In my thirty years as a substance abuse counselor, the most frustrating thing I’ve observed, over and over, is that people underestimate the power of the addiction monster and the work it takes to fight it.
With a few rare exceptions, most addicts and alcoholics have to work on recovery for the rest of their lives. If done well, the work gets easier over time, and life can be good. Not always easy, but richer and deeper, with more options and more peace.
One alcoholic I’ve worked with, who’s been sober for well over a year, still goes to AA every day. She’s learned the hard way, that’s what it takes for her. Every day, she calls her sponsor, prays and reads recovery literature or works the steps. She’s reasonably happy and able to share her experience, strength and hope with others. It may be possible to stay sober without that kind of intensity, but in my experience, it’s risky not to work a daily program.
Recovery is a process, not an event. Recovery is about learning to live life on life’s terms and creating new pathways in the brain. It takes practice. Treatment ranges from counseling to intensive outpatient, to detox, to inpatient (if you can find one that’s affordable.) Sometimes, long term residential is what it takes. And programs are getting harder to access and more limited with funding cuts and managed care, but that’s another post, or more likely a rant.
For most people, recovery takes changing people, places and things – things like thoughts – and developing coping skills. A person who started drinking or drugging regularly in his or her teens is often starting recovery emotionally and socially as an adolescent. They may know a lot about life on the street, or how to get a doctor to write them a prescription, but they can easily become overwhelmed by feelings and relationships, the challenges of life on life’s terms.
What I’ve seen is that people who have a strong recovery support network are more likely to be successful. The people who I’ve seen be most successful at staying clean and sober are walking a path of spiritual growth. They develop a relationship with loving, caring, higher power, a power stronger than the monster of addiction.
Recovery is possible.
Next week, I’ll be sharing about how family members and friends can help a loved one suffering from addiction.
The climber is from pixabay: Mountain Climbing 709320
The sunset is from God.