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.