How Your Addiction Affects Your Loved Ones

Addiction Can Affect Loved Ones Too

Many young adults who struggle with addiction are also struggling with other problems. There are pressures from school, pressures from a job, and money pressures. There can be anxiety and worries about the future, and there can be drama in the present. A young adult is transitioning between the world of dependence on others, and the responsibilities which are part of independence. This change of life roles can be difficult and stressful.

When receiving treatment for substance abuse, there is often a large amount of time spent on addressing these types of individual concerns. The mental and emotional wellbeing of a person who is seeking to escape the trap of substance abuse is of vital importance. Having a healthy psychological life is a primary defense mechanism against continuing in an addiction.

For some, focusing on the distress of those around you may not be the primary concern when first embarking on a journey of becoming sober. Those who come from a difficult family background, for instance, may be triggered by the mere thought about how his or her behavior is affecting friends and family. Many people in addiction can cite their families of origin as being the ones who created the poor mental health conditions, to begin with. At some point, however, healthy growth requires that we gain a sense of empathy for others. Failure to do so means that we are only propagating the negative family dynamics, and are playing our own role in sustaining the problems.

For other young adults, the love that they have for their friends and family will be what eventually motivates them to make a change. Seeing the impact of our addiction on those around us can eventually contribute to a massive amount of our own discomfort. We begin to see that sustaining our addiction isn’t worth the pain that we are subjecting others to. Consider the following ways that those around us suffer while we are in addiction.

 

Hurt

Emotional hurt can be experienced as a sense of betrayal, a sense of hopelessness, or a sense of loss. The person whom your loved one believed you to be is disappearing into the haze of addiction, and their hopes and dreams for you can begin disappearing into that fog, as well. Your loved ones may be hurt over the lack of appreciation that you are showing for their hard work and investment into your life, or may be hurt over the idea that you don’t seem to care about their hurting.

Being left in a state of hurt for a prolonged period of time can result in the development of a clinical depression. Your loved one may begin to cry easily, or may begin to appear numb to any feelings. He or she may struggle with continuing to go to work, or may withdraw from activities that were once enjoyed. While you and your addiction are not responsible for the development of the condition of depression in someone else, your behaviors may be feeding into their tendency to sink into this abyss.

 

Fear

Watching a loved one venture into the dangerous territory of addiction can become a source of fear and anxiety. There is always the looming fear that you may get in over your head with a drug, and that the next phone call received will be from the police or the hospital. There is a fear that you may overdose and die, or be harmed by others while you are in vulnerable state of intoxication.

In addition to the fears of physical harm, there are also often fears for your viable future. A loved one will worry that you are destroying your relationships, or sabotaging your chances for a good future. School, career – and even the ability to think – are negatively impacted by continued drug use. Your loved ones may become extremely anxious over the thought that you are making choices, today, that will ruin your chances for a successful tomorrow.

 

Anger

Anger is a secondary emotion. This means that, before it manifests, there has been some form of hurt or fear which has been experienced. Expressing anger is an attempt to regain control over the helplessness of those types of negative feelings which are perceived as being caused by an outside force. In the case of anger being expressed toward you over your addiction, it is your behavior which is being viewed, by your loved one, as that outside source of conflict. Chances are good that hurt and fear have existed for quite some time before the anger shows up.

If your loved one is expressing anger, it is likely that he or she is feeling helpless about changing the situation, and is acting out on that feeling. Constant feelings of anger can overflow to other areas of life, as well, and your loved one can become short-tempered and impatient toward tolerating any additional stresses. Other people may begin to suffer from the short fuse that your loved one is left with after becoming angry at you for your addictive behaviors, creating a domino effect of strained relationships.

 

Treating the Family

Our culture is becoming increasingly aware of the important role that our social dynamics play in our own recovery and wellness. While the historical focus has been placed on the person who is in an addiction, more modern views understand that no one exists in a bubble. Our families can be a source of both difficulties, and of healing. Integrating a plan for healing which includes both the addict, and the addict’s support system, creates the best conditions for success. Family therapy serves this role.

The definition of family has expanded, as well. For some, choosing to create a family from non-traditional means is the better option. Distant relatives, friends, life partners, and church members can become our family. The important aspect is that those around us are willing to commit to the growth and changes that are required of all parties involved in the life of a person in recovery.

