More than 16 million Americans suffer from at least one disease as a result of smoking, and there are 88,000 deaths related to alcohol use in the United States each year. Many people would like to experience long term addiction recovery, but total recovery is a serious challenge. When temptation strikes, it’s easier to simply relapse than to stay true to your long term addiction recovery plans.
Just because it’s challenging doesn’t mean it has to be complicated, however. Much like the progression of steps in a long journey with transportation services, the way to long term addiction recovery can be broken down into five steps. Keep reading to learn what those are.
Step 1: Create a New Life Where Recovery is Easier Than Relapse
The way to recover from an addiction isn’t simply to stop using the addictive substance. After all, some addicts successfully give up substance abuse long enough just to take drug testing. Instead, you create a new life where it’s easier not to use than it is to continue using it. You didn’t get addicted by accident — there were a lot of factors that worked together to bring you into an addiction. If those factors are not removed from your life entirely, they’ll bring you back into that addicted state again.
Of course, you don’t have to change everything in your life to recover. But there are a handful of unhealthy behaviors and negative thinking patterns that could get you back into trouble if you don’t deal with them. The more you hold on to your old life, the less likely you are to enjoy long term addiction recovery.
Avoid High-Risk Situations
Think about things in your life that you naturally associate with your addiction. There might be certain people who got you into the harmful practice in the first place, or who condoned your substance abuse. There may be locations associated with your addiction, such as places you would go to drink or acquire drugs. Think about objects affiliated with your addiction. Drug and alcohol paraphernalia are common triggers for relapses, so you must get rid of them once and for all.
Depending on what kind of addiction you’re recovering from, take steps to recreate your life so there are no reminders of your addiction left. This might mean avoiding the friends you used to drink with, the bar or restaurant where you’re used to drinking, or even driving through your dealer’s neighborhood. Don’t keep something around “just in case.”
Obviously you can’t avoid all high-risk situations all the time. However, just being aware of what these situations are will ensure you’re never caught off guard.
Change Your Negative Thoughts or Beliefs
Negative thinking provides its own risk factor, both for developing addictions and relapses. Common kinds of negative thinking and negative beliefs include self-labeling and all-or-nothing thinking. Such ideas might include the following:
- If people knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me
- I’m not likable.
- Life is too hard for me to handle it without using.
- Life isn’t fun without using. I won’t be fun without using.
- Recovery is more trouble than it’s worth.
- My cravings will be so bad that I won’t be able to resist, so why bother trying.
- I’ve never finished anything; if I stop using, I’ll only start again.
- I’m too damaged to recover or be happy.
If you read these with an open mind, you probably saw that they aren’t true about anyone. In fact, if another person told you they believed these things about themselves, you would tell them they were wrong. But when applied to ourselves, for some reason we feel like they’re true. That’s why it’s important to expose our negative beliefs to the light, so we can relieve the pressure and see them for what they are.
Never underestimate the power of negative thinking and negative beliefs. They may seem silly and insignificant to you, but they can lead to anxiety, depression, and addiction. People act on beliefs as if they’re true, regardless of whether they make sense or not. Find out what yours are and deal with them head-on. Write down positive beliefs to think instead, and consciously repeat them to yourself.
Step 2: Ask for Help and Build a Recovery Circle
Just like you might look for a good pain management doctor when you’re sick, you need the right people around you to recover from addiction. Most people begin long term addiction recovery by trying to do it alone. They may want to prove that they actually have control over their addiction. But trying to recover on your own is the hardest way to go about it. And besides, you’ve probably tried to recover by yourself before.
Addiction itself is isolating. It requires you to give up good friends and healthy activities. Recovery has to involve the community, and that starts with reaching out and asking for help.
Obviously you should exercise common sense when seeking help. Not everyone is your best friend, and some won’t be as understanding or supportive as you need them to be. But don’t let that stop you from finding someone who will be. There are lots of people out there, from everyday individuals to addiction counseling professionals, who truly care and want to help.
A recovery circle may involve the following people:
- Close family members
- Understanding friends
- Healthcare professionals
- Self-help groups
Remember: asking for help is difficult for everyone, but it’s the right thing to do. Use the fear as fuel to propel yourself towards your long term addiction recovery.
Join a Self-Help Group
Participating in a self-help group can dramatically increase your chances of having a long term addiction recovery. The combination of a substance abuse recovery program and a self-help group could be the most effective strategy possible.
There are many self-help groups to choose from, including 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. In a self-help group, you can enjoy benefits like the following:
- Feeling like you’re not alone.
- Learning what addiction and denial sound like by hearing them from others’ perspectives.
- Discovering strategies that have been proven effective.
- Having a safe place to be yourself without being judged.
