When the fog of not knowing where you’ve been never seems to lift and you’re fed up with repeated arrests for driving under the influence, your spouse has tossed you out of the house, your kids hate you and your job is in jeopardy, yet you can’t seem to quit drinking and drugging on your own, all is not lost. There is help available, but first you need to assure yourself that there is a workable strategy. It isn’t some pie-in-the-sky figment of the imagination but a plan that has proven successful for many people who sincerely desire to get clean and sober.
For many who seek sobriety, the easiest and least complicated way to approach this healthier way of life is to try 12-step meetings. The most widely known of these self-help support groups is Alcoholics Anonymous, although there are also many other 12-step groups. In addition, there are non-12-step self-help groups that you can check out. The point is that these are meetings where people gather with a like goal: to maintain their sobriety and to help others who desire to do the same. Going through the door is probably the hardest part, since this is all new and you’re likely a little leery of what goes on there and what you’re in for. Consider this a strong and empathic networking group, for that is exactly what it is.
Just going to a self-help meeting for the first time or even several times may not be enough to curb your drinking and/or drug use. Such support is considered an integral part of the overall recovery process, but it isn’t counseling or therapy. You may wish to talk with your family physician or a doctor, who can offer you advice on how to cut down or quit drinking and doing drugs.
If you have insurance coverage that includes counseling, you may also wish to talk with a professional regarding your desire to quit abusing substances. In either case, talking with a doctor or a counselor will prove enlightening. He or she can give you recommendations for different approaches you might wish to take. The next step is up to you. How much do you want to change your life and are you willing to do what it takes to make that possible?
After getting recommendations and resources from your doctor and/or counselor, you may next want to check out the treatment facilities that you’re considering. This isn’t all that difficult, although it feels like a big step. In fact, it is a huge step. You’re being proactive in ending your dependence on substances and signaling that you’re willing to do what it takes. In this instance, why not call a rehab facility and request a free assessment? The operative word here is “free.” You won’t be obligated and you will get a good overview of what you’re dealing with, learn what the treatment center has to offer and other important details regarding the treatment process.
Part of the difficulty in quitting alcohol and drugs on your own is the inevitable detoxification you’ll likely need to go through before formal treatment can begin. Many drug and alcohol treatment facilities have medically-monitored detox available as part of their overall treatment programs. However, other rehab centers don’t have onsite medically-monitored detox and you’ll be required to go through detox elsewhere before being admitted for treatment. Your doctor and/or counselor will give you recommendations or referrals so you can find out more about where to go for detox.
After getting the alcohol and drugs out of your system, you’re ready to begin formal treatment. This largely consists of counseling with medical professionals, psychiatrists and psychologists specializing in the field of addiction. Counseling occurs in one-on-one sessions and in group therapy. Other important aspects of treatment include various therapies that have been proven to assist in recovery from addiction.
These may include cognitive behavioral therapy to help change destructive thought patterns, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) to help deal with associated trauma and/or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), diet and nutrition counseling, as well as alternative holistic therapies such as meditation, yoga, traditional therapies such as Western botanical medicine and traditional Chinese medicine, experiential therapies such as equine-assisted therapy and more.
Another choice is residential (or inpatient) treatment or what is known as intensive outpatient treatment. For some individuals, clearing the time from job and home responsibilities required for inpatient treatment isn’t feasible. That’s where intensive outpatient treatment — essentially the same treatment, but you go home at night — offers a viable path to get clean and sober. There’s also the cost factor. Inpatient treatment costs more than outpatient rehab. This is a case where you examine all the options and make the best choice to suit your situation and the approach you feel is likely to give you the most opportunity to realize your goal of sobriety.
No matter which approach you choose, recognize that quitting alcohol and drugs isn’t simply a matter of saying you’re going to do it and it’s done. It will require hard work and you’ll find yourself wanting to do something easier. You might think about quitting therapy because you find it too difficult. Don’t quit. Your problems — the ones that have escalated and have become increasingly damaging — won’t go away. If anything, they’ll intensify, because addiction never goes away on its own. You need to commit to the process: learning about addiction, learning and practicing effective coping strategies, crafting a solid relapse prevention plan, attending self-help and support meetings, and working your recovery. Sticking it out is the only way that makes sense.
While you’re in treatment to overcome addiction to alcohol or drugs (or a process addiction or co-occurring substance abuse and mental health disorder) you’ll be introduced to 12-step support groups. After completing treatment and returning home, you’ll find that part of your relapse prevention plan will include regular participation in self-help groups. You’ll also be advised to get a sponsor, work the steps, and, most importantly, keep coming back.
Recovery takes time and it also takes time to see measurable results. That’s why commitment and learning from your mistakes is so important. This isn’t a one-and-done process. What you learn in treatment is that you make your own choices. You choose how you wish to live, day in and day out. While you will always be in recovery, the life you choose to live is very much in your control.