How Does Addiction Take Hold?

How Does Addiction Take Hold

The process of addiction is complex and figuring out exactly where it begins requires understanding the circumstances under which is often develops. Just like any other illness, particularly one caused ostensibly by one’s lifestyle, the development of an addiction is often determined by factors both within a person’s control, and outside of their control. The way addiction takes a hold of a person both physically and mentally depends on their genetics, and their life.

But regardless of when or by what mechanism addiction begins, it always starts with one thing: the substance itself. To understand how addiction takes a hold over someone, we need to understand what makes certain substances addictive, and why these substances differ from other similar substances.

 

Addiction is Uncontrollable

It’s important to start by divorcing addiction from dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal. While these are related concepts, tolerance and withdrawal are concepts that exist in non-addictive medication, and dependence and addiction are not always the same thing. First, most definitions of addiction make a distinction between heavy drug use and addictive drug use based on the person’s own efforts to stop using. If a person tries to quit, but can’t, they’re likely addicted.

But dependence is something else. It’s a physical process by which the body adapts to the drug. This occurs with other substances as well, meaning, substances that aren’t classically addictive. When a drug enters the body and begins interacting with it, the body begins to change in accordance to the effects of the drug (and this differs from person to person). Dependence occurs when it’s clear that quitting would lead to negative effects (withdrawal). These do not necessarily equate to addiction. A person can develop a dependence on medication, experience withdrawal when quitting their medication, and still not feel the need to use (i.e., no cravings). This is why it is important to taper off certain medication.

 

Addiction is Mental and Physical

Addictive drugs have since been identified to largely interact with certain parts of the brain that are responsible for deep-seated emotions and systems regarding motivation, reward, and self-control. The very core of what drives us to do things is affected by the ingestion and use of addictive drugs, and the more we use these drugs, the more the body (and mind, as an extension of the brain) begins to adapt to, and change, in order to fuel the need to keep using.

The drug begins to overshadow anything else. One common factor among addictive drugs is the way the drug either empowers or increases the production or recipience of dopamine. This is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that plays a critical role in many different processes, including motivation and reward. Other, non-addictive drugs that interact with similar neurotransmitters haven’t had the same addictive effect on the mind (including drugs such as SSRIs, which solely target the reuptake of serotonin).

All this goes to demonstrate that the process by which a person becomes addicted separates itself from the way the body and brain react to other drugs by way of how addictive drugs affect a very specific portion of the mind, one intrinsically linked to how we motivate ourselves, and to how we naturally crave for certain things (whether it’s entertainment, sex, or food cravings outside of hunger). Yet because addictive drugs act on these systems at a magnitude far beyond what they are usually equipped to handle, the long-term effect is a disproportionate craving for the addictive drug, and a growing lack of passion for previous interests.

 

Addiction is Genetic and Environmental

The manner in which this process unfolds is entirely subjective. Some people develop addiction much faster than others, for specific substances. There is plenty of evidence to suggest that addictiveness is hereditary, in the sense that someone with a long history of alcoholism in the family is much more likely to become an alcoholic if exposed to heavy drinking, and so on.

Aside from genetic factors, environmental factors and life experience heavily inform addiction. Teens are more likely to develop an addiction if they start using drugs early on, because the effects are much more pronounced on a developing brain. High levels of stress usually coincide with addiction, because the stress reinforces the behavior of using drugs to self-medicate, to address a bad mood, to escape reality, or to conform to the external pressure to use drugs.

Poor mental health or mental instability caused by hereditary conditions or the results of trauma (PTSD) or bullying and shaming (especially among LGBTQ+) are also more likely to lead to an addiction, as these individuals are more likely to turn to drugs as a way to cope, which further puts them at risk for developing a mental and a physical dependence on the substance, and a true substance use disorder.

 

Addiction is Chronic and Treatable

An addiction is supported by continued drug use. It’s simply nearly impossible to treat someone who continues to use a substance that contributes to the biological changes that affect their behavior. If the ultimate problem with an addiction is the fact that it leads to self-destructive and uncontrollable behavior, then eliminating the root of that addiction is the first step to overcoming it.

