Most addicts will tell you that breaking free from addiction is not a one-step process: it is a daily decision and often requires incredible vigilance for a long period of time. For many, they will battle addiction for the rest of their lives, even if they do not relapse.
While entering a facility and detoxing from drugs and/or alcohol is an amazing and necessary step forward in the recovery process, finding help afterwards is just as important in maintaining sobriety. Having the appropriate resources, tools and community to support recovery will go a long way in helping someone with addiction not only overcome it, but to thrive.
Here are some ways that many former addicts live life to the fullest and maintain victory after initially treating their addictions.
Alcoholics Anonymous (or AA) is the oldest support group for overcoming addiction. Founded in 1935, AA has close to 2 million members worldwide. Its goal is to reach beyond alcoholism and help individuals break the heart of their addictive behavior and find better thought and life patterns to defeat addiction.
AA mostly accomplishes this through their meetings and a 12- step program. Through this program, individuals will learn to identify and surrender to a higher power, seek and extend forgiveness for past wrongs and use prayer and meditation to maintain inner peace.
The structure of the 12- step program and the community of other like-minded individuals overcoming their addictive behaviors make AA an ideal choice for many after treatment for addiction. By finding the support of others and a way to start over with a clean slate, many who struggle with alcoholism fight off the isolation and chaos that make relapse more likely. They break past patterns and behaviors to find a better way to live and cope with the stresses of everyday life.
Connecting to a Higher Power
Identifying and connecting to a higher power is essential to recovery for many. A higher power refers to a power, being or entity greater than ourselves. In fact, a crucial part of the 12-step program with Alcoholics Anonymous (and other 12-step programs) includes finding and surrendering to a higher power.
Many find peace and purpose that is both lacking and fueling the addictions that they have found themselves trapped in. Instead of trying to soothe their lack of peace or security with addiction, by embracing a higher power many find the strength and courage they need to continue to fight addiction.
The concept of a higher power can initially be uncomfortable for those who are not religious. Although the higher power can be God to some, it does not necessarily need to be religious or overtly spiritual. Some examples of higher power to others could be nature, science, the universe, the goodness of humanity or love. The important aspect of a higher power is that it must be bigger and more powerful than the individual and it must be a power that is loving and caring.
The benefits of meditation for health and wellbeing are well-researched and documented, and this extends for addiction recovery. Meditation is yet another tenant of many 12-step programs because of its remarkable ability to help individuals throughout the healing process of addiction.
Mediation is a tool for fighting stress and anxiety, making it ideal for addiction recovery. By having a tool to overcome daily stressors, individuals find that they do not need to resort to addictive behaviors as a coping mechanism.
Mental illness is also common for those with addictive behaviors. Drugs and alcohol can cause and/or fuel mental illness, so that treatment for both is often necessary to remain sober. Depression and anxiety afflicts many who use drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Meditation can help treat these mental conditions. In fact, much research has correlated mediation with improved mental health.
Mediation is also useful as a mindfulness exercise. Mindfulness is critical for maintaining sobriety. It is usually through impulsive and thoughtless behavior that many will find a moment of weakness and potential for relapse. By staying grounded, in each moment, and aware of what is going on inside of their minds, many find that the continual practice of meditation helps them practice the mindfulness they need to stay vigilant against relapse.
Not only is meditation such a powerful tool in recovery, but it is simple and can be done by anyone. There are different forms of meditations, and many tools to help those who need help learning and practicing meditation, but none of them are necessary for those who do not have the means to purchase anything, or who want to see the benefits for themselves before jumping in fully. By testing out meditation, many have found the strength they need to continue to fight addiction.
Sober Living Facilities
The main obstacle that many find after initially committing to sobriety and detoxing is the temptation to immediately fall back into old patterns once they return to their old lives. Their old connections, old stressors, and relationships can be too much for many coming out of their addictive patterns. That is where sober living facilities can help continue sobriety until they are ready to return to their former lives, or help them make necessary changes so that they do not have to return to their old lives.
Sober living facilities, sometimes referred to as halfway houses, are group homes where those who are fighting addiction can live. They are often in more quieter areas so that individuals can get the peace they need as they continue their recovery. Sober living houses are not as restrictive as rehab facilities and residences are free to come and go as they please. They seek to help transition individuals with addictions to normal life, so they do pay rent, groceries and other living expenses. They are also expected to contribute to the house through various chores.
Each house may have its own rules to follow, but the central rule of all houses is maintaining sobriety throughout the stay there. There are sometimes random drug and alcohol testing to verify sobriety that all members are subject to. Many find that sober living homes are the extra help that they need to prevent relapse from their addictions.
An off-shoot of Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous (or NA) seeks to provide support for those who struggle with addiction to drugs. Founded in 1953, NA has 67,000 meetings in 193 different countries as of 2016. NA offers both open and closed meetings. The open meetings are free for all to attend, but closed meetings are specifically for those who struggle, or think they may be struggling, with addiction.
With a 12-step program specifically tailored for recovery from drug abuse and regular meetings, NA also offers the same structure and community support for drug abuse that AA offers for alcohol. However, NA also emphasizes having a sponsor as part of the recovery process. A sponsor is another former addict who can encourage with stories of overcoming their addictions and can provide guidance through the 12-step process. It is recommended that the sponsor have already completed the 12-step process and that they have a sponsor themselves.
With the encouragement and accountability of sponsors and support from a community of others who are working through their addictions, NA is a resource many who are overcoming addiction turn to when they need it.
Maintaining Victory: Resources for Overcoming Addiction
The process for overcoming addiction can be a daunting one for many who are just starting their journey. However, with the proper tools many find that they are no longer just surviving, but they are actually thriving without their former addictions to sustain them. The use of community support, recognizing a higher power, meditation and sober living facilities can make the process of recovery much more manageable. By replacing the chaos and isolation of addiction with peace, order, and connection, maintaining sobriety is well within everyone’s reach.
by Kayly Lange