For many people, a substance addiction aka substance use disorder (SUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD) was like a living organism that started with the seeds of addiction being planted in our minds. They then slowly grow and grow, constantly stretching its tentacles out of our minds and across our bodies whilst constantly taking a stronger and tighter grip on our body, mind and soul until it reaches the point at which we are completely encased in a thick, black unbreakable case, stronger than platinum or bullet proof glass.
Those who’ve successfully recovered from an addiction worked hard to understand what led them to their substance use and how they could keep their addiction from invading and consuming their lives once again.
Sadly, there are still many myths, lies and misconceptions that surround addiction of any type, including drugs and alcohol that keep many who suffer from an addiction telling family, friends, healthcare professionals or drug and alcohol services about what they’re going through.
Unfortunately as things stand, over 50% still think that addiction is due to lack of self discipline, 60% still agree that addicts could instantly stop if they really wanted to and 36% of survey respondents say that they can tell an addict just by looking at them compared to “normal” people.
You can read the full survey and comprehensive report including findings as a PDF from The UK Policy Commission here.
Respondents agreed on one question: Roughly 30% still believe that recovery from either mental illness or drug addiction is impossible.
One struggle includes the social stigma that often surrounds addiction. People often hesitate to tell their families and friends for fear of being criticised, judged and/or abandoned.
The best thing people can do for someone in active addiction or recovery from an addiction is to stand by their side during their lifelong journey to change their way of life for the better. Recovering from an addiction of any type is difficult when done alone and drug and alcohol addiction is the same, even well after treatment.
It’s important for everyone especially those people such as families, friends and spouses to understand what their friend or loved one endures while being addicted. This way, everyone can band together to help the person in active addiction to enter recovery and those already in recovery to stick to their clean/sober plans or their daily recovery plan and relapse prevention plan.
If you don’t have a daily recovery plan already, you can find out all you need to know as well as free templates and downloads by clicking here! This provides you with a clearly designed and simple to understand daily routine which incorporate the active use of recovery techniques and skills on a daily basis which provides structure and routine. This helps remove them from the uncertain, unstable life that led them to use or drink before.
- Provides structure and routine, which the individual didn’t have when they were actively drinking or using.
- Incorporates recovery techniques and skills such as mindfulness, meditation, medication collection (if on a MAT Program), attending fellowship or recovery meetings and ensures that you are looking after your mind, body and soul.
- Ensures that the individual eats, drinks (not alcohol), exercises and looks after their personal hygiene.
- Helps to ensure that the individual practices their hobbies or interests regularly. After all, recovery is supposed to be fun and exiting rather than looking at it as a loss and having an empty hole in your life.
- Provides clear, simple instructions or plans should you get cravings, temptations or urges to drink or use again and to prevent a relapse.
- And many, many others!…
REMEMBER: Recovery is supposed to be a fun, exiting, happy, enjoyable, productive and prosperous new life rather than simply “grieving” the loss of substances in your life and see it as leaving an empty hole in your life.
Try to remember that you’re gaining your freedom from your addictions, those times when you withdrew, broke promises, missed out on important or special events, occasions or opportunities.
You then gain new friends, new interests and hobbies, new social, education or career opportunities and to become whatever and whoever you want to be!…
What People In Recovery Wish They Could Tell You
Here are some of the most common things that people in addiction or recovery wish they could tell others who have no experience of addiction or still believe the old “wives tales”, myths and misconceptions about their past and current struggles with addiction and recovery:
1) They Didn’t Choose To Become Addicted
Addiction is never a person’s choice. They didn’t wake up one morning and decide that becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol would improve their life and their future prospects.
Plenty of people develop an addiction by either taking drugs prescribed by a Doctor to treat a medical condition such as a broken leg. They get given opioids such as codeine or morphine and subsequently become addicted, or they used illegal substances recreationally as a way of ridding themselves of negative feelings, thoughts or circumstances, this however then becomes their “go to” method to make themselves feel better (self medication) and firstly become psychologically addicted and then also physically addicted too.
Over time, prescription drugs, illegal drugs and alcohol change the way a person’s brain functions both physically and chemically.
They might continue taking the pills, drinking the alcohol or using their drugs to simply feel “normal” and be able to get through the day and get through that day simply without withdrawing and to carry out their daily tasks without hindrance.
Before they know it, a physical and psychological addiction has formed and the person will then be craving ever increasing doses or amounts of the prescribed medication, drug or alcohol.
