According to an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), five specific rules can help those suffering from a Substance Use Disorder (SUD) to focus on their recovery. Understanding that recovery is a lifelong process and following these simple rules can help protect against relapse. Cravings for the substance, whether it be drugs and/or alcohol, are a normal part of recovery. Developing coping skills to deal with cravings, triggers and life after treatment is the greatest protection one can have against relapse.
Change Your Life
Creating an environment to thrive in is imperative to maintaining recovery, as it makes it easier not to use substances or be tempted to use them. Simply stopping the use of drugs and/or alcohol is not how one achieves recovery. Instead, recovery is changing your life. When you don’t change your life, environment, or peer groups, the temptation to use substances is still there. If you do not remove yourself from these tempting settings and situations, then recovery can be challenging to maintain. All of the factors that led to the addiction to drugs and/or alcohol are still present and therefore continue to challenge your recovery. Ending friendships, moving to a different location, and even cutting off family members who are actively using may be actions necessary to maintain your sobriety.
Most people begin their road to recovery hoping things in their lives will not have to change. Treatment allows them to realize that going back to their old lives is essentially going back to the addiction. The idea of change is hard for most people and can be overwhelming. Changing one’s life does not have to entail changing every single thing. However, evaluating negative influences, tempting situations, and triggers are imperative when seeking to create a positive environment in which recovery can flourish. Moving away from negative past experiences and influences creates a foundation upon which one can move forward, towards a happier and healthier existence. Recovery is an opportunity for a positive change. Perceiving it that way is crucial for those recovering from addiction.
Be Completely Honest
Keeping up with an addiction requires lying, hiding, denying, and planning. Those with SUDs lie about obtaining drugs and/or alcohol, hide substances and addiction, deny any consequences due to the use of substances, and secretly plan their next use. Eventually, the lying is internalized, at which point those struggling with addiction begin lying to themselves. Practicing honesty is an exercise that those in recovery are challenged to do consistently. Honesty can be uncomfortable, particularly when someone in recovery is talking about past lies and admitting to past behaviors. The beauty of recovery, however, is that no one is alone. Witnessing the honesty of others often provides the courage necessary to do the same.
In certain instances, honesty can literally save a life. Hearing the vulnerability of others sharing honestly about cravings to use can create feelings of safety and support for others to discuss their experiences with these feelings. Learning to connect and relate to others, recognizing that thoughts of using are normal, no longer feeling alone, and becoming willing to accept support are monumental moments in the recovery process.
Ask for Help
Asking for help is directly related to being honest. Many people try to recover from their addiction on their own, but research shows that recovery is most successful when done in a group setting. The most effective combination for recovery is utilizing a treatment center and subsequent attendance to group therapy. Since guilt and shame are common emotions faced as a result of addiction, group settings help those struggling to realize they are not alone. Furthermore, seeing others in recovery and hearing similar stories creates empathy for others, and in turn, for themselves. Group settings provide a judgment-free place for those suffering from SUDs, to be honest, air their struggles, and ask for help.
People often begin using drugs and/or alcohol to reward themselves, to escape the stressors of their lives, or to simply relax. Those in recovery need to find healthy alternatives to meet these needs. Self-care is often difficult for those struggling with addiction and/or recovery. Experiencing feelings of self-criticism and shame/guilt for past behaviors may leave them thinking they are undeserving of this kind of attention. It is important to note that self-care is not selfish. Learn to love yourself and care for your needs, as you would another person, is imperative. While practicing self-care and growing self-love isn’t easy, it is absolutely crucial to sustaining recovery. Meditation and relaxation in the form of yoga, massages, or even bubble baths can be fun starting points. Personal needs and self-care routines will grow and evolve with the recovery process. Remember that it will get easier. You are worth it, and you deserve love and care.
Don’t Bend the Rules
After someone has been in recovery for an extended period of time, they may begin feeling overly confident in their ability to stay sober, or even start questioning the severity of their addiction in the first place. Mental obsessions may begin, convincing them that they don’t need to engage in recovery activities or that there is a safe and successful way to use drugs and/or alcohol again. Thoughts like these can happen to anyone, regardless of how long they have been in recovery. Relapse is experienced even after 10 or 20 years of sobriety. Denying addiction is a dangerous path and often leads to using drugs and/or alcohol again. Unfortunately, SUDs are progressive. Regardless of time spent sober, when someone chooses to drink and/or use again, this often means picking up exactly where they left off and getting progressively worse.
Looking for Help?
Staying focused on what is important during recovery involves many components. Changing your life, being honest with yourself and others, asking for help when you need it, and practicing self-care are vital factors to sustaining recovery from drugs and/or alcohol. At Fort Behavioral Health, we understand the multi-faceted faces of addiction and how each individual path to recovery requires a personalized approach. We offer a safe and nurturing space to make the changes necessary for your long-lasting road to recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to drugs and/or alcohol, call us today at 844.332.1807.