s who you should be spending this holiday season with.

Aside from good food and presents, the holidays are for taking a break from work and for being with those who matter the most to us. It’s a time to reminisce, laugh, talk about old mistakes, ask for forgiveness, recommit to be a better person, and surprising others with gifts and signs of true gratitude. Speaking of which:


The Holidays Are for Gratitude

It’s not just on Thanksgiving that we should show our gratitude for all the good things in life. Regardless of whether you choose to be grateful to a higher being or just to the fact that you got another chance, gratitude matters. Our brains are wired to adapt and overcome, but also avoid danger by reliving bad experiences as a reminder of what we’ve done – this might also be part of the reason why we take things for granted so quickly, while dwelling on our fears and anxieties. Instead of celebrating our relationships, triumphs, and achievements, we lament our failures and get hung up on the things that hurt us most.

Thankfully, we’re also generally quite smart. It takes a lot of discipline, but you can teach yourself to look on the bright side of things more often. And this holiday season is an excellent time to start doing so. Embrace the small things that helped you improve this year, and celebrate the moments, thoughts, and people that helped you get into recovery and focus on getting and staying sober.

Celebrate the small victories, rather than dwelling on bad memories. It’s important to acknowledge your mistakes and ask forgiveness for moments you want to take back – but keep your chin up and face the end of this year and the beginning of the next one with hope, rather than dread.


The Holidays Are for Food

Of course, one can’t forget the food. Food is one of many excellent chances for new, better sensual experiences, not to mention that it’s important for recovery. Some people claim food tastes better when you’re high or drunk, but you can’t really appreciate the nuances and joys of good cooking unless you’re sober. And any holiday season will always center around the big feasts of the year.

Experiencing all life has to offer while sober is important for recovery. It gives us a better, healthier perspective on things, and affords us the opportunity to realize how much we would be missing if we were still addicted. Understanding and internalizing that life is indeed better when sober is an important step. It’s not enough to repeat it like a mantra – take every opportunity to explore new experiences, have fun in different ways, and generally enjoy life through a sober perspective, including enjoying really good food this holiday season.


Committing Yourself to Sobriety for the New Year

With every holiday season comes the fact that the New Year is lurking just around the corner. And with that comes the time for New Year’s resolutions, for big plans and new commitments.

It’s a good idea to continuously recommit to sobriety, even when you’ve been sober for a while. Making a little gesture to yourself, or perhaps even just writing down how you plan to continue making strides in recovery in early 2019 can actually help you continue to stay on the sober path by giving you new goals and a sense of direction. Consider setting up sobriety-related goals for yourself in early 2019 like getting a job position you’ve long coveted, or entering a new industry you like, making strides in a creative endeavor, reaching a new fitness goal through determination and drug-free discipline, and more.


A Great Time to Reconcile

Tis the season to be jolly, but there’s likely a lot in your past that you’re not particularly fond of. This holiday season can be a chance for you to try and make up for some of what might have happened, seek out reconciliation, and work on your relationships with those that matter the most to you, be they family or friends.

It’s possible that you won’t be forgiven – at least not easily. It takes a lot of time for certain wounds to heal, just as it takes time to fully recover from an addiction. No matter what others might say, stay steadfast in your goal to continue being sober, and continue working on your recovery.

With the end of the year comes the end of another series of long memories, some good, some bad. Remember to celebrate your victories, move past your mistakes, and recommit towards a better near future. And with friends and family at your side, you’ll have a great start to the new year.


The First Step to Recovery Is Accepting Your Addiction

The First Step Of Recovery

We’ve all seen the quotes floating around motivational pages on Instagram and in other corners of the web, like “knowing is half the battle” or “believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Sure, it would be really nice and convenient if you could leap through half of your entire recovery journey in just one step. But recovery is a journey that is too long to be halved in a single step. That isn’t meant to intimidate you, but to help you understand that, yes, things are going to get rough, but the path forward will become clearer over time, and as each day goes by, recovery gets a little easier.

There are days when platitudes and snippets help and might even give you that last little kick to get out of bed and stick to your schedule. There are days when you do that all on your own, maybe even while humming a little tune. And then there are the days when you don’t get to sleep at all and try to find every way possible to keep yourself from making a decision you’ll regret. Over time, those harder nights become less and less frequent, and you find your life being about all the things other people usually live for – family, work, love, dreams, passions, struggles, responsibilities, legacies, and deep personal questions.

