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How to Break an Addiction

by | Last updated Mar 18, 2021 at 11:01AM | Published on Nov 9, 2020 | Finding Addiction Help For A Loved One, Health and Wellness

how to break an addiction

Breaking up an addiction isn’t like curving a bad habit. Because drug and alcohol addiction directly affect how our brains operate, we’re already at a disadvantage. This step-by-step guide on how to break an addiction is meant to help you understand your treatment options, deal with cravings, prevent relapse, and eventually overcome your substance use disorder.

The First Step

We must break the stigma that developing an addiction is somehow a flaw or sign of weakness. It’s also not true that people can’t overcome addiction because they lack willpower. Whether someone’s abusing illegal or prescription drugs, these substances create changes in the brain that are often irreversible. At one point, they’re no longer in control over the signals their brains send to the rest of their bodies. 

Even still, recovery is never out of rich, no matter how hopeless one can feel. The first step in breaking an addiction is recognizing that you need help. 

Choosing to Change

The very first step to recovery is deciding to make a change. It’s normal to feel uncertain, not know where to start, and going back and forth in the idea of addiction treatment. Nonetheless, committing to sobriety and putting in the effort to win the battle against addiction will be the first step of your recovery journey. 

Recovery takes time, motivation, and support, but most importantly, commitment to change. Nobody says recovery is easy, and for many, facing their worst nightmares is not something they want to deal with. But, in the end, drug addiction recovery is a fulfilling journey that will make it all worth it in the future. 

How to Choose Change?

Change doesn’t happen overnight, and sometimes addicts don’t see the need or value in changing their habits. Here are some things to consider:

  • List the pros and cons of quitting, including the costs and benefits of continuing your drug abuse.
  • Consider what’s important for you, like your partner, family, pets, health. How does your drug addiction affect those things?
  • Ask someone you trust about their perspective of your substance use.
  • Ask yourself if anything is preventing you from changing. What are some things that can help you start committing to change?

After Choosing to Change

Deciding to start changing your habits alone isn’t enough. Odds are your brain’s chemistry is already changed, so you’re fighting against what your body tells you to do. Here’s how to prepare yourself for change and embark on your recovery journey:

  • Continually reminding yourself of the reasons you want to change.
  • Think about your past attempts at recovery, if any, and focus on what worked. 
  • Set measurable goals that will help you stay accountable.
  • Remove all reminders of addiction from your home and your life.
  • Make sure to tell friends and family about your decision to seek recovery from addiction and ask for their full support. 
What Do Integrated Treatment Programs Offer

Understanding Addiction Treatment Options

Once you’re committed to change and recovery, it’s paramount that you familiarize yourself with the process. Overall, addiction treatment caries tremendously on a case-by-case scenario. However, most of the time, they’ll include the same core program to help you. All in all, a successful recovery program will consist of these treatments in their core plan:

  • Detox: to prevent fatal withdrawal symptoms, most rehab centers start the journey with medical detoxification that can last anywhere between 3-4 days to 1-2 weeks, depending on the severity of the addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Behavioral Counseling: therapy is at the core of any addiction treatment program; it will help you get the tools you need to live a substance-free life. Usually, this includes individual, group, and family therapy to address the addiction’s root cause. 
  • Medication-Assisted: while this isn’t always the case, some people will be part of a medication-assisted therapy that uses medication to manage withdrawal symptoms, prevent relapse, and treat any co-occurring mental health conditions.
  • Dual-Diagnosis: in many cases, mental illness and addiction co-occur at the same time. A successful program will incorporate a dual-diagnosis treatment to address both conditions simultaneously.
  • Long-term Support: recovery is a lifelong journey, and the best programs offer long-term support in the form of groups, therapy, or online meetings that help prevent relapse and foster a sense of community. 
Drug Rehab Programs Timeline

Different Types of Drug Treatment Programs

While all programs should incorporate those treatments, they’re not all held in the same environment. After the detoxification process, many individuals move to the next step of the recovery journey, which often looks very different for everyone. The most common types of drug treatment and recovery programs include:

  • Partial Hospitalization: these programs are often best for those with a stable living environment but require medical monitoring. Patients usually visit the treatment center for up to eight hours a day and return home every night. 
  • Inpatient Programs: this is your traditional residential treatment or rehab program where patients live at the facility 24/7. Here patients receive a more intensive treatment that lasts anywhere between a couple of weeks to several months. 
  • Intensive Outpatient Programs: sometimes, those leaving an inpatient rehab program are not ready to go back to daily life. In this case, a more intensive program that requires them to visit the facility every day, but still returns home at night, might be the best-case scenario as they make progress in their journey. 
  • Outpatient Programs: here, patients remain living at their homes, can keep their school and work responsibilities, but still, attend treatment during the day or evening. Usually, outpatient programs focus on relapse prevention, and most people have already completed a different type of program beforehand. 

How to Find the Best Drug Addiction Treatment 

As you can see, there are many variables to look for when you’re choosing the best addiction treatment for you. This is an incredibly personal choice that needs to feel good to you and your loved ones. Here are some things to consider to spot the best drug addiction treatments out there:

  • Personalization: no two addiction are alike; thus, no two treatment plans should be the same. Look for treatment facilities that offer tailor-made treatment plans that focus on your unique situation and needs. 
  • Comprehensive Treatment: rehab centers need to focus on more than just the addiction. Look for facilities that offer comprehensive treatment programs that cater to your mental health, professional development, nutritional health, and more. All of these elements play a significant role in your addiction recovery and will be paramount for helping you maintain sobriety.
  • Follow-Up: every recovery addict knows that addiction doesn’t just disappear after treatment; it is a lifelong battle. Rehab centers that offer follow-up, support, and long-term care are the ones that stand out from the crowd and do care about your long-term recovery. 
  • Dual Diagnosis: as most drug addicts struggle with mental illness, it’s essential to look for facilities that offer dual diagnosis programs. If you go through rehab and only attend to your addiction without dealing with your mental illness, odds are you’ll find yourself struggling in the future with another addiction. 

Navigating Early Recovery

No one can beat addiction alone; that’s a fact. Reach out for support from family and friends. The more people you can turn to for encouragement and guidance, the better your chances for long-term recovery. Early recovery can be extremely stressful, lonely, and sometimes feel alienating. It would help if you took the time to build a sober social network of friends that will encourage you to stay sober. 

Sometimes, recovering addicts don’t have a stable home to go back to after leaving treatment. In this case, considering moving into a sober living home can be the right choice. Sober living offers a safe, supportive environment to live as you continue your recovery. 

Addiction Recovery Weekly Checklist

Finally, making meetings a priority will be critical in long-term recovery. Whether you join a 12-step recovery support group or continue your rehab facility’s aftercare programs, these support groups can provide an inexplicable level of support and companionship. 

Tips for Maintaining Sobriety in Early Recovery

One of the biggest things in early recovery is stress. For so long, you’ve turned to drugs and other substances to dampen your emotions and cope with the daily stressors of life. These emotions are part of life, and it can be challenging at first to deal with these emotions without turning to substances. Finding ways to address these feelings and emotions will be critical for your ongoing recovery efforts. 

As you’ll learn in treatment, there are many healthy ways to deal with stress levels without turning to substances. There are ways to deal with stress, negative emotions, and negative experience that don’t set you back on your addiction. Everyone learns to deal with these emotions differently, but overall, this might help:

  • Staying active with exercise or a simple walk.
  • Spending time outdoors and loading up on vitamin D from the sun. 
  • Practicing meditation and other relaxing breathing exercises.
  • Staying on top of your health, both mentally and physically. 
  • Taking some time to decompress and pamper yourself. 

Preventing Relapse

Even after you manage to make all of that happen, you’re still going to need to keep pushing through recovery to prevent relapse. Especially during the early days of recovery, drug cravings and triggers can be intense. The same can happen when you’re dealing with stressful situations like getting a new job, going back to school, or spending the holidays with the family. Practicing your relapse prevention techniques is critical to help you stay afloat.

