Recovery Never Ends

Recovery Never Ends

The recovery process for a drug use disorder is complex, in part because it varies heavily from individual to individual. While addiction is recognized as a chronic illness, careful management can lead to lasting sobriety. But it’s important to recognize that careful management for what it really is – hard work, on a daily basis.

The recovery process never ends, but that’s not a bad thing. Rather than a curse or a hindrance, it’s important to think of it in the context of recovery often being nothing more than a collective effort to live a better, healthier, more conscious life. While there is a therapeutic and psychiatric side to treating addiction, the recovery process goes beyond the therapist’s office, beyond the walls of a rehab clinic, and beyond the rooms and halls of a sober living home.

To understand why recovery never ends, it’s important to understand what addiction is, and how critical a change in lifestyle and thinking is to lasting sobriety.


Addiction as a Chronic Disorder

Addiction is widely considered a progressive condition, triggered by internal and external factors that nourish the compulsive use and overuse of addictive substances, often with catastrophic physical, mental, and social consequences (and often despite these consequences, until death).

Addiction is as ancient as we are, yet its history in medical literature largely traces back to the days when powerful opioids like morphine were used for medication, until doctors began to realize a trend of self-destructive overconsumption in their patients. Since it was discovered that morphine has these powerful properties, other drugs have since been discovered and researched for the same phenomenon, including substances like cocaine, amphetamines, and tranquilizers.

What these drugs all have in common is the way they interact with dopamine and other similar neurotransmitters in the brain, and the way they interact with certain regions of the brain – particularly the regions affected by the limbic system, most notably including the hippocampus and amygdala.

Long-term use in some cases leads to changes in these systems, largely driven by a feedback loop created through repeated use. In other words, the more a person consumes an addictive drug, the more likely they are to get addicted, and the brain plays a role in making all this possible.

External factors also play a large role. Certain people are far more at risk for an addiction than others, particularly because they are either more likely to gain access to drugs/be exposed to drugs, or because they have a powerful psychological reason to use drugs (as a way to mask pain, either physical or emotional). These risk factors include race, socioeconomics, physical conditions like chronic pain, and psychiatric conditions like major depressive disorder and schizophrenia.

Recovery must address both problems, by providing alternative forms of coping, by treating underlying disorders and conditions, by allowing the brain to heal through a long period of sobriety and careful medical attention, and by providing structure in a person’s life through a stable support system, steady income, and a sense of purpose.


Recovery is More Than Rehab 

The rehab process is often a critical part of recovery, as it is often a person’s first real experience with a drug-free safe space since they’ve become addicted. Rehab aims to help jumpstart the long-term recovery process in a person by helping them through the initial challenges of withdrawal and early sobriety, while preparing them for the many challenges yet to come.

Most rehab programs last for only a month or two, but recovery doesn’t stop there. While some manage to get back on their feet after a single stint in rehab, there’s much to explore within the first year or so of recovery that isn’t explored in rehab. Sober living homes represent another opportunity for recovering addicts to continue their recovery in a drug-free and supportive environment.

However, it’s about more than just staying away from drugs. Working against addiction means identifying the factors that continue to enable a person, whether they are psychological, social, or even physical. Addictive drugs trigger addiction by virtue of their own chemistry, but an extended period spent away from drugs often helps dispel that portion of the problem.

What is left, then, is the psychological craving for drugs that remains after months or years spent chasing the high as a way to escape any number of potential negative feelings. Going sober often means confronting many of these feelings, and that’s a process that realistically takes years to thoroughly undergo.

In order to really overcome an addiction, a person has to essentially identify all the ways in which drug use has helped them avoid addressing the problems they’ve had with themselves and the world around them, and then find alternative forms of coping, to continue dealing with upcoming challenges and find ways to manage the stress of everyday life.


Finding Ways to Support Long-Term Sobriety 

One aspect of recovery is a strong starting foundation – seeking professional help in your most vulnerable moments is hard, but necessary for many. It’s very difficult to find lasting sobriety without help, and professional help is often the most competent and reliable for people struggling heavily with chronic relapses and addiction.

But long-term support through professional means isn’t realistic, nor ideal. Not everyone can afford to spend a significant portion of their lives going to therapy or being surrounded by addiction experts – nor would most want to. However, help is important. Some days are better than others, but we need to rely on those we trust the most on our worst days to keep us sober and sane.

Friends and family play a critical role here as our primary caregivers and therapists in the long-term, providing anything from an ear to talk to, to a shoulder to cry on, or a bed to sleep in.

Having sober communities to be in helps as well. From virtual communities online where it’s possible to catch up and speak on a daily basis, to scheduled yet infrequent meetings and get togethers, having sober friends you stay in touch with is important as a way to not only remind yourself to maintain your own sobriety, but help others. This, in turn, can help you.


It Never Ends, But It Does Change

Eventually, recovery becomes life – but in a good way. Being a part of a loving family can be a crucial part of the recovery process. Achieving greater success at your dream job can be an important part of the recovery process. Setting new goals, overcoming personal challenges, and even failing in the face of overwhelming odds and deciding to try again can all be important parts of recovery.

Because addiction is so overwhelming and encompassing, its treatment can be encapsulated as a healthier approach towards life – starting out with psychiatric treatment and professional help, but leading to a long-term recovery process defined by loving friends and relatives, and lasting meaning.

When Is an Intervention Necessary?

When Is an Intervention Necessary - Transcend Recovery

An estimated 90 percent of interventions are effective, in that they inspire the person to seek help and make a real effort to seek treatment.

While these are promising numbers, it’s important to note that interventions can still be difficult and draining events – and as the numbers imply, they don’t always work, and there’s the risk that it could backfire and further alienate a loved one rather than drawing them in and convincing them that they need help.

Among the many considerations one should have before staging an intervention, a crucial one is to consider when an intervention is appropriate to begin with. You don’t need to wait for a loved one to hit their total rock bottom before you call for help.

However, picking the wrong moment can make future attempts less effective.

To understand when an intervention is necessary, and when it does little more than just deepen the mistrust between you and your loved one, it’s important to know what interventions are and what they are not.


What Counts as an Intervention?

At its heart, an intervention is an attempt to convince a loved one that they have a problem they need to address, and that the only way to get through to them would be to stage an event wherein numerous other witnesses have to come forth to help vouch for the fact that everyone feels this person has become a danger to themselves and those around them.

