Recovery is a Choice

Recovery Is A Choice

When it comes to recovery, the only road towards real change for the better is the road you choose, and the road you walk.

Unlike many of life’s defining moments where the line between choice and circumstance blurs into the unknown, there is nothing clearer than choosing to get better. No one can force you into recovery. And only you can hold yourself accountable for it.


Recovery is a Choice, and It Can Be Yours

Sometimes, the debate between choice and circumstance is confusing, in relation to addiction. Yes, addiction begins with a choice. But the consequences that follow – and the actions many people find themselves guilty of – are not chosen freely. Just one hit from a drug like cocaine can tremendously affect the brain and predispose you towards another hit. And if you give in, it becomes a lightning-fast cascade down into addiction.

No one chooses addiction. People choose the high, to escape pain, or emptiness, or find a way to fit into a group. Then they realize the scope of their problem and find themselves trapped in a cycle. Without help, getting out is almost impossible. But with a little assistance, and the will to get better, you can break the cycle.

That is where choice comes back into play. If you’re stuck in denial, then you cannot break the addiction. If you’re sent into rehab for treatment but don’t choose to get better, then a relapse is imminent.

But if you choose to get better, today, and make that commitment towards a new chance at life, then you can claim a better life for yourself and those around you. But it’s not a single choice you make once, and then never look back. It’s a choice you have to make again and again, sometimes several times a day. That’s the commitment.


Recovery is a Daily Choice

Curing addiction is not quite like getting a tetanus shot. It takes time, depending on what you were taking, how long you were taking it, and other factors such as age and genetics. In most cases, the hardest part lasts a few weeks to a few months, where your newfound sobriety and recovery is coupled with mood swings. Over time, the cravings – which are very powerful to begin with – begin to subside. And within about a year, most of the changes made to the brain over the course of the addiction fade away.

Until then, the choice to stay sober will present itself again and again, adamant that you reiterate your commitment.

After a while, it can start to feel difficult to remember why you chose sobriety in the first place. Fond memories of old habits resurface, and the urge grows strong. That is why you’re not meant to walk this path completely alone. Having sober friends around to remind you why you’re doing this can help keep you on the straight and narrow – but even with help, you still have to choose to ignore the cravings.


Addiction is Not a Choice

When the brain is exposed to an addictive drug, it begins to change. The reward system in the brain, which releases dopamine based on certain actions and parameters, shifts to favor the next high over almost everything else.

You become a shadow of your former self, and the addiction grows stronger and stronger. In the meantime, it eats away at the brain, causing brain damage and affecting both memory and decision making.

As far as diseases go, addiction is terrifying. And it’s treatable. Recovery makes this possible.


Living with Your Choices

Sometimes it is hard to tell how much our actions are influenced by forces we do not usually control. Our brain is a very complex piece of biology, and certain parts of it heavily influence our decision making and our ability to make choices in life. So where does choice come into play if our choices are often affected by mood and base instinct?

There are many ways to approach this subject and discuss it in depth. Yet one simplistic way of looking at it is through the distinction between principle and desire. Principles help us shape who we are based on the virtues we value the most – by acting on our principles, we try and become better people, and aim to improve the world around us.

Principles are entirely a matter of choice. The ability to do something no matter how much we would rather do something else. In the case of addiction, many struggle to stick to their newfound principle of sobriety – and many relapse, at least for the first few times which is a set back for recovery.

Stumbling and making mistakes is part of becoming a better person. We do not change overnight. But we can change, and with time, your principles go from being lofty goals, to defining who you are and how you see yourself – and how others see you.

Choosing to stay sober is a choice. Maintaining that choice, however, is not always just a matter of sheer will. Will can only get you so far when it comes to addiction, especially early on. While your conviction is important, it is also important to spend the first few months in the company of people who can help you stay sober – or better yet, in a sober living community, where a drug-free environment is coupled with a community built around responsibilities, self-discipline, commitment and contribution.

Even after that, it is a good idea to surround yourself with friends and family who can help support you, while you support them. Interdependent relationships help foster trust between you and others and can help you become someone others can rely on once again, which makes recovery easier. If you ever have a day where making the right choice becomes hard, then having your friends and family around can make it a lot easier.

No one wakes up loving the sober life. But it gives you an opportunity to craft a life you can truly fall in love with. Getting there starts with getting help and choosing – every day – to stay sober and work on recovery.


Now is The Best Time to Begin Your Addiction Recovery

Addiction Recovery Starts Now

The best time to start your addiction recovery is now. If you’re wondering if you should do something about your drug use or dependent behavior, then it’s high time you start looking for help. The past is the past, whether it’s a year ago or a mere five minutes ago – and there’s no way to go back and do something in a time that’s already gone. But you can do something now, in this moment, a moment wherein you’re alive and have the means to live. The future is uncertain and not set in stone and putting the choice to get better into the future’s hands means not knowing whether that time will ever come.

If you are at the point where you’re asking yourself if you need help, you probably need help. Start your treatment today.


Define Life by the Now

Mindfulness techniques are an important part of mental healthcare. That is because a big part of struggling with mental illness – including addiction – is the fear of tomorrow, and the lingering regret from yesterday. Anxiety and depression are fed in part by twisted visions of what was and what could be. You get caught up on old mistakes and become anxious of repeating the past, filling your mind with what-ifs and what-abouts. These questions and scenarios worsen over time, and addiction amplifies them, making you crave release from the pain and confusion.

By letting go and focusing on the moment – on making things right, right now – you gain the incredible ability to pull your focus away from past and future and define your life by the present.

Mindfulness techniques, like breathing, focusing on a physical or mental task at hand, reflecting on your current feelings, and trying to meditate – more than just ways to pass the time, these techniques teach you to relax and stop worrying over what cannot be changed, or what could be, but does not have to be. Life is not predestined or set in stone – every moment is forged by the actions we take and choose to take, and once you start your journey into recovery and move away from addiction, you gain the ability to choose what you want to do, instead of spending every waking moment struggling for the next high, the next release.


