Resolution: Getting and Staying Clean and Sober
Updated: Dec 11, 2020
Regardless of what direction you choose to go on your sober journey, it is important to keep an open mind.
For many of us, the end of a year or the beginning of a new one signifies renewal and change. The tradition of making resolutions for the year to come is common to many of us. For the person struggling with addiction or problematic substance use, it could be a resolution to stop engaging in the behavior that is having a negative impact on their life. Changing behavior is hard! Resolving to get more exercise or finding time for an old hobby is difficult enough. How on earth is someone who is addicted to a substance or behavior expected to make a lasting change? Where do they even begin? Letting go of addictive behavior is definitely possible, and the beginning of a new year is as good a time as any to make this change! If you are still on the fence, it may be helpful to take a really objective, practical look at the pros and cons of stopping an addiction. For someone who has not struggled with addiction, it may be obvious that it’s worth stopping, but an addicted person’s thinking can be distorted when it comes to the substance or behavior that is causing them problems. Sometimes, writing out the ways behavior is damaging and why it should stop is helpful for someone who is unsure of whether they are ready to make a lifestyle change. One of the best things someone who wants to change an out of control behavior can do is reach out for help. This initial action is one of the most important steps in directing someone with addiction toward lasting positive change. Making the Decision There is a multitude of ways in which people achieve sobriety. Choosing a residential facility, withdrawal management/detox center, sober living, or a support group can feel overwhelming. This is one of the benefits of reaching out to someone for help. Having support during the process of making these decisions early on can make it a smoother, less stressful experience. Withdrawal Management Once you’ve made the decision to stop using alcohol or other substances, you should determine whether or not withdrawal management (e.g. medical detox) is necessary. For those addicted to alcohol, opiates/opioids, benzodiazepines, or barbiturates this is usually a good idea. Getting through the physical detox period of these substances is difficult and can be fatal depending on the duration and quantity of the drug being used. An assessment should be made by a medical professional if one of these substances is being used. Residential Treatment Once detoxed, many find that entering a residential treatment center is the best idea. A residential treatment center can offer guidance and structure that may be crucial for someone who has recently stopped engaging in their addiction. Underlying mental health issues can be addressed, and reestablishing positive habits, behaviors, and routines can make a big difference in achieving lasting sobriety. This is also the period that many people begin exploring options for maintaining sobriety. There are multiple options available. The 12-Steps are the most well-known program for maintaining a recovery-oriented lifestyle, but they are not a good fit for everyone. SMART Recovery is a newer recovery program that has been very effective in helping people achieve long-term recovery. With its roots in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, SMART meetings are held internationally. They offer a program that deals with addictions of all types, from gambling and food to drugs and alcohol. Many find the logical, non-faith based approach that SMART takes to be one of it’s biggest attractions. These may be the two most popular support organizations for those with addiction right now, but that doesn’t mean that they are essentials to a recovery lifestyle. There are a variety of ways that people maintain recovery. The most important thing to remember when checking out these options is to just keep an open mind. If there is something that seems useful or makes sense, hold on to that piece. You can discard what is not applicable or useful. Deciding to seek help at a residential treatment center is another exercise in reaching out. It means you have a treatment team ready to provide support as you begin your new life. It also means you will have other people who have chosen a sober life to interact with. The relationships people build with one another while in treatment offer another type of support that frequently extends beyond residential care. Meaning and Purpose - What Now Once unintoxicated, many people find they are missing a sense of meaning and purpose. So many feel like they are coming out of a fog and are without direction or hope. Even those who managed to retain a strong sense of self, duty, or obligation may find themselves questioning these things once they are no longer actively using. This is a unique and personal experience for everyone. While these feelings and thoughts can be unsettling, they should be explored, not avoided. This is a key part of establishing a solid footing on the new road you are walking; deciding which direction you are headed! Regardless of what direction you choose to go on your sober journey, it is important to keep an open mind. It’s a journey of exploration and discovery!
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