In the context of drug addiction, an intervention should only occur after other avenues have been explored, to no avail.

Most notably, interventions become a potential means of helping someone overcome denial after they choose to deny their behavior and ignore the facts during a one-on-one discussion.

It’s important for an intervention to skirt the line between forcefully creating an opportunity for discussion and turning into a demeaning ambush.

While interventions are never pleasant, their effectiveness ultimately hinges on how much the targeted loved one can be convinced that they have truly been acting recklessly.

The specifics differ from case to case. Sometimes, interventions are strictly a family affair. At times, it’s just the person’s friends who decide to stage the intervention. Sometimes, interventions are formally planned with the help of a professional interventionist to guide the way and avoid potentially ruinous missteps.

And other times, they’re scheduled and planned on a whim, and executed in an entirely ad-hoc manner.


When Are Interventions Necessary?

An intervention is necessary when it’s clear that a loved one desperately needs help, either when they’re on the cusp of causing serious and irremediable damage, or after it’s clear that they’re unwilling to quit despite numerous severe consequences.

Other examples include:

  • When their drug habit is causing physical damage to themselves or others.
  • When they’re losing work over their drug habit or have already lost employment as a result of drug use.
  • When it’s clear they can’t stop or can’t stay sober for longer than a few days.
  • When it’s apparent that they aren’t going to try and get professional help, or when they deny that they have a problem at all.
  • When they continue to lie and try to argue that their problem is not that bad or cover up their use in an attempt to get family members off their backs.
  • When they’re experiencing severe financial pressure as a result of an expensive drug habit.
  • When they’re beginning to engage in immoral or criminal activity to try and support their habit.


Get Professional Help

More than just providing a basic guideline, a professional interventionist can walk you through the step-by-step process of planning, setting up, and executing an intervention, as well as helping you with the crucial follow-up afterwards.

A professional can also help your loved one understand the extent of the damage they’ve done to themselves and others. More than just a voice of reason, a professional interventionist can approach the problem from the clinical side and explain how treatment works.

Oftentimes, denial is rooted in the fear of being labeled an addict. By understanding what addiction is and how it can be treated, your loved one might feel more ready to accept treatment.

If the intervention goes south and things get heated, an interventionist knows how to de-escalate the situation and play the critical role of mediator between the rest of the family and the target person, facilitating a healthier and more effective approach.

Professionals can also help families handle problems and situations they would have no real way of handling otherwise.

This is particularly helpful in cases where the person in question has exhibited suicidal thoughts or tendencies, has a history of becoming violent, struggles with other mental health issues, or takes several different powerful mood-altering drugs.


Following Up After an Intervention

The follow up is important after an intervention, as it helps you effectively guide your loved one toward fulfilling their promises to you and the family – provided you fulfill yours, as well.

An intervention doesn’t begin and end in a single day – it’s a process, one that starts at the event itself but one that should be felt throughout the entire recovery process, in the form of helping a loved one form a support network and provide crucial help throughout their sobriety.


What If It Fails?

Interventions don’t always work, and it’s important to consider what to do if they fail. The first thing to note is that it’s important to try again eventually, and with a different approach.

If a loved one tries to barter or compromise – perhaps promising to only turn down their habit, or try in some other way to avoid going through with full-blown treatment – it’s important to refuse, and make it very clear that there is no compromise to be had here.

If you didn’t work with a professional the first time, heavily consider doing so for the second time. They may be able to help point out what went wrong the first time, and help you achieve better results.

Interventions are draining, and tricky. Getting them right the first time is certainly great, but not always an option.

Nevertheless, families shouldn’t give up on their loved ones. Addiction is a tricky illness to tackle, and you can’t tackle it alone. Perseverance and patience are important.

The Most Common Excuses Used to Avoid Recovery

Most Common Excuses To Avoid Recovery

Addiction recovery is not easy. Many struggle for months before they are at peace with their recovery. Some go for years. But while treatment can feel ineffective or long-winded, the reality is different.

Addiction treatment is effective – but few people opt to go through with it. When forced, addiction treatment rarely sticks – but the motivation to get sober is complex and takes more than just an addict’s willingness to improve.

Nevertheless, of all the barriers to treatment, perhaps the one families struggle most with is a loved one’s unwillingness to get help.

There are many excuses when it comes to not seeking help, but none of them should dissuade you from doing the best you can for your loved one.


“It’s Not an Addiction” 

Denial is one of the most common early obstacles in convincing a loved one to get help. No one wants to admit to an addiction – although we understand that addiction is a disease, to personally get addicted still feels like a failure, a judgment of our character and morals. Society still does a good job of making addiction feel that way, as well, as addiction continues to be attached to a considerable amount of stigma.

If you wish to convince someone to get help, it’s important to first understand their point of view. Being in denial of an addiction doesn’t necessarily mean the person hasn’t realized that their behavior indicates an addiction – instead, they’re unwilling to accept the label of addict. Sometimes, all it takes to convince someone to get help is to convince them that they aren’t being judged for what they’ve done. It’s an illness, a treatable one, one that often occurs due to circumstances and factors far out of a person’s control. Like any unfortunate disease, professional treatment is important.


“But Treatment is Too Expensive”

Convincing someone to do something isn’t about enforcing your own will. It’s about unraveling all the reasons someone doesn’t want to do something, and then working through them one by one. It’s not manipulation, it’s not abusive – it’s a simple matter of eliminating obstacles that a person sets for themselves.

Cost is a big one. Treatment is expensive – but the alternative is often far pricier. Maintaining an addiction can be cripplingly expensive, and unreasonably difficult. Then there’s the emotional and financial impact of losing a loved one, which is immeasurable. While treatment is pricey, it’s worth it for the amount of time and money it saves a family in the future, giving them plenty more time with their loved one.


“I Can’t Afford to Spend Time Away from Work”

It’s unreasonable to expect someone to easily part with something that gives then purpose and meaning. To many people, especially providers and breadwinners, their job is an integral part of their identity – it may even be the sole aspect of themselves that they cling to now, and it’s an important one. Regardless of what life we live, we need some meaning.

Convincing someone to get treatment when they’re still employed involves convincing them that they aren’t giving up their position as a crucial provider – they’re merely taking a needed break. In fact, work is an important part of recovery.

