When you’re living with active addiction (either your own, or a loved one’s) it can be hard to imagine life any other way. Addiction can be all-consuming, touching all areas of your life and relationships. As the chaos caused by addiction grows, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that treatment can help, and recovery is possible.
Knowing what to expect from the recovery process and having goals for recovery can make a big difference in how you navigate the recovery process. Addiction and recovery are often shown as black and white. However, getting into recovery is rarely a straight line. Instead, it’s a process filled with nuance and detours. Understanding that can help you (or your loved one) get through.
Here’s what everyone should know about the recovery process:
Getting Ready To Ask for Help
Many people with substance use disorder go through a period where they know they have a problem, but they’re not yet ready to accept help. While the old adage says that admitting you have a problem is the first step, that admission doesn’t mean much until you’re ready to ask for help.
The old school of thought also said that a person needed to hit “rock bottom” before accepting help for their substance use disorder. However, this can be a dangerous concept. Today, especially with the prevalence of synthetic opioids, rock bottom can mean death. Because of that, it is important to help people connect with treatment as soon as they acknowledge that addiction is negatively impacting their lives.
Most people with substance use disorder can benefit from going to a treatment program. The most in-depth is inpatient treatment, where a person lives away from their friends and family and gets counseling and possibly medication throughout their stay. Outpatient and partial-hospitalization programs provide similar services, without requiring people to live on site.
Whatever type of treatment you are able to access will provide the foundation for your recovery. In treatment, you’ll learn about the disease of substance use disorder, and the way that it interacts with other mental health conditions. You’ll address past traumas and underlying issues, and begin working toward the life you want to live in recovery.
Stepping Down Your Treatment
How long you are in treatment will depend on many factors, ranging from the severity of your illness to the type of insurance you have. For many people, even a 30 or 90-day stay in rehab seems like just the blink of an eye.
Because of that, most people benefit from step-down care. This means gradually engaging with less intense treatment programs. For example, if you’re in an inpatient setting, you might step down to outpatient. This is the time that you might consider transitional housing. Transitional houses (which used to be call half-way houses) provide structure while you reestablish your life in recovery. At a transitional house, you’ll likely have a curfew and meeting requirements, but your days will be free to find a job or go to school. Many transitional houses have staff that will help you through this process.
Preparing for Relapse
It’s important to recognize that relapse is a normal and expected part of recovery. No one wants to think that relapse will be part of their recovery process, but there’s no doubt that it’s extremely common.
By acknowledging that relapse is often part of the recovery process, you can be proactive about avoiding it. For example, you will learn through your recovery process how to look for warning signs of relapse. Identifying these changes to your patterns and behavior that indicate you might be at risk for relapse can help you intervene early.
If a relapse does occur, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. There’s no shame in relapsing; it’s just a part of the process. Getting help will ensure that you can get back on track as soon as possible.
Paying It Forward
Many people who are in longterm recovery find that they enjoy being involved in recovery communities. Once you’ve established your own life in recovery, you can be a source of inspiration for others. Speaking about your recovery process and showing how you’ve enjoyed life without drugs or alcohol can help others make progress as well.