Overcoming Drug Addiction: A Guide for Families and Individuals Seeking Recovery

Are you ready to address your drug abuse problem? This step-by-step guide can help you cope with cravings, deal with relapse, and overcome your substance use disorder.

The First Step to Overcoming Drug Abuse and Addiction

Developing an addiction to drugs isn’t a character flaw or a sign of weakness, and it takes more than willpower to overcome the problem. Abusing illegal or prescription drugs can create changes in the brain, causing powerful cravings and a compulsion to use that makes sobriety seem like an impossible goal. However, recovery is never out of reach, no matter how hopeless your situation seems or how many times you’ve tried and failed before. With the right treatment and support, change is always possible.

For many people struggling with addiction, the toughest step toward recovery is recognizing that you have a problem and deciding to make a change. It’s normal to feel uncertain about whether you’re ready to start recovery or if you have what it takes to quit. If you’re addicted to a prescription drug, you may be concerned about finding an alternate way to treat a medical condition. It’s okay to feel torn. Committing to sobriety involves changing many aspects of your life, 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.
  • The prescription and over-the-counter medications you take.

It’s also normal to feel conflicted about giving up your drug of choice, even when you know it’s causing problems in your life. Recovery requires time, motivation, and support, but by making a commitment to change, you can overcome your addiction and regain control of your life.

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 use.
  • Consider the things that are important to you, such as your partner, your kids, your pets, your career, or your health. How does your drug use affect those things?
  • Ask someone you trust about their feelings on your drug use.
  • Ask yourself if there’s anything preventing you from changing. What could help you make the change?

Preparing for Change: 5 Keys to Addiction Recovery

  1. Remind yourself of the reasons you want to change.
  2. Think about your past attempts at recovery, if any. What worked? What didn’t?
  3. Set specific, measurable goals, such as a start date or limits on your drug use.
  4. Remove reminders of your addiction from your home, workplace, and other places you frequent.
  5. Tell friends and family that you’re committing to recovery, and ask for their support.

Exploring Your Addiction Treatment Options

Once you’ve committed to recovery, it’s time to explore your treatment choices. While addiction treatment can vary according to the specific drug, a successful program often includes different elements, such as:

  • Detoxification: Usually the first step is to purge your body of drugs and manage withdrawal symptoms.
  • Behavioral Counseling: Individual, group, and/or family therapy can help you identify the root causes of your drug use, repair your relationships, and learn healthier coping skills.
  • Medication: May be used to manage withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, or treat any co-occurring mental health condition such as depression or anxiety.
  • Long-term Follow-up: Helps to prevent relapse and maintain sobriety. This may include attending regular in-person support groups or online meetings to help keep your recovery on track.

Types of Drug Treatment Programs

  • Intensive Inpatient Treatment: A short-term clinical treatment for people who have developed a physiological dependence on a drug and need help with withdrawal symptoms.
  • Residential Treatment: Involves living at a facility and getting away from work, school, family, friends, and addiction triggers while undergoing intensive treatment. It usually lasts from 30 days to several months.
  • Day Treatment/Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP): For people who require ongoing medical monitoring but wish to still live at home and have a stable living environment. These programs usually meet at a treatment center for at least 20 hours a week.
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP): Do not require living at a treatment center and only require between 9 and 19 hours of treatment each week, allowing you to schedule treatments around school and work.
  • Therapy: One-on-one or group therapy sessions can be useful in developing coping skills, identifying triggers, and exploring the roots of your addiction.

Tips for Finding the Best Drug Addiction Treatment

  • No Treatment Works for Everyone: Everyone’s needs are different. Find a program that feels right for you.
  • Address More Than Just Drug Abuse: Addiction affects your whole life, including your relationships, career, health, and psychological well-being. Treatment should develop a new way of living and address the reasons you turned to drugs.
  • Commitment and Follow-through: Drug addiction treatment is not a quick and easy process. Long-term follow-up care is crucial to recovery.
  • Seek Comprehensive Care: In addition to doctors and psychologists, many clergy members, social workers, and counselors offer addiction treatment services.
  • Seek Treatment for Mental Health Problems: As you seek help for drug addiction, it’s also important to get treatment for any other medical or psychological issues you’re experiencing.