A tool wears out with use, and in many cases, it’s easy to see oneself as an important cog in the family without considering how a life like that can grind one down into nothingness. We all need time to ourselves, and an addiction might be a good indicator that getting help and taking some pressure off of life can bring much good in the long-term.


“This is a Personal Problem, I Don’t Need Professional Help”

Trust for doctors and rehab centers is often not necessarily high, and an addict paranoid about their behavior and about the consequences of labeling their drug use would feel threatened by the idea of outside intervention. There’s a tendency to keep personal and private matters ‘in the family’, even when professional help is called for.

Convincing a family member that their actions are hurting others and that getting real help is the only viable answer is important. To someone who wants to keep their problems private, family is often still important. They need or understand that what they’re doing isn’t just harming them, but those who care about them.


“What I Have Can’t Be Treated/I’ve Tried Getting Better” 

Addiction can’t be treated on its own, and real addiction can’t be treated by going cold turkey and just avoiding life until the ‘bad thoughts’ go away. Addiction treatment is an involved process that takes serious psychological and social rehabilitation, helping an individual completely relearn what it means to live a fulfilling sober life.


“I’m Not as Bad As X!”

Some people might redirect any accusations of addiction by pointing at someone with greater struggles, as though a harder experience with addiction someone cancels out their own problems. While it’s true that some people have it harder than others, you shouldn’t wait until you hit ‘rock bottom’ before you seek help. Contrary to popular belief, a person doesn’t need to hit their very worst moment to get the help they need.

The earlier addiction is treated, the better the chances of a swift recovery process. It still takes time, but the effects of addiction are more easily reversed if they aren’t as deep-seated. The longer someone struggles with drug use, the longer it takes for the brain to completely recover.


“It’s My Choice/I’m Not Hurting Anyone Else”

It is their choice. But by choosing to continue their habit, they aren’t choosing only for themselves. Addiction affects everyone, especially those closest to the addict. It’s extremely hard to watch someone you love tear themselves apart, and no matter what role an addict plays in their family, addiction can be an extreme burden both emotionally and financially.

A single case of addiction can tear an entire family apart, as some people scramble to protect and even unwittingly enable their loved one, while others work vehemently to try and get them the help they need, creating a deep rift and sowing mistrust that often lasts for years to come.

The choice to get help isn’t one made only out of self-preservation – it should also be made out of a sense of accountability towards those you love.

How Much Does My Addiction Cost?

How Much Does My Drug Addiction Cost

Drug use is not cheap – far from it, in fact. One of the reasons drug addiction is so ruinous is because getting addicted is often tantamount to financial suicide, even for the well-off.

Without meticulous financial planning, it’s easy to blow the majority of your money on a habit you cannot control, and cannot stop – and addicts use as per their economic capabilities, choosing pricier drugs when they have the finances to do so, and choosing cheaper drugs when they struggle to rub two cents together.

This is one of the reasons crime is often linked to addiction – not only is drug use and drug possession criminalized, but many have to turn to crime as the only viable way to continue to support their habit after several ruinous years of addiction have led to the dissolution of a career, and the loss of any saved up finances.

Yet exactly how much does addiction cost? The costs associated with drug use go far and beyond the financial, although that alone is staggering enough to make it worth a hefty mention.

The price of drug use varies immensely from drug to drug, and for every drug, there are varying degrees of purity and substance quality. Those with more money can choose higher quality stuff – those with less money often must resort to sharing needles, buying drugs cut with dangerous fillers, and risking their lives for a quick and potentially fatal fix.


The Price of Drug Use

Some drugs are more expensive than others, but no drug habit is cheap. From expensive stimulants like quality cocaine, to the cost of a hefty marijuana habit, to the massive expenses of nursing an opioid addiction, to the costs of the everyman drug, alcohol – there is no shortage of ways in which an addiction can rob someone of every potential dollar.


Prescription Drugs

Prescription drugs are arguably the most expensive, particularly for those hooked on prescription pain pills. The estimated annual cost for a prescription pain pill addiction can range anywhere from abut $3,500 a year to over $70,000 a year, depending on the drug used, the quality of the drug, and whether it’s obtained ‘legitimately’ or through the streets.



Heroin isn’t much cheaper, commanding costs of up to $54,000 a year. Users that are in deep will often spend well over a $100 a day on a fix, with a single dose costing up to $20. Heroin can cost up to $500 per pure gram. The cheaper the heroin, the more dangerous it is, as it’s often cut with any number of additives from baby powder to the deadly fentanyl.



Known as one of the priciest drugs on the market, pure cocaine commands a price of up to $150 per gram, although most cocaine addicts buy it at lower purity levels, with costs ranging from $80 to $100. Every gram can be further cut into about 25-30 portions, or about ten lines.

Cocaine is snorted, although some later turn to injecting it to get a stronger high with less substance. This, in turn, raises the risks of an overdose. Someone with a serious cocaine addiction can consume well over a gram a day, totaling over $36,000 a year – although most spend less.



While legal, the cost of booze is still significant, and varies extremely. Some might exclusively consume fine wines, yet still be an alcoholic, with costs totaling well over $10,000 a year. On the other hand, many self-reported heavy drinkers (distinct from alcoholism) reportedly spend anywhere from $4,500 to $6,000 annually, without being addicted.

For those with fewer resources, cheap liquor, home brewed beer, and moonshine, as well as surrogate alcohol items such as mouthwash, hand sanitizer, aftershave, or antifreeze can nurture an addiction.

The average costs don’t accurately reflect any given case, as an addict can spend anywhere from a few thousand dollars to over $100,000 on their habit in any given year, depending on the drug and how severely they have been abusing it.

Many struggle with an addiction to not only one but several substances, complicating the price. Furthermore, the cost of illicit substances change, and availability changes as well, affecting the final calculation.

For many families, however, the costs of addiction are not only serious, but ruinous.


The Healthcare Costs

The estimated societal costs of drug addiction are very high.

Tobacco and alcohol rank among the two most expensive and devastating drugs in the United States, killing the most people as a result of smoking and drinking-related illness (480,000 and 88,000 people respectively) and costing a total of over half a trillion dollars in economic costs, calculated as productivity costs, legal expenses, medical expenses, and accident-related expenses.

Illegal drug abuse accounts for roughly $193 billion lost, while the costs of prescription drug use total at $78.5 billion.

