Drug and Alcohol Addiction


What To ExpectWhen you’ve made the decision to seek addiction treatment, it’s hard to imagine what your life will be like without drugs or alcohol. Although no two people are exactly alike, this article outlines some of the issues you can expect to deal with during your first year in recovery.

Withdrawal

The term withdrawal refers to the physical symptoms you experience after drugs or alcohol leave your system.

Withdrawal symptoms depend upon the substance being abused and your length of use, but often include stomach upset, sweating, headache, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and mood swings. A medical detox helps you avoid dangerous side effects and keeps you as comfortable as possible.

Acute withdrawal symptoms start to taper off as your brain chemistry adjusts to a normal level. However, post-acute withdrawal symptoms can last anywhere from six months to two years. Common post-acute withdrawal symptoms include difficulty with memory and concentration, decreased physical coordination, and trouble managing emotions.

Counseling

Once detox has been completed, counseling is vital part of setting the foundation for long term sobriety. Counseling typically involves a mixture of individual, group, and family sessions. Your counselor may also recommend experiential therapies such as art, music, or equine therapy.

If you suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder such as depression or PTSD, your treatment plan will need to address both issues simultaneously. Often, people with mental health disorders turn to substance abuse to self-medicate the symptoms of their condition. If their mental health needs aren’t addressed, it becomes extremely difficult to maintain sobriety.

Celebrating 30 Days of Sobriety

Having 30 days of sobriety under your belt is considered a huge milestone. At this time, your withdrawal symptoms have become more manageable and your counseling sessions have provided you with the tools you need to begin a life free from the burdens of substance abuse.

Near the 30-day mark, you’ll likely be transitioning from an inpatient treatment facility to outpatient care. Your counselor will provide you with a detailed aftercare plan to make the adjustment process easier.

Creating a Strong Support System

After leaving an inpatient treatment facility, you’ll want to keep up the recovery momentum by creating a strong support system for yourself. Your facility’s aftercare resources are a good place to start, but you can also turn to support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous to connect you with people who understand the challenges you’re facing.

People in the early stages of recovery often find that turning to their faith provides comfort. The new friends you meet in worship services and church activities can play a vital role in your recovery by providing encouragement and accountability, even if they have no personal experience with substance abuse.

Building Routines

During the first year of recovery, much of your time will be spent creating a routine for yourself. You’ll need to figure out how to balance work, family, social, and treatment obligations. Using a traditional day planner or a scheduling app on your phone may make it easier to keep track of appointments.

As you’re building a routine for yourself, remember to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Not giving yourself enough time to relax can create stress, which places you at risk of relapse.

Repairing Relationships

When you’re struggling with addiction, it’s easy to inadvertently hurt the ones you love. Restoring trust with friends and family will take time, so be patient with this part of the process.

A sincere apology is always a good place to start, but most people in recovery find that their loved ones respond well to seeing how hard they are working to stay sober. Keep your loved ones informed of your recovery milestones while making an effort to communicate honestly and openly.

Discovering Sober Hobbies

One of the most exciting parts of embracing a sober lifestyle is developing new hobbies. During your first year in recovery, give yourself permission to explore areas of interest—even if they put you outside of your comfort zone.

As you’re thinking about what activities appeal to you, consider aiming for a mix of solo and group hobbies. Solo hobbies such as reading, creative writing, gardening, or painting provide a way to distract yourself when cravings hit. Group activities such as joining a bowling league, volunteering at a local nonprofit, or trying out for a community theater production let you expand your social circle.

Avoiding the Dangers of Overconfidence

As you get closer to the one-year mark, it’s natural to become more confident in your sobriety. Feeling comfortable living clean and sober is an excellent sign, but overconfidence can be a risk factor for relapse.

It’s important to remember that addiction is a chronic illness. Just as someone with diabetes needs to continually monitor their blood sugar, eat right, and exercise, you’ll need to stay on top of your treatment plan to manage your sobriety.

By Dana Hinders

To learn more about our programs, please visit our website.

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Goals for the New YearMaking New Year’s resolutions may be a time-honored tradition, but most of us aren’t very good at keeping those resolutions. Often, our lack of follow-through isn’t a matter of motivation or willpower. It’s because we haven’t taken the time to set goals that are effective in bringing about real changes in our lives. If you’re in recovery, setting SMART goals can help you stay sober and prevent relapse.

What Are SMART Goals?

Effective goals follow the principles outlined in the acronym SMART.

  • SPECIFIC: The goal involves a precise outcome that is desired.
  • MEASURABLE: The goal has a way to measure your progress.
  • ACTION-ORIENTED: The goal explains what behaviors you must follow to achieve your objectives.
  • REALISTIC: The goal is reasonably attainable given the current tools and resources at your disposal.
  • TIMELY: The goal comes with a built-in timeframe that gives you a sense of completion, such as doing something every day or once a week.

The SMART goal framework helps prevent some of the most common mistakes people make when setting goals by encouraging you to turn vague ambitions into specific and actionable steps that can be undertaken to achieve your objective.

Why Use SMART Goals for Addiction Recovery?

The SMART goals acronym can be used in any situation, but it’s particularly useful for people in recovery. Getting clean after being addicted to drugs or alcohol for a long period of time requires a total lifestyle change, which often feels overwhelming. The SMART goals acronym helps you visualize your recovery as a series of smaller and more manageable steps.

For example, one common goal people try to set for themselves in recovery is “I’m never going to relapse.” While this is certainly an admirable sentiment, the time parameter involved is too long and there are no steps explained for how you want to prevent relapse. (Remember that addiction is a chronic illness, you can’t simply pronounce yourself cured after going through detox.)