But none of that happens until you take the first step. Without that first step, life will never have the fullness and meaning it could have. While that first won’t be “half the battle”, it’ll be the start of something beautiful, difficult, defining, and completely unexpected in many ways. To heal, you have to first accept your addiction.


Why Acceptance Matters

Accepting and acknowledging an addiction might sound like two separate things at first, but it’s really the same. Many addicts in “denial” are already aware that they have a problem, but they choose to ignore that fact. This is especially true in cases where it is extremely self-evident.

They’ll work hard to tell themselves they don’t have a problem, and often that is because being addicted is still seen as a sign of weakness, moral failure, and lack of strength of character. Too many see the possibility of being addicted as a sign that they’re bad, or irrevocably broken. Some might even go so far as to come to the wrong conclusion, and think: oh, this is completely my fault, and I could stop at any time, but I don’t because something inside me is rotten.

The truth is that millions of Americans across all races, ages, sexes and classes struggle with addiction. They all have completely different stories of how they got there. Many started after or during a life of crime, but many others have lived normal or successful middle- and upper-class lives, simply succumbing to a bad habit after picking it up through friends, a stressful experience, or a stint of experimentation. No matter how an addiction begins, it always turns into something vicious and self-replicating. Like a chronic disease, it comes back without proper treatment and care. It’s a problem with biopsychosocial roots, factors that are physical, mental, and social.

But to begin care, you need to first realize you’re sick. And to do that, you need to accept that you’re addicted. That is why it is a crucial first step.


The Importance of Understanding That Addiction Is Treatable

Just as it’s important to realize that addiction is a sickness, it’s also important to understand that it’s a treatable one. You’re not struggling for nothing – you can get sober and stay sober, but it’s the staying sober part that’s particularly tricky. Over the long-term, staying sober gets easier and easier, especially as you age and build yourself a stable, purposeful life surrounded by friends and family – but while you’re young, and especially in the early stages of recovery, staying sober can be extremely difficult.

A lot of addiction treatment programs start off by putting you in a drug-free environment to help take your mind off temptations and cravings a little bit. Places like sober living homes forbid drugs and drug use, while helping tenants through therapy sessions, schedules, in-house rules, community events, group meetings, and more.

Others are designed to help in different ways, offering resources and scheduling regular therapy sessions while you continue to live your life.

There is no medication to treat addiction in most cases, and while some medication can be used to help with the symptoms of the disease, or to combat the effectiveness of certain drugs, addiction itself is only treatable through psychological means. More accurately, addiction is treated through time. However, how much time is completely subjective. It’s also difficult to substantiate what it might mean to be “treated”. It is accurate to describe recovery as a life-long pursuit – but that doesn’t mean you’ll spend your entire life struggling not to use drugs, constantly hounded by the thought of relapsing, in fear and in shame of your past.

Addiction is treatable, but every person’s journey through treatment is different, and based on their circumstances and actions.


Steps or No Steps

Some places use a set number of steps to help people visualize their journey. There are many who argue that this is very helpful, while others say that it is too restrictive and dogmatic, and not indicative of the experiences many have while going through recovery.

Ideally, a professional therapist and a doctor can help you find the right treatment plan. Often, this means finding therapeutic tools that help you cope with the stress of early recovery while exploring ways to tackle future struggles without resorting to drug use. However, you might also find the 12-step program useful. It doesn’t hurt to try different treatment methods and see what you personally think helps most.

In the end, it’s just important not to go through recovery alone. Loneliness often perpetuates addiction, by leaving you to struggle with your own cravings and anxieties. But through the help of professionals and with the support of family and friends, you can put your anxieties to rest and find ways to combat and ignore your cravings.

Supporting A Family Member Fighting Addiction

Supporting a Family Member Through Addiction

It can be very difficult to overcome an addiction. The first challenge is to quit using – the second it to stay clean. Cravings, temptations, mood swings and irrational thinking all soon follow, making it harder and harder to stave off a relapse. Some make it through in the first try, and others take several runs to get to a point where they can fully commit to sobriety.