Not accounted for in these calculations are the healthcare costs of drug-related HIV and hepatitis cases, the healthcare costs of the effects of addiction on children during fetal stages, the costs of drug-fueled unemployment, homelessness, and crime, as well as the non-financial costs of losing thousands every year to drug overdose deaths.


The Psychological Cost

Drug addiction is heavily linked to the development of mental health problems, either as a result of the neurological damage caused by long-term drug abuse, or because a significant portion of people affected by mental health conditions seek drugs as a form of self-medication, often inadvertently worsening their condition.

The long-term cost of drug use plays out in the form of mental and psychological deficits, as people struggling with drug addiction often also struggle with cognitive problems as a result of their addiction.

Abstinence and long-term sobriety can help the brain heal, but some damage is permanent. Drug-related disability is particularly common among former heroin addicts, as a non-fatal overdose can lead to paralysis as a result of brain damage.

Other causes of disability and paralysis include drug-induced strokes, from alcohol or cocaine, as well as injuries caused while under the influence.


Rehab Is Much Cheaper

It is estimated that the cost of drug addiction versus the cost of rehab is about 7 to 1 on average. Even in cases where the addiction was short-lived, intervening with a treatment plan often means not only saving a family hundreds of thousands of dollars, but saving the life of a loved one.

Without treatment and management, many addictions one day lead to overdose, and death.

The costs of drug use involve more than just money. Drug addiction can rob a person of their family, their job, their purpose, and their will to live. Many begin using at a young age and can’t quit for a number of financial and psychological reasons. Others are stuck in a cycle of abstinence and relapse.

Addiction must be addressed in the long-term, giving addicts a way to avoid temptation and focus on their recovery, and develop the tools to deal with relapses in a productive and healthy way.

Sober living homes provide one such opportunity, differing from traditional rehab programs by giving recovering addicts the option to stay in the drug-free facility for as long as needed.

What If I Try to Quit but Can’t? Don’t Fear Failure

What If I Try to Quit but Can't Don't Fear Failure

The most effective treatment for addiction is time. It takes time to heal from the effects of drug dependence. It takes time for the effects of therapy to settle properly. It takes time for the lessons and treatments applied in rehab to truly stick. And within said time, trying not to relapse can be one of the hardest things a recovering addict will ever have to do.

If you or someone you love is struggling to stay sober, then take heart in the fact that you aren’t alone. An estimated 24 million Americans struggle with substance dependence, and it’s a disease that doesn’t let itself be treated easily. Rather than see it as something that can be cured, think of addiction as a chronic illness that requires consistent and ongoing treatment and management.

Rehab is a good first step, but it’s important to think more into the long-term and consider other treatment options – like therapy and sober living homes – as a way to continue to manage symptoms past the first few months of recovery.

It’s not that the decision to quit is one you make in a single day. It’s a decision you make every day. And some days, that decision is much harder to make than on other days.

Continuing to stay sober against all odds is a difficult game where you must take advantage of every possible avenue you have for treatment – from avoiding old triggers and friends, to staying at a temptation-free sober living community, taking up new hobbies to relearn how to live without drugs, making new sober friends, and burying yourself in your work. Even then, it doesn’t always work. There may be slip-ups and relapses. But it’s important to know that that’s okay – as long as you’re committed to getting back up on to the horse.


It’s Not A Race

The only way to fail in recovery is to give up. There is no deadline, no minimum requirement for success, no metric by which anyone scores your recovery progress or tries to compare how you’re doing versus how others are doing.

Recovery by its very definition implies healing, and that takes a certain amount of time – an amount of time that differs from one person to the next. In another context, the recovery process is indefinite, as there is no reliable way to tell that an addict has successfully ‘finished’ recovery.

Don’t worry if you’re still struggling to stay sober or have cravings. Don’t worry about being tempted in the presence of alcohol or drugs. These are normal feelings, even for recovering addicts with several years under their belt.

If you feel these feelings are overpowering, avoid their triggers at all costs. If you feel they’re challenging, but manageable, then consider how far you’ve come since day one to be able to feel that way.

There is no race to the finish line, if there even is a finish line at all. Instead, take the recovery process on one day at a time. Don’t judge your progress by how long it’s taken you to get to where you are, but by asking yourself how you feel today.


Let Go of Anxiety

Once you start on the path of recovery and treatment, the fear of falling back can become immensely pressuring – to the point that you find yourself stressed out over your own thoughts.

It’s good to be enthusiastic about your own progress but obsessing over potential mistakes only leads to a pessimistic and negative outlook, leading you to believe that you’ve got no chance at long-term sobriety because it’s just too hard, or unreachable.

Therapy can help dismantle this outlook and help you snap yourself out of a funk when you’re feeling particularly negative. Talk therapy can also help you identify symptoms that might have masqueraded as part of your addiction, while instead being a separate co-occurring disorder. Anxiety disorders and depressive disorders, for example, can drastically hamper and even prevent recovery unless treated concurrently.


Beware of Triggers

Cravings and other feelings aren’t just a part of early recovery, but can be triggered by people, places, sounds, smells, and other things. Identifying these triggers and removing them from your life is an important part of the first year.

As you grow more confident in your sobriety, and as you establish a stronger sober life for yourself, these triggers will begin to bother you less. But for the first few months – and in some cases, the first few years – they can quickly derail your efforts.


Don’t Fear Failure: It’s Okay to Struggle & Relapse

If it were easy, it wouldn’t be a problem. One of the main reasons why the shift towards recognizing addiction as a disease in the eyes of the public is so important is because, until we acknowledge that addiction is a medical issue, it won’t be addressed adequately.

Overcoming an addiction isn’t easy. It isn’t uncommon for recovering addicts to struggle with cravings and feel tempted in moments of doubt and frustration even years after pledging themselves to sobriety.

And while it’s common for addicts to punish themselves and feel worthless after a relapse, the statistics are pretty clear: relapses are common. So common, in fact, that they’re not an indication of failure, but rather an indication that a recovering addict has a long road ahead of them.

In that sense, it’s important to recognize that struggling to stay sober is just another part of the recovery process, and that some mistakes and slip-ups will happen, if only to remind the recoveree to get back into recovery, address a trigger they were not aware of in the past, or remind them that staying clean can be a life-long challenge.

Like any chronic illness, addiction must be managed rather than cured. There is no cure for addiction, but there are plenty of ways to help manage it and reduce its effects on your life. You may struggle, you may stumble, and there may be moments when you’re fully doubting your ability to get clean and stay clean.

