I’ve spoken to many people in recovery from addiction and whenever I ask them, how did they make a change or why did they decide to make a change they usually point to a person or a key moment in their lives (usually both).
For me, I remember I just got to a place where I had had enough of the life I was living but I didn’t know how to stop and change the direction of my life. I had a sense of what a better life might look like, and I could imagine what I wanted but it was like a faraway place, and I didn’t know how to get from where I was to this other life I was imagining. At times I even wondered if what I was imagining was possible. I’ve chosen a picture for this article that reminds me how that journey felt at the time, a bit scary and uncertain and you can’t see the end at the beginning.
Enter the person I would point to and who helped me (and many others too). His name was John, he’d been a family friend for many years, he was a church minister and remained in contact with me through my highs and lows. He actively kept a bridge of communication open with and visited me regularly. He also had a number of a rehab that might be able to offer help. With his help and of my older sister too I was able to start contemplating change and then move forward and realise those changes.
No matter how you get there, whether you say your addicted or whether your relationship with substances has become problematic, taking those first steps towards recovery can be both daunting and empowering. It takes courage to acknowledge the need for change and to take action to address it. At some point we realise that we are in a bit of a catch 22 and we can’t think our way out, we need to act and action requires a bit of a leap of faith. I knew I couldn’t do it alone (and thankfully I had help), and I also knew no one could do it for me.
For me it meant a simple plan. Leave where I was, move in with my sister and get detoxed (or cluck it out as we used to say back then about going ‘cold turkey’) and then go and attend the rehab interview with John when I was in a fit state to. I then had a 6-week nail biter while I waited for a place to become available. During that time I got off drugs but my thinking and emotions were all over the place and my sister, her family, John and the people from his church really supported me and made everything from then on possible.
Today there is a more of a treatment infrastructure in place and people can get opiate substitution therapy in the community, and a range of other clinical and non-clinical treatments. They can attend community detox when they want to come off substances altogether or they can attend detox and rehab in a residential setting too, either via the local authority commissioned (funded) services or privately if they have the means.
Whichever routes people choose there are several steps that are likely to be common to all to get onto the road towards recovery, and I’ve outlined them below:
1. Acknowledge the problem: Admitting to yourself that there is a problem with addiction is a crucial first step. Acknowledge that there is a issue, and that help is needed to overcome it.
2. Seek support: Talk to someone you trust, such as a family member, friend, or your GP. Reach out for professional help, such as a therapist, counsellor, or addiction treatment centre. Join a support group, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, to connect with others who are on a similar journey. Look up (google) drug and alcohol services in your area.
3. Create a plan: Initially and this may be very basic. In time you may get help from a service local to where you are to create a personalised treatment plan. This may include a combination of practical and therapeutic steps, it may include medication, therapy, and support groups. Set specific goals and develop a plan to achieve them.
4. Make lifestyle changes: We often need to change our world, stop seeing certain people, going to certain places and being selfish in a healthy way. We can adopt healthy habits, such as regular exercise, a balanced diet, and getting enough sleep. Avoid triggers and situations that may lead to substance use.
5. Take it one day at a time: Recovery is a journey, and it takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and celebrate small victories along the way. Remember that every day is a new opportunity to make progress towards recovery.
It’s important to remember that recovery is a process, and it’s okay to ask for help and support along the way. With commitment, perseverance, and support, it is possible to overcome addiction and achieve a fulfilling and healthy life in recovery.