But it isn’t that simple. It’s not as easy as just turning off a tap and waiting for the sink to drain. While the first step of helping someone get better should be to separate them from their drug(s) of choice, a lot of patience is required for the following countless steps. There are different approaches, some of which involve therapy, some of which require psychiatric help and medication, and some of which involve other treatments such as the 12 Step Method, but the gist of addiction treatment is understanding that many cases of addiction are chronic, and feature a long period mired by powerful cravings, potential relapses, and the psychological and physical stress of withdrawal and post-acute withdrawal.

As the body and brain readjust to sobriety, a recovering addict is often faced with a series of difficult choices and responsibilities as part of their reintroduction to society. It takes a lot of support to help soften the initial blows of early recovery and make the path towards long-term sobriety as smooth as possible. Because an addiction comes with constant reminders and memories of drug use, a big part of becoming sober is overcoming the need to use again.

That can be difficult, because life often is difficult, and all have our ways of coping with it. For an addict, there can be only one real choice. Helping them identify and rely on other, healthier choices is both important, and hard. That is where support becomes critical, both in the form of professional help (through sober living homes, continued therapy, and group meetings), as well as friends and family. Addiction may be chronic, but it is treatable over time.

Getting Back on Track After Relapse

Getting Back On Track After A Relapse

The numbers suggest that relapses aren’t rare occurrences, but a part of the recovery process. An estimated 40-60 percent of recovering addicts relapse within the first 12 months after their rehab has completed, slowly dwindling down the longer a person stays sober (only 15 percent seem to relapse after 5 years of sobriety, in comparison). While this helps support the idea that addiction is chronic, it’s also important to mention that this doesn’t mean it’s a permanent condition – its effects lessen over time.

One way to look at it is to consider that the actual length and severity of an addiction goes far beyond what most people expect. Rather than ending the moment someone decides to get treatment, an addiction continues to present long-term problems, such as cravings, emotional irregularity, and negative physical effects, for many years after sobriety begins. Recovering addicts are left dealing with a variety of physical, psychological, and social issues the moment they begin treatment.

It takes time for the brain and body to properly readjust to sober life and build genuine resilience against a relapse – and because many people don’t have the options or the resources to continue their recovery after rehab, they fall victim to a relapse as soon as support for their recovery seems to end, and the full heft of sober living settles in.

It’s not enough to just go through a rehab program and promise to attend monthly or even weekly sobriety meetings. While some people successfully fight back against addiction in this way, many still feel improperly prepared for the fight. With early sobriety come a variety of new problems and challenges, ranging from increased responsibilities, to feelings of shame and guilt, and intense cravings. Learning to learn from relapses and continue the recovery process long after rehab has ended is important.

 

Don’t Let Shame Defeat You

First of all, let’s note that shame is nearly inevitable in most cases. And in a sense, it’s normal to be ashamed. Just as it hurts to fall flat on your face, it also hurts to realize that you’ve done something that you or others feel is wrong – and there’s a value in that. But that value is strictly limited to helping you improve out of a sense of responsibility towards those who support you, as well as the belief that despite the past, you can still do things better.

While feeling frustrated and ashamed is a natural response to a relapse, there comes a time when you need to embrace the positive possibility of change and believe in the part of yourself that is truly capable of doing good things.

The problem with shame is that it goes on for far too long. Being an addict is still heavily stigmatized, and despite the understanding that addiction is a disease, it’s still often tied to personal responsibility in the public consciousness. People have to choose to take drugs to become addicted, after all, and it’s that sense of karmic justice that makes it all too easy to turn a blind eye to the countless factors that unfairly skewer people’s lives towards addiction.

We’re all complex and imperfect, and addiction is one of many issues that draws out some of the worst in us by feeding selfish behaviors and driving us to push others away. Being ashamed of what you’ve done while addicted is normal, but you must work to conquer those feelings of shame and self-loathing.

You can’t overcome an addiction if you don’t believe you deserve to. Instead, you’ll find yourself trapped in a cycle of relapse and recovery. If you can’t see a reason to have hope in your own recovery, it’s critical to go seek help.

 

Get Help

Help from professionals and close loved ones alike is critical in long-term sobriety. While we’re used to advocating personal responsibility, it’s important to understand that there are limits to what we can achieve alone. We need to stick together and employ a little compassion and empathy when talking about addiction.

