Sobriety is not a given. Getting sober is simple enough, but staying sober is a challenge that often lasts a lifetime. And while your sobriety is your responsibility, this journey of recovery isn’t one you have to walk alone.
Relying on others is hard, for a number of reasons. There’s the issue with trust. Then, some people might be prone to call you a leech, or even consider your achievements as not wholly earned. Even worse, there is the overwhelming stigma and fear of being a burden for others and a pain to sustain.
However, there is a considerable difference between accepting help and abusing good will. You are well within your right to ask for help when you’re struggling with sobriety, because the alternative – succumbing to addiction – is painful to more people than just yourself, and you deserve the chance to see yourself on the other end of this journey.
You’re Not in This Alone
One person’s addiction can be a family’s tragedy, a child’s pain, or a partner’s burden. The individual struggle to stay sober is immense, but let’s not forget that drugs do more than just plague a single individual.
When working against an addiction, it’s important to recognize that it’s a complex system of symptoms, ranging from psychological changes to physical problems and behavioral issues. People change over weeks and months and turn into someone else due to their addiction.
Addiction treatment doesn’t work to reverse that, it only works to change it. No technology is in the business of rewriting memory and altering our experiences. We take with us what we have, and that includes all the good and the bad. When treating an addiction, professionals are mindful to help an individual overcome their past and adapt to their present, in a way that allows them to be at peace with themselves and those around them. But naturally, that process doesn’t happen through a single person. To get better, a recovering addict must work with their friends and family, mending relationships that can be mended, and learning to let go when the pain is too great to be healed.
Treatment itself is about more than one person and their ability to exert their own will. Willpower has relatively little to do with addiction treatment, when addiction is a disease with chronic symptoms often characterized by an inability recover out of sheer will. Addiction recovery often requires the help of professional intervention, a drug-free environment, and the support of friends and loved ones.
Addiction Is A Disease
Addiction is a brain disease, superficially similar to diseases such as diabetes and asthma. This is because addiction is recurring and becomes progressively worse over time, from a bad habit into a destructive and life-threatening illness.
Addiction also visibly changes the brain, attacking grey matter and making individuals prone to risky decision-making, shortsighted choices, and general negative behavior, including irritability and a tendency to struggle with anxious thoughts and depressive thinking. The physical effects of addiction are undeniable and differ from drug to drug. Most addictive drugs attack the brain, but some deal liver and/kidney damage, while others ravage the stomach, cause respiratory failure, or raise the risk of stroke.
Because it’s a disease, it stands to reason that addiction should be treated as such. When we’re sick, we seek a professional opinion, get a treatment, and follow the instructions laid out by a medical professional. For intense procedures, we even go to the hospital and stay there for a period. An addiction is much the same as a chronic illness, in the sense that we need a long-term treatment plan that addresses the various challenges and symptoms an addict may face, as well as measures to take in case things get worse. Like other people who are sick, recovering addicts need help and treatments, and don’t do well in the face of derision and stigma.
What Relapse Rates Mean
Relapse rates suggest that not only is it common to struggle with maintaining sobriety, but the majority of individuals who seek professional help against addiction and go through a complete recovery program end up relapsing within the first year of post-program recovery.
What this suggests is that relapses are part of the recovery process, and not a sign of failure. It also implies that despite recovery programs and diligent abstinence, many people struggle to maintain their sobriety for an entire year.
However, the numbers also say that only a fraction of people continue to relapse after the five-year mark, meaning that as time goes on, it becomes easier to stay sober.
Thus, remaining sober for a significant period of time early on in recovery seems to be crucial to long-term success. Alongside working with recovery groups, sober meetings, and your own support group, there are other ways to seek help for sober living after concluding a recovery program.
Getting Help After Recovery
While recovery from drug addiction is a lifelong process, it often refers specifically to recovery programs designed to help with the troubles and challenges of early recovery. These can be numerous, from more intense and tempting cravings to mood swings and post-acute withdrawal symptoms.
But after early sobriety and the end of the first recovery program, many recovering addicts are up against a series of new and at times overwhelming challenges related to reintegrating into sober living, from the responsibilities of being sober to adjusting to new living arrangements, difficulties with maintaining employment, and avoiding temptation, as well as other issues.
It’s important to consider a post-rehab transitionary program, such as a sober living home, especially when worried about the possibility of a relapse. Not only can sober living help prevent potential relapses, but it can help recovering addicts overcome the effects of a recent relapse.
The Importance of Support in Long-Term Sobriety
Whether it’s through sober living, talk therapy, group meetings, the intervention and help of your loved ones, or all of the above, long-term sobriety requires long-term care. Recovery doesn’t end with rehab but requires a commitment towards staying sober and a series of concerted efforts towards maintaining that sobriety. Sober living programs may simply be temporary, but they can further help an individual adjust to the requirements of sober living and help them arm themselves with the tools and knowledge necessary to continue their sobriety.