It is well-known that opioids are very addictive in all of their forms and that alcohol and other drugs are also highly addictive. Whatever drug a person has become addicted to, this does not take place in a matter of hours or days, and detox to get off drugs is only the first step towards recovery.
An addiction may persist for some time before its impact becomes sufficiently severe that the victim of addiction is moved to seek treatment. While the addiction continues, the victim develops various ways to continue their addictive behavior. In addition, a significant portion of the victim’s life becomes centered around their addiction. Detox may be sufficient to remove the drug from the addict’s system, but learning a new way to manage life without drugs takes much longer.
The first thing an addict does when getting addicted is acquire the drug they seek. Depending upon their financial resources and the cost of the drug they seek, the addict may have to spend a great deal of energy getting the money needed to buy their drug. This may first involve using surplus funds not needed to pay their bills. Eventually, they may end up selling their possessions, losing their home, stealing from family and friends, or other means of getting money. After detox, the victim of addiction must face the consequences of the things they did to get their drug. They may have to face criminal charges for theft, work to restore trust with family and friends, and otherwise seek to repair the wrong they have done.
How much of an addict’s day is spent just getting high and seeking to stay high varies depending upon the drug they are using. At its extreme, getting and staying high will consume the addict day and night. After detox, the recovering addict is going to have a lot of free time and energy. The time they spent getting their drug and the time they spent getting and staying high will now be empty hours. That free time may weigh heavily on the recovering addict. Should cravings arise, they will have little or nothing to think about aside from their craving. Ongoing treatment will enable the recovering addict to find better and more productive ways to spend that time.
In many cases, an individual began using drugs as a prescription for chronic pain. After detox, how will the recovering addict learn to manage their chronic pain? If they don’t find a way, the drive to resume using drugs may become overwhelming.
Others begin using drugs as a way to escape mental or emotional pain. Whether it is a lack of self-confidence, the desire to fit in with a peer group, or some kind of mental illness, that pain will still be there after detox. The recovering addict must learn the skills needed to manage their lives without relying on drugs as a kind of crutch.
All of this is not meant to give the impression that life after detox is something the recovering addict cannot endure, but it is clear that detox is only the beginning of the journey. To think that habits and patterns practiced over a period of years can be abandoned in just a few days is wishful thinking.
The former victim of addiction is going to need help, and sometimes a lot of help. Initially, a period of intensive treatment is needed. Trained professionals will be able to identify and treat any underlying mental illness. In addition, they will also help the recovering addict to identify the reasons for their use of drugs and help them to learn new skills to manage their lives.
In group therapy, the person will encounter others who are in recovery. Just knowing they are not alone in their journey can have a strong impact on the group members. During group therapy sessions, members can encourage one another and, when needed, challenge the ‘stinking thinking’ of other group members. Over the long-term, recovering addicts will benefit from participation in some kind of self-help group. As cravings come and go, as the recovering addict faces new challenges, and when they just need somebody to talk to when life is challenging, a self-help group will be a great asset.
Addiction is more than just a matter of physical dependence on a drug. It is a complex reality involving physical, emotional, social and mental issues. In many ways, the addict’s whole life was centered around getting high and staying high. It isn’t really possible to restructure a person’s whole way of life in a matter of a few days. It takes time. The impact of addiction can arise in various ways for months and years. Detox may be the first step of the journey, but there is a long way to go after that. People who enter detox must realize that they have a lot of work and a lot of challenges ahead of them.
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