For many people struggling with addiction, the biggest and toughest step toward recovery is the very first one: deciding to make a change. It’s normal to feel conflicted about giving up your drug of choice, even when you realize it’s causing problems in your life. Change is never easy—and committing to sobriety involves changing many things, including:
- the way you deal with stress
- who you allow in your life
- what you do in your free time
- how you think about yourself
You may wonder if you’re really ready for all that change or if you have what it takes to quit. It’s okay if you’re torn. Recovering from addiction is a long process, one that requires time, commitment, motivation, and support. As you contemplate your situation, the following tips can help you make the decision.
Thinking about change
- Keep track of your drug use, including when and how much you use. This will give you a better sense of the role the addiction is playing in your life.
- List the pros and cons of quitting, as well as the costs and benefits of continuing your drug abuse.
- Consider the things that are important to you, such as your partner, your kids, your career, or your health. How does your drug use affect those things?
- Talk it over with someone you trust. Ask the person how he or she feels about your drug use.
- Ask yourself if there’s anything preventing you from changing. What are some things that could help you make the change?
Preparing for change: 5 key steps to addiction recovery
- Remind yourself of the reasons you want to change.
- Think about your past attempts at quitting, if any. What worked? What didn’t?
- Set specific, measurable goals, such as a quit date or limits on your drug use.
- Remove reminders of your addiction from your home and workplace.
- Tell friends and family that you’re quitting and ask for their support.
Drug addiction treatment and recovery 2: Explore your treatment options
Once you’ve made the decision to challenge your drug addiction, it’s time to explore your treatment choices. As you consider the options, keep the following in mind:
- There’s no magic bullet or single treatment that works for everyone. When considering a program, remember that everyone’s needs are different. Drug addiction treatment should be customized to your unique problems and situation. It’s important that you find a program that feels right.
- Treatment should address more than just your drug abuse. Addiction affects your whole life, including relationships, career, health, and psychological well-being. Treatment success depends on developing a new way of living and addressing the reasons why you turned to drugs in the first place. It may have been because of an inability to manage stress, in which case you’ll need to find healthy ways to handle stressful situations.
- Commitment and follow-through are key. Drug addiction treatment is not a quick and easy process. In general, the longer and more intense the drug use, the longer and more intense the treatment you’ll need. But regardless of the treatment program’s length in weeks or months, long-term follow-up care is crucial to recovery.
- There are many places to turn for help. Not everybody requires medically supervised detox or an extended stint in rehab. The level of care you need depends on your age, drug use history, and other medical or psychiatric conditions. In addition to doctors and psychologists, many clergy members, social workers, and counselors offer addiction treatment services.
As you seek help for drug addiction, it’s also important to get treatment for any other medical or psychological issues you’re experiencing. Your best chance of recovery is through integrated treatment for both the substance abuse problem and the mental health problem. This means getting combined mental health and addiction treatment from the same treatment provider or team.
Drug addiction treatment and recovery 3: Reach out for support
Don’t try to go it alone. Whatever treatment approach you choose, having a solid support system is essential. The more positive influences you have in your life, the better your chances for recovery. Recovering from drug addiction isn’t easy, but with people you can turn to for encouragement, guidance, and a listening ear, it’s a little less tough.
- Lean on close friends and family – Having the support of friends and family members is an invaluable asset in recovery. If you’re reluctant to turn to your loved ones because you’ve let them down before, consider going to couples counseling or family therapy.
- Build a sober social network – If your previous social life revolved around drugs, you may need to make some new connections. It’s important to have sober friends who will support your recovery. Try taking a class, joining a church or a civic group, volunteering, or attending events in your community.
- Consider moving in to a sober living home – Sober living homes provide a safe, supportive place to live while you’re recovering from drug addiction. They are a good option if you don’t have a stable home or a drug-free living environment to go to.
- Make meetings a priority – Join a recovery support group and attend meetings regularly. Spending time with people who understand exactly what you’re going through can be very healing. You can also benefit from the shared experiences of the group members and learn what others have done to stay sober.
Drug addiction treatment and recovery 4: Learn healthy ways to cope with stress
Even once you’ve recovered from drug addiction, you’ll still have to face the problems that led to your drug problems in the first place. Did you start using drugs to numb painful emotions, calm yourself down after an argument, unwind after a bad day, or forget about your problems? After you become sober, the negative feelings that you used to dampen with drugs will resurface. For treatment to be successful, and to remain sober in the long term, you’ll need to resolve these underlying issues as well.
Conditions such as stress, loneliness, frustration, anger, shame, anxiety, and hopelessness will remain in your life even when you’re no longer using drugs to cover them up. But you will be in a healthier position to finally address them and seek the help you need.
Relieving stress without drugs
Drug abuse often stems from misguided attempts to manage stress. Many people turn to alcohol or recreational drugs to unwind and relax after a stressful day, or to cover up painful memories and emotions that cause us to feel stressed and out of balance. But there are healthier ways to keep your stress level in check, including exercising, meditating, using sensory strategies to relax, practicing simple breathing exercises, and challenging self-defeating thoughts.
Strategies for quickly relieving stress without drugs
You may feel like doing drugs is the only way to handle unpleasant feelings, but it’s not. You can learn to get through difficulties without falling back on your addiction. Different quick stress relief strategies work better for some people than others. The key is to find the one that works best for you, and helps you calm down when you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed. When you’re confident in your ability to quickly de-stress, facing strong feelings isn’t as intimidating or overwhelming.
- Exercise releases endorphins, relieves stress, and promotes emotional well-being. Try running in place, jumping rope, or walking around the block.
- Step outside and savor the warm sun and fresh air. Enjoy a beautiful view or landscape.
- Yoga and meditation are excellent ways to bust stress and find balance.
- Play with your dog or cat, enjoying the relaxing touch of your pet’s fur.
- Put on some calming music.
- Light a scented candle.
- Breathe in the scent of fresh flowers or coffee beans, or savor a scent that reminds you of a favorite vacation, such as sunscreen or a seashell.
- Close your eyes and picture a peaceful place, such as a sandy beach. Or think of a fond memory, such as your child’s first steps or time spent with friends.
- Make yourself a steaming cup of tea.
- Look at favorite family photos.
- Give yourself a neck or shoulder massage.
- Soak in a hot bath or shower.