- Employment services following successful recovery
Perhaps the best part of self-help groups is that they eliminate the need for guilt and shame. Guilt and shame are common emotions in addiction, and they’re significant obstacles to recovery. By seeing first-hand that you’re not alone, you’ll overcome the feelings of guilt and shame easily. In this setting, you’ll feel like recovery is within reach.
Step 3: Always be Honest with Yourself and Everyone in Your Circle
Maintaining an addiction requires you to lie, at some level: if you’re not lying to others, you’re at least lying to yourself. This is partly why addiction leads to isolation, too — being around other people has a way of making you acknowledge the way things really are.
Whether you’ve been lying to others about your addiction or lying to yourself about how serious it’s really been, the result of lying is that you no longer like yourself. You may have difficulty looking yourself in the mirror. The more you lie, the less you like yourself, which leads to wanting to escape your feelings, which results in a vicious cycle of addiction.
Recovery requires total honesty. You’ve got to be honest with yourself, and recognize that if you don’t start making changes to your everyday life, nothing is going to change. After all, you’ve gone this long, and you’ve no doubt attempted to work things out on your own. Take an honest look at where your actions have gotten you, and avoid excuses or defensiveness. You’re not condemning or blaming yourself: you’re merely acknowledging the facts. This is a good thing, because it’s the first step to going from where you are to someplace better.
You’ve got to start being honest with others, too. That doesn’t mean you need to tell everyone you know about your addiction, but you do need to stop any lying that you’ve been doing. Remember to talk honestly and openly about your struggles with the counselors and health workers who are helping you. Hiding things from them could result in a slower, more difficult recovery, so share as much as you can to get to the heart of your addiction.
Step 4: Practice Proper Self Care
When you get down to it, there aren’t that many reasons to use drugs or alcohol. People use them to relax, escape, and reward themselves. In other words, addictive behaviors are used as a form of self-care. The downside is that they can have horrible consequences.
While you may feel like addiction recovery is all about self-denial, it’s important to keep in mind that it doesn’t mean denying yourself ways to relax, escape, or reward yourself. You just need to find healthier, sustainable ways to do it.
Use HALT to Take Care of Yourself
Earlier we talked about avoiding high-risk situations that might push you to relapse. Often these situations aren’t in your external environment, but actually your state of being. If you’re feeling hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (which make up the acronym HALT), you’re at risk of stumbling into a relapse.
Part of caring for yourself involves avoiding these states of being. You might have noticed that your strongest cravings occur most at the end of the day. But have you noticed how you feel at the end of the day? Chances are you feel hungry because you haven’t eaten well. You may feel angry because you’ve had a long day, or had to deal with difficult people. You may feel lonely, especially if you live by yourself, and you’re probably tired. This is why the greatest temptation to relapse hits at the end of the day. You should take this as seriously as you take general dentistry when you have a bad toothache.
The way to avoid this is pretty straightforward, but it will take some effort to do consistently. When you’re hungry, find something tasty (but preferably nourishing) to eat. You might consider keeping snacks with you in case you feel hungry at work or on your commute, such as nuts, seeds, or dried fruit. Find ways to cope with feelings of anger and frustration, such as watching sitcoms, working out, or listening to music. If you struggle with loneliness, find a few people you can call now and then when you feel lonely, such as a counselor, pastor, or friend. You can avoid feeling tired by taking a power nap and working out every day.
Practice Mind-Body Relaxation
When you’re tense and uptight, you’re far more likely to do what’s familiar and comfortable instead of what’s right. Basically, when you’re tense, you’re less open to change.
Therefore, it’s no surprise that different forms of mind-body relaxation are very helpful when you’re trying to give up drugs or alcohol. Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness practices are all effective for this.
When people rely on substances to the point that an addiction develops, they turn to them because they help them feel relaxed. By finding other sources of relaxation, you’ll be taking your life into your own hands in a big way.
Step 5: Don’t Try to Negotiate Your Long Term Addiction Recovery
People have a tendency to focus on the worst things about themselves and their life, which is partly why plastic surgery and Botox injections are so popular. While it’s easy to focus on the negative when you’re trying to recover from an addiction, it’s important to recognize that your addiction has given you an opportunity to change your life. It’s difficult, but it’s also rewarding.
The last step of long term addiction recovery is to avoid negotiating your recovery. Making positive changes in your life is a big challenge, and there will be times when it feels like it’s not worth it. But when this happens, you must remind yourself why it matters so much. Bring to mind things you were missing out on because of your addiction, and all the ways your addiction made life difficult, such as having to rely on DUI attorneys for drunk driving. Hold those memories at the forefront of your mind when you’re tempted to give up. Embrace your recovery, and you will enjoy a much happier life.
And there you have it: the five steps to long term addiction recovery. Use this opportunity to change your life for the better.