But these moments don’t have to spell the end of your recovery process.

Why Should You Choose A Women’s Sober Living Home?

Women's Sober Living

When it comes to addiction – from epidemiology to treatment – gender matters. The facts show that men and women get addicted differently, to different drugs, at different rates, and for different reasons.

This translates into having a direct effect on treatment, where women and men respond differently to certain circumstances and approaches.

As the message of addiction as a treatable illness continues to spread through society, it’s important to follow that up with the clarification that each and every individual deserves a unique treatment that best fits their needs.

Part of ensuring that a person gets the right treatment for their addiction involves accounting for the differences in their experience as a result of their gender.

Women’s sober living homes present an opportunity to address the unique needs that women in recovery possess, serving to help them overcome the challenges of early recovery, avoid relapses in the first months of sobriety, and equip them with the tools they need to continue the recovery process at home and in regular life.


Women Face Unique Challenges in Addiction

Men and women are biologically and socially different, and these factors greatly affect how and why men and women struggle differently with addiction. But first, a primer.

An addiction begins in the brain. When a person takes a drug, the drug travels through their bloodstream into the brain, where it affects the way they think by affecting the way chemicals naturally produced by the brain are released. This can cause feelings of euphoria and other emotions, generally known as a high.

Once this wears off, the urge to go for round #2 immediately presents itself. Yet it is only after several rounds that the brain begins to genuinely struggle without the drug, causing what is understood as dependence.

This is where the brain generally stops functioning properly without a continued supply of drugs, and it’s the crux of why addiction is a brain disease, rather than a matter of choice.

Addiction is a progressive illness, which means it gets worse over time. It’s also an illness described in stages, beginning with initiation, then escalation, then maintenance, then withdrawal, and finally, relapse. The timeframe for this process is highly individual.

Women face unique issues in matters of addiction because the numbers show that they get addicted much faster than men do, on account of certain neurobiological sex differences. Other differences include:

• Women are more likely to experience a pleasurable response from an addictive substance.
• Women are more likely to self-medicate using addictive drugs.
• Women escalate their drug use at a more rapid pace than men.
• Women stabilize at higher doses than men do (women who struggle with addiction use more drugs than male addicts).
• Women are at a higher risk for drug-related side effects.
• Women experience withdrawal symptoms much more severely than men do, and experience greater levels of stress during withdrawal.
• Women are more likely to relapse than men.

The differences change from drug to drug. For example, women experience fewer withdrawal symptoms from alcohol than men. They also use smaller doses of synthetic opioids.

They are more likely to end up in the ICU, yet fewer women use drugs than men. Women who use opioids tend to be younger than men, and less likely to inject the drug. Those that do inject are likely to do so under peer pressure from sexual partners and social circles.

Women drink less than men but are swiftly catching up. Among adolescents, women’s drinking habits are ahead of men. Nevertheless, the risks of alcohol use weigh more heavily against women than men – women are disproportionately victimized in alcohol-related crimes.

Women report illegally using stimulants for functional reasons rather than recreational purposes (better performance at school or work, more energy, weight loss) while men are more likely to use stimulants for fun.

A higher level of estrogen means women get addicted to stimulants faster than men do, and at a younger age, yet they are more likely to complete meth addiction treatment than male counterparts, and are not as likely as men to suffer from cognitive side effects as a result of cocaine use.


Other Factors

The previous factors point to just how different male and female experiences can be in addiction, yet they account largely for biological factors.

Many social factors also heavily influence the rate at which women develop an addiction, as women are disproportionately affected by domestic violence, sexual violence, and other traumatic experiences.

Due to a higher incidence of depression and anxiety, as well as chronic pain, and conditions related to fertility and the menstrual cycle, drugs often become a way for some women to seek refuge from emotional and physical suffering (hence the stats on self-medication).


How Women’s Sober Living Provides Greater Benefits

Sober living homes for women provide a safe space for women to be away from men, and free from any triggers or forms of temptation. Sober living homes are strictly structured, but they don’t feel like a prison sentence.

Women are free to go and leave whenever they feel ready, and the homes are set-up to have a welcoming atmosphere, with plenty of amenities to provide tenants with things to do and ways to spend time.

Some homes feature meditation areas, on-site gyms, and a fully equipped kitchen. Others provide tenants with a series of other benefits, including beautiful outdoor areas and access to local parks and beaches.

On-site staff are trained to help women in recovery through counseling, therapy, and supervised group activities. While the thought of sharing a home with other strangers might not sound comforting to begin with, there is a heavy emphasis on promoting a sense of community and sisterhood among the tenants.

Many women in recovery feel alone and feel like the weight of sobriety is too much to bear alone. Sober living homes present an opportunity to discover how others deal with many of these same fears and feelings, and how those who have been sober for a long time continue to motivate themselves to stay clean.


The Benefits of Sober Living Homes in the Long-Term

One of the greatest strengths of any sober living home is its structure. Rather than pushing tenants to follow a program, tenants are given the tools needed to explore their sobriety together and determine for themselves how and when they would like to move forward.

While rehab facilities focus on providing a program for addicts to follow within a set timeline, sober living homes provide a place of temporary residence while placing emphasis on several simple rules:

• A strict daily curfew.
• Mandatory employment or job-searching.
• Regular social activities between tenants.
• Each tenant is responsible for maintaining a clean and livable space.
• Drug searches make using or keeping drugs within the facility impossible.
• Tenants are encouraged to seek treatment through therapy and group therapy.
• Tenants are encouraged to find hobbies, nurture skills, and make productive use of their free time.

This better prepares them for life outside of a recovery setting by making the choice to move onwards a conscious one, informed by a feeling of readiness rather than any pressure to feel ready on a certain set date.

People progress through recovery at a unique pace, and sober living homes help ensure that they are well-equipped to handle the challenges of long-term sobriety regardless of how quickly or slowly they adapt to a life without drugs.

Because women are more at risk of struggling with a relapse, because they are often financially dependent on the people around them, and because they are more often trapped in physically and emotionally abusive relationships than their male counterparts, it’s critical for women’s sober living homes to provide autonomy and the ability to live in a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental environment.

Many women’s sober living homes work with local women’s shelters and transitional as well as long-term housing projects to help those who are victims of violence.

