There’s a lot more to recovering from addiction than just abstinence. A successful recovery requires creating a life in which you feel happier and more fulfilled without drugs and alcohol. That means creating a plan and sticking to it. Unfortunately, you can do a lot of things right in recovery and still stumble if you make one or two big mistakes. Here are some common pitfalls of addiction recovery and how to avoid them.
Thinking detox is all you need
Detox can be challenging and even dangerous. Many people who have detoxed from opioids have described it as the worst flu they’ve ever had, while severe detox from alcohol, the DTs, can cause seizures and sometimes death. Detox is where every recovery begins and it’s understandable that people become fixated on this daunting barrier to sobriety. They may even feel that if they can make it the week or two it takes to get through acute withdrawal, they’re home free. Unfortunately, detox is only the beginning. It is a major challenge and so it’s typically a good idea to detox under medical supervision and it’s also important to have a plan for what comes next.
Thinking you’re cured after treatment
Usually, treatment is what comes after detox. While these can be done separately, it may go more smoothly if detox and treatment are integrated. Treatment typically lasts 30 to 90 days. When you leave treatment, you will have done a lot of work, including therapy, education, building social skills and connections, improving family dynamics, and learning emotional regulation skills. Despite all this, it’s important to remember that treatment, too, is only a start. Research shows it takes an average of 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic. That means you have to be committed to practicing new skills and behaviors long after you leave a treatment program if you want them to stick.
Recovery is usually challenging at first but you are rewarded by seeing a lot of change. As the months go by, it gets easier but progress also slows. After nine to 12 months, many people start getting complacent. They feel like they have everything under control and they start neglecting various parts of their recovery plan. They may stop going to meetings or stop sharing at meetings. They may neglect prayer, meditation, or exercise. Eventually, cutting corners will catch up with you. You may start to feel negative, pessimistic, or depressed. These may be the early signs that you are heading for a relapse. When negative emotions start creeping in, it’s important to get back to basics and focus on your recovery plan and especially self-care. Make sure you’re taking care of the basics like sleeping enough, eating healthy, exercising regularly, and spending time with positive people.
Trying to go it alone
Having a strong social support network is one of the most important parts of recovery. A strong network reduces stress, helps you solve problems, gives you advice, and creates a sense of accountability. A social network built around recovery helps keep you on track when your motivation and energy inevitably wane. Therefore, having sober friends, going to 12-step meetings, and having family support are all important for recovery. If possible, it’s also important for your family to participate in treatment. It’s often said that addiction is a family disease. That’s partly because there’s a large genetic component to addiction and also because dysfunctional family dynamics, poor communication, and unstable boundaries all create an environment where addiction can grow. When the family participates in treatment, many of these factors can be addressed, creating a healthier family environment and making recovery easier.
Not treating co-occurring conditions
Studies have shown that about half of people with substance use disorders also have a co-occurring mental health issue. These include major depression, anxiety disorders, ADHD, PTSD, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, and personality disorders. All of these increase your risk of addiction to various degrees and treating them is crucial to overcoming a substance use disorder. However, some addiction treatment programs aren’t equipped to treat more serious mental health issues and some don’t address co-occurring mental health issues at all. And mutual aid societies, like AA and NA are not intended to provide help for mental illness, so many people who try to get sober with these programs alone are missing a major component of addiction treatment.
Having unrealistic expectations
It can be hard to balance expectations for addiction recovery. You have to expect your life to get better, else you won’t be willing to seek help. On the other hand, expecting too much too soon can lead to disappointment, negativity, and cynicism–what is sometimes called “stinking thinking.” The truth is that life will get better in recovery but it may take longer than you expect. As noted above, it takes an average of two months for a new behavior to become automatic and you will likely have several new behaviors to learn. Social connections are important but they also take time. It can be especially frustrating trying to convince others to give you another chance. Addiction can have a significant effect on your brain structure and chemistry and it may take a year or more for neurotransmitter levels to return to normal. You can’t rush any of this; you just have to be patient. If you expect to be in it for the long haul, you won’t be quite so frustrated by the slow pace of recovery.
At Fort Behavioral Health, we offer a safe, nurturing, and healing space for men and women to find recovery from the multifaceted disease of addiction. Our team believes in inspiring each client to face their challenges, discover the root of their problems, and reclaim their lives. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call us today at 844.332.1807 or contact us through our admissions page.