Better examples of goals to set for yourself include:

  • When I feel the urge to drink or use drugs, I’m going to call my sponsor.
  • I will write in my journal for 15 minutes before bed each night to better understand what factors in my life affect my cravings for drugs and alcohol.
  • I will exercise for 30 minutes per day to keep my energy level up and release endorphins to improve my mood.
  • I’m going to go to guitar lessons once per week, since music helps me cope with my cravings.
  • I will attend worship services each week, using my faith as a tool to assist in my recovery.
  • I’m going to apply for two jobs per week that offer at least 20 hours of work until I find a position that suits my needs.
  • On Friday nights, I will cook dinner for my family while we talk about what has happened during the week.
  • I will begin each day by spending 15 minutes celebrating the progress I’ve made in my recovery.

Short Term vs. Long Term Goals for Recovery

When setting SMART goals for your recovery, it’s important to think about both short term and long term goals. A successful recovery plan should include a mix of both goal types.

Short term goals are those that focus on the immediate challenge of maintaining your sobriety, such as controlling cravings, staying in contact with your sponsor, and attending therapy regularly. The sobriety chips given in AA meetings for 24 hours, 30 days, and 60 days of sobriety recognize the importance of setting short term goals in recovery.

For many people, long term goals often focus on what type of sober life they want to build for themselves. For example, you might be imagining a special anniversary trip to celebrate 25 years with your spouse. Or, you might want to finish your degree so you can be a good role model for your child as he or she enters high school. Long term goals can be one year, five years, or 10 years away—as long as they help keep you motivated on a day to day basis.

Evaluating Your Progress

Setting goals is an important part of creating a sustained recovery, but you also need to evaluate your progress periodically to make sure you’re on the right path.  If you’re struggling, it may be time to approach the problem differently. For example, if you’re worried you’re not making any progress finding post-recovery employment, you may need to arrange a meeting with a career counselor who can review your resume and offer some interview tips to boost your confidence.

It’s okay to make mistakes along the way, as long as you don’t use minor slip ups as an excuse to stop trying to live a clean and sober life.  Recovery is about progress, not perfection.

By Dana Hinders

If you or someone you love needs addiction treatment, please call St. Joseph Institute at 888-352-3297.

Post rehab dos and donts

When your loved one comes home from rehab, it’s natural to be nervous about what comes next. This guide will give you a basic framework for navigating some of the common challenges faced during the post-rehab adjustment period.

Do Take Time to Educate Yourself

If you’ve never struggled with drug or alcohol abuse yourself, it can be hard to understand what someone in recovery is going through. However, there are many excellent resources available to help you learn more about the roots of addiction and how to best support your loved one during the recovery process. Start by seeing what resources your loved one’s counselor recommends or by attending a friends and family support group such as Al-Anon.

Resources from St. Joseph Institute for Addiction that you might find helpful include:
What Is Withdrawal?
Principles of Effective Addiction Treatment
Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders: A Double Whammy for Treatment Goals

Do Ask Open-Ended Questions

When it comes to talking about recovery, everyone is different in regards to what they feel comfortable sharing. Some people want to share every detail, while others are slower to open up. You can express your support without prying with a simple, “How are you feeling?” or “What did you do today?”

To avoid making your loved one feel as though they’re being put on the spot, remember that a conversation is a two-way street. Make an effort to share details about the activities of your own day as well as your future plans. Your goal should be to foster a meaningful dialogue so it doesn’t feel as though you’re simply lecturing or criticizing.

Do Engage in Acts of Service

Verbally expressing your support is a good start, but sometimes actions speak louder than words. Show your support for your loved one’s recovery by offering transportation to appointments, the supplies or resources necessary to begin a new sober hobby, or assistance picking out clothes for a job interview. An invitation for a home cooked meal or a drug and alcohol free social engagement are also great options to consider.

If you’re not sure how to best be of service, don’t be afraid to ask. “What can I do to help you?” is always a good way to open the lines of communication. Your loved one may have ideas that you never would have considered on your own.

Don’t Rehash the Past

Your loved one is well aware of the mistakes he or she has made while struggling with addiction. Focusing on past mistakes will only keep you from moving forward in your relationship, especially if your loved one starts to feel like you’re blaming him or her for what has happened. Nobody can change the past, so it’s best to keep your focus on the future.

If you need to process your feelings about past events, vent to a trusted friend or write down your thoughts in a journal. This will help you keep a level head when dealing with your loved one in recovery.

Don’t Neglect Yourself

Loving a recovering addict can be stressful. It’s easy to spend so much time worrying about how to help your friend or family member that you forget to make time to take care of yourself. But, if you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, you won’t be able to effectively support your loved one during the recovery process.

Set a regular sleep schedule, eat nutritious meals, exercise regularly, and make time for stress-relieving activities that you enjoy. You’ll feel better about yourself and be setting a good example for your loved one of how to live a sober lifestyle.

Don’t Think of Rehab as a Cure

Addiction is a chronic illness. Your loved one may be sober now, but he or she is not cured in the sense that addiction will never be an issue again. Just as a diabetic needs to take insulin and manage blood sugar with diet and exercise, a recovering addict needs to remain vigilant to stay on top of relapse triggers. Rehab sets the foundation for a successful recovery. It’s not a quick fix.

Always remember that recovery is a journey that must be taken one step at a time. Your loved one may experience obstacles and setbacks along the way, but this does not mean that sobriety is impossible. It simply means that it may take some time to find a treatment plan that works best for his or her individual needs.

By Dana Hinders

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