The Importance of a Question

If you have asked yourself if you should get help, then it is likely that you need help. Addiction is not just a disease that attacks you from the inside, fighting against your brain, your personality, and your behavior – addiction often comes with the tragic side-effect of denial.

We live in a society where struggling with addiction is not very much like struggling with sickness. Instead, it is often seen as an incurable disease associated with violence and weak moral fiber. As a result, being addicted often means being judged, shunned, and looked down upon – for many, the stigma of addiction is too much to bear, and would jeopardize their positions in life, including their job, or their relationships to others.

To avoid the ostracizing that addiction often unfortunately causes, many people deny their symptoms, and even go so far as to involuntarily turn a blind eye to their own behavior. It is not until other people make it clear to them that they are being self-destructive and harmful to others than many people begin to realize how far they have come. Sometimes, that triggers the realization that they need to get help – at other times, it can trigger the realization that there is a discouragingly long road ahead to getting better. People fear that addiction cannot be cured, or that they are too far along. Or, possibly, that it just is not the right time.

The truth is very different. Addiction has nothing to do with a person’s morality. And there is no such thing as too late when it comes to treatment – if someone is alive, they can get better. While addiction is not a choice, addiction recovery is – you must choose to get better, and that starts by acknowledging that you need to get better. It starts today. It starts here.

Addiction is a scary nemesis to face for anyone. It can affect anyone, anywhere, and while it disproportionately affects people in high-stress and low-income situations, addiction can also be a problem for the affluent, the socially and financially successful, and other individuals we might see as fulfilled or otherwise happy and privileged.

Regardless of what your lot in life is, there are many resources to help you fight the disease and get support in your effort to stay clean. Some people think that part of addiction is the disciplined and strict effort of abstinence, and that a single failure spells the doom of your entire concerted effort. But addiction recovery is a process that takes years, bringing you from a dark place to a place of understanding, forgiveness, and self-love – often, over the course of several relapses and bitter lessons.

It begins with a question. Should I get help? The answer, if you are asking, is yes. More specifically, you need to get help now and start the road to addiction recovery.


Addiction Recovery Going Forward

As previously mentioned, addiction recovery takes time. During this time, there will be moments of weakness and doubt. Times when you want to desperately give in. Times when the stress of the outside world and everything in your life is so overwhelming that the need for release seems too much to resist.

Treatment, therapy, steps, and lessons will not do you much good when the craving becomes unbearable. But that is why we need friends and family – support to keep us on the straight and narrow, care for us and our sobriety when we feel our control slipping away and be there for us when we feel at our most alone, and at our most vulnerable. Surround yourself with trusted loved ones and keep them close in times of stress. Repay them with gratitude, and a commitment to your own accountability and growth as a person.

With time, it becomes easier to resist the relapses – you begin to tell when one is coming, and why it is coming, and you learn to live with the cravings, denying them, starving the addiction of every hope of returning, so you can completely focus on living a life worth living in sobriety.

Again: it begins with a question. The answer is simple. The best time to get clean is now – and no matter how long your journey takes, no matter how often you may circle back, as long as you start moving and never stop, there’s ultimately no where to go but forward.


The First Steps After A Relapse

First Steps After Relapse

You finally check into a treatment facility and take the first steps towards a new kind of living after a relapse. You have come to terms with the reality of your condition, gone through the program to get better, and you know the road ahead and have a taste of its many possibilities. Sometimes the future looks bleak, and sometimes it looks promising – but you know that, at the end of the day, there is a future.

But then a relapse kicks in. It happens to many people in recovery, and it’s always a painful experience. More than just the physical trauma of going through withdrawal again and reaching that same point that previously took you months to achieve, a relapse feels like a failure to most people, an inability to stick to recovery and a confirmation of all your worst fears and biggest worries.

But it is not. To take an analogy out of sports, people see relapses as bone-breaking and career-ending injuries, when they are in fact just stumbles in a long and possibly fruitful journey. It’s important to remember, above all else, that it isn’t the relapse that kills a person’s chances at living a sober life – it’s giving up on sober living.


A Relapse Isn’t The End

Before we get into the how of recovering from a relapse, it’s important to understand the why. Relapses can be demoralizing and the idea of going through it all again just to potentially face another one can cripple anyone’s motivation to stay strong and keep going. But it’s important to realize that a relapse isn’t just a forced reboot – it can be a chance to learn, and more importantly, you can turn it into something positive for your long-term sobriety, rather than a painful setback.

Perspective is important in life, and in recovery. The way you approach problems determines how you handle them, and if you handle them effectively. By understanding that a relapse is an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than a waste of time and effort, you can prepare yourself for a new kind of recovery, one marked by an experience that helps you better understand yourself and your addiction, rather than being stuck in a cycle that feels inescapable.


Learning From Our Mistakes

Relapses are triggered. Sometimes the trigger is internal, and most of the time, it’s external. People in early recovery will always be plagued by temptations from old memories, places, and people. Learning to live with these temptations and shut them out is central to permanently overcoming addiction.

The first step is to remove yourself from potential triggers as much as humanly possible. For most people, the idea of completely uprooting just isn’t feasible – but there is a lot you can do to change the way you live, from taking a different route to work, to taking the necessary steps to remove yourself from relationships that you know are harmful to your recovery and your long-term sobriety.

Beyond that, however, it’s also important to learn to manage your stress. Relapses are not just triggered by memories, but they can also be triggered by a need to self-medicate under extreme stress. If you find yourself needing an outlet and immediately think of release through drugs, then you’re on a bad path. Get help, call someone, and learn to cope with difficult times and stressful situations by adapting healthy and constructive coping mechanisms, such as exercise and art.

When relapses do happen, they’re an opportunity for you to think back and reflect on what caused them to begin with. Was it a particularly stressful episode in your life? Was it someone, or something? Think back to what exactly pushed you over the edge and made you think that everything you had done prior to that point was worth erasing over the ecstasy of another hit.

Sometimes, it does not have to be particularly profound. Addiction can affect thinking and decision-making, thus leading people who struggle with their sobriety to be prone to risk-taking. However, thinking back to what led you into a state of mind where relapsing became possible can help you identify how to change your recovery.

