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.