Struggling with addiction is one of the most painful and challenging things a person can go through. It can leave you feeling powerless, anxious, and ashamed. It often leads to financial problems, relationship problems, and health problems. It's also very dangerous - the cost of staying addicted can be one's life.
Choosing to get sober is brave. It's taking your life back, one step at a time. Getting clean doesn't happen overnight, but it can happen no matter how severely you're addicted. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone. Millions of others have been through a similar struggle and emerged even more resilient. Getting sober is a process, and support is available every step of the way.
Those who successfully overcome substance abuse generally follow 3 steps:
1. Commit to getting clean.
Ending the cycle of addiction is a life-changing process. It takes time and energy, and must be taken seriously. Once you've committed to treatment, it's important to stay committed and follow through on all the steps it takes to get sober.
It helps to keep your eyes on the prize - why you're doing it. Some people want a renewed relationship with their family and friends. Some want to be there for and be able to provide for those in their lives, such as children. Many simply want to be free of all the things the addiction has taken away from them.
One the most essential elements of the entire process is making the internal commitment to get sober. You deserve a life of peace, health, and prosperity, and you can do this.
2. Get the right help.
Addiction is not a matter of willpower. If you were able to "just quit", you would likely have done it already. Addiction is also not something to be ashamed of. There is nothing wrong with you, and you aren't a bad person just because you became addicted to a substance.
It's important to understand that when you suddenly stop taking a substance like alcohol or drugs, your body needs time to adjust (especially if you were a heavy user). It can be dangerous to quit completely (go cold turkey) on your own. Particularly in the case of ceasing alcohol consumption, you will likely experience withdrawal symptoms, so it's vital to involve medical professionals who can ensure your safety and healthy.
The best option is often to enroll in an inpatient drug or alcohol rehab facility. This is the most comprehensive and structured support available, and can be an excellent way to kickstart recovery. Inpatient rehab centers have you live on site, and support is available 24/7. This is particularly important for those with severe addictions, who will require medical detox to safely rid their bodies of whatever substance(s) they've been using. The staff at rehab facilities knows how to give the right combination of medicines and care to ensure that you make it through detox and withdrawal safely and comfortably.
Outpatient drug or alcohol treatment programs are another path to getting sober. These are generally less intensive but still extremely valuable. (Learn more about inpatient vs. outpatient drug and alcohol rehab programs here.)
3. Keep getting help.
One of the riskiest times for a recovering addict is the stage just after a drug or alcohol rehab program ends, whether inpatient or outpatient. It's vital to continue getting the right support, otherwise you become vulnerable to relapse. This is especially true if you know you'll return to an environment where others will still be using, or you may be exposed to the substance in question. Therapists and other treatment professionals can help support you in limiting or eliminating contact with those individuals or environments that are particularly risky for you.
One extremely effective tool recovering addicts can use is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA), and other 12-step programs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse conducted a study that showed that 90% of those who went to weekly AA meetings stayed completely sober for the entire first year after inpatient and outpatient treatment programs.
Part of the reason for this is that attending AA or NA meetings allows you to talk about everything you're going through with others who truly understand. Feeling isolated and alone is a major trigger for many people when it comes to addiction, and belonging to a safe and healthy community is a strong antidote.
12-step programs are also useful in terms of access to instant support. For example, it's normal to experience cravings even after you've gotten sober. When a craving strikes and you can call a safe person, you can talk about the craving instead of giving into it. Programs like AA and NA help you stay sober and connected, which leaves you in a very strong position to continue your healthy, addiction-free lifestyle.
Going to rehab is an important first step on the journey to recovery. It's also important to note that it's just that - the first step. Getting and staying sober is essentially a lifelong commitment. It often requires a new outlook, new influences (including new people), and new choices. It's one of the most important and courageous decisions you'll ever make, and it's good to know there's plenty of support available once you decide to make it.
In essence, getting sober is a way of taking a stand for yourself and your future. You deserve a life of peace, joy, and fulfillment - and you can have it.