The science behind addiction has been studied, publicised and clinical evidence verified shows that addiction is a medical condition, just like diabetes or heart disease is. Addiction also both physically and chemically change the way the addicts brain functions.
If has also been proven that upto as much as 50% of those addicted to substances (including alcohol) is down to a genetic factor that they inherited from their parents.
With these facts in mind, you may notice that addiction hasn’t been chosen in randomly, but rather because of physical and chemical changes in the brain and genes inherited from their parents.
However, with a period of abstinence or sobriety, it is possible to repair some of these changes that are made when we used or drank. The amount of change everyone experiences varies, some less, some more. Ongoing therapies and coping strategies will still need to be employed through the persons lifetime if they want to avoid relapsing.
In the beginning, cravings will still be intense and longer lasting, as if they were still using or drinking.
This is the time when coping strategies and techniques are used to help you better manage this time and the feelings you feel. As time goes by and the brain starts to repair itself, these cravings, urges and temptations will subside and last for a shorter period until they eventually turn into nothing but a quick thought that pops in and almost straight back out. You just need to work hard to get to this point.
2) Addiction Can Happen To Anyone At no Any Time
Television and films over the years have depicted people with addictions in a negative way. According to TV and films, addicts as portrayed as violent thugs, rough gang members, dirty homeless people, broken ex servicemen or women from the military or those people in mental health hospitals who are severely unwell with mental health conditions. Many of those people who are addicts do more often than not, do have one or more mental health diagnoses but the two don’t automatically go together. You don’t need to be a mental patient to have an addiction!
But the truth is that anyone can become addicted to drugs or alcohol regardless of their background, age, sexual orientation, educational abilities, careers or job roles, where they live, who they associate with, what physical or mental health conditions they may have or even their financial status.
Research has shown a number of contributing factors that make some people more likely to become addicted. For example, if they started using drugs or consuming alcohol at a young age, they’re more susceptible to developing an addiction later in life.
Having a family member with a drug or alcohol use problem also increases the likelihood of addiction because of genetics. Those in job roles that are highly stressful or dangerous can also be more susceptible as they cope with their work by “winding down” at the end of a shift by having a glass of wine or spliff which can then slowly develop into a psychological dependence/addiction, the individual then continually uses substances to cope with their feelings and thoughts, that then can develop into a physical addiction/dependency too.
3) There Might Be More Than One Reason Why They Began Using Drugs Or Alcohol In The First Place
There’s rarely one single reason why a person becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol. Oftentimes, a person uses substances to suppress any stressful, negative or anxious feelings or situations they are going through.
These feelings that drive people to substance use might stem from persistent issues in family relationships or a mental illness. In fact, many people who go to rehab for an addiction also receive treatment for a co-occurring mental condition like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other mental health conditions such as depression or borderline personality disorder (BPD) among others.
Luckily, today’s residential rehabs and community based drug and alcohol services are equipped to help people address a wide variety of root causes that led to their substance use.
Rather than focus on the physical and psychological addiction alone, treatment centers employ comprehensive, individualised programs that treat the whole person holistically. This ensures the best chances of achieving a successful, happy, productive and prosperous lifelong recovery.
4) Don’t Bring Up The Past While They’re Rebuilding Their Lives And Building A New Future
Making the decision to go to rehab or treatment is one of the toughest choices a person can make. It takes a tremendous amount of strength, dedication, determination and self-actualisation to do this, especially for a person suffering from an addiction.
Dwelling on the past and reliving past mistakes or actions is counterproductive for someone in recovery from an addiction and can actually hinder or reverse the progress that person has received during their treatment.
They’re in a highly vulnerable state of mind, so it’s far better for them to stay focused on the new, healthy life they’re paving the way for themselves at this time. The best thing you can do is to be there for the person in treatment or recovery and encourage them every step of the way to continue forward.
5) They Never Wanted Or Meant to Hurt Or Disappoint You Or Others
When a person begins to rely on drugs or alcohol, they’re not aware of the expansive repercussions that could result from their substance use. They started using substances to feel better or different and to escape from the stress of daily life or to block out hurtful or negative feelings or situations, but they never did it with the intention of hurting you or the other people around them.
Sadly, research has shown us that upto 91% from a person’s family, friends and spouses are affected by their addiction and subsequent behaviour. The people around the addict might experience their explosive temperament, erratic behaviour, lies, fights, manipulation, thefts or other negative effects from their chronic substance use.
