Addiction is a complex illness that requires a tremendous amount of understanding and work to treat. Everyone’s experience differs, as it has a wide array of causes and every substance comes with its own particular struggles. However, there are certain common factors in all addiction. Because of this, there are fundamentals to addiction recovery that will remain the same no matter your particular circumstances.
What do most addictions have in common?
Before we discuss the fundamentals of addiction recovery, we need to examine why these fundamentals exist. What is it that the wide range of addictions all have in common?
Addiction to drugs and alcohol causes physical addiction. This is a natural consequence of using increased amounts of the substance. Your body gets used to having the substance in its system, and it takes more for you to get drunk or high. It starts taking the place of certain regular physical systems. When you don’t use the substance for a period of time, your body craves it. If this continues for long enough, you begin to experience severe physical symptoms.
In this, issues such as gambling addictions differ. There is no physical dependence in the same way.
All addictions are considered mental illnesses, even though they are often strongly rooted in the body. This is because your psychological mechanisms change in response to the substance or behavior. Rather than using healthy coping mechanisms to deal with difficult emotions, you start turning to the addiction. Ultimately, it becomes incredibly difficult to cope with these problems without the substance or behavior.
In many cases, this works both ways. Psychological issues may have led you to seek out external relief in the first place.
Another common factor to all addictions is that they have a holistic impact on your body and mind. The more you use, the less healthy your body becomes. Your fitness suffers, your eating habits become haphazard. In the same way, your mind suffers. You find it difficult to focus and spend most of your time thinking about the substance.
But addiction does not only impact your relationship with yourself. It has a major impact on your relationships with others. You react badly to your friends and family members when they suggest you have a problem. They become less of a priority and feel neglected. At the same time, the relationships you maintain are those that enable you, and are bad for you and the other.
What are the fundamentals to recovery?
Now that we better understand what addictions have in common, we can discuss what are the fundamentals to recovery.
For those who are physically dependent on alcohol or drugs, detox is a crucial part of recovery. Your body is going to react negatively when you stop using the substance. You will experience severe withdrawals which can be assuaged by recovery professionals. These professionals make sure you are as comfortable and safe as possible, often using safe substances to help you withdraw. If you try on your own, you may be putting yourself in danger and are likely to relapse when the withdrawals feel too severe to bear.
All good recovery centers offer detox, with medical professionals on hand to design a detox schedule and make sure nothing goes wrong. If you do respond negatively, they are available to ensure your safety and get you back on track.
Importance of groups
Unlike most other mental illnesses, addiction treatment often relies more on group sessions than individual therapy. 12-Step meetings extol the importance of community in overcoming addiction. All recovery centers place tremendous importance on group sessions and community engagement. This is for a number of reasons.
For one thing, addiction can feel incredibly isolating. It isolates you from your family and friends, and feels like a very personal struggle. Going through the process with others like you helps assuage your sense of isolation.
Additionally, when you are struggling with an addiction, the relationships you keep are generally unhealthy and enabling. In groups, you learn to support each other in your process rather than enabling bad habits. You find strength in one another, building a model for healthy relationships going forward.
However, that does not negate the need for individual therapy. Ultimately, you're the only person who can drive your recovery. And since addiction impacts your mental health in such a personal way, you need to deal with its effects. In individual therapy, you learn to identify your psychological struggles and find healthy coping mechanisms.
Your therapist and psychiatrist will also help you identify any co-occurring mental illnesses you may be struggling with. Whether these were one of the causes of the addiction or were triggered by the addiction, you need to treat them if you are to recover fully and maintain your sobriety.
Physical health interventions
Since addiction has such a severe impact on your health, regaining your physical vitality is crucial. You need to have a focus on your fitness and nutrition, which will make you feel better in general. The healthier you feel, the better prepared you will be to face the cravings. You will also feel better mentally, knowing that you are doing the best you can for your body.
Mental wellness interventions
The same is true of holistic mental wellness. Balance is often missing in the life of someone who has suffered from addiction. Living your life in a balanced way does not come naturally. Learning to find balance is one of the fundamentals to recovery for this reason. By the time you start living outside of recovery, you need to be confident in your ability to implement balance.
Finally, one of the fundamentals to addiction recovery is treating the family system as well. Everyone in your family has been impacted by the addiction, and they need to recover as well. Furthermore, going back to the same environment can lead to relapse, as you struggle with the same triggers as before. Resolving some of your issues with your family, as well as putting stronger boundaries in place, can be key to maintaining your recovery.
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