Addiction is an elusive, yet treatable chronic health condition that affects an individual’s entire life. Usually, it isn’t until years later that an individual realizes the toll addiction or alcoholism has taken on their physical, mental, and emotional health, and the damage can seem insurmountable. Some may ask, “What’s the point in seeking help?” “There’s nothing I can do to reverse the damage I’ve done or the pain I’ve caused.” These are common thoughts for those who have struggled with any addiction, and are the furthest from the truth. For most, seeking help for their addiction is the first healthy, (and most difficult), decision they’ve made in a very long time, if not their entire life. Addiction is now widely accepted by the medical and professional community as a disease, no different than diabetes or cancer. So in that sense, I urge you to try and convince someone with diabetes to go against the grain and refuse treatment for their illness. Seeing addiction in this new light may help those afflicted with it realize the seriousness of their situation. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and many benefits to seeking treatment for whatever addiction you may struggle with. Here are some of the basics:
· Medical Stabilization: In the case of substance abuse and/or alcoholism, withdrawal symptoms are often further complicated by other pre-existing medical and mental health disorders. Having a safe and comfortable facility with around the clock medical monitoring to keep these symptoms in check is often necessary. Withdrawal from certain substances including opioids, benzodiazepines, and alcohol, can be life threatening on their own depending on the severity and length of time of abuse. Throw in any type of underlying condition, physical or mental, and you can very well have a very serious situation on your hands without the proper medical attention.
· Therapeutic Intervention: Professional treatment facilities offer more than just medical assistance, they also provide therapeutic support that will help guide the individual through the treatment process and prepare them for sobriety and recovery in the outside world. Group therapy, personal therapy, alternative therapies, and holistic treatments can all work together to ensure that each patient has the unique set of tools necessary to be successful without drinking. In many cases, there is typically some type of underlying issue that comes to light after abstinence, and a licensed professional can better point that out to you before you can even begin to realize it for yourself.
· Relapse Prevention: While in treatment, there is going to be a lot of information given to you, all equally important, and one big topic is going to be relapse prevention. This is a huge topic because it encompasses everything that will benefit you in leading to a new life post-treatment. This topic will teach you coping skills to deal with the emotions and impulses that may arise after a period of abstinence, building new relationships as well as rebuilding old relationships, and seeking support in different forms after treatment. That is only the tip of the iceberg, there is a lifelong dedication to self-improvement toward a purpose driven, and abstinent life.
· Peer and Family Support: Addiction is often called a “family disease”. This is because of the effect of the actions of those addicted on their family and friends, and the reaction, or lack thereof, on their part. Seeking professional help can also include family therapy sessions between the afflicted and those they hold near. A lot of damage has been done, no matter what the addiction is. It takes time to rebuild a trusting relationship, and professional help can help to pave that road in the right direction. A big part of a recovery based life, is changing “old people, places, and things”, so to speak. The group experience in treatment can serve a person as practice for building healthy relationships with those around them, though in most cases, life long bonds are built in the treatment process due to the common struggle amongst peers. At the least bit, peer relationships in treatment and the behaviors learned carry through to real life experiences post-treatment.
· Aftercare: Professional treatment programs will often offer or refer a patient to an aftercare program to follow up with after the initial phase of treatment, to ensure the patient has ongoing assistance during the early stages of their recovery process. This may entail an intensive outpatient program or an individual therapist to meet with and continue the therapy process. Generally speaking, the highest rate for relapse into old behaviors is within the first 3-12 months of recovery, so this is just an added measure of accountability and growth during that period of time. This can also include involvement in a 12 step fellowship, a faith based fellowship, or any other type of outside support group. At this point in someone’s recovery, accountability in the form of a tight knit group of friends, continued group and individual therapy, as well as marriage or family therapy, has been found to be beneficial in long term recovery for the individual.