Following the exact same treatment and changing nothing about your recovery plan is not the correct response to a relapse. Instead, analyzing where things went wrong and adjusting can help you fortify yourself from that same mindset, and better prepare yourself for temptations and stressful situations in the future.


Recommitting And Moving On

The hardest thing to do after a relapse is accept what just happened and decide to soldier on. Even if you manage to point out to yourself that this can be a learning experience with which you can further build your sober life, it’s impossible not to feel a little bit compromised. However, life is not about guarantees. It’s about chances, choices, and circumstances. If you’re struggling with addiction and are fighting to live a sober life, then your circumstances have many odds stacked against you. But through your treatment, you’ve got the chance and you’ve made the choice to get better.

After a relapse, embracing your newfound ability to choose outside of addiction and recommit to staying sober for yourself and your loved ones means embracing that life has no guarantees, and it’s on you to lead your life in the right direction. You made a mistake, because you’re only human. But it doesn’t make you a bad human, or a failure. Instead, it’s another pivotal moment where life gave you the choice to give up or keep moving forward – and as long as you keep moving forward, you’re on the right track.


Overcoming Your Fears

The fear of  relapse is a very real thing. Fear as a psychological concept can be a tool or a hindrance. The fear of death can drive us to live in the direst of circumstances, to survive even against terrible odds. However, fear can also paralyze us and keep us from living. If you fear something excessively, then it keeps you from moving past it.

The fear of death kicks in when your life is truly in danger. But the fear of a relapse only keeps you fixated on the possibility of relapsing again, instead of allowing you to embrace the confidence you need to put relapses behind you and focus instead on living each day committed to sobriety and your own happiness.

Relapses are painful and can be difficult to overcome. It’s not easy to get clean again and recommit. But it’s possible – and if you want to get sober, it’s necessary. It will get easier to resist temptations and ignore cravings with time, and with a little help from friends and family, you can keep on the right track even on the bad days.

The Point Of No Return

Point of No Return from Addiction

It stars off as a hobby, or a habit. Maybe it’s just a little something you do every now and again to take the edge off. Or maybe it’s helped you through a part of your life, and you know you need it to function. Regardless of what shape or form it takes, addiction is always a slippery slope, and most people only realize their habit has become destructive and has shackled them a long time after they reached that point of no return.

There is a moment when an addiction is born, and the brain clicks in just the right way. Understanding how and why is the key to defeating it – and freeing yourself.

But make no mistake. There is no going back to the past after that invisible point of no return. The person you once were is gone – but you can choose to become someone better.


What Is Addiction, Truly?

We are at a significant crossroads in the battle against addiction where the neurobiological condition of addiction through substance abuse has gone through decades of research and thorough analysis to arrive to today’s definition and understanding, while we still struggle to accurately define or explain addiction caused through repetitive harmful behavior.

Food, sex, and gambling addiction causes changes in brain chemistry similar to drug use – but because of their rarity, most definitions only focus on substance abuse and the impact it has on the brain, bringing about the neurological factors that put a person in a state of addiction.

In that sense, DSM-5 has recently included gambling as a form of behavioral addiction, suggesting that further research is needed for other common forms of compulsive behavior, such as internet addiction and sex addiction.

Yet our definition for addiction through substance abuse is quite firm – addiction is a brain disease characterized by an inability to stop craving and taking a specific drug, despite clear and harmful consequences and an understanding of them. Common symptoms of addiction include lying often to cover their habit up, denial, excessive risk-taking, diminished problem-solving and critical thinking, and career and relationship problems brought about by an excessive amount of time and energy spent seeking the next high, neglecting responsibilities and social duties.

Rather than a moral problem, or a matter of choice, the psychiatric community in the US recognizes addiction as a brain disease that changes the brain to think and feel differently, because of drug use. Understanding how these changes occur, and how people end up at the point of no return can help you better comprehend addiction and find a way to overcome it.


A Slippery Slope To The Point Of No Return

When you take an addictive drug for the first time, your mind may react very powerfully to it. Drugs bind to receptors in your brain’s cells, mimicking naturally occurring neurotransmitters. This causes your brain to send unique signals through your cells, telling you to feel happier and feel less pain through opioids, for example. However, these drugs are also often so powerful that the body immediately tries to adjust to them, getting used to their effects and diminishing their efficiency. In other words, it learns to metabolize these drugs quicker.

At the same time, continued drug use changes your brain’s chemistry, turning the drug from a foreign substance into a need. You begin to experience withdrawal symptoms, and powerful cravings approaching the point of no return. Each high is a little less powerful than the next, so you up the dosage. In a controlled environment, substance dependence can be treated medically and professionally. Yet out on the streets, one bad hit from a batch of heroin infused with something as deadly as fentanyl can kill you in minutes.

The point of no return – that moment when your drug use becomes an addiction – it’s different for everyone, and depends on several factors including gender, body size, mental state, genetics, and the drug you’re taking. Families with a long history of addiction are predisposed to develop a substance abuse disorder if exposed to drugs, while other people are resistant to one form of addiction, but not another.


The Difference Between Using And Addiction

It’s important to distinguish between using and addiction – but to emphasize the danger of using. Millions of people across the globe use drugs without developing a substance disorder – the most obvious example being the casual consumption of alcohol throughout the world.

Alcoholism exists anywhere where alcohol exists, but it’s always a fraction of the population. The same works for other drugs, yet with different figures. Not everyone who takes a drug is predestined to get addicted, either.

But that does not change the danger of drug use. Alcohol remains a poison to the body, and many struggle with moderate use, even if they don’t fit the bill for an addiction. Drugs like cocaine or heroin are stronger than a beer, but all forms of addiction can be equally dangerous, depending on the person and the circumstances.

Prescription painkillers caused today’s opioid crisis, but it’s not the patients who become addicted, but their friends and relatives. A very small fraction of people getting legitimate prescriptions for opioids get hooked on them, yet the overabundance of opioids on the street because of drug pushing has led to easier access to these powerful drugs.

