How to Begin Your Recovery From Addiction

An estimated 46.3 million Americans are currently struggling with substance abuse. Addiction is a complicated combination of both physical and mental health problems. This can make recovery from addiction difficult.

With the right intervention, you can find new ways to get through each day without relying on addictive substances. The question is, how can you get started?

If you’re reading this guide, you’re already making good progress. You can’t get help until you start to seek it out, and learning about your options is an important part of that process.

Are you ready to take the next steps? Read on to learn how to begin your recovery from addiction.

Recognizing the Signs of Addiction

Addiction isn’t just a matter of willpower. Addictive substances make tangible changes to the brain’s wiring, creating a feedback loop of positive neural responses when using a substance and negative responses when abstaining. Both the mind and the body develop a dependence that is hard to break without medical intervention.

Many people who are struggling with or on the path toward addiction aren’t fully aware of the signs. Here are a few of the common signs that substance use has gone past recreational and may be part of an addiction.

Regular Substance Use

One of the most obvious signs of addiction is frequent, regular substance use. You may find that you’re using a substance on a daily basis and possibly even using it at inappropriate times, like before work or before driving a car. 

However, it may seem like it is fully within your control to stop at any time. Many people need to recognize more signs in their own behavior before acknowledging that they are struggling with a substance abuse disorder.

A Change in Priorities

As we mentioned earlier, addiction rewires the brain. Intoxicating substances like drugs and alcohol cause a swift release of feel-good neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. In turn, this can lead to diminished interest (and a diminished positive response) to activities or responsibilities that were previously important. 

For example, someone who is struggling with addiction may lose interest in hobbies they once loved. They may also get less satisfaction out of meaningful connections with friends and family or a sense of pride in their work. Instead, the biggest priority becomes obtaining and using drugs or alcohol in order to feel happy, energized, relaxed, or level. 

Negative Impacts on Daily Life

When a person’s priorities change so drastically, it tends to have a negative impact on their life. It could lead to broken relationships with loved ones. It could also lead to frequent work absences or poor work performance, which can even lead to a loss of income. 

However, addiction can make it hard to examine your life and circumstances with a clear mind. It may seem that these negative impacts aren’t important. For many, these negative impacts can increase feelings of guilt, which can fuel change but often leads to an increased reliance on substances to numb the pain and discomfort.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Because the body and mind have come to depend on a substance for positive feelings and regulation, there are noticeable effects when a person with a substance use disorder abstains from substance use. This is called withdrawal, and can produce many physical and mental effects, including:

  • agitation
  • headache
  • loss of appetite
  • insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • chills or fever
  • nausea or vomiting
  • bodily pain
  • lack of emotional regulation

In the worst case scenarios, withdrawal can lead to life-threatening symptoms like seizures. Even minor withdrawal symptoms create unnecessary difficulties that can disrupt your overall quality of life.

The Five Stages of Lasting Change

How can you begin the addiction recovery process? It’s helpful to understand what that process tends to look like. Here are the five stages of lasting change that you will go through when creating and executing an addiction recovery plan.

1. Denial

Addiction doesn’t happen overnight, and the gradual process can obscure the reality of the situation. Most people go through a pre-contemplation stage that we can also describe as denial. During this stage, you may lack insight into the negative impacts of your substance abuse, attempt to hide the severity of that substance abuse from others, or categorize your substance abuse as recreational use that you could stop at any time.

2. Contemplation

During the second stage, you’ll begin to reckon with your substance abuse disorder and the complications that come with it. You’ll start to see the benefits of recovering and have a desire to seek help. However, you may hold frustration over previous attempts to recover or fear that recovery won’t be possible for you.

3. Preparation

The preparation stage is a lot like what it sounds like: you are starting to take proactive steps toward a recovery plan. This can include having serious conversations with friends and family, but it should also include steps like finding a recovery center and other recovery resources in your area. Many people will go a day or two without using substances during this stage, but may also discover that it’s difficult to truly quit without professional and medical intervention.

4. Action

The action stage is made up of multiple phases, typically beginning with medical detox and at least a short-term stay at a rehabilitation center. This is the period of time when you’ll incorporate many different changes into your lifestyle, including self-care and a commitment to self-awareness, physical health, and emotional healing. You may hope to move through this stage in a matter of weeks, but it can take months to get to a place where you’re abstaining from substance use every day.

5. Maintenance

The final stage is the maintenance stage because even when you’ve completed addiction rehab and hit major milestones (e.g., six months of sobriety, a year of sobriety, etc.), you’ll still have to make a daily effort to remain sober. It’s not uncommon for people to reach the maintenance stage and relapse, but relapsing doesn’t mean that you should give up. To make the maintenance stage easier to manage, continue to seek support from local groups, loved ones, and counselors. 

How to Get to the Action Stage

You may feel like you’re stuck somewhere in the first two stages that we’ve described above. To get to the action stage, you’ll need to go through the preparation stage and commit to moving forward. Here are some of the ways you can go from preparation to action and beyond.

Communicate With Loved Ones

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “The first step is admitting that you’re struggling with addiction.” Communicating with trusted loved ones that have your best interest at heart can improve your chances of making it to the action stage for a number of reasons. Not only can they help you find local resources but they can also increase accountability and encouragement to keep moving forward.

List Your Motivations to Recover

When your brain and body are under the influence of regular substance use, it’s difficult to keep your goals in focus. If you don’t feel like you have the drive to quit for yourself, you may need to look beyond your personal wellbeing.

List the people who would benefit from your recovery, as well as any other motivating factors like money, your career, and the dreams you had before addiction took hold. As your motivation increases, add reasons like health and happiness to your list. By starting to show that love and compassion to yourself, you’ll build strength to get through this difficult process. 

Find Your Local Resources

To make a solid addiction recovery plan, you’re going to need to take advantage of the resources available to you. This can include things like eight-step groups and addiction-informed counseling. It can also include facilities like a luxury rehab center or out-patient program. 

In addition to compiling a list of these resources, start reaching out (or asking a loved one to reach out for you). Schedule meetings and consultations as needed and start making appointments. Some places may have waiting lists or restrictions, so don’t hesitate to get in contact even if you aren’t ready to go. 

Recovery from Addiction Is Possible

When you’re struggling with addiction, recovery can feel next to impossible. Use this guide to take recovery from addiction one step at a time. Each step forward is a step closer to the life that you deserve.

Looking for more ways to take control of your health and wellbeing? Take a look around as we share tips, tricks, and guides that will empower you to make a change.

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