Many people struggling with addiction lack the self-esteem and the therapeutic tools to deal with the stress of early recovery while becoming productive adults, all while avoiding substances that their brains have been wired to rely upon for coping. It’ll take time to build a resistance to those thoughts and develop better, healthier ways to deal with stress, as well as a strong sense of self, and a pride in one’s sobriety and sober progress.

Therapy can help many overcome their own limitations and believe that they can do better. Support systems, composed of family members and friends, are there to help avoid relapses by providing critical emotional support when it’s needed the most. And other professionals can help recovering addicts identify relapse triggers, get back into addiction treatment, consider sober living, and plan for the future.

 

Finding Your Triggers

The seeds of a relapse begin in self-doubt, and are grown through a lack of intervention, either by loved ones or due to a lack of structure after recovery begins. However, there’s often a specific trigger that causes someone to lose faith in their own sobriety and begin struggling with thoughts of relapse.

It might be an old memory triggered by being in a specific part of town, pressure from friends to have just one drink or one hit or longing for the effects of a drug after a particularly difficult week or day.

Whatever your trigger might have been, finding out what it is and figuring out how you might avoid it or resolve the situation in the future is important. It’s alright to relapse, but you shouldn’t relapse twice because of the same thing. Use these stumbles to learn more about how you could improve your recovery process.

 

It’s Part of the Process

Embracing that relapses are often part of the process involve learning from them and seeing them as opportunities for growth rather than signs of failure. It’s easy to look at the success stories and feel like crap because you haven’t recovered as quickly, or because you feel like your lack of progress in recovery is your own fault. But it’s important not to get caught up in these emotions and remember that we all move at our own pace, in recovery as in all things.

However, try not to succumb to the ‘revolving door’. Some people are trapped in a chronic cycle of recovery and relapse, never quite understanding what leads them to relapse again, and hopelessly trying the same thing without attempting to learn from the past. If relapses are opportunities, it’s still important to recognize how and when to seize them.

There’s never an appropriate time to give up. And if you don’t give up, you’ve never really ‘failed’ to recover. Sometimes, it just takes a little longer than usual.

 

Learning to Take Care of Yourself After Recovery

Taking Care of Yourself After Recovery

Due to the nature of addiction, drug recovery is a long journey. It’s not easy to overcome an addiction with support, let alone on your own. Yet after the initial stages of recovery, it becomes more and more important to learn how to take care of yourself, rather than relying solely on the support of those around you.

Regardless of how you first began your recovery – through AA meetings, drug rehab, or therapy – there will come a time when professional treatment simply isn’t financially feasible anymore, nor strictly necessary.

While recovery is a life-long process, only a portion of it occurs at rehab facilities and sober living homes. Most of the recovery process is about learning to be comfortable and content with sobriety and finding ways to avoid and overcome drug use. An important part of that life-long process is establishing your own brand of self-care.

 

Why Self-Care is Important in Recovery

Self-care is not unduly selfish. At its core, it’s about working to reduce excess stress and properly manage your life, while managing a healthy sense of self-worth. While it’s a fairly recent buzzword, self-care is not a new concept. Work-life balance, philautia, or self-love. Greek philosophers wrote about self-love and its double-edged nature, and how a positive self-image can lead the greatest good, just as self-conceit can drive a person to moral bankruptcy.

If we’re overworked, overwrought, and incapable of functioning properly, we become a shadow of what we might be. Everything we do is overcast by a feeling of constant fatigue and cynicism, and even mild depression.

This is doubly important for addiction recovery. There’s little sense in fighting to maintain your own sobriety and continue staying clean if you don’t have a healthy sense of self-worth. Why bother committing to avoiding drugs if you don’t feel you can amount to anything?

On the other hand, beyond understanding that there’s an inherent value in who you are and what you can achieve, self-care is specifically about keeping yourself mentally and physically prepared to function both for yourself and those around you. Regardless of whether you’re individualistically or collectivistically inclined, the value of self-care lies in the potential of any one person to do great things, so long as they aren’t inundated by constant self-doubt and stress.

It’s easy to succumb to the challenges and stresses of addiction. Self-care is critical to preserving your ability to deal with these challenges and withstand the risk of relapse in the long-term.

