Addiction is a serious, life threatening illness that is often fatal if left untreated. Although there have been significant advances in addiction medicine in recent years, treatment of this chronic illness often takes many months to years. The right treatment of any addiction is usually a combination of medications (for withdrawal symptoms, relapse prevention and treatment of underlying medical and mental disorders) with counseling. Keep in mind these tips to help you beat your addiction.
An essential part of addiction treatment is counseling. Often patients believe they don’t need counseling and only want medications. Counseling helps you to work up problems that might keep you from becoming sober. It also helps to develop coping skills that you are likely lacking. If you wouldn’t need counseling, you would have not become addicted in first place. Utilize counseling. You need it!
Many new patients are used to lying to their doctor, family and friends. If you don’t tell the truth, nobody will be able to help you. Everything that you tell the doctor will be strictly confidential. In fact, the confidentiality laws in the US are much stricter for addiction treatment than for regular medical visits.
This is true especially for prescription medications. You might find yourself abusing the medications that have been prescribed to you for your addiction treatment. This is a clear sign that your addiction is not under control. As much as addiction is a life threatening illness, misusing the medications that have been prescribed to you will lower your chance of success and may result in your death.
It is impossible to hang out with your dealer and the crowd that you used to use drugs with or drink alcohol without relapsing. Believe me, others have tried and everybody failed. A good starting point would be group sessions at your addiction provider’s office (if offered) or local NA or AA meetings.
Many individuals who quit using drugs or drinking will gain weight. Remember, food is a drug as well. Exercise on the other hand will increase your mood, give you that natural high, improve withdrawal symptoms, and keep those unwanted pounds off. So stay active and watch your diet.
Procrastination can kill you. Addiction is and will always be a life threatening illness that requires immediate treatment. Think about all of the individuals who wanted to call the addiction doctor ‘tomorrow’ and ended up overdosing the night before. Every ‘high’ can be your last one.
A lapse is not a relapse. Alcoholics often times count days of sobriety. When you have a glass of champagne at your best friend’s wedding, remember that you are NOT a loser and that you may not get drunk now. Although you should always try to maintain complete sobriety (i.e. do not use at all), don’t feel ashamed if you do use or have a drink. Shame will almost always turn a lapse (using despite the knowledge that you shouldn’t) into a relapse (complete loss of control).
When you are in withdrawal, tell your doctor every symptom. Some symptoms can be life threatening, but might be easily treated with prescription medications. This is important especially for alcohol and benzodiazepine withdrawal (cold sweats, tremors, rapid heart beat, hallucinations, seizures). Don’t ever downplay your withdrawal symptoms.
Alcoholics anonymous use the term, “People, places, things”. Avoiding those that remind you of your drug or alcohol using times will enhance your chances of success. For example, you should avoid to get anywhere near your local gas station if you bought your drugs in the parking lot of that station. Get gas somewhere else.
Some of my teenage patients are being dragged in by mom or dad but are not emotionally ready to quit using. Almost everybody will fail and relapse sooner or later if they are starting treatment as favor for somebody else. Since you are reading this, I assume that you are not one of them.
Always remember that becoming sober is a long process. Don’t be afraid of the rocky road ahead of you. It’s definitely worth taking this road. For your family, career, friends… and life.
As Mark Twain once said: “Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I've done it thousands of times.”
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