The point is to understand that addiction does not happen immediately – it’s a gradual change, with a tipping point that is hard to come back from. We cannot see it coming, and we usually do not notice that we’ve gone over the edge until we’re deep in the abyss.


Getting Help

If you think you’re struggling with addiction, or you know you are but are hesitant to seek out help, stop hesitating. Realizing you have a problem is a big and important step, but you must gather the courage to open up about your problem to a professional and sign yourself into treatment. You can step back from the point of no return, you just need to take the first step.

Addiction treatment has come a long way – treatment facilities today address each patient individually, foregoing cookie-cutter treatments and instead utilizing careful diagnostics and probing to determine what kind of treatment you really need, and why.

Some people respond best to individual treatment, while others prefer group therapy. In some cases, art and music is the answer – for others, it’s pounding the pavement or hitting the weight rack. In some cases, medical assistance is absolutely required during withdrawal, and some people need medication to wean themselves off their addiction.

Some manage just fine checking in once a week with a professional to help manage their cravings and stay sober, while others check into a residential treatment facility to get away from it all and seek sobriety in a guaranteed drug free environment.

Your path will be unlike any other, and ultimately, you alone must walk it. But you can seek help and support from professionals, friends and family, to make sure that despite every little stumble and fall along the way, you’ll always get back up, ready to keep going forward.


Relationship Consequences Of Drug Abuse

Relationship In Recovery

In most cases, love is a double-edged sword. When you emotionally commit to another human being, you grow empathic to their every feeling. When they’re troubled, you’re troubled. When they’re happy, it brings you joy. And when there’s serious strain in the relationship, it can send you into a fit of depression.

Love can strengthen, but it can also weaken. We risk that whenever we open our hearts to someone else, and even when a relationship’s future looks bleak, we are often inclined to work as hard as we can to save it. Sometimes, that is a good thing. At other times, this drive can only make things worse.

With addiction in the picture, it’s difficult to tell where the pendulum swings. Sometimes, a loving, supporting partner can be the key to recovery. At other times, a partner struggling with addiction can tear the other apart emotionally, irrevocably destroying a once beautiful bond, and leaving a lasting mark.

Through hard work, commitment, and luck, addiction and drug abuse can be overcome in a relationship. But sometimes it’s better to spare yourself, than lose yourself and your partner over your partner’s disease.


Why Active Addicts Often Make Terrible Partners

There is a lot of stigma against people struggling with addiction, and many still view it as a consequence of moral failing, rather than a brain disease with behavioral side-effects. It is true that people who struggle with drug abuse usually become less pleasant because of their addiction, to the point where they may start lying and acting irrationally to support their habit. But behavior like this is not indicative of the person’s usual personality, rather, it’s part of the disease.

And it’s that part of the disease that makes addicts terrible partners. Trust is important in a relationship, and the ability to depend on your partner is the cornerstone of any romantic commitment. Addiction effectively steals your partner away from you, making them unreliable and often downright untrustworthy, introducing secrecy and drama into the relationship.

To overlook that long enough to survive recovery is difficult. Relationships have a hard time surviving addiction, and if you’re the supporting partner, then your biggest task is staying sane and not succumbing to codependency, or worse yet, enabling behavior. That being said, being in a relationship while fighting addiction isn’t all bad.


Relationship: A Boon Or A Bane On Recovery

One reason why many recovery groups explicitly advise against dating while in recovery is because the pain of rejection or of a break up can easily send a recovering addict spiraling back into addiction through relapse. Early recovery in particular is a very fragile time in a recovering addict’s life, as adjusting to long-term sobriety and life without drugs can take a while.

Relationships, as such, can present themselves either as a big obstacle in a person’s recovery, or as their saving grace, the one thing they have left to hold onto as a form of accountability and motivation for staying sober, and remaining abstinent.


Living With A Partner In Denial

If your partner is in denial, and refuses to get help, then you may be approaching a point in the relationship where the person you fell in love with is fading away, and you have to consider your own mental health and emotional wellbeing. Losing yourself trying to help someone else is not a reasonable long-term deal – even if your partner recovers, the guilt of leaving lasting emotional damage will drag them back down.

Be sure to practice self-care if you’re going to be an emotional pillar of support – even if that ultimately means making the difficult decision of stepping out of your partner’s life. For some, that might be the push they need to get them to realize that help is needed.


Codependency And Enabling

A relationship between someone struggling with addiction and their partner can devolve further into more damaging problems, including the enabling of addiction through lies and secrecy, and codependency – developing mental health issues including addiction in part because of your partner’s condition.

Often, partners (and parents) who enable their loved ones may not be fully aware of their behavior or may even be in denial. It might start off as trying to save your partner from embarrassment by lying to concerned friends about his or her addiction, but it can progress into bigger lies and manipulative behavior.

An important part of addiction is waking up to the consequences of being addicted and using that as motivation to seek help. By hiding your partner’s problems, you may be making things worse for them.


Getting Stronger By Healing Together

It’s not all doom and gloom. But it is a decision you and your partner have to make. If you’re the supporting partner, then you have to ask yourself if you can stand by your partner’s side throughout their recovery and trust their commitment to abstinence. Your support, unconditional love, and constant willingness to be there for them may save them in moments of weakness, especially if you aren’t alone.

In other cases, your willingness to forgive may mean your partner will feel less pressure to change – and over months and years, take you for granted. This toxic cycle is something no one should have to try and withstand.

The juggling act is to find the right point to make that crucial decision. Not too soon, and not too late. If you can find that point – and choose to stay – then with a little luck, your bond will strengthen through the experience of fighting through addiction together. It can be a growing experience, as well, pushing the relationship to its limits and discovering a new sort of love – the dependable kind that lasts through real crises.

What kind of effects does addiction have on your relationship – and how do you see your future? It’s important to sit down and think long and hard about these questions and decide what they mean for the future of your relationship, regardless of which partner you are.