Common Addiction Relapse Triggers

How to Avoid Triggers

Unfortunately, triggers will always be around you; there’s no way to hide from them. However, you can avoid specific triggers that can easily set you back in your recovery, for example:

  • Stay away from friends or family members that are still using drugs or are heavy drinkers.
  • Do your best to avoid bars, clubs, and other environments you might associate with drug abuse.
  • Always be upfront about your drug abuse history if you need to seek medical treatment like a dental procedure that might require prescription medication afterward.
  • Ask for alternatives to prescription medications that can be highly addictive. 

Learning to Cope with Cravings

Of course, we all know that not all cravings and triggers can be avoided. Addiction recovery is not about being stuck in your room, hiding away from life. This is why therapy focuses tremendously on addressing your addictive behaviors and giving you the right tools to cope with these stressors, cravings, and triggers. You must have a friend or a sponsor you can call whenever you feel like slipping back on your progress, sometimes talking it out can prevent a relapse. 

Another popular method to cope with cravings is urge surfing, which is incredibly helpful when there’s nothing else you can do about a trigger. Here’s how to practice urge surfing:

  • Become Aware of Your Cravings: stay still for a few seconds and take a few deep breaths. As you bring your attention to your body, try to pinpoint where you’re experiencing the craving and what sensations you feel. State what you’re experiencing, for example, “my cravings are in my nose and my stomach, and it makes me feel anxious.”
  • Focus On That Area: once you become aware of your craving, try to describe it yourself. Does it make you feel hot or cold? Is it a tingly sensation? Are you tense? Maybe you’re remembering the numbing feeling of using? Notice if these sensations change as you start focusing on them. 
  • Continue Surfing Your Cravings: as you notice your cravings and feelings change, become aware of what happens. Let yourself experience this craving differently. As you let them ride you and take control of them, you’ll become more familiar with how they make you feel, and you’ll be able to control them better. 

Looking Past a Relapse

Almost sixty percent of those in recovery relapse. It’s a common part of the recovery process; there’s no way around it. Yes, relapse can be frustrating, discouraging, and sometimes dangerous. However, it’s also a learning experience; it lets you notice new triggers and assess your coping strategies. However, what matters is how we look at a relapse

A relapse can happen because of stress, or maybe you’re feeling too excited and happy about life and wanted to have fun with your friends and took a sip of a drink. You might be in pain or struggling with withdrawal symptoms. Perhaps you wanted to test your control, or you bent under the pressure of your cravings. On occasions, it is peer pressure that makes one relapse. There is a myriad of possibilities that can lead to relapse.

What matters is that relapsing doesn’t make you a failure or means your drug treatment failed. You can choose to get back on the recovery path and make this relapse a hiccup or a stepping stone in your journey. You must understand the different stages of relapse and learn what to do next. Call your sponsor, attend a meeting, reach out to your therapist. All of these things will help you understand what happened and how to move forward from it. 

Continue Building Your Life After Addiction

Addiction recovery is a very active and purposeful process that requires your ongoing commitment. Participation in things you love makes you feel needed to add meaning to your life and support your recovery. When you find a purpose in life, your addiction will start to lose its appeal, and you’ll begin to look forward to new experiences. Here are some ways you can continue to build a meaningful drug-free lifestyle:

  • Learn a new hobby or a new language.
  • Adopt a pet.
  • Spend more time in nature.
  • Get involved in your community or take upon more volunteer opportunities. 
  • Look after your health with exercise, sleep, and healthy eating habits. 
  • Set meaningful short- and long-term goals. 

Get Help

As you can see, there’s not a single answer to how to break an addiction. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we know your addiction is as unique as you are. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse, please reach out for help today. Whether you feel you’re ready or not, our team of addiction therapists can help you learn more about the recovery journey and show you what would be the best way to deal with your addiction once and for all. 

We believe in your power and strength to get the help you need to be healthier and better. Contact us today to learn more about our comprehensive addiction recovery programs and what makes us different.

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.
Medical Disclaimer:

Lighthouse Recovery Institute aims to improve the quality of life for anyone struggling with substance use or mental health disorder. We provide fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options, and their outcomes. The material we publish is researched, cited, edited, and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide in our posts is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It should never be used in place of the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider.

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