There’s no question that starting addiction recovery is hard. Not only is it hard to know where and how to begin, but it can also be hard to keep recovery front and center, even after years of sobriety. The very first step to getting sober is recognizing substance use disorder (SUD) in either yourself or your loved one. When a person is suffering from an addiction to alcohol and/or drugs, including cocaine, heroin, opiates and prescription pills, they will eventually experience withdrawal symptoms. This means that they have already become dependent on a substance, and they are unable to function without it.
Signs and indicators of addiction vary depending on the individual, drug of choice, amount and duration of use and include but are not limited to:
- Changes in Weight
- Erratic and Unpredictable Behavior
- Mental and Physical Health Conditions
- Prescription Shopping
- Stealing to Pay for Drugs
- Paranoia and Aggression
Starting addiction recovery looks different for everyone. Some people will be forced to recognize their problem through accident, overdose or legal issues. Others may gradually recognize that their alcohol or drug use has taken over their life, and they can’t ignore it anymore. Others may be compelled to face their problem through intervention organized by their families or friends. However you realize you need help for addiction, the next step is actually getting it.
Seeking Professional Help to Start Addiction Recovery
Starting addiction recovery and treatment usually begins with detoxification or detox. Detox is the process by which the body is cleared of toxins gathered through substance use. It can be dangerous if done outside of a medical setting with 24/7 medical supervision and assistance from doctors, nurses, mental health counselors and other staff to help manage withdrawal symptoms.
Either during or after detox, you should begin behavioral rehabilitation (rehab) to help address the root causes and contributing factors of substance use. The factors that lead to substance use are different for everyone, and it’s important that they’re addressed by an experienced and qualified mental health professional. Rehab helps you develop coping techniques while allowing you to better understand how substance abuse started and escalated.
Maintaining Recovery After Treatment
Detox and rehab are necessary and admirable first steps to recovery, but they’re only the beginning. In long-term recovery, you must continue to address the difficulties that led to substance use while also addressing its impact. Here are some ways to maintain recovery on a long-term basis and in everyday life.
Continue to Attend Meetings and/or Groups
Many organizations provide meetings for people in recovery. Meetings may be offered daily, a few times a week, or less. Usually facilitated by people who have stayed in recovery long-term, one will be surrounded by others with whom they share common issues and discuss ways to cope with addiction.
According to one study involving 114 participants, 81 percent of those who continued to attend meetings maintained sobriety during the previous six months compared to only 26 percent who did not attend a self-help group. Additionally, an analysis by Stanford University involving 35 studies,145 scientists, and 10,080 people with substance use disorder (SUD) concluded that those who attended meetings were 60 percent more likely to maintain recovery than those without any intervention.
Confidentiality is typically a requirement for all who attend. Meetings and groups are usually free, so having health insurance is usually not an issue. Meetings may or may not incorporate religion, and there are groups that cater to specific populations, such as for those who identify as LGBTQ+, for example. It is important to select a meeting or group that is right for you.
Continue Regular Therapy
Seeing a mental health professional is a great way to speak openly and without judgment. After a while, your medical provider will learn to understand your behavior and notice if something seems off. An invested therapist, social worker, counselor, or psychologist will express their concerns if they encounter any warning signs that one may need additional assistance in order to avoid relapse.
Having someone with whom you can speak about anything is beneficial, as most people cannot discuss their issues with friends or family for fear of how they may react. A therapist will also provide additional references and referrals when necessary if they feel their client needs additional help staying in recovery. Seventy-five percent of people who attend therapy find it to be beneficial. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), additional benefits of attending therapy include positive changes in the brain and body, less disability, greater work satisfaction, fewer medical issues, and fewer sick days.
Live a Healthy Lifestyle: Diet and Exercise
The strong link between mental and physical health has been established by the medical community for years. Staying active will keep your body healthy. Exercise decreases stress and releases endorphins, which are naturally occurring chemicals in your body that cause happiness. Regular exercise can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety and release nervous energy. Finding a workout buddy or joining a gym is also a great way to socialize with healthy-minded people. Not feeling physically well can cause someone to return to self-medicating with drugs and/or alcohol.
Eating a healthy diet will help the body to maintain a healthy weight and reduce symptoms of chronic pain – which can lead to relapse. It also provides one with the necessary nutrients needed in order to stay healthy physically and mentally. Consuming too much caffeine and using nicotine – a stimulant – may not be a wise choice for someone who has an addiction to other stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamines. Some foods are known for their calming effects – like peppermint. Feeling physically well presents one with more opportunities to experience life outside of addiction. One must be in good shape to take a long walk on the beach or play with their children. Other benefits of eating healthy include boosting one’s immunity, a decreased chance of developing heart disease, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and aids in healthy digestion.
Use Coping Mechanisms You Learned While in Treatment
Life will inevitably throw you lemons now and then. Traumatic and disappointing things will occur and cause someone to want to use drugs and/or alcohol again. When a person starts craving substances or when life is stressful, this is when coping mechanisms become – literally – life-saving. One must be able to manage stress in healthy ways and sustain positive thinking. Meditation and stress-management techniques are highly effective in treating addiction, anxiety and depression. Other coping skills one may utilize include writing in a journal (which also helps keep track of your progress), calling a close friend, family member or sponsor or reading or watching something funny. Participating in an activity and staying busy can be a welcome distraction from stress and cravings.
Mindfulness is a great way to regulate one’s emotions. Staying present by utilizing techniques including meditation allows one to clear their head of all things causing them discomfort. This enables one to think more clearly and gain a sense of calm. In one study that included 20 participants new to meditation enrolled in a 10-day intensive program for mindfulness, participants in the mindfulness group – compared to the control group – reported fewer symptoms of depression and rumination, better working memory and sustained attention. Since depression and feeling overwhelmed can lead to relapse, mindfulness is recommended to many populations, including those in recovery. Other ways in which practicing mindfulness help maintain sobriety include:
- Reduction of Stress
- Decrease in Emotional Reactivity
- Healthier Relationships with Others
- Enhanced Morality
- Increase in Information Processing Speed
- Improved Focus
- Promoting Empathy and Compassion
Start Your Addiction Recovery Now
Addiction is a lifelong battle and requires one to fight to maintain sobriety. Living a healthy lifestyle and practicing coping mechanisms learned while in treatment will help one overcome barriers. Avoiding triggers, including people, places and situations, will also lead to less of a chance of relapse. Recovery Unplugged is ready to help you take the first step toward recovery by providing comprehensive, evidence-based treatment. If you’re worried about paying for addiction care, we are in-network with most major insurance companies and offer care at locations across the country. Contact us today to get the help you need for addiction.