Once a recovering addict feels confident in their newfound strength as a sober individual, emboldened by the way sober living homes prioritize independence and self-determination, they are not simply ‘done’ with recovery. Staying sober and continuing to grow as a sober individual is a life-long process.

Finding the Will to Overcome Addiction

Finding the Will to Overcome Addiction

Identified as a brain disease, addiction is much more than a moral failing or an issue of personal responsibility. As we understand more about how this condition affects the brain and continues to affect a person long after the habit has stopped, it’s becoming clear that combating addiction requires an understanding that this is a chronic problem that must be managed in the long-term, rather than seeing it as a condition with an effective cure or available short-term strategy.

While we’re told that addiction isn’t about willpower, there is an element to the recovery process that does require a substantial amount of will and personal input: the decision to start. It’s important to find the will to overcome addiction – and most importantly, one must feed and nurture that will. Staying motivated in the fight against addiction is the real challenge, because it’s a very slow burn, with months or years passing before it truly feels like the addiction is in the past.


The Choice to Start Recovery Is Yours

To find the will to overcome addiction, you need motivation. Some people are motivated by their families, their children, or their partner. Some people are motivated by fear of their own death, of all the things they have yet to do, of what they wanted to accomplish but never had the chance to attempt. Some people are motivated by the promise of fulfilling their own purpose, understanding that they lose the chance to explore their potential if they don’t work on giving up the habit. And many, unfortunately, are not motivated by anything at all, having lost their motivation in the days and months building up to their addicted state.

If you are someone in recovery or an addict planning to start the recovery process, and you have a powerful motivation, that’s great news. It won’t guarantee your success, but it gets your foot in the door. But for others, especially if the addict is someone you know and care for, bringing them to the realization that recovery is worth the effort can be very difficult.


Do Interventions Help?

Often, interventions help addicts realize that they are cared for and that they have a place in the world that they can properly reclaim once sober. It gives them hope that there’s something to life after the addiction. But interventions must be planned delicately, depending on the situation.

Therapists with a history in helping addicts deal with addiction often also help families plan interventions if the situation calls for one. Sometimes, a major intervention isn’t necessary. Sometimes, it’s enough to help convince a loved one to go see a professional and talk about their problem without fear of judgment or misunderstanding.

From there, the choice to start the recovery process is both an important one and a frightening one. The road to overcoming addiction is long and harsh, and the early days are marked by intense cravings, confusion, painful withdrawal symptoms, and more.


Overcoming the Challenges of Early Recovery

Help is critical. The first choice will always have to be the recoveree’s, but from there, it’s important to recognize the role that help plays in making the first few weeks of recovery bearable. From potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms to intense cravings, unpredictable thoughts and behavior, and the urge to go further than ever beyond to secure a fix, a recoveree’s mind can often be in pure chaos in those first few weeks of recovery, rebounding from pure joy at being free from addiction to the terror and anguish that follows early sobriety, as thoughts and feelings that had been carefully blocked out through drug use come rushing in.

A history of addiction can go hand-in-hand with issues with mental health and self-esteem, and it isn’t uncommon for recovering addicts to develop problems with anxiety and depression as a result of their drug abuse.

The proper healing environment is critical for times like this. Rehab clinics, sober living homes, and inpatient programs are designed to help recovering addicts in the first stages of addiction, and sober living homes help many who need more time away from the outside world and the temptation of using again. The only effective treatment for addiction in the long-term is time, but that time should be spent managing one’s mental health and tackling positive goals for the future.

After withdrawal ends, recoverees are encouraged to participate in both individual and group therapy sessions, take up new hobbies, make new acquaintances within the sober world, and plan for their future by going back to school or looking for work.


Looking for Help in the Right Places

Sober living homes, therapists, psychiatrists, and addiction clinics all offer help for recoverees struggling with sobriety. But it’s also important to remember to look for help in other places: like at home, among friends, or at the gym. Sometimes, the best way to deal with stress from addiction is by going for a run, taking up boxing classes, learning to paint, or learning a musical instrument.

Hobbies and friendships are important in recovery because they provide outlets for stress and help recoverees feel better, while also helping them develop skills they can be proud of. A stronger self esteem is important in the fight against addiction, because it can give a person more to hold onto when the urge to relapse comes knocking.


It’s Not Over After Rehab

The recovery process lasts a lifetime, in some interpretations. It is possible to overcome addiction, but the risk of relapse remains. It’s only through the diligent and continuous management of an addiction that relapse is properly avoided, over months, years, and decades. After the first year or so, it becomes about making use of the tools gained during the early recovery process to continue to manage cravings and deal with stress in a healthy way, avoiding old habits and turning to friends when the temptation grows too powerful.

When relapses do occur – and they tend to occur in most people within the first 12 months after treatment – it’s important to get right back on the horse. With the proper guidance, a relapse can be an opportunity to learn how better to combat addiction, rather than being viewed as a failure. We all make mistakes, but it’s how we deal with them, and how we seek to avoid making them in the future, that truly defines our character.

Admitting You Need Help with Addiction Is Not A Weakness

Admitting You Need Help with Addiction

Aside from being physically strong, strength is also the quality of being able to stand up to an immense amount of pressure or resistance without giving way. It’s fair to say that most recovering addicts don’t feel very strong in the early days of recovery. And to many, the guilt and shame of addiction might wear down on them to the point where they feel that they either don’t deserve help or shouldn’t seek it out.

Being a burden to others is a real fear for many recovering addicts, and it sadly keeps them from getting the help they need. But rather than showing weakness, consider perhaps that openly acknowledging you have a problem and voluntarily seeking out help shows strength instead. Indeed, rather than feeling weak for admitting you need help, the courage it takes to step up and tell another human being that you’re flawed and struggling is tantamount to courage.


Asking for Help Requires Strength

People don’t hide weakness out of strength. That is a misinterpretation of what it means to be strong, instead twisting the meaning into something else entirely. To be strong requires fortitude, to be strong requires the ability to stand up in the face of adversity. It requires action.

It does not require a lie. Any addict refusing to seek help is not being strong but is instead acting tough. Portraying a falsehood is simply shielding oneself from the pain of unveiling an inner insecurity, running away in cowardice from the difficult path that lies ahead to instead wallow in silent self-pity. True strength comes from recognizing what must be done, and indeed, seeking help is the only feasible way to deal with an addiction.

