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.


What’s the Difference Between Rehab and Sober Living?

Rehab vs Sober Living

Residential treatment, or rehab as it’s known colloquially, is perhaps the most well-known form of addiction treatment. You sign into a program at a treatment clinic, living there and partaking in a preordained schedule, going through different treatment modalities based on what you respond to the most.

In some cases of addiction, medication is involved to help you wean off the drugs and get sober safely. In some cases, certain therapies are used while others are avoided. Residential treatment addresses the addiction first, then works with the individual to help them figure out why they turned to drugs in the first place, offering alternatives so they can continue living outside the clinic.

Sober living homes are different. The biggest difference is that a sober living home or community is essentially just that – a home or community – whereas residential treatment takes place in a clinic or treatment facility. Sober living communities provide a place to live without the temptation of drug use, while otherwise continuing with life in a normal fashion: going to work or school, engaging in hobbies, socializing, and taking care of chores. Both effectively share the same goal but utilize different methods. Both are effective for different reasons. And it’s best to use both: but in what order, and why?


What’s a Sober Living Home?

A sober living home is a drug-free facility where sober people live together according to a set of rules, otherwise enjoying all the usual freedoms they would otherwise enjoy. However, it’s the rules that make sober living different from regular living. While rules differ from place to place, there are general rules that most sober living facilities agree upon. These include:

  • No drugs.
  • Strict curfews.
  • Mandatory chores or contributions.
  • No violence.
  • Tenants must apply for work/school.

The spirit of a sober living home is to create a community where a tenant can live drug-free as long as they need to. Unlike other treatment facilities, sober living facilities have no limit on how long a person can stay at the home. These facilities are meant to help people reintegrate into normal living, by helping them remember what it means to be a responsible and accountable human being, while relying on healthier ways to deal with stress.


What’s Rehab?

Residential treatment or residential rehabilitation takes place in a rehab center/treatment center. Rehab is abstinence-based, just like sober living. It also relies on keeping people away from their usual circumstances by bringing them into drug-free environments, just like sober living. But there are many things that make rehab unique. Here are a few key differences:

Rehab centers usually work in stages, or programs. These are fixed for a certain number of weeks, working through a set program with a group of individuals. These programs represent timelines rather than strict guidelines, and individuals are still treated in a unique fashion corresponding to their needs and circumstances.

Rehab centers follow a myriad of philosophies, some approaching treatment utilizing the 12-step program, others following a religious or faith-based approach. Many rely on psychotherapy as a key part of the treatment process. Others adopt group therapy and therapeutic community practices, much like the 12 steps, but without the framework of the steps themselves.

Another thing that sets rehab centers apart is the detox process. Most sober living homes do not offer detox facilities – and while not all rehab centers provide detox, some do. Medically-guided detox may be necessary depending on how severely a person is addicted.


Going from Rehab into Sober Living

In most cases, it’s best to go from a residential treatment program into a sober living community. Residential treatment programs are extremely effective for breaking people out of an addiction, but it can be difficult to make the jarring transition back into an old life without relapsing.

Sober living can act as a buffer in between. Sober living homes often have no rules on how long a tenant stays as long as they continue to pay for rent, meaning you have freedom over how long you choose to stay in a sober living home before you go back to your old life, or move forward into a brand new one.

Going to rehab first and sober living second gives you the best of both worlds. But it’s not the only option.


Straight to Sober Living

Some people don’t need rehab. Rehab is perfect for breaking a severe addiction, and it’s not a bad idea to seek medical attention when working through withdrawal symptoms, but a sober living home can be enough to break an addiction if caught early enough. The point of sober living is to emulate normal life but without drugs, and sometimes that’s just what people need in order to get better and move on with their lives.

Addiction treatment begins in the mind, but there are treatment facilities that specialize in helping people tackle addiction in a way that best suits their needs and circumstances. There is such a thing as an ideal way to tackle an addiction, but that ideal is individual, and there are realities that stand in the way of offering everyone the best treatment possible.

Alternatives exist to offer reliable yet affordable ways to help people with addiction who may lack the time or resources to fully devote themselves to recovery – for example, outpatient programs exist for people who struggle with addiction, but cannot sign into a residential treatment program that would pull them away from work and life.

Rehab and sober living homes are not the only way to treat addiction. It’s possible to treat an addiction through outpatient programs and community resources, through group meetings or 12 step programs. Everyone’s path is different, but most people have more than one path to lasting sobriety. Before you choose a treatment plan for yourself, be sure to go over all your options. Consult a professional for a recommendation and go with what you think is your best shot at getting better.

Coping with Withdrawal Symptoms

Withdrawl Symptoms

One of the more uncomfortable parts of the recovery process is withdrawal. During withdrawal, the body violently objects against abstinence to drug use, and essentially causes a plethora of painful symptoms in response to sobriety and staying clean. This process is more uncomfortable for some than for others, and different drugs produce varying withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal symptoms also have a significant mental impact and are part of the reason why breaking an addiction is difficult alone. Withdrawal symptoms can often leave a person discouraged from trying to break free from their addiction due to the combined effects of extreme physical discomfort – from flu-like symptoms to shivers, nausea, and severe headaches – and mental effects such as anxiety, confusion, and more.

