When someone is trapped in the complex problems of drug abuse and addiction, the road to lasting recovery can seem impossible to even find, let alone walk. The individual has gone from choosing to use drug substances occasionally in order to deal with difficult aspects of their life to believing that they absolutely cannot function at all without these substances. They may even have gone from being a generally happy, healthy and successful individual to someone who has nothing and miserably believes that death is the only way out of the nightmare their life has become. Fortunately, true recovery can and does happen with the right tools and support.
Understanding Drug Addiction
The goal of full recovery is to restore the individual to the ability to live a healthy, productive life. In order to understand how to bring this about, one first needs to understand what drug substances are and how they affect the individual, dragging them into addiction.
Drugs are chemical substances that produce physiological changes. This is actually a key fact that few individuals truly understand. No matter whether the individual’s problem is physical, mental or emotional, and no matter whether it is minor or extensive, drug substances cannot resolve it. This can be clearly proven when one considers the cancer patient who takes painkillers – these drug substances are not actually resolving their cancer problems, they are simply suppressing the body’s ability to communicate about these problems.
When an individual decides that drug substances are useful to them in some way, they are essentially committing to the continued use of these substances, simply because the effects of drug use are temporary in nature. This normally doesn’t phase the individual because they feel that their drug use is completely under control and beneficial.
What the individual cannot see is how drug use is slowly but steadily deteriorating their state of normal. Drugs burn up important physical resources every time they are used, and the individual is not usually aware of this or compensating for it through extra nutrient ingestion. This essentially means that every time the individual comes down off drug use, they are actually coming down to a slightly lower state of normal than they had previously experienced. Not unlike removing a single straw from a huge haystack would go undetected, the subtle change in the individual’s sober normal is so minute as to go completely unnoticed. Over time, however, their normal can so deteriorate that even their highest drug high fails to boost them up to the point of normal they had experienced prior to beginning their drug use.
Unfortunately, by the time the individual recognizes that something is wrong, they often also believe that drugs are the only way they can function. This is largely due to the fact that their sober normal is so very uncomfortable that they cannot bear to deal with it, and continued drug use gives them just enough of a boost to make them feel like they can work through the day. However, when they feel that they cannot function without drug substances and they have the compulsive need to continue obtaining and using these substances, they are suffering from dependence and addiction problems and no longer have true control over their drug use or life.
It is not unusual for a drug addict to recognize that drugs are running and ruining their life, but the problem is that they quite literally feel that there is no possible way out. Even reducing their drug intake produces highly uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms and cravings they cannot face or resolve on their own. Needless to say, recovery is something they desperately need and desire, but have no understanding of how to attain.
The Process of Recovery
Individuals who are struggling with drug abuse and addiction problems can achieve full and lasting recovery through participation in professional drug rehabilitation treatment and application of the many skills and tools this treatment provides them. That said, in order to be successful, rehabilitation treatment has to consider two key things: it has to address all of the physical, mental and emotional causes and effects of drug use and it must be individualized to a person’s specific drug use situation and needs. This means that recovering from drug abuse and addiction is much more than simply abstaining from drug use for some period of time, and it also means that the treatment program that works wonderfully to help one individual recover may not work so well for another individual. An individual who is moving onto the path of recovery must understand that their discipline, commitment and perseverance are critical to their ability to take back control of their life and break their connection with drug use.
There are a variety of different treatment facilities, programs and services designed to meet a variety of different needs, including long-term residential treatment, short-term residential treatment, outpatient treatment, individual counseling, group counseling, holistic treatment and much more. The individual has a right and a responsibility to carefully research and find the program and services that will work best to their needs.
Regardless of the specific facility, program and services the individual selects, there are some basic steps that move the individual through to full recovery. The process of reaching full recovery includes the following important steps:
- Recognizing that one has a problem and needs help. It may be true that an individual cannot resolve their drug abuse and addiction problems on their own, but it is also true that taking back control of their life begins with the choice to do so. Some individuals believe that rehabilitation treatment does not have to be voluntary to be effective, and while this may have proven workable in some cases, one must also consider the real goal of such treatment. It is not actually the goal of treatment to force an individual into sobriety, largely because doing so does not guarantee that they will maintain this sobriety. The goal of treatment is to empower the individual to take back control of their own life, and make the changes necessary to abstain from drug use long into the future. An individual who refuses to admit they have a problem or that they need help can be assisted through intervention.
- Detoxification treatment to rid the body of residual drug toxins. Oftentimes it is the physical effects of drug use that keep the individual completely trapped in their addiction. Physical detoxification treatment works to help remove residual drug toxins that remain stored in the body and lead to future cravings and relapses. Establishing a better physical foundation helps the individual to move forward and address the mental and emotional aspects of their recovery.
- Counseling to help the individual get to the root of their drug use problems. Whether the individual remembers or is willing to face the root cause of their drug use problems, there always is one. This root cause must be addressed and resolved in order for the individual to take responsibility for their past and turn their attention to the future. Addressing the root causes for their initial drug use can also help them prevent the same things from pushing them to relapse in the future.
- Drug education that allows the individual to truly understand what drugs are and how they affect the human body. It has sometimes occurred that effective drug education causes an individual who is determined to “try” drugs to completely rethink this decision, and sometimes even stop an individual from continuing their drug use. An individual who is working through recovery from drug abuse and addiction can find that their better understanding of drugs is powerful enough that even when they are threatened by various relapse triggers they simply refuse to return to drug use.
- Life skills education to help the individual gain the skills and abilities they need to cope with and succeed in life. Whatever the individual’s reason for turning to drug use, it is clear that they lack the skills and abilities necessary to confidently cope with the obstacles and difficulties that arise in life. Without gaining these valuable life skills, the individual will be moving back into the same environments and routines that drove them into drug use in the first place without the tools they need to succeed in maintaining their sobriety.
- Aftercare support that aids the individual in smoothly transitioning back into their life environments and routines. While rehabilitation treatment programs should be very thorough in helping an individual recover from all the causes and effects of their drug use, the fact remains that it cannot anticipate every problem or difficulty that may arise for the individual in the future. Aftercare support can provide the individual with the additional support and encouragement they need to maintain their hard-won sobriety, no matter what difficulties may arise.
At some point after completing these steps to recovery, the individual will feel strong and confident about their ability to remain sober permanently. It may take some time, but it is well worth it to hold out and persist for this full recovery.
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