Substance addiction affects the lives of many people and has been around for centuries. Despite how commonplace addiction has always been, it has only been in the last 50 years or so that it has been considered to be a serious disease. Technology and research are still on the lookout for a cure. This begs the question, if there is no cure, what happens to the life of addicts? Can they ever really recover? This can be a hard question to answer as there are a lot of factors that play into how well someone can recover, but recovery is possible for those that reach out to and take advantage of the resources available and take remaining sober seriously.
Addiction can be a difficult disease to address, mostly because treatment is composed of so many different steps that need to be taken in order to become and stay clean. Deciding to get treatment is hard enough, as many addicts often must go through or incur many consequences (often referred to as a “rock bottom”) in order to even consider themselves as addicts, and even then they still might not want help. If they do decide to seek it, most addicts are then faced with needing detox. Detox can be a painful, uncomfortable experience and can last for up to a month or more before the body is able to reach homeostasis or a “normal” functioning level. Dr. David Sack, CEO of Promises Treatment Centers and Elements Behavioral Health stated, “The brain has tremendous capacity to heal, but it doesn’t heal quickly.” Dr. Joseph Lee, Medical Director of the Hazelden Youth Continuum, also stated that, “it takes a long time for the brain to recalibrate.” Aside from the physical, mental and emotional pain of detox, addicts must then start changing the ways that they behave and deal with life. This is usually done in many different ways varying from attending support meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), to finding a sponsor, to attending a variety of treatment facilities, or having to live in a sober living. The thing about recovery is that it looks different for each person in it and it doesn’t just end with detoxing from the substances or with minor stints in rehab.
True recovery often entails a plethora of resources that are actively used in a recovering addict’s life. Lead author Leonard Jason, a community psychologist at DePaul University, stated in an interview that, “Just getting people clean and releasing them to the social environments that helped encourage the substance use and other negative behaviors (such as crime) has been shown to be not effective”. Real recovery involves a total change of lifestyle, meaning that it is not just the substances that need to be addressed. Substance abuse is often just a layer over a larger issue. Counseling and support are often an essential part of the recovery process. Psychotherapy (individual, family, group, etc.) often helps addicts with changing their thoughts and behaviors around using which play a crucial role in whether or not an addict ends up relapsing. Addicts are often at high risk for relapse because, not only do they have a physical dependence on the drug, but psychological and social factors also contribute in providing powerful stimuli that cause an addict to want to use again. These could be simple things like managing stress, cues in the environment and social networks or connections. Obviously, relapsing is not always preventable but the more resources that a recovering addict has available to them and dare incorporate into their recovery plan, the less likely it is that relapse will occur.
Recovery is not a “one-size-fits-all” phenomenon, and building a plan that fits addicts individually is important. Sobriety is something that any addict can have based on the thoroughness of the plan that they build for themselves and the resources that they are able to seek out. Finding others who have maintained their sobriety and can offer support and advice surrounding how they were able to remain sober could also be helpful. It might take the combination of many different resources to make recovery possible but for those that find them, their lives are changed for the better.