Are you tired of relapsing? Knowing how to recover from addiction and finding the best outpatient program isn’t always black and white. In fact, more than 85% of people find themselves starting the addiction recovery process over and over again.
Who Does Addiction Affect?
Addiction touches millions of lives in the US alone. An estimated 37 million people aged 12 and older have used illegal drugs in the past month, and statistics show that as much as one-fifth of the adult population of the US has tried an illegal drug in the last year.
Not all illegal drug use ends in addiction, and some substances are far more potent and dangerous as addictive drugs than others – but these numbers do give some insight into how ubiquitous certain drug use can be and why addiction continues to be a common problem in millions of households across the country.
Yet outside of statistics, it’s important to remember that each and every instance of addiction has its own story, its own causes, and its own reasons. Being addicted to drugs is not a matter of choice, but circumstance – and finding a way out of addiction and out of those circumstances, is a monumental task. But it is never an impossible one.
Is Total Recovery Possible?
A lot of the language around addiction tries to make it clear that recovery is a life-long process. But that is a matter of perspective. If it helps you to think of your addiction as an adversary to overcome for all time, that perspective can help motivate you to stay clean. But other people want to close that chapter of their life – to add finality and closure and put their years of drug use firmly behind them.
The moment you stop using drugs is the moment you start going into recovery. Quantifying when you’ve “finished recovery” is personal and difficult. Is it your last day of waking up with withdrawal symptoms? Your last day of waking up with intense cravings? Is it the last time you felt truly moody as a result of your cravings? Or the last day you seriously entertained the idea of giving in again?
Someone who has never tried drugs before, and has never been addicted, isn’t in recovery and won’t need to be. Someone who has been addicted in the past might never touch drugs again but can still consider themselves on the “path to recovery” if they so wish.
Don’t Treat Addiction as a Choice
While we might talk a lot about beginning down the path of recovery, it’s important to distinguish that choice from the illusion of choice in addiction. Addiction is an illness and can be classified as a mental health disorder or a brain disease.
It alters behavior and thinking, changes what motivates a person, alters your brain chemistry and how it reacts to intrinsic rewards, and most addictive drugs continue to adversely affect your brain and organs, leading to cognitive decline, problems with problem-solving, excessive risk-taking, liver damage, and heart failure.
Addiction is never a choice. It is a horrifying condition that makes it harder to resist with every instance of drug use until the ability to stop is completely stripped from you. It does claim agency.
But getting help is a choice. Getting help from friends. From family. From strangers. Making the decision to commit to treatment and the long and arduous road of recovery. All it takes is that first step.
Addiction and Mental Health
If you’re seeking to give up the habit forever and are entering a rehab program for your condition, it’s also important to be aware of the role that poor mental health can have in the exacerbation and proliferation of addiction symptoms.
Mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and even trauma can co-occur with drug use disorder very often, and there’s a much higher concentration of people struggling with drug use among those diagnosed with a mental health issue than the general population.
There are three ways in which mental health issues contribute to addiction.
One is by way of neurological feedback. Poor mental health correlates to poorer self-image, lower socioeconomic status, and a harder time seeking employment. It makes life harder in many ways and can be debilitating. Drugs, often the addictive (as well as dangerous) kind, make life a little easier for just a short time. This form of maladaptive self-medication can become fatal over time.
The Reverse Effect
The second is the reverse effect – how drugs, in turn, exacerbate or even lead to the onset of mental health issues. Whether these were present, to begin with, or not, the effects of most addictive drugs on the brain can lead to an acceleration of anxiety symptoms, depressive thoughts, intrusive thoughts, compulsive behaviors, and even more severe symptoms, such as psychosis or suicidal ideation.
Shared Risk Factors
Lastly, drug use and mental health issues share common risk factors that contribute to both. Trauma, stress, and even genetic predisposition can make both mental health issues and drug problems more common in individuals with a host of risk factors.
Understanding the link between your mental health problems and your addiction – how they affect each other, which came first, and how your relationship with drugs began – is important for treatment. Unlike drug use alone, or a mental health issue without substance use, a co-occurring disorder requires a special treatment plan that takes both into consideration.
How to Recover From Addiction
Some people can go years using an addictive drug, then reach a point where they simply stop. Maybe it was the birth of their child, a spur-of-the-moment decision, or maybe it was purely environmental, as was the case for some soldiers coming back out of Vietnam. But there are cases of people who use addictive substances in the long term and don’t ever experience the neurological “hook” that makes it damn near impossible to stop.
But these lucky few are not the majority of long-term drug users. Long-term drug use makes addiction more likely, and harder to escape from. For many, quitting cold turkey for a loved one is not a conscious decision they’re capable of making, even if they really want to.
The Importance of Professional Help
This is why professional help is critical, especially in drug recovery. If you want to quit, you need a professional framework to start. Professional treatment is a combination of various healing activities, physical rehabilitation, withdrawal and detoxification care, addiction-related medication, psychiatric counseling, professional therapy, and physical activity.
Not all professional treatments look the same. Some people thrive with outpatient programs. Some people need an inpatient care program. And for most people, that is just the beginning.
Friends and Family
The heart of addiction treatment lies in the long-term journey and your support system. Coming out of rehab for the first time will be disorienting. There will be a lot left to readjust to.
Rehab programs often provide you with your first toolkit for combatting addiction through stress management skills, exercises, and a game plan for the immediate future – but you need your friends and family to catch you when you fall, prevent relapses, check up on you, and ensure that you’re still committed to the process; whether that means continued therapy or support group meetings, or something else.
One day, you might feel like you’ve vanquished your addiction for good. Or you might feel like it’s a life-long journey you can never stray from, and take comfort in that. Whatever you do, it’s important to do it right, with the right professional help.