Healthy Road To Recovery From Addiction by Ewa Florczak – Clinical Care Consultants, Arlington Heights and Inverness

Healthy Road To Recovery From Addiction


Ewa Florczak, MA, LCPC

The road to recovery from addiction can be a challenging one, full of substantial obstacles along the way. An individual deciding to become sober must deal not only with physiological and mental withdrawals, but also overwhelming cravings and triggers. It is an uphill battle which requires a tremendous amount of hard work and a willingness to make significant changes in various behaviors and thought patterns. A journey to healing and recovery can take years with many highs and lows, especially in the first six months. The good news is that, with the appropriate support system and professional help, recovery is possible and can lead to a more fulfilling and fully functioning life.

Addiction is a very complex issue with many factors that play a role in why some people become addicted and some do not. Things such as an environment, family history of addiction, traumatic experiences, or poverty, make an individual more susceptible to addiction; later, those same factors could hinder an individuals’ success in long-term recovery. It has been proven that using drugs or alcohol physically changes and alters brain chemistry. These changes are long lasting and can persist for an extended period, even after a person stops using the substance(s). Some of the most significant effects include impaired impulse control and the need for immediate gratification.

Oftentimes, when an individual quits a substance or addictive behavior, they tend to pick up another. For example, a person who quits drinking may begin smoking cigarettes. Or, a person who quits smoking might begin eating sweets. This usually happens with very little awareness – the newly formed habit is justified as less harmful than the one they gave up. These new habits serve a purpose as they help a recovering addict ease their anxiety, but they can become problematic in the long run.

In early recovery, many significant changes occur, particularly in daily routines. Individuals recovering from addiction identify boredom as one of the biggest risk factors that might contribute to relapse. With their free time no longer consumed by addiction, a person will do anything in their power to occupy their mind with other activities. There might be a tendency to overeat, shop too much or start a new relationship as a form of distraction. Bad habits are easy to form and difficult to break. To ensure success in early recovery, it is important to develop and continue to practice healthy habits such as meditation, yoga, exercise, listening to music, or reading. Once healthy habits become a routine, there will be no need for unhealthy ones to develop.

Experts agree that addiction isn’t necessarily the cause of the problem but rather an unhealthy solution to the problem. Many people use substances or engage in addictive behaviors to deal with mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, or to cope with traumatic events from their past. Ultimately, addiction serves the purpose of coping with an ongoing internal struggle which the individual has
difficulty facing. A particular substance or behavior might help to numb or avoid the problem. Oftentimes, treatment is focused solely on addiction and addictive behaviors. It is crucial, however, to explore and work on the underlying issues that feed the addiction and prevent the individual from making meaningful life changes.

How does one ensure a successful road to recovery and long-term abstinence? There is no “one size fits all” approach that ensures 100 percent success. However, there are few factors that contribute to an optimistic outcome: positive family support, psycho-education, participation in support groups, and  medication interventions are some of the most important. As mentioned before, it is crucial to examine
underlying problems that fuel the addiction and to learn what purpose it serves in an individuals’ life. Equally important is helping the affected individual learn and implement healthy strategies to deal with life’s challenges. Learning how to cope and discovering the ability to face stressful or unpleasant situations without the need of substances is a difficult, but ultimately rewarding, task.

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