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How to make the most of addiction treatment

You or someone you love has lost control of their drug or alcohol use and has decided to seek treatment. How do you make the most of this experience and maximize your results? Addiction treatment should never be a one size fits all formula, though it will be up to you to personalize your treatment to best suit your needs and life situation. Treatment is a short term experience during which you will need to obtain the understanding and skills necessary to maintain your sobriety long term. It is important to realize that this will be a difficult journey with many bumps along the way. Early in your recovery you will be vulnerable to stress, but using your treatment program as a source of support will help you make the most of the experience.


Do

Do view addiction treatment as an opportunity

Treatment is a time to reconnect with who you are and what you want from your life. Most of us will never have the opportunity to take time out of our busy daily lives to get to know ourselves, flaws and all. Much of your recovery will depend on how you view treatment and a positive spin is the most effective route to making the best of this difficult situation. This is your opportunity to change yourself, your circumstances, and your life if you are willing to accept the help being provided.

Do actively participate in your program

Seeking treatment is a brave decision you’ve made, but you must actively participate in order to make the most of this experience. Participating in group and individual therapy can provide an amazing support system as you begin this new stage in your life. Addiction treatment surrounds you with experts in sobriety, though it is up to you how you are going use their knowledge and experience. The willingness to open yourself to forming connections with others and accepting input will be an important key to your success in sobriety.

Do take control of your recovery

Much of addiction recovery centers around issues of control. Treatment is a time for you to take back the control of your life from your substance of choice. A good place to start would be creating a journal to document your journey to sobriety. The first few pages should be dedicated to your ongoing list of reasons to give up drugs or alcohol. This may be a short list to start, with just a few reasons such as health, or family. As time passes you will realize that there are many parts of your life in which you prefer to be fully present and engaged.

Do know your triggers that cause you to use

Your treatment will be most effective if you are able to quickly identify the situations, emotions, and people that trigger your cravings for drugs or alcohol. It is widely accepted that negative emotions are the most frequent cause of relapse, but the specific situations that trigger your cravings for using will be different from others. Recognizing and controlling your triggers will contribute to you success in sobriety.

Do practice forgiveness

Those who struggled with addiction often are plagued by regret for things they did or did not do that affected themselves or those they most care about in negative ways. Treatment will give you a safe place to think about and discuss these regrets. It also provides an opportunity to leave these regrets and mistakes behind as you begin a new life without drugs and alcohol. As a treatment provider, I have seen the toll guilt, regret and shame take on the progress of recovery. Treatment is a time to move on from your past life leaving those things behind and in doing so make room for positive thoughts and emotions that will support your recovery.


Don't

Do not allow your emotions to dictate your behavior

Addiction recovery has to involve breaking patterns of behavior. The most important of which may be learning to cope with painful emotions rather than avoiding them by using. Emotions such as sadness, anger, and disappointment are uncomfortable to experience, but becoming tolerant of these uncomfortable feelings is a key to sobriety. The more familiar and accepting you become of these negative emotions, the easier it will be to process them, problem solve, and continue moving forward in your recovery.

Do not return to your previous life patterns

It will be vital to your recovery to change your daily routine. This may involve changing your living arrangement, how you conduct your routine, and most importantly the people you surround yourself with. Quitting drugs or alcohol is stressful in itself because you are removing your previous coping method. The way you will maintain your sobriety will be to create a life that incorporates a healthy and supportive group of friends and family. This will also include ridding yourself of negative and unhealthy people who previously enabled or participated in your addiction.

Do not let negative persons or situations derail your sobriety

Those in early recovery are vulnerable to stress and emotional situations that then trigger their craving to use. Avoid making rash decisions in reaction to a negative person or an event that would derail the progress you are making in treatment. You made a brave decision to change your life for the better and letting a single person or event steal that away from you will not be worth the consequences of returning to addiction.

Do not place blame

As your are dealing with the fallout of addiction, it may be tempting to place blame for your circumstances. Placing blame is a habit that allowed you to maintain your addiction and now will no longer serve you in recovery. Taking personal responsibility for your actions, right or wrong, is an important transition for you to make. Having your treatment providers call you out on this pattern when it emerges can also be a helpful first step. Be aware that this is a difficult step to take, as it will be hard on your already fragile ego. The advantage of having others notify you when you are playing the blame game is that eventually you will begin to spot this tendency in yourself so you can remind yourself to take personal responsibility for your actions.

Do not leave treatment early

Treatment programs are created with specific time periods or milestones to reach before termination of the program. You must remember that you are in treatment because you were unable to succeed in sobriety alone. If you leave treatment before you have mastered the skills necessary to maintain your recovery for the long haul, you will be making a difficult road even harder. There will be days in treatment that are difficult, uncomfortable, and frustrating. It is during these troubled times that you need to rely on your new coping skills and remind yourself why you have chosen sobriety over your addiction. As with most difficult things in life, persistence is a vital key to success.


Summary
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Addiction treatment is your opportunity to change your life for the better while learning new ways of coping with life’s setback and stresses. Treatment will provide you support during this difficult time if you are willing to actively participate and engage in the experience. This is a time for you to reacquaint yourself with your strengths and weakness in a safe environment. This allows you to take back control of your life, take responsibility for your actions, and keep a handle on your emotions. While this is not an exhaustive list, hopefully you found some tips and ideas to make the most of your addiction treatment.


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Heather Morris, Psy.D.Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Morris is a licensed Clinical Psychologist (PSY25328) specializing in addiction treatment. She has worked in both inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities conducting group and individual therapy. Dr. Morris was awarded her doctorate fro...

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