Mental Health Month: A Critical Eye on How Drugs Affect the Mind

Drug addiction is a scourge – but we must rationally separate the disease from the person. For decades, this country has operated under the guise that addiction corrupts people and marks them as worthless to society due to their inability to provide economically. It gives up on many who become addicted, and in general, society looks towards people struggling with addiction as flawed or dangerous, or both. Despite advances in human rights, there is still a powerful stigma against not just addiction itself, but those whose mental health suffers under it.

Rectifying this is paramount to a society where addiction is less of a problem, and potentially eliminated. Often, addiction is identified as a chronic brain disease and can affect mental health. While food and sex addiction exist, it is very rare and separated from drug addiction through the distinction of addictiveness. Things like sugar, sex and gambling can turn into an emotional dependency, but physical dependency to drugs like alcohol and heroin is caused by how your brain interprets and reacts to these substances.

Understanding how the brain reacts to drugs – and understanding the mental health of people struggling with addiction – can help people distinguish the disease from the person, and set aside moralistic ideas for a better, more scientific approach.


Drugs And Your Mental Health

Drugs affect the your mental health because they bind to specific receptors in your brain’s cells. Basically, the structure of a cell is as such that it has certain ports for the entry and exit of different intracellular elements. In the brain, brain cells have ports that receive neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters affect the way you feel and think and play a role in many other physical and autonomous functions.

What drugs do is they bind to the cells in the guise of natural neurotransmitters, thus making you feel a certain way.

Taking alcohol as an example, once alcohol enters the bloodstream, some of it passes through the blood-brain barrier – a special membrane to keep most foreign elements out of the brain – and it attaches itself to the neurons’ GABA, serotonin, NMDA (memory) and acetylcholine receptors. GABA is a neurotransmitter that affects the way you move – as an agonist, alcohol’s effects on the brain through the GABA receptor lead to slurred speech and trouble walking.

As it also binds to serotonin, on top of releasing your inhibitions and slowing you down, it also makes you feel good – being tipsy is the combination of alcohol’s effect on your chemical happiness, combined with the way it alters your brain’s ability to control movement.

A separate effect happens with each drug commonly used today. Opioids slow the body’s respiratory system and numb pain, while inducing euphoria. Stimulants like cocaine give you a massive jolt in both happiness and motivation, while taxing the heart muscle and reducing appetite.

These drugs are all highly addictive, and completely different from hallucinogens like LSD or magic mushrooms, but all impact your mental health in a negative way.


How Addiction Starts

Psychoactive drugs include anything that manipulates or changes the way you think drastically. Sugar isn’t psychoactive, even though the consumption of sugar naturally releases endorphins. Caffeine, however, is psychoactive, even though its effects while consumed as a beverage like coffee or tea are negligible and cannot be classified as clinically addictive.

LSD is also psychoactive, but not addictive – while it also binds to the serotonin receptors in the brain, LSD has not reportedly been the cause of any overdose or addiction, and its main attraction is its ability to induce vivid visual hallucination.

What sets drugs like alcohol and heroin aside from the rest is the sheer overwhelming power with which it attacks your brain. Caffeine can make you feel a bit more productive and increase anxiety slightly at high dosages, but alcohol will change the way your brain functions and alter your brain’s structure through repeated excessive use. The same goes for heroin, cocaine, nicotine, and other addictive drugs. Their effects cause the brain much stress, and as a coping mechanism, it tries hard to develop a tolerance against said mental health effects.

This tolerance backfires, however, as it also deadens your brain towards many other sensations. In short, as an addiction progresses, it becomes the only thing in life that still satisfies you, and this produces an emotional and psychological obsession that affects your mental health. Addiction is born.


Why Addiction Is Hard To Beat

Addiction is a matter of both emotional and physical dependence. As an addiction progresses, the brain and the body have a harder and harder time to let go of the drug and live without it. Attempting to do so without waning off first might lead to symptoms of withdrawal, which range from flu-like with drugs like heroin, to possibly fatal for drugs like alcohol.

Emotionally, addiction either causes or is caused by a need to escape from reality, making the prospect of completely committing to reality through sobriety both very daunting, and not very attractive.

Getting high keeps you happy and staves off the shakes and the pain. Going sober only makes your body crave the drug more, to the point where you feel like a thirsty man in a hot desert, with no sign of water or civilization in view anywhere, on any horizon.

The mental health and motivation necessary to overcome that feeling must be immense, which is where addiction treatment jumps in.


Getting The Help You Need

Addiction treatment has come a very long way from the days of old, and we’ve developed countless psychiatric and medical tools to help combat the effects of addiction, in some cases lessen the power a drug has over a person and utilize therapeutic tools – from alternative medicine to talk therapy – to develop a patient’s mindfulness and get them through the early days of recovery.

A unique mix of factors surrounds each case of addiction: causes, circumstances, possibilities, and more. Reputable professionals evaluate these factors and develop a treatment plan concurrent to each case, without opting for a cookie-cutter approach. To combat addiction effectively, the medical and mental health community recognizes that specificity matters.

All roads lead to Rome – choosing the one right for you may take time, but if you don’t stop moving forward, you will get to your destination. In the case of addiction, that destination is the point at which you’ve become completely comfortable with your sobriety, and no longer fear relapse. It can take months, years, or decades – but each step of the way is worth the effort it took to make that step.

Recovery Starts With Recognizing The Problem

The First Step Toward Recovery - Transcend Texas

When something breaks your heart, it takes time for the realization to set in. If the brain has ever experienced emotional pain before, then it may want to delay that realization even further. In that sense, denial is a protective instinct, when we feel like shielding ourselves from the truth. But just like addiction itself, this temporary measure for comfort will only lead to greater pain in the future. If drinking is a maladaptive coping mechanism for stress, then denial is a maladaptive coping mechanism for addiction – and letting go of that feeling to accept the truth is both a tremendously difficult thing, and the very first and most significant milestone in any person’s journey towards recovery, sobriety, and happiness outside of addiction.

Recovery indeed begins with recognizing you have a problem – it’s the first step, and there’s no going back.


Yes, Denial Exists

For anyone who has had to watch a loved one suffer and deny the cause of their suffering, denial is a very real – and very painful – thing. It is a tragedy for both the denier and the ones surrounding them, friends and family who want the person they care for to realize their condition and seek help.

