As a person who wants to recover from a drug addiction, understanding the complexities associated with addiction can make it easier to have realistic expectations of recovery. Viewing recovery as a long-term process and not an event can help you and those around you manage your expectations.
Addiction Is Chronic
If you or the people around you believe you will enter treatment and everything will return to normal, this false expectation is a recipe for disappointment. Addiction, much like other chronic diseases, can be successfully managed, but not necessarily cured. When you recognize recovery is an ongoing process, it is easier to have realistic expectations and take small steps toward your goal. Part of managing a chronic disease is seeking initial treatment and finding resources, such as medications and therapy, to support your efforts after the initial detox.
Many people who have been drug-free for decades stumbled along the way and found group and/or individual therapy sessions are necessary to reduce relapse. Explaining the chronic disease aspect to the people around you can help them manage their expectations and strengthen your support system. It is also better for your recovery if the people around you are willing to engage in counseling of their own. Some people with a drug addiction do not realize how their drug use and behavior has affected their loved ones. Your loved ones need an opportunity to heal and recover as well.
Drugs Cause Physiological Changes
One of the major reasons addiction is a chronic problem is the underlying neurophysiology associated with addiction. No matter the underlying factors that contributed to initially using drugs, the end result of routine drug use is changes in the brain. These changes affect the pleasure centers in your brain by causing strong increases in the neurotransmitter dopamine. Many drugs are associated with a "rush," euphoria, or a decrease of negative feelings. This makes recovery completely different than simply breaking a habit. After detox, the pleasure centers in the brain become inactive because they are no longer being stimulated by dopamine.
Simple, healthy behaviors cannot create the rush of dopamine like a drug. The idea that you can simply change your behaviors and find other pleasurable activities is misleading. Since your brain is looking for drugs to satisfy its need for dopamine, this will increase cravings and drug-seeking behaviors. Fortunately, with prolonged abstinence from drugs, your brain can recover its ability to make dopamine and find satiety in other pleasurable activities. Realistically, drug cravings may never go away completely, since drugs create an abnormal amount of dopamine in the brain, which cannot be matched by what is created normally.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment Is Essential
It is rare for someone to only be diagnosed with drug addiction. Most people with a drug addiction have other confounding mental health issues that must also be recognized and addressed. In some cases, there may be three or four other mental health issues that make it harder to combat addiction. It is necessary to enter recovery for drug addiction in an environment that addresses mental illness simultaneously. Many people started using drugs because of underlying problems with anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder. The self-medicating or numbing effect of drugs may have helped them through abusive situations or made it easier to stifle the memories of a traumatic event.
Managing the mental health aspects of drug addiction with psychotropic medications, such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and/or antipsychotics can make it easier for the person in recovery to be more mentally and emotionally balanced and accepting of recovery. Part of managing a mental health condition in recovery is also addressing those issues that may have contributed to using drugs. Thinking about and reliving a traumatic or hurtful event without suppressing those thoughts and feeling with drugs is necessary to start the healing process and learn how to cope in a constructive manner.
There is no simple fix to drug addiction because drug addiction is not a simple disease. Having a realistic understanding of what needs to be done to minimize relapse and stay clean indefinitely can make the process of recovery less intimidating. For more information and help, contact a drug addition recovery center in your area.