Addiction is the continued use of alcohol and other drugs even when that use is causing harm. It is a physical and psychological craving or compulsion to use a mood-altering substance. The disease concept of addiction (as described by AA) means that addiction is a primary disease—it’s not the result of some other problem, like a bad marriage or unfair boss. Addiction is also progressive (if it continues, it will get worse), chronic (there is no cure for it, but it can be managed), and can be fatal (if it continues unchecked, it will cause death).
Addiction leads to consequences in some or all of these areas of life: social, emotional, financial, legal, health, employment, family, and school. Other major warning signs include craving for the substance, increase in tolerance (overtime a person is drinking more to achieve the same desired effect), preoccupation with the substance, loss of control, blackouts, and all forms of denial: blame, excuses, rationalization, and minimization.
Recovery from addiction is a journey of change, growth and development. Detoxification and treatment are only the first steps, and on its own it will not help your loved one stay clean and sober.
Many people equate sobriety with recovery, an approach that quickly proves incorrect. A person may stay sober for a month or two, however if there are no other changes in their life, including changes in: thinking/feeling, perceptions and expectations, routines and activities, relapse is often just around the corner. Recovery, however, is an ongoing process, an active pursuit of a balanced life. Recovery may start with an outpatient or inpatient treatment, followed by continued support from a sponsor, counselor, physician, support groups, family members, and clean and sober friends.
To maintain abstinence, and achieve recovery, your loved one must develop new coping skills, and problem-solving skills. They must learn how to deal triggers that could lead back to old ways of coping, also be willing to avoid certain people and situations, manage stress, resolve problems as they arise, learn to let things go, including some of their own expectations.
You may choose to help your loved one plan for or avoid high-risk situations such as social or peer pressure, boredom, loneliness, depression; however, it is important to keep in mind that your loved one is solely responsible for their own recovery, and there are numerous things that they will have to do all on their own, and no one can do this for them. Some of these are:
- Forgetting about strength, moral character and willpower. They’re helpful, but not enough
- Using skills learned in treatment to stabilize emotions
- Getting support when encountering life’s crises, as for help
- Learning to manage stress or any co-occurring disorders such as anxiety or depression
- Building a sobriety-based lifestyle with plenty of healthy recreation.
- Learning to let go of self-defeating behaviors
- Recognizing “addictive thinking,” such as “I can have just one drink”
- Trying to not get lazy with recovery; getting excited about a new healthy lifestyle
- Managing “HALT” triggers: hungry, angry, lonely, tired
- No matter what happens, not giving up, or giving yourself permission to drink or use