Finding Support for Your Addiction Recovery

Don’t try to go it alone—reach out for support. Whatever treatment approach you choose, having positive influences and a solid support system is essential. The more people you can turn to for encouragement, guidance, and a listening ear, the better your chances for recovery.

  • Lean on Close Friends and Family: Having the support of friends and family members is invaluable in recovery. Consider relationship counseling or family therapy if needed.
  • Build a Sober Social Network: Make new connections with sober friends who will support your recovery. Take a class, join a church or civic group, volunteer, or attend community events.
  • Consider Sober Living Homes: These provide a safe, supportive place to live while you’re recovering from drug addiction.
  • Make Meetings a Priority: Join a 12-step recovery support group, such as Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and attend meetings regularly.

Learn Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress

After addressing your immediate problems with addiction and starting treatment, you’ll still have to face the problems that led to your drug abuse. Finding ways to address these feelings as they arise is an essential component to your treatment and recovery.

Quick Stress Relief Strategies

  • Movement: A brisk walk around the block can relieve stress. Yoga and meditation are also excellent ways to find balance.
  • Nature: Step outside and enjoy the fresh air, a beautiful view, or a scenic landscape.
  • Pets: Play with your dog or cat and enjoy their relaxing presence.
  • Smell: Breathe in the scent of fresh flowers or coffee beans, or savor a scent that reminds you of a favorite vacation.
  • Visualization: Close your eyes and picture a peaceful place, like a sandy beach or a fond memory.
  • Pampering: Make yourself a cup of tea, give yourself a massage, or soak in a hot bath.

Be Aware of Drug Triggers

Your recovery doesn’t end at getting sober. Your brain still needs time to recover and rebuild connections that changed during addiction. During this time, drug cravings can be intense. Support your recovery by avoiding people, places, and situations that trigger your urge to use.

  • Step Away from Friends Who Use: Don’t hang out with friends who are still doing drugs. Surround yourself with people who support your sobriety.
  • Avoid Bars and Clubs: Even if you don’t have a problem with alcohol, drinking can lower inhibitions and lead to relapse.
  • Be Upfront About Your History: When seeking medical treatment, find a provider who will work with you in prescribing alternatives or the minimum necessary medication.
  • Use Caution with Prescription Drugs: If you were addicted to a prescription drug, talk to your doctor about finding alternate ways to manage pain.

Coping with Drug Cravings

Sometimes craving cannot be avoided, and it is necessary to find a way to cope:

  • Distracting Activity: Engage in a hobby, read, see friends, or exercise.
  • Talk It Through: Talk to friends or family members about craving when it occurs.
  • Challenge and Change Your Thoughts: Remind yourself of the negative consequences of drug use.
  • Urge Surfing: Ride the wave of your craving until it passes.

Building a Meaningful Drug-Free Life

You can support your drug treatment and protect yourself from relapse by having activities and interests that provide meaning to your life.

  • Hobbies: Pick up an old hobby or try a new one.
  • Pets: Caring for an animal can make you feel loved and needed.
  • Nature: Spend time in nature and enjoy activities like hiking or fishing.
  • Arts: Visit museums, attend concerts or plays, or take an art class.
  • Community Involvement: Volunteer, join a church or local club.
  • Set Goals: Having goals to work toward can be powerful antidotes to drug addiction.
  • Look After Your Health: Regular exercise, adequate sleep, and healthy eating habits help keep energy levels up and stress levels down.

Don’t Let Relapse Keep You Down

Relapse is a common part of the recovery process from drug addiction. While relapse is frustrating and discouraging, it can be an opportunity to learn from your mistakes, identify additional triggers, and correct your treatment course.

  • Recognize Triggers: Negative emotions, physical discomfort, social pressure, and temptation can all trigger relapse.
  • Take Action: Call your sponsor, talk to your therapist, go to a meeting, or schedule an appointment with your doctor.
  • Learn and Adjust: When sober again, evaluate what triggered the relapse and what you could have done differently.

Recovery is a journey, and it’s important to have a support system and tools in place to help you navigate the challenges. By staying committed and seeking help when needed, you can overcome addiction and build a fulfilling, drug-free life.