 

Early Recovery Is All About Help 

While the theme of self-care in addiction is self-reliance, it’s important to note that this isn’t meant to try and convince people in early recovery that it’s solely their responsibility to fight against relapses and overcome addiction.

Addiction is a disease and requires treatment. In early recovery, a person’s best chance at moving past addiction begins with professional help. When the brain and body are still entrenched in addiction, relying on yourself is often fruitless.

While some people manage to grow out of their addiction without professional help, many others are stuck in a chronic cycle of recovery and relapse. Rehab and long-term sober living communities exist to provide drug-free environments for people who need time away from the temptations of drug use, in order to build and nurture the means to avoid drugs in the long-term.

Individual therapy and family therapy can be crucial as well, helping recovering addicts work through the issues that might have potentially led them to develop an addiction to begin with, or work through problems that arose as a result of their drug use, while helping their family learn how to best support their loved one in long-term sobriety.

 

Long-Term Recovery and Self-Reliance

Early recovery represents the first few months after going sober, when the brain and body begin to heal. These first few months are often described as chaotic, hallmarked by emotional rollercoasters and new experiences. For some, they represent the first time in years that they’ve been able to truly confront their feelings, which can be overwhelming. Professional care in the first months of recovery helps recovering addicts develop the toolkit needed to continue recovery into the long-term.

For those who feel uncomfortable transitioning from rehab into their own live, sober living homes exist as an effective steppingstone, providing a drug-free and recovery-centered environment while encouraging tenants to seek out work or school, maintain employment, and go to therapy.

Yet after the initial stages of recovery, it is up to each person to continue living a clean and addiction-free life for decades to come. Doing so can be very difficult, requiring mental stability and a strong sense of self separate from all the drug use. Long-term recovery is where you learn to test the limits of your self-love, exercise basic self-care to overcome excess stress, and find ways to continue enjoying life and finding joy in every day without resorting to drug use.

How you go about doing so is entirely up to you. Some people find joy in focusing on a single thing, defining themselves around it. Others stay on their toes, always learning, always trying out something different. There is no one best way to take care of yourself or manage your stress.

 

Balancing Self-Reliance and Support

While the first few months of recovery are highlighted by learning to work with others and trust others to continue your recovery, and the next few years are about defining who you are as a sober person and understanding where your limits lie, the long-term is about balancing between managing your own problems, and understanding when it’s warranted to ask for help.

At the end of the day, recovery is a lifelong journey. No one fully figures out what it means to live, but being in recovery means living mindfully – being mindful of the past and the mistakes you’ve made, as well as the difficult circumstances you’ve faced, as well as being mindful of the present, of your responsibilities and the importance of maintaining a sense of gratitude for the positive parts of your life and being at peace with the resentful and the negative.

Being aware of what you can achieve for yourself and understanding when it’s prudent to ask for help is a difficult yet important part of recovery, as it truly signifies that you’ve become secure with your new sober self, and you know your limits. While most people struggle with a rocky start with relapses and bouts of anger, it’s the long-term that truly matters. If you’re still on your way to figuring out how to enjoy life while sober, be patient.

 

Addiction Can Take Away Everything in Your Life

Addiction Can Ruin Your Life

Drug use and addiction have taken tens of thousands of lives per year, but it’s the families that truly experience everything an addiction can do to a person, beyond an abstract loss of life.

The dangers of drug use end with death, but it begins almost harmlessly with little more than a first high. Regardless of why we begin to use drugs, there are many reasons why said drug use eventually leads to addiction. It’s important here to preface that not everyone who uses a drug gets addicted.

Few first-time drug users, in fact, ever get addicted to drugs. Understanding the factors that help addiction develop in a person’s life can shed more light on just how brutal addiction’s consequences can be – and why it’s absolutely wisest and safest to avoid addictive drugs, even when the risk of addiction and dependence is low.

 

Addiction is Biopsychosocial 

Addiction begins in the brain, and the body. This much is undeniable. But what isn’t known is exactly when this happens, and at what point a habit becomes an addiction.

The American Psychiatric Association defines addiction as a “brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence.” Predicated on behavioral inconsistencies and dissonance, addiction is a condition with biological, psychological, and social factors and consequences. While everyone who is clinically addicted at some point began using drugs, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what change triggers the disease.