In some cases, such as in rare cases of alcohol withdrawal, quitting drug use can bring about a series of other symptoms. Delirium tremens, for example, happens in about 5% of people with alcohol withdrawal, occurring separately roughly a day or two after the last drink.

A big portion of addiction treatment involves helping people through the withdrawal process. There is no easy or safe way to bypass it – the point of withdrawal is to remain drug-free long enough for the symptoms to pass – but in some cases and with certain drugs, rehab centers and recovery clinics utilize medication to help the withdrawal process. After withdrawal, it can take another few weeks or months for cravings to significantly subside, and years for them to grow insignificant. Every case is different – but most cases of drug addiction must endure the pain of withdrawal.


Surviving Withdrawal Symptoms

Thankfully, withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe – and they often end up mild. This does not mean that they’re ever pleasant – all withdrawals are uncomfortable at best. But with proper medical attention and in the care of a professional recovery facility or sober living home, chances are that you will get through the process completely unharmed.

The duration and assortment of possible symptoms depends heavily on a variety of factors, although the biggest are:

  • Drug of choice.
  • Age and physical health of the addict.
  • Genetic factors and medical history.
  • The duration and severity of the addiction.

The symptoms all vary, but these are most common in almost all cases of withdrawal:

  • Flu and cold symptoms, including nausea, runny nose, fever.
  • Muscle aching and insomnia.
  • Agitation and anxiety.
  • Heavy sweating and shivers.
  • Abdominal pain, bowel movement issues including diarrhea.
  • Tremors.
  • Elevated and slowed heart rate.

Duration of these symptoms varies wildly on the drug, while severity varies entirely based on a person’s health and genetic makeup, and the extent of their drug habit.


Seek Medical Help

If you stopped using drugs to get clean and stay clean, the first thing you must do is find a clinic or sober home and get help. Withdrawal symptoms are not always severe, but they can be – and even if you previously experienced mild withdrawal symptoms, that is no guarantee that this time will be the same.

The duration of a full withdrawal process depends on the type of drugs you use. Cocaine, for example, takes up to about two weeks to fully withdraw from. After that, mood swings, irritability, and depression due to cocaine use can take several weeks or months to subside.

Heroin and prescription opiates can cause strong cravings, but their withdrawal symptoms are often quite mild, although it takes several days for withdrawal to be finished. Alcohol and benzodiazepines carry the most risk for fatal symptoms and last the longest – withdrawal symptoms from benzodiazepine addiction can take weeks.

While the most effective course of action is to let a withdrawal process run its course, medical supervision is by far the safest way to tackle withdrawal, as some cases may require pharmacological intervention to ensure a patient’s survival.


Why Do Withdrawals Happen?

Withdrawal, just like tolerance, is not entirely unique to addictive drugs. While withdrawal symptoms are stronger in substances that are considered addictive and can elicit the necessary response in the brain to become addictive, most psychoactive drugs create a series of mild to severe withdrawal symptoms, including medication and substances that are considered generally non-addictive, such as anti-depressives and coffee.

First: drug dependence or physical dependence is necessary for withdrawal symptoms to exist. It is possible to have an entirely behavioral addiction, where drug use is only addictive insofar that it is used as an unhealthy coping mechanism, allowing therapy to effective treat someone by helping them work through their pain and utilizing different, much more healthy coping mechanisms. But in most cases of addiction, the addiction comes from a form of physical dependence on the drug, where the brain basically struggles to let go of the drug, making anything less than regular use intolerable and abjectly painful.

Drug dependence is separate from drug addiction. Where drug dependence describes a brain that has become used to a certain dosage of drugs and reacts negatively in response to abstinence/cessation of drug use, addiction focuses on the behavior that often results from either physical dependence, emotional dependence or, most commonly, a combination of both. This type of out-of-control compulsive drug use can be a result of physical dependence, but the two are separate.

The brain gets hooked on drugs because it’s not used to the effects drugs have on the brain. When you take something addictive, the brain first must adapt to the substance, to normalize it. This happens through the buildup of tolerance; wherein higher and higher doses of a drug are necessary to elicit the same high.

Over time, the brain adapts to drug use and makes it the normal state of being, leading to withdrawal symptoms if drug use is stopped. Our brain is a very adaptive organ, but that adaptiveness makes it susceptible to something like addiction. This can, in turn, be life-threatening, as addictive substances are often damaging to the brain and other organs, as well as causing life-changing or fatal accidents and other severe consequences.


Recovery is The Perfect Time To Make Other Positive Life Choices Too


Recovery is a challenging time in life, especially early on when the experience of prolonged addiction is still fresh and tough on the mind. Aside from being physically addictive, drug use often creates a psychological or emotional dependence on the substance as a form of coping in times of hardship.

