It wasn’t all that long ago that addiction was believed to be a character defect and moral failing rather than the disease we know it as today. People who exhibited problematic substance abuse problems were considered to be bad people and were typically punished for their misdeeds. Over the years, we’ve come to realize that addiction is actually a disease. In fact, it’s a chronic, progressive brain disease that’s characterized by the altered structure and functioning of the brain. Those who develop this disease find themselves unable to control themselves; they pursue alcohol and drugs via a number of self-destructive means, which means that they continue to act in defiance of what’s in their best interests. Addiction recovery is a life long journey that takes work everyday.
Addiction Recovery is Not One and Done
Unfortunately, addiction is not a disease that can be cured. Once a person becomes addicted, the disease causes permanent brain changes that cannot be reversed. Even in terms of behavior, the development of an addiction isn’t something that can simply be overcome overnight. While this may sound bleak, there are actually a number of addiction treatment options available to those in need, which allows those who have become addicted to regain their independence and health. Through these numerous resources, the symptoms and effects of addiction can be addressed and mitigated, resulting in a person — who will still have the disease on a physical, neurological level — being able to live as a normal, healthy human being.
There are many misconceptions that people have about the recovery process today. Many people look at addiction like it’s a task to be checked off one’s to-do list. Since substance abuse would appear to be a behavior problem, addiction recovery would likewise seem to be a behavioral solution, but it’s actually much more than that. Recovery is a journey, not a destination and we’re going to explain why below.
Suffering in Active Addiction
The effects of being in active addiction are vast and profound. Many times we focus on the physical, or health- effects of addiction, but there’s actually much, much more to it. But in terms of the physical effects, there’s a major reduction in the body’s immune system, making those who’ve become addicted significantly more susceptible to illnesses. There’s also damage done to many bodily organs and even entire systems, including the central nervous, respiratory, and circulatory systems. And depending on the substance to which the person has become addicted, the route of administration may put the individual in danger of contracting bloodborne diseases like HIV or AIDS.
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In addition to the physical effects, there are many psychological, social, and even spiritual effects, too. As an addiction takes hold, a person begins behaving very differently. The cause of this is the fact that alcohol or drugs are taking an increasingly central role in the individual’s life. Moreover, the financial strain of a substance abuse problem makes addicts increasingly desperate to obtain more alcohol or drugs, and increasingly worried about the experience of withdrawals. This results in behaviors that would otherwise be very uncharacteristic of sober individuals. Addicts also become very emotionally distant, inadvertently either damaging or destroying many of their important relationships. In essence, anything besides alcohol or drugs becomes much less important, resulting in a major decline in overall health and lifestyle.
Embarking on the Road to Recovery
Although it’s not a requirement, many addicts must hit “rock bottom” before they’re ready to begin their recoveries. The perception is that they’ll go to rehab for a few weeks and be completely sober when they get out, ready to move on with their lives. However, recovery doesn’t work that way.
Instead, recovery should be considered a lifelong journey or even a lifestyle. A popular saying in the sober community is “recovery is a journey, not a destination”. Recovery might begin with a person’s entering a rehabilitation program, but it doesn’t end when the rehabilitation program has been completed. The rehabilitation stage of recovery is the period during which a person first detoxes from alcohol and drugs, and then participates in a variety of different therapies and group sessions wherein the individual learns the skills and strategies necessary to achieve long-lasting recovery. But even when a person’s rehabilitation program lasts for an extended period of time, these programs don’t cover everything. The purpose of addiction recovery programs is to offer patients a basis on which they can begin establishing themselves into a recovery lifestyle. Again, they’re not fully recovered after having completed a treatment program. There’s no such thing as being “fully recovered”; instead, completing treatment means they’ve acquired a number of skills that can be used to remain sober after rehab and continue progressing into later stages of recovery.
Reacclimating Into the Community
After completing an addiction treatment program, a person must return home and begin rebuilding his or her life around recovery. It’s often said that the real work doesn’t begin until after a person gets home from rehab, and most recovering addicts find that to be true. When a recovering addict returns home after rehab, he or she must go through the process of eliminating the people, places, and things from his or her life that pose a threat to his or her sobriety. If the individual were to simply resume life as he or she had been living prior to rehab, there would be a strong chance of relapse. However, this lifestyle transformation is something that happens over time; especially when it comes to weeding out harmful or dangerous relationships, it can take time figuring out with whom a person should surround him or herself so that one’s newfound sobriety is protected. Over time, it gets easier and easier to live a sober lifestyle, but becoming sober and optimizing one’s life for sobriety represent a process. It’s important to approach it as a process or journey so that one knows to always be putting effort and paying special attention to his or her recovery needs.
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If you or someone you love would like a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable and experienced recovery specialists, call Find Addiction Rehabs toll-free at 877-723-7117. Whether it’s day or night, we’re always available to help you or your loved one take the first steps on the journey to long-lasting sobriety and happiness.
Edward lives and works in South Florida and has been a part of its recovery community for many years. With a B.A. in English Literature from the University of Massachusetts, he works to help Find Addiction Rehabs as both a writer and marketer. Edward loves to share his passion for the field through writing about addiction topics, effective treatment for addiction, and behavioral health as a whole. Alongside personal experience, Edward has deep connections to the mental health treatment industry, having worked as a medical office manager for a psychiatric consortium for many years.