Overcoming denial is a central part to defeating addiction, because you cannot force someone into getting better. Forcing treatment onto people does not work because addiction treatment is entirely voluntary. It’s not a pill, or a surgery. It’s a set of instructions, of ideas, of concepts and imagery – addiction treatment involves describing a path to a blind stranger and inspiring them to take the first bold step on the uneasy path to recovery. Without full willingness and a strong motivation behind them, they cannot take that bold step. You can technically force someone into rehab – but they have to decide to get better for real change.

To help someone overcome denial, you must first be sure that what they’re going through is an addiction.


The Importance Of Defining Addiction

Everyone has problems, and sometimes, the way we deal with our problems can seem strange from the outside. Concern for others may lead to misconception, and a lack of trust or communication may lead to misunderstanding. It is important to be clear about addiction, because if you’re going down a path convinced that your loved one has a problem when they do not, you may find yourself inadvertently causing more harm than good.

However, it is not very difficult to tell whether your loved one’s behavior is problematic enough to warrant asking for a professional opinion. The amount does not define addiction someone drinks or takes, but rather, what counts is how it affects them as a person. Irritability, tardiness, inconsistencies, and constant lying are trademarks of suspicious behavior – but if it’s coupled with poor work performance, slacking off on responsibilities and stealing finances, it’s clear that a severe problem exists, regardless of whether substance abuse is at its core.

Addiction is defined by an obsession for something so powerful that it drives someone towards hurting themselves and ruining their lives. They break apart relationships, take unnecessary risks and, in extreme cases, even break the law to achieve the next high.

If your loved one is behaving very suspiciously and irrationally and has been drinking a lot or is in possession of suspicious paraphernalia, speak to them about their behavior. If they are in clear denial of their addiction, talk to a professional to help stage an intervention and hopefully put them on the path to recovery.


Taking The First Step

Interventions are carefully crafted conversations held between you and your loved one, or yourself and several others, including your loved one. The aim for these conversations is to make your loved one realize that their behavior is hurting them and others, and that whatever is causing it isn’t worth it. It’s to bring them to the realization that their unhealthy habits are causing major problems, of a scope that cannot be ignored.

This can be a painful burden to carry. Not only is the stigma of addiction heavy, but the guilt felt by those struggling with addiction for their actions and their denial can be emotionally devastating. However, only positive thinking will foster a productive recovery – even if it may seem impossible right now. Taking the first step is all about acknowledging the disease. Everything else comes after.


A Long Road Ahead

Seeking treatment for addiction can help you break the habit and prepare you for the road ahead. Ultimately, getting clean and staying clean is the key to beating an addiction. Treatment helps you get clean. But staying clean after recovery is something you will have to do without professional help.

That doesn’t mean you have to do it alone. While recovery treatment can help prepare you for the signs of a relapse and keep you mentally and emotionally strong, there will be days when the temptation to use again can seem overpowering. Especially on days of immense stress of overwhelming loss, not succumbing to the urge will require every drop of your will, and then some.

That is why it is critical to have a solid support system to help you stay clean for months and years after the end of treatment. Friends and family that know what you’re going through and understand that there will be days when you need help getting motivated, days when the fight feels like a losing one, and you need someone to tip the scales.

There are many ways to fight against relapses. One is to maintain a schedule that prioritizes the things that help you fight stress, including exercise or hobbies. Another is to regularly socialize with friends, while staying sober together. Go out on trips, go hiking, and see the country. Another tip is to help others get sober. Helping other people and seeing them grow – and pushing them through many of the same struggles you had – can be a great way to reflect on just how far you’ve come, while at the same time giving you the reminder of where you came from, and what you’re fighting for all this time.

Sobriety is not easy, and it’s something you have to maintain every day. But it does get easier to maintain, with time. And even if you do eventually slip up, what matters most is that you get back up, and push forward, past the experience, towards the future.


The Negatives Of Addiction For Those Around You

Negatives of Addiction | Transcend Texas

A common misconception for addicts in denial is the idea that their habits are only hurting them, and no one else. They see themselves as in-control and capable of stopping if they wanted to. Yet the negatives of addiction, regardless of whether you’re in denial or completely aware of the nature of your actions, is deeply damaging not only to you but to those around you as well.

As a disease, addiction primarily affects the user. Drug users are all susceptible to developing an addiction, with numerous factors contributing to the chances of becoming physically dependent on a drug, and psychologically addicted to its effects. But addiction is more than just a disease – or just a choice, for that matter. It’s a complex condition, one that affects several lives per case. Here are some of the ways in which the negatives of addiction affects those around you.


Generate Conflict Between Spouses

Partners will feel it first and feel it the hardest. Being in a relationship with someone struggling with addiction can be incredibly frustrating and at times very painful – especially if they fail to acknowledge their problems.

Spouses or partners may at first begin doubting each other, harboring suspicions, and eventually feeling betrayed when realizing that their significant other has been stealing away to use or drink or has been drinking excessively. If they happen to react defensively upon being confronted, things will only get worse. Fear and shock turn into contempt, as fights draw out, and eventually, the the negatives of addiction grow to the point that help is needed.

Before getting treatment, an addicted person can cause a lot of havoc in their relationships with other people.


Destroy Relationships Between Generations

Parents using drugs can have a direct effect on their relationship with their kids, while teens using drugs will strain the relationship they have with their parents. Some parents might feel like they can successfully hide the negatives of addiction from their children, only using while away or not in their presence.

But drugs have a lasting effect, reducing a person’s capability to think and reason, sometimes leading to reckless behavior. Their drug use will noticeably affect their ability to carry out their parental responsibilities, and the aftermath of a high can be a painful and traumatic experience – not just for the parent, but the child as well. In most cases, only one parent struggles with addiction while the other deals with parental responsibilities and tries to help their partner, creating an incredibly stressful situation due to the negatives of addiction.

