The decision to enter rehab for an addiction typically comes after a great deal of loss and suffering. People struggling with substance abuse often wind up maintaining their habits as long as possible. Once the situation is no longer tenable, they feel the effects of their substance abuse in the form of troubles at work, financial instability, damaged relationships, and possibly even legal trouble. Recovery, however, is not a simple or finite process.
The first stage is rehabilitation, and the second stage lasts the rest of a person’s life. Staying sober requires a constant commitment to living a safer, healthier lifestyle and avoiding the triggers that spur drug abuse. Although this second stage lasts for much longer, it’s actually a lot easier to stay sober than it is to get sober in the first place. Harmony Place understands the doubts many people may feel when considering rehab. Chances are good, however, that if you’re thinking about rehab, you should have entered already. Rehab will teach you how to get sober and stay sober, but you must do the work.
How to Get and Stay Sober
The decision to get sober requires commitment, honesty, willingness to change, and introspection. Detox is only the first phase, which flushes toxic substances from the body to start the physical recovery. This is an uncomfortable, often painful process, and has the best results with medical supervision. Medically-assisted detox ensures that emergency care is available if needed, and doctors can provide medication to handle withdrawal symptoms.
After detox, the patient enters the addiction counseling phase. This can last 90 days or longer depending on the scope of the program and the patient’s level of addiction. Intense cravings, psychological distress, and intense feelings of guilt, resentment, anger, and despair are common. A person struggling with a severe substance abuse problem will only start to recognize the damage that’s been done once he or she is no longer under the influence and no longer participating in addictive behaviors. This comes as a shock, which every patient will handle differently.
Many people with substance abuse disorders suffer from dehydration, malnutrition, and weakened immune systems due to prolonged drug abuse. Illicit drugs can not only cause damage on their own, but they can also render a user more vulnerable to severe illnesses and diseases. During the detox phase and first stages of rehab, a patient will often receive nutritional support, medications, and physical therapy to restore the body.
Detox can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the patient’s level of addiction, age, medical condition, and co-occurring disorders and conditions. Patients who have developed chemical dependencies on their drugs of choice will require carefully monitored, tapered doses until they are ready for detox.
Yoga, acupuncture, massage, exercise, and other physical therapies are great ways to help a person recover from the physical effects of addiction. Vitamin replacement therapy is also common, and this can help restore vital nutrients that contribute to physical health as well as healthy brain function. The difficult aspect of physical recovery from substance abuse is the fact that while the patient receives attention for his or her physical ailments, he or she is likely also struggling with strong cravings, self-doubt, and other intense emotions.
Physical therapy is essential to recovery from substance abuse disorders, but counseling is where people truly learn to get sober, stay sober, and make healthier decisions for the rest of their lives. Counseling can take many forms, and Harmony Place tailors each patient’s treatment plan to their specific needs. Some patients benefit tremendously from group counseling sessions, where people can share stories and experiences. Others flourish better with consistent one-on-one sessions with a therapist or substance abuse counselor.
Twelve-Step programs are another common choice for people in addiction counseling. Although these programs have origins based on religious concepts, there are many secular chapters and alternatives to the original Alcoholics Anonymous program. Many recovered addicts report Twelve-Step programs as invaluable sources of guidance, compassion, and security during the time after rehab. The first few weeks and months after rehab are often difficult, and the support these programs provide can be a tremendous asset for some newly recovered individuals.
Ultimately, the goal of substance abuse counseling should be to help the patient let go of insecurities, self-doubts, and lingering guilt about the past. This does not mean ignoring or burying those issues, but rather learning to address them and process them in healthy, constructive ways.
Why Staying Sober Is Easier
Eventually, a person in recovery will reach a point where “doing the work” of staying sober is routine. At this point, it’s actually more difficult to relapse into drug abuse than it is to simply stay the course and keep applying the lessons learned in rehab. Everyone is capable of making a positive change in life, and past actions have no bearing on future choices. It’s vital for people in recovery to acknowledge their fallibility, forgive themselves for their mistakes, and hold themselves to reasonable standards. Learning this is the difficult part of recovery. Once learned, applying it consistently is easy by comparison.
Long-Term Care After Rehab
Staying sober is also an easier task than getting sober for the first time due to the wide array of long-term support options available. Some patients benefit greatly from entering an outpatient substance abuse treatment program after completing an intensive inpatient program. Others find that residential recovery programs offer an easier transition back into “normal” life. There are also support programs for job training, schooling, financial recovery, and legal services for restructuring life after rehab.
Many people who have successfully recovered from substance abuse and addiction continue to participate in Twelve-Step programs and other support networks as sponsors and guides. These individuals help people just starting the recovery process learn coping strategies and stress management techniques to prevent relapse and rebuild a sense of normalcy. Ultimately, if a person makes it through detox and rehab to finally get sober, the hard part is over. Maintaining sobriety requires work, but it is much easier than clearing the first hurdle of getting sober.