Many rehabs, treatment programs and support groups offer family therapy as a part of a person’s recovery to help mend and strengthen their relationships after they’ve been damaged by their addiction. You can also find specific support groups, organisations and charities who help the family and friends of those afflicted by an addiction. You can find contact information for these groups, charities and organisations who can help on our help and support page here.
6) They Could Stop Using Or Drinking Straight Away If They Really Wanted to
Many people still think in these modern times that addicts could just stop using or drinking if they really wanted to. This however isn’t true.
When people become physically and psychologically addicted to substances, their mind and body are physically dependent upon that substance to avoid becoming unwell and withdrawing.
Withdrawal symptoms can range from mind symptoms to severe and even life threatening symptoms such as having seizures among others which can, have been and will be fatal. This is especially true with those who are addicted to alcohol or benzodiazepines, but any drug withdrawal has the potential to be fatal.
This is why we highly recommend that you or the addict undergo a professionally oversee detox program rather than simply just going “cold turkey” and stopping immediately. Not only that but just going through a detox won’t be enough to simply go through a detox and come out the other side and continue to live like you did before.
We and top NHS and research institutions research evidence shows that in order to maximise the addicts chances of long term success shows that addicts should go through a detox program first of all and then a comprehensive rehabilitation program should follow directly after the detox. In most cases, the two are linked so that you can attend one place, undergo a detox program for 2-4 weeks and then go straight into the rehabilitation program in the same place that you had your detox. This removes the stress of going to different places and friendships/bonds can form between attendees who may be in the same or similar situation/circumstances as you.
If your addiction is in the early stages, you are more psychologically addicted to drugs or your addiction is to prescription or over the counter medication, you can contact your GP or Doctor who can taper your dosage down slowly to avoid any serious withdrawal symptoms or swap you to a different medication that is less addictive and would be more appropriate for you and your circumstances, based upon your clinical needs.
This will then be carefully balanced and medication options can be decided along with your addictive tendencies to substances and addictive behaviours in mind.
7) They’re Still “Them” Underneath Their Addiction
An addiction is a powerful, devious and sneaky disease that puts a person’s body, mind and soul through physical and mental turmoil, much like a rollercoaster. It alters a person’s brain physically and chemically which disturbs their “normal” hierarchy of needs and desires.
The hobbies, interests, commitments, promises, career/work, family, children, friends, social functions and even personal hygiene that a person once enjoyed doing or did without hesitation, just like others who don’t have an addiction then becomes secondary to obtaining and using drugs or alcohol, finding money for more, sourcing/acquiring more drugs and alcohol and then drinking or using again. This cycle is a continuous downward spiral into even worse habits and behaviours.
Despite the addiction, your loved one is still the same person. The only difference is that they are sick with a medical health condition and they need your help to overcome their addiction and addictive behaviours and tendencies. During and after treatment, their true self will begin to shine through once again, this time with better coping strategies and techniques to become a better, more resilient family member or friend.
They Need Your Help & Support Now And Always
Millions of people need, but do not receive, treatment for an addiction every single year. This shows that addiction is a pervasive problem that’s often ignored. But with your encouragement and support, your loved one’s lifelong recovery journey is easier than they once thought possible.
Supporting A Loved One During Their Recovery
Here are some ways you can support someone during their recovery:
Set an example
Show how maintaining recovery is possible by establishing positive habits like cooking healthy foods or exercising.
Create a substance-free environment
Don’t allow temptations or triggers in your home.
Listen to them
Sometimes, all a person in recovery needs is someone to talk to.
A good skill to learn is how to respond and not react. This skill stops you snapping out before getting the chance to think about what you want to say and how to say it. This reduces the risk of arguments and possible negative consequences. You can learn the skill here.
Attend support groups with them
It gives the person in recovery a boost of motivation when they know there’s people on their side.
Recovery takes time, discipline and commitment.
Know the signs of relapse
Relapse can happen, and it’s important to know what to look out for. If a person in recovery seems to be falling back into old habits, get help immediately.
If you or someone you know is suffering from an addiction, it’s time to get the help you need. You can find contact information for a wide variety of groups, organisations and charities who can help on our help and support page.
For some people, getting treatment for their addiction felt like hitting rock bottom. But instead, their choice to enter recovery was the bright beginning for the rest of their lives
Comprehensive Guide For Helping & Supporting Our Friends And Loved Ones
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