When teens use drugs, their parents begin to worry and cast blame. They seek an explanation for why their child might be caught up in this issue, worried that they’re to blame and that drug use was a direct consequence of their upbringing. In other cases, parents might resort to extreme and ineffective parenting methods to stop their kid’s drug use. However, punishment and anger usually cause the development of more issues piling on top of each other, rather than resolving addiction.

It can be difficult for parents to communicate with their children in general, but that’s made virtually impossible through addiction. Many parents seek professional help to get their kids clean, as they struggle to find a way to talk to them and have them open up.


Create Strife Over Finances

A family’s coffers will always take a massive hit when addiction is involved. Supporting a drug habit can be very expensive, a situation that becomes even worse when children are involved. Many families struggle financially to help their loved one get better and have been struggling for as long as the problem is ongoing.

Outside of treatment, many people while first struggling with the negatives of addiction will find clever ways to siphon off financial resources with which to procure more drugs. Not only is the financial aspect damaging, but the betrayal of trust is another big issue.


Produce Several Health Risks For Others

Smoking in the presence of others increases their risk of lung cancer significantly, as does drinking while pregnant or in the operation of dangerous machinery – including cars. Drunk driving kills over 10,000 a year and leads to over a million arrests. Far too many drivers drink and swerve, putting themselves and everybody on the road at danger.

Drunk or drugged while at work can also lead to severe injuries and death, and about a quarter of the workforce drinks during the workday at least once a year, while a solid tenth of workplace fatalities involve victims under the influence of alcohol.


Getting Help With The Negatives Of Addiction

If you’re struggling with the negatives of addiction, then the best thing you can do is get help immediately. Recognizing that you have a problem is a solid step in the right direction and deciding to adamantly combat this problem is the next one. There are different treatment options, clinics, and rehab centers all over the country, offering programs specifically suited to each individual’s addiction and circumstances.

Addiction can be overcome, and a sober life isn’t just possible – it offers so much more than a life filled with drug use.


Intervening For A Loved One

Interventions can effectively help you convince your loved one that they need help. They could also set off an unexpected outburst of anger if handled poorly. However, if you do it right, you could help them make their first constructive step towards a better life. The key is that they must make that step.

What you must do is point out that that step exists. It’s a good idea to consult a professional before deciding to stage an intervention, first to determine if your loved one truly exhibits signs of addiction, and secondly to help you set up an intervention that will work. There are therapists, family counselors and interventionists, all of whom are qualified to help you identify problems with your loved one and stage your first intervention.

Some suggest to first try and talk to your loved one alone, if you notice strange behavior. If they’re clearly struggling with the negatives of addiction but don’t acknowledge their need for help, then the next step may be to stage a group intervention with friends and family. It’s important to clarify why their behavior is troubling, and how it has been affecting everybody. Sometimes, an outside perspective can help someone realize how far their behavior has gone.

If you are going through a hard time trying to help your loved one fight their addiction, don’t forget to take care of yourself as well.


Avoiding the Temptation to Relapse

Relapse Avoidance | Transcend Texas

The early days of addiction recovery are the hardest to get through. Not only can sobriety take a few weeks to adjust to, but the consequences of going completely abstinent will reverberate within you for quite some time, often in the form of cravings and errant reminiscing as you work to avoid relapse.

A treatment program, such as rehab, or post-rehab programs like sober living, can help immensely at a trying time like this. Early recovery is not something you’re meant to go through alone and getting professional help can bolster your chances at staying sober and building the skillset you need to continue staying sober.

There’s more to relapse than early recovery. News stories of celebrities relapsing after decades of sobriety cast doubt on the idea that it gets easier to stay sober, and many fear that all their work spent fighting addiction will go down the drain one day.

The reason many relapses happen is often due to some form of emotional pain or stress. Many celebrities struggle with personal problems, problems they are used to hiding away from the world. For some, an event or trigger may push them over the edge and cause a tragedy. And while many have passed on, many have also stayed sober.

But for most people, these tragedies can be avoided. Even if you find yourself in emotional turmoil and the urge to use grows significantly, you can pull yourself out of that vulnerable state and avoid a relapse by having a pre-existing system to deal with these trying times.


Build A Solid Support System To Avoid Relapse

A support system is composed of the people you rely on the most to keep you sane and sober when times are hard. It’s not so much a planned system as it is your innermost circle of friends and family, the people you know you can rely on and talk to no matter what. Having a support system means trusting others and giving them good reasons to trust you.

Reconciling with family and building bridges between people you have wronged can build and expand your support system and give you more people to call when you really need someone to talk you out of a bad decision.


Release Your Stress

Stress management is a big part of leading a healthy life, addiction completely aside. Excessive stress can manifest physically and mentally as an increased risk of disease, lower longevity, and deteriorating mental health. If you lead a stressful life or experience high levels of perceived stress, you need to vent – and you need to vent in a healthy manner.

Taking the time to relax and spend an hour or so every day working on your hobbies can take a lot of pressure off. Exercise is another useful stress management tool, although it works best if it’s a form of exercise you earnestly enjoy.

The importance of controlling your stress levels through your actions – not through medication – is high for people struggling with sobriety. Stress can make it much more difficult to stay sober, as you’re tempted to use again to cope with your challenges in life.


Talk To A Support Group

Support groups, separate from the friends and family that make up your support system, can be a great way to seek out help and motivation in trying times. An addiction meeting can be a good and safe place to speak out about your experiences, confess your feelings and urges, and talk about your addiction without feeling judged or misunderstood, while getting the chance to hear how others deal with their lives and their addiction.


Stay Away From Triggers And Memories

Places, music, food, and other stimuli. Our lives are filled with memories of the good and bad, and these memories culminate in who we are. Yet when addiction has been a large part of who you were for many months or years, then anything that may remind you positively of those days can be a dangerous trigger for powerful cravings and temptations.

If a route to work reminds you strongly of your addiction days, then take another route. If a band or song reminds you of using, take care not to listen to it. These may seem like overly cautious measures, but they are temporary. These powerful reactions will fade with time, and you do learn to control them – but in the beginning, they can pose a threat to your delicate sobriety.