We don’t lock ourselves in a room and try really hard to get better when we’ve caught a chronic illness. Instead, we go to a professional and accept the tough treatment that lays ahead. We do our best to survive and live on for the sake of those who we are accountable to, those we feel responsible for, and for ourselves, to prove that life still has meaning and purpose.

The courage required to step up and do something about your addiction is a sign of strength, while acting like it isn’t a problem at all is just a sign that you have given into your fears and anxieties, and have chosen to ignore a problem rather than confront it.


Addicts Need Help

Addiction is not a disease you treat alone. It’s a disease that requires professional and medical help. Some types of addiction are best treated with medication, while others require intensive therapy and time spent away from drugs, time spent dealing with the physical and mental ramifications of long-term addiction, time spent looking inwards and reflecting on the events that transpired while addicted, and how the consequences of those events need to be dealt with in sobriety.

Addiction treatment is as much about helping an addict overcome addiction and avoid relapse as it is about helping them cope with the difficulties and realities of sobriety after addiction, helping them stay sane and mentally prepared for the many different consequences they’re likely to face, and get ready for the responsibilities they’re going to have to take on. From paying your bills to taking care of yourself and your loved ones, addiction treatment highlights the difficulties in rejoining society after being addicted, and often does its best to make each patient aware of the speedbumps and pitfalls they have to avoid or overcome on the way.

Because most addicts relapse within the first year after treatment, recovery programs also often account for the future, either by encouraging recovering addicts to seek further resources to switch to a different program if they feel they still need the support and help, including outpatient programs and sober living homes are ideal ways to continue the fight against addiction.


Addiction Can Be Temporary

Addiction is a chronic illness, in the sense that it shows signs of coming back and requiring continued support and treatment to overcome. However, on that note, it can be overcome. While recovery is a lifelong process, and sobriety is something you have to actively work on, the aspect of physical and emotional dependence is something that does fade away with time. The memories of the addiction never leave you, but the addiction itself does, and you regain the ability to live life as you choose to.

This is important because it signifies that getting help means something – it means that you get to have purpose again, and lead life in such a way that you aren’t pursuing the next high but are instead pursuing the next goal. But it’s only by first asking for help and dedicating yourself to recovery that you open up that possibility. That’s why addiction can be temporary. If you let it, it will grow until it consumes you completely, and leaves you for dead. But if you fight it, together with the help and support you need, you can end its overwhelming influence over you and make a real difference in your life – and in the lives of others.


Helping Others Become Stronger

Recovery never ends, but it’s difficult to find ways to maintain the same level of motivation over years and years. With time, stress can mount, and certain events can tip the balance and send you over the edge. Having something consistent to hold onto is important in that regard, as it convinces you to stay on the straight and narrow.

One way to ensure that you’re always involved in recovery without constantly making things about yourself is to get involved in the recovery of others. Get active in local sobriety groups, write about addiction and recovery online, organize group meetings to share stories and talk about mutual challenges, and keep the spirit of recovery alive by encouraging others to come together and help one another stay motivated.

Strength means resilience, and like anything else, it takes effort and the right will to bolster that resilience and maintain it even in the face of failure. Most recovering addicts struggle with their addiction, and there will be more than just one instance where you might consider giving up entirely. But you owe it to yourself to truly give your all, and trust those around you to help you as best as they can as well. Remember: unless you volunteer to throw in the towel, your chance to overcome addiction will never go away.


Avoiding Situations with a High Likelihood of Relapse

Avoiding Situations With Likelihood of Relapse

Drug relapses occur when the urge to use overcomes any rational thought or inhibition that might have otherwise kept a person from using drugs again. In part, drug relapses are as common as they are due to the chronic nature of addiction as a brain disease, as an illness that changes the way we process certain thoughts and chemicals, and as a progressive issue that alters the brain and mind in drastic ways over a long period of time.

But on the other hand, relapses also don’t usually happen out of nowhere. The urge to use remains, and can grow stronger in times of stress, but it’s often a specific moment or event that drives a person to start using again. These high-risk situations can be identified and avoided. But the key lies in knowing what to look for and knowing why certain situations or events cause a person to make the jump and relapse.


Identifying High-Risk Situations

Different people possess different pressure points, and it is important to consider what memories and associations you feel affect you most strongly. Certain situations and sensations may catch a recovering addict off-guard, making them feel things and remember things they have not felt nor remembered for some time.

Anything from a specific song to a stroll through an old neighborhood can bring back memories that evoke a time when drug use was still a normal part of the day, and when it was much harder to envision a life without drugs. A degree of nostalgia is normal for any person, but when we become nostalgic for things in the past that relate to our addiction, we’re putting ourselves at risk for a relapse.

Being around old friends who still use or being with people who use around you can be a powerful trigger as well. This can elicit reactions and feelings you might not want to have, including the urge to give into the darker parts of yourself and have one last hit/high. As such, few common high-risk situations that need to be avoided are:

  • Old places where you used to drink or use.
  • Old music that reminds you of some of your favorite moments.
  • Old friends who still use or don’t respect your sobriety.
  • Struggling with physical pain or chronic pain.
  • Being around strangers who are using.
  • Being invited to a party with drinks and/or drugs.
  • Struggling with social and/or peer pressure to drink again.
  • Having problems in your relationships with others.
  • And more.

These high-risk situations can, at times, bring out the worst in a recovering addict. Being in pain both emotionally and physically, being overwhelmed, and being reminded of what it was like to be numb to everything except the drugs can, when put together, be a deadly combination to anyone’s convictions, especially when your motivation to stay sober is already combating your brain’s natural urge to switch back to using again. Physical and emotional dependence takes time to heal but staying away from drugs for that long is not easy. Thankfully, it does get easier over time. Day after day, with each passing moment of sobriety, you’re making yourself less likely to relapse.


Identifying Risk Factors Before They Escalate

Risk factors are factors that increase the risk of something happening – in this case, they’re factors we should be aware of when trying to understand how likely it is for a person to relapse again. A risk factor means that it can contribute to a person’s chance of relapse, but it never guarantees it. Nor does a person need to struggle with many different risks to relapse.

However, identifying risk factors is important in preventing relapses by minimizing the reasons a recovering addict might have to use again. To do so, figure out:

  • What in your life currently presents you with overwhelming stress, and how can you delegate some of that to reduce your stress?
  • How can you manage your fears and anxieties, as well as your stress, without taking advantage of a drug?
  • Are you getting enough rest, food, and exercise?
  • Are you speaking with a professional about mental health issues that worry you?
  • Do you feel lonely, angry, irritable, sad, or ashamed at random times in the day without any rhyme or reason?