As such, the best way to understand addiction is to picture it as a step-by-step gradual descent. Physically, addictive drugs release chemicals in the brain that are naturally occurring, yet at an overwhelming pace unlike any other substance or action. This floods the brain with happy emotions, a high so powerful that you can’t help but be bewildered. Psychologically, this is extremely alluring.

By manipulating pathways in the brain dedicated to reward and motivation, drugs become the ultimate escape from stress and struggle, and the answer to many problems. For those who have used drugs long enough, dependence and withdrawal ensure that any attempt to stop is met by extreme resistance through the body itself.

Finally, there is a critical social component. Poverty, drug availability, mental stability, trauma, and location all correlate with addiction. Where illegal drugs are more common and fewer resources exist to battle addiction, addiction grows. In people who live under dire circumstances, drug use becomes a more common escape. Once it starts, the habit is very hard to kick – and a person’s chances at getting sober depend on the support they have from those around them, and the availability of treatment. When an addiction begins, it’s hard to overcome. It gradually envelops every part of living.

 

It Can Take Your Job

One of the earliest signs of uncontrollable drug use is trouble at work, or at home. Because family tends to be more forgiving and supportive, it’s often the job that goes first.

While there might have been other signs before – from drug paraphernalia, to changed behavior, unwillingness to admit to drinking or use, and reliance on the drug or drink to overcome any and every situation – the first real step that signifies an addiction is the unwillingness to get treatment even after a severe consequence, such as job loss.

In most cases, you don’t actually lose your job specifically due to drug use. Unless your position is one that strictly forbids drug usage and calls for regular and mandatory drug testing, it’s much more likely that, depending on the state you live in, your employer may be required to help accommodate your wishes to go seek treatment and remain employed, whilst protecting your privacy on the matter and not making it public to other people in the company.

However, employers are within their rights to terminate an employee who has acted far out of line with appropriate conduct, regardless of whether such behavior was caused by drug use or not.

 

It Can Take Your Family

Even if your family supports your endeavors to seek help (or worked to initiate them to begin with, there’s nothing to suggest it’ll be an easy road, and it’s certainly rare to receive unanimous support. Drug addiction can drive a wedge into a household, and lead to arguments and emotional scars that don’t heal for years to come. While you may still have your family, they’ll never be the same.

 

It Can Take Your Relationship

Marriages and relationships are often broken on the rocky shores of addiction, for good reason. Relationships are entirely built upon trust, and any lack thereof makes for a very shaky foundation.

It’s hard to be trustworthy when your addiction pervades every thought and behavior, to the point where you cannot even make promises to yourself. While most partners will stick by their loved one, some simply decide they cannot stomach having their trust be betrayed yet another time, and don’t want to be with someone they cannot rely on.

In the best of cases, the strength of your bond with your partner is a big part of why you eventually overcome addiction. Yet in some cases, the pain of losing their trust forever can make it far more difficult to deal with addiction.

 

It Can Take Your Body

Different substances have different effects on the human body, ranging from an increased likelihood of heart disease or stroke, to paralysis due to non-fatal overdose, or long-term memory loss, decline in cognitive ability, and more.

Some drugs are far more dangerous to the human body than others, and the methods through which drugs are absorbed into the body can play a role in how dangerous they become.

Drugs that are primarily injected intravenously are often correlated with higher cases of HIV and hepatitis due to needle sharing. Some drugs are so dangerous that they cause necrosis on the site of injection. Drugs like nicotine are usually inhaled through burnt tobacco, and drastically raise the risk of cancer. Alcohol increases the risk of esophageal and mouth cancer.

 

It Can Take Your Life

As it takes its toll on the body, addiction can ultimately lead to death. Stimulants can cause the heart to give out after long-term use, or indirectly lead to death through an accident. Alcohol can lead to death by poisoning. Other depressants and opioids can lead to death through unconscious asphyxiation, and hypoxia.

It doesn’t have to come to that. While addiction can take everything from you one step at a time, and is hard to treat, it is still treatable. Even for people who struggle with chronic relapses and failures, the right approach and a sober environment can change everything.

 

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

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.

 

Cocaine

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.

 

Alcohol

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.