There are very few families who have not been touched by addiction or substance use disorder, of one kind or another. For many, dealing with the chemical imbalances in one’s brain and the physical dependencies of an addiction, and the psychological habits and cravings can be a lifelong endeavor.
When a person who is suffering from a substance use disorder starts their journey towards recovery, the first part is to manage the life-threatening chemical dependencies and to detox the body and brain of substances that are demanding the person to use and use and use. Opiates, for example, are highly addictive and the need to use more and more to simply feel “normal,” quickly accelerates. The great majority of people who suffer from addiction are trying to function in the world and who maintain their drug usage, simply to feel normal again. There is a tremendous misconception that substance abuse disorder is a moral failing. It can happen to anyone, and it does.
Recovery is about learning to live.
The healing journey from active addiction to clinical remission may involve medical treatments to reduce a person’s suffering during withdrawals so that they can do the work necessary to heal and cope and function.
Recovery is a journey
Addiction has many components including the potential for genetic factors, learned coping skills from early trauma, and reinforcing habits that make the compulsion of alcohol or drug use even worse. Therefore treating addiction requires a holistic approach, uniquely configured to each person to address their chemical needs, behavioral challenges, lifestyle, and spiritual growth. And by “spiritual growth,” I don’t mean a religious experience. The survivor strives for compassion to embrace an experience greater than one’s own to both understand that they do not suffer alone and neither do the loved ones in their lives.
Recovery requires mourning
Substance use is actually a solution to a person’s problems. Drugs aren’t the problem, they can provide peace and escape and freedom from emotional and physical pain, so letting go of this comforting friend may require grieving this loss.
Recovery is about transformation
In recovery, we must accept that we have to change the life we feel about life. We can change our circumstances, but we will invariably put ourselves at risk until we can change our relationship with ourselves and learn to tolerate our fears, release our pains, and accept our suffering and struggles. It is not about the belief that we must change, but the action and accomplishment of actually changing our circumstances and learning to look within at our experiences.
Recovery is about being present
Mindfulness is a hallmark of addiction recovery. Meditation helps us to be less emotionally reactive. It helps us experience compassion and spiritual connection to others. It helps us observe ourselves, right now. The process of mindfulness helps us pause and observe, without reacting.
Recovery is about compassion
Ultimately, recovery is about being kind to yourself, forgiving yourself if you are the person struggling with substance use disorder. If it’s your friend or loved one, it’s being compassion about their struggle and their journey. Sometimes recovery is not perfect. Many relapse and use again. But even that is not a failure, because, through all of our stumblings, we are still learning and moving forward.