SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Addiction is a disease that is both painful and confusing. Friends and family of an addict often wonder why he or she continues to abuse alcohol or drugs when they see that addiction destroying their lives. They usually ask themselves why they cannot stop. In most cases, the addict is asking himself or herself the very same thing. But, the truth is that any individual can become an alcoholic or a drug addict. However, there are some who are more vulnerable when compared to others. What people fail to answer is the following question – why do people get addicted to drugs? 

Most people are not aware of why or how they became drug addicts. They do not realize that the addiction has engulfed their life. It has been found that drugs can alter the functioning of the brain and make you crave for the substance. Often drug abusers are considered to be weak individuals. People believe that one can always control an addiction if he or she wants to do so – all they would need to do is make up their mind. They do not understand that the drug consumed directly impacts the brain, thereby reducing the person’s willpower to give up on that drug. Science has advanced so much that we know the complexities that drugs can cause inside your brain, and we also know that you can treat the dependence and help people who want to get better and stop this abuse and live normal productive lives.

What Is Drug Abuse?

Alongside chronic diseases too, such as asthma, heart disease and diabetes, drug addiction can be managed. It is not common for a person to have a relapse and begin to abuse again. However, it does happen. Relapses do not indicate failure. In fact, they suggest that the treatment needs to be adjusted or rehabilitated, or an alternate treatment is required for the patient to regain control over their lives and recover.

The Stages of Recovery

Each individual has a different addiction journey but, for the most part, the path to recovery is almost the same. The route starts at the bottom where the individual decides to act against the addiction. The individual then moves onto the part of the recovery process where he or she will need to make mental and physical adjustments to life without the usage of the drug. Finally, the individual will need to establish a healthy life, somewhere in between, and work on the difficulties and issues the individual faced, thereby helping the individual feel stronger and happier than before. You have to remember that every individual is different, and you will need to be honest with yourself about how you are doing, and use all the tools at your disposal to help you through your journey. If you suspect that you may be addicted to drugs, you have to ensure that you reach out for help whenever necessary. If you are reading this on behalf of a loved one, a family member, or significant other, it is important that you let them know that help is available, but they have to acknowledge and admit that they have a problem.

Admit You Have a Problem

For most people, a terrible night out, a lousy experience, losing your job, or losing a relationship leads to this step. Irrespective of what the experience was, you will need to remember that this point may have been one of the lowest in your life, and you did feel miserable. However, you will need to tell yourself that there is no way nowhere to go but up. This is both an empowering and peaceful place to be. If you have chosen to read this, it goes to say that you have accepted the problem or have identified that there is a problem that lies somewhere within you. It is all right if you do not reach this stage immediately and if you take time too. Continue to read all you can about addiction, and make sure you are honest with yourself. 

Find Support

For most people in the recovery phase, this is the step that made the difference between the many failures that came before and the successful attempt at sobriety. When you read or hear the word support, you may think of an AA group, but it could be a friend, a doctor, an online support group, or even a relative. It is always easier to talk to someone who has an idea of what it is that you are going through. This always helps to give you the support you need and also keeps you accountable. You can enlist in a sober community later, but it is still good to find help as soon as possible. 

Detox

The first few days of being sober can be challenging both physically and mentally. You may experience some dangerous withdrawal symptoms, or have terrible hangovers, or binge on the drug you have been trying to control yourself from using. You may need medical supervision depending on the severity of the addiction. Always ask for professional assistance when you are in doubt. 

Early Sobriety 

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a topic that is controversial, and some say that this stage does not exist. This is the stage that many people reach after the physical and mental symptoms have passed, and it can take multiple forms, like panic, irritation, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and trouble concentrating to name a few. This stage can last for a long time – as long as a couple of weeks to a couple of years depending on the severity of the addiction – although the symptoms and effects decrease over time. Irrespective of whether or not you believe in this state, you are likely to transition into this state in the early stages and will need to lean on your support system a lot. ‘

You are bound to face difficulties when things get tough, e.g. your first sober weekend, or you will start to grieve the dead relationship between you and the drug of your choice. It may feel like you have lost a loyal, old companion or friend, but you have to realise that the relationship was dysfunctional and recognize the mess that you went through. You need to remember that you are not alone and every addict on the path to recovery experiences this stage before emerging happier. 

Finding New Routines

There is a time when the initial anger and mourning will pass. You will realise that you have settled into some routines – a meeting with your sober group, or a morning routine, or bedtime routine – now that the entire day is at your disposal. When you replace old habits with new and healthy habits, you will empower yourself through the recovery process. After years of having alcohol or drugs direct and dictate every decision you ever made in life, you get to start making decisions on your own and also identify better ways to spend your time. 

Pink Clouds

When you are sober for a few months, there will be days when you feel euphoric and are walking on air. People in the recovery phase call this “pink clouds.” At this stage, you are sleeping better, looking better, saving enough money, spending your free time attending to your family, and do not have any chemicals running through your body. This messes up the chemistry of your body. There are days when you may not feel that euphoric, but the positive changes you have made to your life that will stay the same. 

Put Your Life in Order

A person who is struggling with addiction forgets about a few important things in life and lets them slide. You are probably neck deep in debt, or have forgotten to pay your bills, or have the need to lose weight. Some people want to jump into the next state – they want to make amends and appease the people they have hurt or harmed during their addiction. There will come a time when you can make amends and address the people who matter to you. But, do not rush into it. It is difficult to become sober, so it is important that you focus more importantly on the early stages. You should ensure that you do not overwhelm yourself with all the other tasks when you are not ready. This can lead to a relapse. When you are sober for a few months, you can tackle all the problems with ease. 

Avoid Relapse

When you have settled into your new way of living, and every craving or thought has become more manageable, you will begin to grow complacent. Addiction needs constant vigilance. One of the best ways to identify a relapse before it happens is to determine the prelapse stage. This is the condition where you begin to feel incapable of coping with the addiction or craving. You may stop checking in with your sober community or stop exercising, or maybe even overwork, but never ask for help. Irrespective of what the situation is, relapse will strike, making you feel vulnerable. If you want to recover successfully, you will need to take care of yourself and identify the different symptoms before they cause a relapse. 

It is important to remember that relapse does not mean that the treatment has failed. Keep pushing yourself forward – talk to people who have supported your recovery, go to support meetings, talk to your therapist, or meet your sober community. When you have become sober, you will need to understand what went wrong the last time you relapsed and also see what you could have done differently. You have to be strong, and choose to go back on the path to recovery, and use that experience to strengthen the commitment you have towards making a change. 

Enjoy the Rest of Your Life Sober!

There will come a time when you realise minutes, days, or even months have passed from the time when you thought about drugs or alcohol. When you are not addicted to one substance, your life changes, and you start appreciating the blessing in your life. Life will not be perfect, and there are times when you may feel sad or depressed. However, if you manage to stay calm and strong, and use the recovery tools that work for you, you will be able to challenge your addiction or craving, which is a pretty fantastic feeling. Now that you want to do more, you will reap the rewards in each area of life.

Disclaimer: The Quantum Evolve by no means asserts that this advice is for everyone and recommends that people seek guidance from their medical practitioner. 

The Gratitude List

The Quantum Evolve

 NLP Consultancy, specialising in Smoking and Substance Abuse and  advocates of general Mental Health & Wellbeing.