Get Out Of Harmful Relationships

Early on in recovery, a tip many treatment facilities and therapists give is to reevaluate the places you go to, and the people you live with. Relapse triggers go beyond sights and sounds but are often found in other people – especially those that might encourage you to use again or disrespect your sobriety by using around you.

Alternatively, you may find that sobriety gives you the clarity needed to realize that you’ve been in an abusive or manipulative relationship with friends and lovers, and that these relationships are harming you. Getting past the denial and realizing the truth can help your recovery – if you get out in time. By identifying and ending toxic relationships in any way you can, you do yourself and your abstinence a huge favor.


Check Into A Sober Living Community

If all else feels doomed to fail, then getting yourself out of harm’s way for a few weeks may be your best option. Sober living communities are homes and facilities dedicated to providing a drug-free environment for people to check into and mostly continue to lead normal lives as part of a group.

While regular drug testing and strict curfews are enforced to ensure nobody suffers a relapse at the facility, tenants are mostly free to do as they please, if they pitch in and help around the community and participate in group events.

Different sober living communities offer different amenities and work with different rulesets. But all sober living communities dedicate themselves to be a safe space away from drugs, where people can come to stay clean for as long as they need to.

Relapses can usually be avoided – but so can addiction, too. If you’ve suffered from a relapse, then the worst thing you can do is get hung up on that experience and see it as your point of failure. Statistics show that most people relapse even after they have gone through a treatment program – and the current addiction model suggests that, on top of being a mental illness, addiction is chronic in nature, requiring an intensive and long-term treatment plan that takes into consideration the frequency of relapse.

If you have relapsed, then use that experience to learn more about your weaknesses and triggers, keeping in mind what you have to be careful around in order to stop it from happening again in the future.

Community Can Make Or Break Your Recovery

Community in Recovery | Transcend Texas

As a medical condition, addiction is reliant on many factors. Many are quick to blame drugs for drug abuse – but it is not that simple. Others are quick to blame solely a person’s environment and suggest that loneliness is the driving factor. Yet again, it is not quite that simple. Addiction is dependent on a person’s history, mindset, genetics, environment, drug of choice, their mental and physical condition in the nascent stages of their addiction, sense of community and belonging, and more.

As such, when treating addiction, the answer is not as simple as just suggesting any one treatment. There is no quick fix, no one-size-fits-all. Every case of addiction comes with its own unique circumstances and differences – as such, experts today are trained to treat every individual as an individual.

But people sometimes overvalue the power of treatment in treating addiction and preventing a relapse. A big part of any treatment program is not just helping an individual through their withdrawal and early recovery, but it should give their patient the tools they need to continue their sobriety going forward – including important advice on community and social support.

The people we surround ourselves with after treatment can make or break the recovery process – and knowing what roles they play in your own journey can help you identify problematic relationships and move towards healthier ones.


The Role Of Community In Addiction

We rely on each other for emotional support and social bonds – by forming friendships and relationships with other people, we enrich our lives and those around us. We find affirmation, confrontation, inspiration and more in the conversations and experiences that we share with the people in our lives. And part of living means being among the living and finding meaning by examining how other people decide to spend their lives.

The importance of community goes far beyond addiction – it is integral to every person. But in addiction specifically, having a community around you that you feel supported by, a community you can contribute to and exist in, is important. Because without a community that lets you be a part of it, the alternative is isolation and loneliness. This builds a much more negative mindset, making it harder to resist cravings and stay sober.

No one can fight their addiction alone, even if they fight it without treatment. We need the support and compassion of our friends and relatives to stay strong, and we need a community we can be a part of. This is not to complicate the importance of being strong as an individual – it is to clarify that recovery is a journey where both the group and you as an individual matter.


The Individual And The Group In Recovery

Recovery relies on your conscious commitment to getting better. That decision must come from you, and you must actively seek out the encouragement and motivation you need to stay true to it.

That is your burden as the individual struggling with addiction, and no one else can make the choice for you, or stay strong in your stead.

However, while it is important that you realize how much your own choices matter and how they affect your path, you can always seek help and support to keep you on that path. Addiction recovery can be strenuous and difficult, and the cravings can last for weeks, making staying away from a relapse very hard. This is compounded by the emotional impact of early sobriety, coming to terms with a sober life, and the many responsibilities that come your way as a sober person.

Sober living environments can make this a bit easier by giving you a drug-free environment to live in and adjust to. But it is important to consider the power of support groups, from friends and family to group therapy and local addiction meetings.


The Importance Of A Healthy Family

A healthy family means a healthy home, and a home should be the environment we are most comfortable in. There is no family without strife or conflict, but it is how families tackle each individual conflict and resolve each issue that determines whether they are healthy or not. Often, our families are our most staunch advocates and the only people we can rely on for unconditional love.

Addiction can strain even the most composed and loving families – it’s difficult to deal with an addiction, not only from the point of view of the addicted, but from the point of view of those around them. Most recovery programs will urge families to educate themselves on addiction and provide them with resources to help them better understand their loved one’s condition and sympathize with their thoughts and struggles.

Through professional help and solid information, a loving family can come together to significantly improve your recovery process and help keep you sober even when the threat of relapse draws near.

Not all families have the communication skills to resolve issues amicably, and create a positive, supporting environment. Sometimes, it’s necessary to make the hard choice to leave your family behind, and find a healthier home, one where you can be with friends and spend your time in recovery pursuing positive environments.


Getting Out Of Toxic Situations

An unsupportive or criticizing family can be very detrimental in recovery – but it is not the only issue to watch out for. If your community discriminates against you because of your history of addiction, or you find yourself in hostile situations with people in your neighborhood because of your past, then it may be pertinent to move.

Staying in contact with old friends from days past can also trigger cravings and even cause a relapse, especially if they have not moved on and are still stuck in addiction. If you cannot convince them to get help, then the healthiest thing for you to do is cut off all contact.

Early on in recovery, your sobriety is still quite fragile, and toxic relationships can break your efforts in two. Avoid unnecessary stress and conflict and try to seek out a healthier, better sober living environment, until you’re ready to confront your past – or move on entirely.