You might be reading this because you might worry that you’re suffering from an addiction. Or you might be afraid a loved one is suffering from an addiction. The road to recovery is not an easy one. It’s full of ups and downs and it’s never really over. It’s a battle that takes place through a life, sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly. But it’s one that can be won. The first step is learning to accept it and figuring out how to go ahead.
Recognising the signs
One of the hardest steps in facing addiction is the first. That is actually admitting you have a problem. There may be doubts in your mind as to whether or not you or your loved one is an addict. You just need to look at the signs and see the direction they point in. Physically, addicts have trouble sleep and tend to have trouble feeling well if they are long separated from their addiction. You might need more of that addiction to feel the effects as strongly as you could beforehand. You spend a lot of time thinking about it. Defensiveness and behavioural changes towards loved ones are two signs that others might be able to help in spotting, too.
How you did or didn’t identify with the points above all comes to how honest you are able to be with yourself. You can’t hide away from the truth because truth is the only way to fight addiction. Hiding invites relapse. You need to also be honest about some of the scenarios that drugs can lead to. You need to be aware of the changes and dangers they can pose to your health. Note that being honest doesn’t mean it’s time to start ‘airing the dirty laundry’. A lot of people will lash out and blame, but this isn’t helpful in the end. It might feel cathartic, to begin with, but that feeling will soon go. You have to recognise that the problems in your own life need to be addressed.
Know your triggers
To start understanding your addiction, it’s important to notice what triggers you to use. A lot of us will look for excuses to use or simply have reactions to circumstances involving our addiction. Poor self-care, such as a lack of sleep, exercise and nutrition can be a trigger. Small lies can lead to bigger lies, like rationalizing. Social situations involving drink or other addictive substances can lead you to have ‘just a taste’. There are a lot of patterns that we and others use to enable our addiction. Start practising mindfulness to start learning yours.
Start thinking about changes
The triggers that lead you to use are important. But so are those that led to you using in the first place. There is usually an underlying trigger that first led to addiction. You need to start thinking about your life and exploring the sources of where the addiction came from. Was it your environment? Do you live in a neighbourhood riddled with drugs or have friends who use and suggested you do? Was it a desire to belong or be accepted? Recreation that became addiction? Family trouble and trauma can be key factors, too. Identifying the initial triggers can help you see the changes that need to be made down the line. You need to decide who and what should be a part of your life.
Asking for help
During the course of addiction, it’s easy for relationships with those you care about to suffer in a serious way. You can lash out, argue and you may think you’ve burned bridges. Perhaps because of past defensiveness over your addiction. Asking for help is hard, but you can do it. You have to respect when someone can’t help you, but that shouldn’t stop you from asking. You have to accept your fear of rejection and overcome shame. Remember that it is a disease you’re trying to overcome. It is not a fault on you as a person but a circumstance you are suffering from. Don’t diminish the problem when talking to people. Be honest about your problem and the fact you need help. If you are sincere and you are looking to make progress immediately, the people who care about you will support you.
Explore your options
Being mindful and being honest is only the start. The path to addiction is ugly and is hard done when you’re relying only on loved ones. You should seriously consider going to those who are experienced and know the road ahead. Rehabilitation centres are one of the most effective forms of treatment. Many of them are run by ex-addicts themselves who know what you are going through. So find the answers to questions like ‘how much is rehab?’ and ‘what is involved in the process?’ This step can be scary, so the more information you have, the better you can prepare yourself.
Stress is your enemy
Whatever kind of treatment you’re going through, you will quickly learn how much stress can be a part of what leads you to use. Especially after you’ve gone without, even after withdrawal has passed. You can’t expect to feel better immediately. Stress is one of those factors that can kick a need to use into overdrive. So you need to not only avoid it. You need how to learn to deal with it effectively. Small tools like meditation and breathing techniques can have a huge effect. Stress is a bodily change, so taking control of your body is a key to fighting it. Exercising, laughing and sleep are three remedies your life could use more of, too.
After and during treatment, the struggle of maintaining a clean lifestyle begins. This is where those changes you have thought about really need to start taking place. Some people might not entirely have the best reaction to those changes. For example, if you used to party with someone, they may react hostile to the fact you’re not willing to spend time with them. Staying resolute to your changes is hugely important. You need to avoid those risk factors as best as you can. It’s a good idea to keep in touch with those who have gone through similar things as you. Support groups, even reading online accounts of clean living can reaffirm your goals and help you stay strong. It’s important not to try shut yourself off from all the tools you use to get this far.
Measure and keep track
It’s also important that you learn how to start tallying the victories you make on the road to recovery. One of them is by measuring the amount of time you’ve stayed sober. When you make one mark, then set your next goal. Start small and keep building. You should also start giving yourself credit for the things that you do in life. Even things as small as finishing a book or starting a new class. Getting a job or a new place are huge wins that you should take the time to congratulate yourself over. Then add the next goal. Keep attaining and keep aiming.
Rebuild a life
The shame of addiction isn’t the only thing you need to overcome. You can feel a lot of shame after you’re well into the road to recovery as well. Stop focusing on the negative by making more positive in the world. One of the best ways to reaffirm yourself is by changing the things you do. Show more compassion to people. Spend more time helping others. Look into volunteering opportunities. As we said, those who have come from addicted lifestyles can often be those helping others at their most vulnerable. Start living the life that you want to live. Don’t feel like being an addict can cut you off from life. Use your experience in struggling to help others who are doing the same.
Healing your self-image
It’s not enough to do better, you should be thinking better, too. In particular, you need to think better about yourself. You have to learn how to forgive yourself before you ask forgiveness of others. Write an affirmation of yourself. Write a physical affirmation of what you’ve accomplished, of your forgiveness of yourself and your promise to do better. Keep doing it regularly. Keep talking to others about those changes. Accept that you deserve the compliments and praise you get for continuing to fight. Slipping into negativity and low esteem is a very easy way to relapse. You have to accept what happened to you and move on. Most importantly, you need to treat yourself with the love that you believe everyone deserves.
There is no-one who can’t beat their addiction. There is no life that can’t be changed for the better. We hope this look at the steps you have to go through will help you come out on the other side a much better person. Just always remember that you’re not weak. You have the power, you have to fight to keep it.