Anyone who’s dealt with addiction, either their own or that of a loved one, knows how hard it is to get clean and stay that way. Setbacks and relapses are unfortunately common, and there is no one-size-fits-all cure.
However, no matter what your situation or recovery plan, there are several factors that, according to the available research on the subject, are important. Here are some of the fundamentals.
Being Ready To Change
If someone suffering from an addiction isn’t ready to address the problem — or won’t admit that there’s a problem to address — it won’t get solved. It’s so commonly stated that it’s become a cliche, but that doesn’t make it any less true — the first step is admitting you have lost control.
That doesn’t make that first step any easier, and you can’t force someone you love to admit that they need to change. They have to come to that realization in their own time and, when they do, they should be commended for the courage it takes to admit they’ve lost control.
Believing You Can Overcome Challenges
In psychology, the term is “self-efficacy,” and refers to a person’s belief that they can make things happen. For recovery from addiction, it’s vitally important — once you decide that you need to get clean, you have to also think you can do it.
It’s a challenge to keep a positive mindset, especially if you have a past history of poor decision-making. But every day clean and sober is a reminder that you can change, even if it’s slow and difficult.
Maintaining Psychological And Emotional Wellness
The links between addiction, anxiety, and depression are well-documented. Addiction can be alienating and cause a breakdown in social bonds, which leads to anxiety and depression. If the addiction is treated without addressing the other facets of mental health, people overwhelmed by their symptoms will seek relief in their substance of choice.
A comprehensive addiction recovery plan will also address the accompanying mental health issues, whether they’re a cause or an effect of addiction. Untreated mental health issues can result in relapse, undoing all your hard work.
The Support Of Others
The value of support from others in addiction treatment can’t be emphasized enough. Getting sober and staying that way isn’t easy — social stigmas, fear of relapse, and shame at having become addicted in the first place are hard enough to fight through, and that’s without even mentioning the potential physical effects of withdrawal.
That’s why it’s so crucial that people recovering from addiction are able to surround themselves with supportive people — loved ones, people who care about them, people who know what they’re going through, and people who have gone through it before.
A Structured Life
Addiction can interfere with a person’s ability to live a structured, balanced life — sometimes debilitatingly so. For a recovery program to be a success, routine and a structured environment are important to re-establish.
What does this mean? It means having a consistent routine and sticking to it — going to bed, getting up, eating meals, and exercising at the same time every day. It means taking care of the basic aspects of daily life, balancing work and recreation, and keeping sobriety in the front of your mind. Support is extremely helpful here too — it’s much easier to stick to a schedule if someone’s holding you to it.
A major trigger for relapse among those recovering from addiction is a simple one: boredom. Anyone who’s struggled with addiction, either their own or a loved one’s, can attest that in many cases, substance misuse becomes simply a way to pass the time.
That’s why it’s so important to stay busy. Research suggests that people who stay engaged — whether it’s a job, a hobby, exercise, intramural sports, volunteering, or some sort of creative expression — tend to stay sober for longer.
Hopefully this list is helpful, but it’s by no means exhaustive. Various techniques will work better for different people, so it’s important to seek the help of a sponsor or mental health professional that can help you. Remember, whether it’s your own addiction or a loved one’s that you’re concerned about, you are not alone.