Thursday, June 28, 2018

10 Things You Need for a Successful Recovery

Recovery is not just about sobriety.  It is not a destination, but rather a journey that requires healthy behaviors and thinking patterns.  When someone is wanting to start the recovery process, the idea of attaining sobriety can be full of fear, uncertainty, and frustration.  Asking someone to get sober is a HUGE choice.  A Recovery Management Plan takes the big choice of sobriety and breaks it down into smaller, more attainable choices.  Dr. Kevin McCauley with the Institute for Addiction Study looked at various research studies and concluded that there are 10 choices a person can make to maintain recovery in the best way possible:

1.  Treatment

Because active substance use can induce physical, emotional, and mental damage, formal treatment helps someone navigate and repair these damages from the start.  Treatment can range from something as small as outpatient individual therapy, to intensive outpatient treatment, to detoxification, and finally to residential or inpatient treatment.  Part of this step is being willing to take recommendations from professionals on what kind of treatment will provide the most success for starting a recovery lifestyle.

2.  Therapist/Coach/Mentor

It is nearly impossible for someone to maintain recovery fully on their own.  Having an advocate and/or role model adds more support to the recovery process, which in turn makes a person's recovery stronger.  An advocate could be an individual therapist (like me!) or life coach who brings more accountability to recovery and teaches healthy coping skills.  A mentor is usually found in 12-Step groups through a sponsor, aka someone who is successfully working recovery themselves.  By having individual support, a person in early recovery can feel that they are heard and can take recommendations to better promote recovery behaviors

3.  Recovery Residence

Recovery requires a safe environment that promotes healthy behaviors and discourages self destruction.  Getting rid of drugs and/or paraphernalia from one's residence is key for maintaining sobriety.  If other people in the home are actively using substances, this could also negatively affect a person's success with recovery.  A recovery residence also promotes open and honest communication, as well as structure through boundaries.  Part of creating a recovery residence could involve family therapy so that everyone is on the same page as to how to support their loved one's recovery.

4.  Mutual Peer Support

Countless research studies show that creating a recovery support network is key for someone to successfully remain substance-free.  This involves having a peer group who prioritizes recovery and sober fun.  A lot of people find mutual peer support through 12-Step meetings and group therapy.  This step also brings the consideration of changing one's current peer group to better reflect their priorities in recovery.

5.  Frequent Drug Testing

The best and most scientific way to bring accountability to remaining substance-free is through random and frequent drug screens.  Treatment centers offer this option to better support sobriety in early recovery.  After treatment, one could ask their family to possibly continue to randomly screen them to maintain accountability.  Finally, some states offer monitoring programs for various professionals which involves frequent drug screening.  Either way, continuing to be drug screened helps keep the disease of addiction at bay by maintaining consistent accountability.

6.  Relapse Prevention Plan

Relapse prevention is a skill that people in recovery employ on a daily basis.  It is not as simple as "just don't use".  A relapse prevention plan first requires someone to avoid dangerous people and situations that could lead them to use again.  It also includes consistent recovery behaviors and reaching out to support in order to better prevent new use.  Finally, a relapse prevention plan takes a look at hypothetical situations that could be dangerous to recovery, and creates a game plan for how to get out of those situations.  A therapist or sponsor usually helps someone in early recovery come up with a relapse prevention plan, then helps keep them accountable for following the plan to the best of their ability.

7.  Current and Future Goals

Early recovery can seem like the only focus is on achieving and maintaining abstinence from drugs and/or alcohol.  However, Dr. McCauley says it is extremely important to continue to have goals related to work, education and activities.  Part of this process is engaging in these areas of life and achieving goals in the present moment, which leads to more confidence and positive emotions.  The other part of this step is continuing to have future goals so that recovery will not become stagnant and boring.  A therapist or life coach can help with goal setting by supporting their clients in creating Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely (SMART) goals.

8.  Addiction Medicine Specialist

With all of the new science that has been discovered about addiction within the last 15 years, it is important for someone in early recovery to see an Addiction Medicine Specialist, aka a doctor who is well-versed in addiction treatment.  Not all doctors have knowledge about how the disease of addiction works and how to treat it.  By regularly seeing an addiction medicine specialist, a person in early recovery receives added medical support to better support their recovery.

9.  Medication

Similar to seeing an addiction medicine specialist, certain medications have been found to help with side effects related to the disease of addiction.  Also, people in recovery find that sometimes they need medications like antidepressants in order to deal with post-acute withdrawal symptoms such as depression and anxiety.  Either way, an addiction medicine specialist is the person who will prescribe safe medication in order to add to a person's recovery management plan.

10.  Hedonic Rehabilitation

"Hedonic rehabilitation", what does that even mean?  Well, it means having SOBER FUN!  Sober fun is extremely important in early recovery for many reasons.  First, it shows that recovery does not have to be boring and can be enjoyable.  Second, by having sober fun, a person can literally change the pathways in their brain to associate fun with sober activities, instead of associating fun with using.  Finally, sober fun can strengthen a person's sober support network by bringing more opportunities for socializing and getting to know people.  Various 12-Step meetings are notorious for planning holiday events, conventions, and retreats for the very purpose of having sober fun.

Although it may seem like this is a lot for someone to do on a regular basis, a recovery management plan starts with a person focusing on one of these choices to help in recovery.  Then, as a person gains more strength and confidence, they will add another choice, and then another.  People in long-term recovery engage in these choices every single day, as they have found that being consistent in their recovery behaviors and having accountability from others keeps them substance-free.  Not only that, but people in long-term recovery usually talk about how they have found a "better way to live", since these behaviors are associated with a more healthy and successful lifestyle.

Starting recovery and maintaining a Recovery Management Plan can be daunting, but in the end the results are worth it.  If you are thinking about starting the recovery process, please do not hesitate to reach out to your family, a friend, or even a therapist so you can start living a better life today.

Source:  Dr. Kevin McCauley, "Memo to Self"