Addiction is destructive and anyone who has an actively addicted loved one knows the pain and devastation that it causes. With opioid addiction specifically, more than 115 people in the United States die after overdosing on opioids every day. With statistics like these, chances are that almost everyone within the US knows someone who has been affected by this epidemic. Luckily, not all overdoses end in death and not all opiate addicts remain active in their addiction for life. Although opiate addiction is a progressive, chronic, and fatal disease, there are those who recover. These individuals not only recover sometimes but also go on to be contributing members of society, adding dynamic, valuable, and irreplaceable skills, strengths, and talents to the communities they serve.
Although there continues to be no cure for addiction, there are those who are able to maintain significant amounts of sober time. For each addict this process is different and relapses can be a common experience while the sufferer learns what works and what doesn’t. “You can’t just do one little thing to overhaul the damage that addiction does to you emotionally, mentally, physically and spiritually,” said Ivana Grahovac, who is the Director of Advancement for Facing Addiction, an advocacy group for people with drug addiction and their families. “You need to absolutely devote as much time and focus as possible to rebuilding and restructuring your entire self as you’re healing.” This healing journey can include many things and treatment may be a necessary part of it. Asking for medical advice or seeking medical consultation on what type of treatment is needed is recommended for anyone who is trying to become clean. Once treatment is complete, however, the process is not over. AA or NA support groups are highly encouraged to help keep opiate addicts active in their recovery process. It is also recommended that addicts find sponsors and start working a 12 step model program.
Rachel (last name left out for anonymity), a 24 year old recovering addict, had tried attending a few counseling sessions but did not attend the support meetings that were recommended to her for her recovery. She thought that the handful of treatment sessions would cure her – a fairly common misperception of how addiction actually works. Addiction has no cure and symptoms can only be managed over time, similar to diabetes or a chronic disease, in that symptoms have to be consistently monitored. Rachel stated later, “This whole time I didn’t realize what addiction was. I feel like there is a real lack of education that this kind of thing can happen to you”. Continually checking in with symptoms can help provide valuable information to what is working or what is missing in an addict’s recovery process. If sobriety is continually maintained, addicts can go on to have healthy and successful lives. Grahovac additionally started an addiction support group for college students that continually expanded to over 160 campuses nationwide. “There are students on these campuses who kicked addiction and went through the worst of it, and now they’re the best students in their classes”, stated Grahovac, who now has been sober for over 12 years.
Addiction does not discriminate; anyone from any walk of life can become afflicted with this progressive disease. However, just as anyone can become susceptible to it, anyone can also become sober from it with the right tools. Seeking out medical consultation and opinions is a good place to start. If treatment is needed, it is strongly encouraged to make sure that a plan is put in place for when the treatment ends. Just because treatment is over does not mean that addiction is cured. Support groups, working with a sponsor, and eventually working a 12 step program are highly recommended. Addiction may be unavoidable but recovering from it is always possible.