Recovery from an addiction
Natalie Gamble, LPC, LAC, CACI
Has shame ever led you to unplug almost entirely from your friends and family?
This is a common scenario with folks who struggle with the debilitating pain of a personal addiction. Such confinement often worsens the harmful addiction cycle, causing further losses and devastation, commonly referred to as “rock bottom.”
It is possible to treat and recover from an addiction, but it starts with reaching out and making new connections with those who support your process of change.
A recovery journey is one of healing that requires commitment and sacrifice. That is why recovery should be discussed, encouraged and celebrated!
September is National Recovery Month, and it’s a perfect time to take a look at key therapeutic factors of the recovery process:
Social connection in the form of therapy and support groups is essential in the recovery process. The human brain is pre-wired for connection with others. Various studies have indicated that when a person lacks social support or meaningful connections, they are at a greater risk for significant stress, depression and substance use disorders.
This tells us that we are healthier emotionally when we feel supported by friends and family. People who have been successful at maintaining recovery commonly share the experience of getting help with from support groups, counseling and/or from their spiritual beliefs.
Groups that teach and promote recovery include:
- Therapy groups: Group therapy has proved to be an extremely effective therapeutic method and is offered at most counseling centers and treatment programs for addiction in both inpatient and outpatient settings. The group environment is facilitated by a counselor and serves as a safe space to talk openly.
It is also powerful because individuals feel understood by peers experiencing similar struggles. This shared experience can be motivating, as it helps to break down protective guards that can otherwise make people feel isolated.
Irvin Yalom, a psychiatrist and popular group therapist, referred to this concept as “universality.” Pain and suffering are universal, therefore it’s healthy to talk about them with others. He also refers to “instillation of hope” as a therapeutic factor of a group setting. Hearing success stories instills a personal sense of hope, which is necessary to set goals and stick to them. If they can do it, so can I! In other words, the message is that you are not alone in this and you can get better.
- Support groups: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and Celebrate Recovery are among popular national support groups. These differ from therapy groups in that they are open to the general public (most), free to attend, sustained by the group members, and they share core spiritual principles while teaching the 12-step recovery program. Members are reminded they are not alone and are encouraged to share their struggles with the group. Group members and a sponsor can help navigate through the 12-step journey. Local support groups can be found through celebraterecovery.com, aa.org, and na.org.
Medication assisted treatment (MAT)
Over the years, MAT has become popular for treating substance use disorders effectively. FDA-approved prescription medication helps relieve cravings and prevent relapse or an opioid overdose. When such medication is coupled with counseling and support, MAT has been shown to be a successful treatment route.
As a substance use disorder counselor at HopeHealth, I have had the opportunity to watch MAT patients transform as they find a new sense of hope and purpose in their lives. Such MAT programs are expanding nationwide as a result of their effectiveness and prevention of overdose deaths. Learn more about MAT at samhsa.gov/medication-assisted-treatment.
Recovery begins with a decision to make that first step toward social connection and away from isolation. Maintaining recovery takes self-forgiveness, insight, growth and continued hope. The abundancy of natural rewards to follow often include vision of purpose, mental, spiritual and physical repair, renewed family relationships and so much more.