Recovery is a Process and Not an Event
There is No Magic Cure for Addiction
There is no magic cure available that will make it easy for people to escape their addictions. It takes much effort and the real work only starts after the individual has stopped abusing alcohol or drugs. Even when people start building a life in recovery it does not mean that they are cured. The work has to continue. If the only thing that changes is that the individual stops using intoxicants there is unlikely to be much progress. To find lasting happiness they will need to completely alter the way they deal with life, and this does not happen overnight. This is why recovery is often referred to as a process and not an event.
The Stages of Recovery from Addiction
Those who manage to successfully break away from an addiction will tend to pass through different stages that include:
* Initiation into treatment. This can involve the individual arriving at rehab, possibly against their will. During the initiation stage people will still usually be suffering the effects of the alcohol or drugs they last consumed.
* Early abstinence. This can be a particularly tough time as the individual experiences physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms. They can feel highly vulnerable but have committed themselves more to the path of recovery. Early abstinence includes the first few months of recovery when people are most vulnerable to relapse.
* Maintenance abstinence. The individual is now over the worst of their withdrawal symptoms but there are still plenty of challenges left ahead of them. This is where the real work begins. Those who have been in rehab will now have to test their sobriety in the real world. During the maintenance abstinence period the individual is likely to experience an emotional rollercoaster. In order to progress through this stage they will be continuously faced with challenges that they need to overcome. This maintenance period lasts for about five years into recovery.
* Advanced recovery. Even though people have been sober for many years it does not mean that the work of recovery is finished. In advanced recovery thing do get easier as staying sober just becomes a habit. The risk of relapse never completely goes away though.
Challenges in Recovery
The process of recovery involves confronting many different challenges. If people fail to overcome these obstacles in their path then it may mean relapse or experience an unsatisfactory life away from addiction. The most common challenges that people will tend to face in recovery include:
* Transition for rehab to home. This can be a particularly challenging time for people in early recovery. The shock of moving from a protective environment back to the real world can be too much if people are not prepared for it properly.
* Finding new ways to cope. For years the addict will have turned to alcohol or drugs in order to avoid the pressures of life. This faulty coping mechanism is no longer an option in recovery so the individual will need to develop new tools for dealing with the world. If they fail to discover better coping strategies they will be tempted to return to their old ways of dealing with things.
* Facing old challenges. Many people turn to addiction in the first place because they feel unable to cope with things that are going on in their life. When they get sober they are likely to be once again faced with these same challenges. In order to build a successful recovery they will need to overcome these obstacles. A high number of addicts suffer from a dual diagnosis; this means that they suffer from a mental health condition such as depression as well as their addiction. It is vital that such people seek treatment for these other conditions or else they will find life uncomfortable.
* Facing new challenges. Just because people have managed to beat an addiction it does not mean that they get a free pass in life. There will be new challenges in the future and these will need to be faced. The good news is that dealing with problems leads to emotional and spiritual growth. Eventually the individual reaches a stage where they can smoothly handle the vicissitudes of life.
* Rebuilding relationships. This can be one of the toughest challenges for people in recovery. Loved ones may have been suffered many negative consequences as a result of the addiction and it can take a long time for these wounds to heal. There may be those who just do not feel ready to forgive and forget and maybe they never will. There is nothing that people in recovery can do to force others to forgive them. All they can do is do their best to build a successful life in recovery and make amends where appropriate. One of the challenges they may have to face is accepting that some relationships are irreconcilably damaged.
* Finding new interests. Those people who are in the midst of an addiction will spend most of their time focused on using or obtaining alcohol or drugs. When they become sober it will mean plenty of free time on their hands. It is dangerous for people in recovery to experience too much boredom, because it means their life is unsatisfying. It is therefore vital that they find new interests that will fill up their time. It is also these activities and hobbies that make the sober life so enjoyable.
* Building a new support network. Escaping addiction usually means saying goodbye to friends who continue to abuse these substances. Loneliness in recovery can be a relapse trigger so the individual needs to build a new social network. This may involve joining a recovery fellowship where they will be able to meet people who are on a similar path.