These are just a few factors that might contribute to a person’s struggle against relapse, by undermining their recovery with negative thinking and the false promise of a better, easier way of dealing with problems through continued drug use.


What to Do When A Relapse Happens

When a drug relapse does occur, it’s important not to panic. Talk to a professional first and seek help immediately. The best response to a drug relapse is a reaffirmation of your recovery. Speak to your therapist, sign into a rehab program, or consider temporarily staying in a sober living home. It’s normal to feel ashamed and disappointed after relapsing, but it’s also important to look at the bigger picture. A relapse does not mean an end to your recovery.

In the simplest of terms, a drug relapse occurs when an individual loses hope in their recovery. It might only be for a few minutes, or even just a few moments, but all it takes is one big step off onto a slippery slope. However, a relapse never means the end of a person’s recovery journey. Instead, relapses best present themselves as opportunities for an individual to improve on weaknesses in their recovery. Don’t see a drug relapse as a loss, but as a lesson.

Part of why this mindset is crucial is because it is important not to forget how common relapses really are. At least about half of all recovering addicts relapse at least once within the first year after finishing a recovery program. It’s impossible to think that these relapses are caused solely by a lack of motivation or interest in recovery. Losing hope in some measure is part of the process and reveals an opportunity for you to identify what it is that made you the most vulnerable to using drugs again. It’s important to shore up those weaknesses, rather than dismissing them or missing the opportunity to reflect on what happened and figure out what you should pay the most attention to in the future.

Over time, research shows, it becomes easier and easier to resist the urge to use again. The brain does heal after quitting drug use, although the extent to which it can fully recover differs from person to person. Nonetheless, it’s very possible to reach a point in your own recovery where you can completely overcome the fear of relapse, given enough time and enough growth.


What Are You Missing Out on Due to Drugs?

What Are You Missing Out On While Addicted

In short, drug use robs you of life. It robs you of time, of people, of meaning, of work, of experience, of everything that makes life worth living. It gives you an easy out, a way to numb the pain, but only at first. That excuse goes up in smoke very quickly, but too often, people only realize that by the time they’re already hooked. No one wants to be addicted – we like the ability to choose, even if we always make the same choice.

Knowing you can stop at any time gives you a sense of control over how you choose to deal with your own problems – and when that sense of control disappears with the realization that you have become completely dependent, so does any desire to continue using. Yet your body, brain, and mind all disagree, and in the confusion, drug use becomes something almost impossible to let go of. Through drugs, life becomes a blurry mess – and while that allows you to stop seeing all of the bad, it erases the good as well.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can get help, and experience what life has to offer. And believe us, there’s a lot to be experienced.


Fulfilling Relationships

The bond between people is important. Whether we make friends, partners, or meet new members of the family through birth or marriage, our ties to others are often how we grow and develop as individuals. No man is an island, and no human survives total isolation. We’re pack animals after all, and a good tribe is something we all seek.

To that end, fulfilling relationships are about more than feeling important in a crowd. There is a basic human instinct to look after our own – to love and nurture others selflessly, because ultimately, that makes us feel good too. We take but we give back as well, and the ability to give back and recognize how we affect the lives of others can help us cement our sense of self.


A Sense of Purpose

Speaking of a sense of self, purpose is incredibly important. One of humanity’s most powerful traits is our incessant need to ask ‘why’. Just as we explored themes of philosophy and theology throughout countless civilizations, every individual’s journey is beset with moments of curiosity and genuine mystery. What are we here to do? Everyone finds their own answer. Some seek to be a parent, a sibling, a productive member of the community. Some wish to be firebrands, to stand out and make a change, to inflict their will upon this world. Some want to serve the greater good, however and wherever they find it. Some define themselves by their talent, others, by a craft they honed for decades.

However you choose to define yourself, it takes time and experience to discover who you believe to be. Addiction robs you of the opportunity to explore life and how you fit into it all, and leaves you wondering what it was all for after decades wasted.


A Healthy Self-Esteem

Being comfortable in your own skin is something many drug addicts struggle with, due to a combination of both internal and external factors. Some are driven to feel ashamed for their actions and their behavior by others, and some are driven to feel ashamed for their actions and behavior through an inner sense of guilt, and most attribute their feelings of self-hatred to a combination of both, eventually leading to depressed feelings and a constant, oppressive cloud of negativity.

It’s no secret that addiction is closely intertwined with mental health problems, and while many who go on to be addicted start using as a way to self-medicate, there are also many who only begin developing serious symptoms after they become hooked to addictive substances. Drugs steal the opportunity to be happy with who you are, one way or another.


A Functioning Body

The body struggles under heavy drug use, this is no mystery. Whether it’s something legal like alcohol or something illegal like methamphetamine, excessive drug use leaves us broken and hurting both physically and mentally, through decreased mental capacity, problems with memory and cognition, as well as serious physical symptoms from failing organs and growing tumors to a variety of injuries and diseases accrued as a result of the consequences that sometimes follow the risky actions of those struggling with addiction.

It shouldn’t be a privilege to be healthy, but given the current state of things, it unfortunately is. Nevertheless, drug use puts a serious wrench in any person’s plan to live a long and pain-free life, often drastically shortening an individual’s lifespan without the need for an untimely accident.

It’s easy to forget just how long life can be. Some days go by like seconds, akin to fistfuls of sand slipping through our fingers. Some days take forever and seem to never end. But as a whole, for those fortunate enough to live out their lives into an old age, life can be a journey of countless births and rebirths, of entire stories and complete arcs crammed into decades of experience and living. We are never defined by a single mistake, or a single moment, unless we let it define us. We have countless opportunities to start over and try again.

An addiction does not spell doom for any one person’s life. An addiction is a long chapter, but it can come to an end, and pave the way for something entirely new and different. Something much better. Any time you ask yourself if things could have been different, consider this instead: what do you need to do now to make things different? What can you do, this day, this week, this month, to turn your life around for the better? Drugs are not worth doing, not only because of how they addle your brain or affect your relationships with others, but because they limit your options and completely blind you to the potential you have to live a much better and far more fulfilling life. Regardless of how long you have been addicted, you always have the option to stop and seek help.