Yet as difficult as addiction can be on individual, each case it about much more than a single person. For every addict, there’s a family, there are friends, there are members in the community. With every case of addiction, there is a higher potential for accidents, injuries, and casualties. Some addicts in denial may claim that it’s their right to do as they please – but their actions often have widespread consequences, especially for close loved ones and relatives.

If your loved one is struggling with their addiction and has taken it upon themselves to get better, they’ve made a huge step in the right direction. But now comes the tough part. Now comes the part where you have to do your best to support your family member in their fight against addiction. Here are a couple things you should know while helping your family member.


Keep Yourself Sane

Your first and foremost responsibility is to yourself. Even if you see yourself as someone who works hard to put others first, you have to recognize that your ability to function and help relies on your sanity and physical wellbeing. As an adult, you have to be able to set boundaries and requirements. If you’re not sane, you can’t help others. It’s a really simple equation, and not one you would have to dwell on for long. It does you no good to be perpetually sleepless or descend into depression over your family member’s addiction.

If you’re working to help your loved one with their addiction, know when to draw a line between helping and enabling. You can help your family member stick to making the right decisions, but if they’re actively sabotaging themselves, it’s not your responsibility to pick up the pieces. A person has to want to get better to get better. Struggling with sobriety and relapsing is normal – but intentionally skipping out on meetings, avoiding calls, and attending rehab out of spite are not signs of cooperation.

You also have to know what you need as a minimum in order to feel healthy and normal. Get your sleep, find time for yourself, and set aside time to take care of your own responsibilities. Offering support and helping family is important, but not if you neglect your own needs in the process.

There’s a distinct line between acting selfishly and taking care of yourself enough to be able to help others – find that line and stick to it.


Read Up on Addiction

Knowledge is critical when fighting an addiction. Many people harbor a long list of misconceptions on the nature of addiction, due to years of pop culture references, biased misinformation, or the beliefs of their parents.

Behavior that might make no sense to you or might seem inexcusable may be a little more understandable with the right context. What might seem like a good way to help may actually be enabling your family member’s addiction or making them feel worse in such a way that it leads them to relapse and quit treatment. Knowing what to say and what not to say goes a long way towards helping your family member in their struggle against addiction, and it can help you better empathize with their situation as well.

It also helps to better understand and be able to identify the warning signs of a relapse, or of addiction in general. Understanding how certain risk factors contribute to both addiction and relapse can also help you figure out how your family member might have gotten addicted in the first place, and how you can help them mold their environment in such a way that it won’t happen again.

Knowledge about addiction can also save a life. Learning to recognize an overdose and knowing what to do about it can be critical at some point in your life.


Create a Drug-Free Environment

This is potentially a no-brainer, but it helps to double-check. Make sure there are no drugs around the house and help your family member readjust to their life in such a way that avoids places and things that might remind them of their addiction. Convince them to cut off old friends and stay away from their old watering hole and take a different route to work.

It can be a difficult adjustment, and short of moving away completely, there are still risks that old memories can pop up and trigger cravings – but doing your best to create an environment free from temptation can help reduce the chances that your family member might spontaneously cave in to their inner voice.


Help Them Stick to the Program

It’s important to work with professionals to ensure that your family member gets the right type of treatment, and the long-term resources necessary to continue staying in recovery after treatment. Say your first step in treatment is to help your family member get into rehab. After rehab, consider looking for a sober living environment for your family member.

Once they’ve adjusted to normal work-life and having responsibilities once again, help them adjust to living at home while encouraging them to go to group meetings, do their daily rituals, or exercise more often. If your family member has a one-on-one therapist, it can help to speak with them to know what you should encourage or watch out for at home. Every case is a little bit different, and specificity matters when guiding a person through recovery.


Help Organize A Support System

You shouldn’t be doing this alone, if possible. Communicate with the rest of the family and with your loved one’s friends and get everyone on board to help out and contribute to the recovery process. This can drastically reduce your workload and help your family member considerably.

For most addicts, having a larger, more available, and more reliable support system with different people working together to help out is more effective than relying off a single person, feeling guilty about having such an impact on them, and watching them struggle to balance their life under the pressure and stress.