For most, fighting an addiction counts as a stressful life experience – old memories come flooding back, temptations and cravings make life a constant challenge, and you find yourself struggling to cope with emotions that you have spent a long time trying to drown out, perhaps without even knowing it.

Developing an addiction to a drug causes the brain to change and creates pathways that manipulate the way you think and feel. Yet despite this, drugs are an amazing short-term coping mechanism. They allow you to forget, drown out, and generally deal with nearly anything. At least, for a few hours.

After that, however, everything gets worse. As such, most illicit drugs (and some legal ones) count as maladaptive coping mechanisms, helping you escape trouble without doing anything to deal with the issue at hand. When you go into recovery, you cut this out of your life – for the better, in the long-term, but at the cost of feeling inexplicably terrible for quite some time in the beginning.

This seems like the absolute worst time in your life to start making other changes. After all, piling a challenge onto another challenge would just serve to burn you out, right? Well, in the case of recovery, making positive life changes – specific ones – could actually boost your chances of a successful recovery from addiction, and help you carve out a life free from drugs. A life you can be happy with, a life that prepares you to cope with any trouble without having to turn back to old habits. Here is how.


Making Changes in Life Can Improve Recovery

Many people struggle with recovery because of the fact that they often rely on addiction as a way to cope with problems in life. This leaves them unprepared for a large amount of stress, coupled with past regrets, self-doubt towards their own future, and the dread of facing a life filled with responsibility.

Making positive life changes can help shift a person’s perspective and, most importantly, equip them with the emotional tools they need to handle the challenges they are facing and are about to face.

Perspective is important. For some, sobriety is a new lease on life, the ability to make better choices and stay true to your promises. However, for many others, living a happy sober life might seem impossible. Instead, they see it as unavoidable, a life-long penance for their sins. This is arguably the worst way to approach your sober future.

Perspective helps – by approaching sobriety as an opportunity rather than a judgment, you can relieve yourself of a lot of sorrow and anger. There are many ways to enjoy life, and very few of them involve making your way to the bottom of a bottle. By embracing your recovery as the time to shift focus onto something better in life, you move away from a completely negative view of your life, and find hope where there was none before. This is a great first step.

From there, it is just a matter of figuring out what to change – and why.


Exercise, Diet, and Addiction

If you have never particularly liked the treadmill, or dreaded PE class, then the idea of exercising to help with recovery is more like throwing napalm into a forest fire. However, exercise does help – and it does not have to involve a lot of cardio or doing circuit training in the basketball court. Any form of active movement, from going hiking to doing rounds in an Olympic pool or playing water polo, counts as exercise. Even more unconventional forms of exercise, like dancing or combat sports, can work as amazing stress management techniques while doubling as a great help for recovery.

This is because, as mentioned previously, perspective is important to getting through the early stages of recovery and beyond. And the best way to help shift your perspective to a more positive note is by being more positive – getting a regular hit of dopamine through exercise can help tremendously, even if the first few weeks might feel a bit rough.

The key with making it all last is finding something you actually enjoy. Don’t write something off without at least trying it – from hitting the weight room to exploring the ins and outs of competitive rowing, try your way through different forms of exercise until you find something you legitimately enjoy.

Aside from bringing a better mood to the table through dopamine releases, exercise can work as a positive coping mechanism, and the fact that it keeps you feeling fit and looking great can be a great confidence boost, too. Just don’t overdo it – too much exercise is still a bad thing.

The same rules apply for eating. Addicts are not known for particularly good physical health, largely because addiction makes it difficult to keep track of what you’re supposed to be eating, and when you’re supposed to be eating. But don’t force yourself to gorge on salads or follow a fad diet to lose your extra pounds, or put on some more – instead, go for a healthy and balanced diet that you can afford, and enjoy. There are plenty of resources online to help you cook your way to a better you.


Finding New Hobbies in Early Sobriety

Exercise is one thing, but if you’re not totally crazy about how you get your weekly exercise in, then you need another hobby to focus on. Having more than one hobby does not hurt, either, and they’re a good way to fill time between work, sleep, and therapy sessions. You could try to pick up old hobbies and continue where you left off, or explore new alternatives.

Having hobbies might be difficult at first, especially when it feels like nothing quite sticks. Keep trying – early recovery is a weird time for the mind, and with a little bit of patience, you will find yourself in a better place.


A Chance At A Better Future

The road to recovery is quite long, and very bumpy. While being positive and hopeful about the future has its perks, there will be days when you’re not quite feeling good. There is no shame in that – optimism only goes so far. While making positive life changes can help make recovery easier, it won’t necessary be “easy” – thus, remember to take time and rely on other people from time to time, especially in the beginning.

Find groups to stick to, be with friends and family, and accept that it is okay to be vulnerable sometimes. It does get easier.