How to Recover from Addiction and Stay Sober for Good
If you’re interested in learning how to recover from addiction, you’ve already taken your first step.
The addiction recovery journey is not just about therapy, medication, self-love, exercise, community, relationships, or purpose–it’s all of it. Sobriety is a rough road, and a long one – and while there are several different addiction treatment programs and co-occurring disorders treatment programs, every person’s road ultimately looks a little different.
In this article, we’re taking a look at how to recover from addiction and stay sober.
How to Recover from Addiction
At its heart, addiction is a biopsychosocial disease. It affects the brain, changes the way it functions, affects the way it responds to certain neurotransmitters. It affects a person’s mental health, making them more susceptible to depressive and anxious episodes, and greatly increases the likelihood of a dual diagnosis. And it can be a terrible social bane, affecting everything from the company you keep to your financial struggles.
Addiction recovery requires that a person addresses all of these aspects, one by one, over the course of several years. If you suspect you might be struggling with one or more of the many signs and symptoms of alcoholism, consider reaching out to a mental health professional for help.
Here’s how to recover from addiction and stay sober.
The Road to Addiction Recovery is a Journey
Detox is only the beginning. The first step of any addiction recovery is to separate the patient from their addiction. As the body and brain detoxify, withdrawal kicks in. Joining a residential treatment program is a great place to start, as this provides a safe and sober environment where patients can focus on their health with the help of mental health professionals.
For some drugs, the process of withdrawal is more dangerous than others. Some patients experience a mild cold or flu, while others because sick to the point of nausea, and worse. In general, the greater a person’s sensitivity to a certain drug, as well as the higher their tolerance and usage, the more severe their withdrawal.
Once a person has been “clean” long enough to recover from the immediate effects of separating from their drug of choice, recovery has begun. Addiction, or substance use disorder, can be considered a brain disease.
While it is more than just purely neurobiological, there’s no denying that long-term drug use influences the brain, changing a person’s behavior and priorities. The first few months are generally the worst, as patients have recurring cravings, experience changes in mood and thought, and will continue to experience post-acute withdrawal symptoms.
But these thoughts, memories, cravings, and the risk for relapse remain for years after. That isn’t to say that addiction is “incurable”. It just means that treatment is, in a way, a lifelong process. Under most circumstances, a patient struggling with addiction isn’t going to find themselves in the hospital for the rest of their lives – but they will always structure some part of their life around consideration for their past, as everyone else does.
This is why joining an aftercare program is such an important part of the addiction recovery journey.
You Are Not Alone
Support plays an important part during the addiction recovery process. People with supportive friends, family, and mental health professionals are more likely to recover from addiction and avoid addiction-related problems.
There are a number of addiction recovery support options available to people, including addiction treatment programs, support groups, individual counseling, addiction hotlines, books written about addiction recovery, and more. In addition, people on the journey to addiction recovery often benefit by connecting with others who are also on the journey.
The social element of sobriety is absolutely necessary, as isolation and loneliness heavily contribute to relapses and the recurring iron grip that addiction has on some people’s lives.
Find a Routine That Works for You
Structure is not to be underestimated in the fight against addiction. Creating a schedule that works for you helps you keep yourself on a rigid daily structure, allowing you to keep your attention away from cravings and past memories, and focusing on creating a better future for yourself.
That doesn’t mean all work and no play. It means structuring your days and weeks to include your new hobbies and self-care habits as well – whether that’s a quick hike, meditation, a nice book, gaming with friends, or sports.
Relapses Might Happen
For many people, relapses aren’t a question of if but when. While it’s defeatist to expect a relapse, it’s also important to accept that they happen and that they’re part of the recovery process, rather than a badge of failure. Every relapse should teach you something about your sobriety.
On the other hand, this shouldn’t be used as an excuse to relapse for the same triggers and reasons again and again. Strive to get better at managing your weaknesses, and fortifying your strengths, by seeking support, going through outpatient or inpatient recovery programs, and getting professional help.
Don’t Underestimate Financial Stability
Addiction recovery is also financial recovery. Drugs and other addictive habits eat into your finances like nothing else, and like a self-fulfilling prophecy, poverty can be one of the strongest triggers for substance abuse issues and relapse. Creating financial stability and security can help you achieve and protect your long-term sobriety.
These can range from people to environments and can trigger anything from a latent memory you’d rather forget, to a deep and challenging craving.
While it’s healthy to confront and overcome some of these triggers in time, it’s also important to know when to avoid them, and for how long. Some battles must be fought in due time, rather than whenever they present themselves.
Addiction is not something most people defeat through sheer force of will. Some people overcome their substance use issues with much more ease than others, but that’s part of the complex nature of addiction. It doesn’t affect everyone equally, but it affects some people very strongly, and those people can’t will themselves into permanent sobriety.
Accepting that means knowing there will be times when you need to call for help and make it your responsibility to seek support rather than try to overcome an urge you can’t fight alone.
Healthy Body, Healthier Mind
Physical health and addiction are intertwined – as the addiction grows stronger, the body grows weaker, and as you regain your physical health, you’ll start to see better mood management, fewer cravings, and more control. More than just a matter of self-discipline, a healthier lifestyle can help your body and organs recover from drug use and can improve your brain chemistry.
You don’t have to transform into an athlete – a balanced diet and moderate exercise go a long way. However, for some people, athletic endeavors become an important coping mechanism, and a way to stick to the process, and stay committed.
At the end of the day, setbacks are to be expected on the road of sobriety. It helps to think of short-term goals, like reaching a month of sobriety, then two, three, half a year, your first year, and eventually much longer.
But for most people, that path isn’t linear, and chastising yourself for the long-term effects of your illness will only push you further and further away from progress. Every misstep and every break should count as a lesson, rather than a failure. Take your experiences to heart, learn from them, and grow through them.
It’s the basic things that end up being the most important. A roof over your head, people around that love you, good food, and purpose in life. Seek these out, don’t be afraid to ask for help, and keep looking forward to tomorrow.