As they begin the new year, many who struggle with addiction issues make resolutions to stay clean and sober, to start with a clean slate, but how do you stop a behavior that is admittedly out of control. How do you stop doing something you can’t stop doing? To say this is a frustrating situation is a gross understatement. Regardless of how bad it might be, sobriety is possible for anyone. This is a new year, and as good a time as any for a new beginning!
Window of Opportunity
For someone with an addiction, realizing that the drug or behavior has become problematic or is out of control is a good starting point. Realizing that a drug or behavior has become a problem and is damaging does not always mean someone with an addiction will be ready to let go of their substance of choice. Being in a position of willingness to let go of a drug or behavior provides a window of opportunity, so taking action during this time is crucial. One of the best things someone who is willing to quit can do is reaching out and ASKING FOR HELP. Do this before the window closes again as it surely will. Remember that this willingness can come and go very quickly, so it’s an opportunity to take action that may be impossible otherwise.
Asking for help is the most difficult thing anyone with an addiction will do! A person with addiction issues can be very defensive and guarded about the topic of their behavior or substance they are using, and reaching out for help is an essential part of letting that guard down. Allowing an objective party to step in and assist can help motivate someone who may be struggling to stay committed to the decision to stop using a substance or engaging in a behavior.
Withdrawal – Medical Detox
Someone who is still involved in active drug use may have their decision-making distorted. An alcoholic or heroin addict may think they will be fine without a medical detox or be fearful of going into withdrawals. If someone has been using alcohol, opiates/opioids, benzodiazepines, or barbiturates they should be evaluated by a medical professional. Withdrawing from these specific drugs can be dangerous and even fatal. A medical detox is usually a good idea. Having someone, be it a trusted friend/family member, a medical professional, or a social worker who can support a person through this critical time period makes a big difference.
Life After Detox
While the acute withdrawal period may be the most physically uncomfortable part of getting sober, the real work begins once someone is freed from physical addiction. The days after someone leaves detox is a CRITICAL TIME PERIOD and is frequently when someone is most likely to fall back into active use. Now they are experiencing the world without the coping tool they used for so long. Someone may feel fearful, hopeless, angry, reactive, or just generally raw, emotionally. A spectrum of feelings from depression to elation may be experienced, and someone who has been getting through life with a substance addiction is unlikely to know how to cope with the ups and downs we all experience. So where do you go and what do you do for support? It is not uncommon for someone with an addiction to want to do it alone. This is to be expected, but it is not usually the best idea. Most people who are successfully living a sober life have not done so alone.
Having a safe supportive environment to be in 24/7 is an ideal option for many people. Countless people with addiction issues have found that checking into a residential treatment center has been immensely helpful in firmly grounding them in a sober way of life. Residential treatment offers many other benefits as well! Checking into residential treatment can benefit those with underlying mental/physical health issues by connecting them with a psychiatrist or medical doctor and giving them a safe space to stabilize. This is also an opportunity to work with a therapist who is familiar with addiction.
Another issue many people experience once they are sober is an existential one. What now? What direction do I go? This is another benefit of a treatment center. A facility with skilled counselors and therapists can help a person figure out what their place in this world will look like now. Someone who is confident in their sense of purpose and meaning is more likely to hold on to the gift of sobriety.
Life After Treatment
Frequently, one of the hardest parts of life that a person who is sober deals with is the social one. Aspects of life such as career, family, education etc. are important and come with their unique set of challenges. For someone who is living life sober, learning how to build relationships with peers who are also getting clean and sober is invaluable. It is an investment in a sober person’s long game. While this can begin in residential treatment, it’s something that should be continued after a person leaves. Many have found that involvement in a 12-step program or other self-help support group helped them stay sober as they navigated the ups and downs of life. Life really begins to happen after you leave treatment, and learning to build healthy relationships with peers makes the journey so much better!