The Long Road Ahead: What Addiction Recovery Looks Like
The path to recovery can be a long and twisting road. It will have some ups, some downs and some level spots. Understanding that the journey can take time will help everyone involved in the recovery process learn to cope and begin acceptance.
Addiction is not something which happens overnight, and the fact is that recovery can take an even longer time to fully reach. Dwelling on this notion can be detrimental or overwhelm an addict, figuring that recovery will never be attainable. No matter how bleak your outlook, time heals all wounds — but it’s also an investment which can help anyone become sober.
Realizing It’s Time to Seek Help
Substance abuse addicts are most often oblivious to that which ails them. For many, they can be highly-functional individuals, able to continue being employed, pay bills, and so on. While all this seems like they’re handling everything well, there may be health and relationship issues that keep surfacing as a direct result of their addictions.
Addiction rewires our brains to the point where we’ll fight to keep feeding our addictions and simply dismiss the pleas of loved ones as overreactions. But there are times where addicts come to the realization that it is time to seek help.
Whether it’s voluntary or not, recovery can’t happen without the individual accepting the fact they have a problem and that it needs addressing.
Finding & Beginning Treatment
If possible, the best place to start when seeking treatment options for addiction is by speaking to physician. By answering their questions and administering the necessary tests, a doctor or medical practitioner can get a good feel for the extent of a person’s struggles with addiction.
Although rarely acknowledged, addiction is an illness just like diabetes, heart disease, and so on. When treated as an illness, there is a lot of research and science which supports the idea that addiction can be most effectively treated with a medical and behavioral approach.
Of the 23 million Americans who need to seek addiction treatment, only 11% percent receive treatment at a specialty facility. If an addict seeks help from a rehab facility, they will receive specialized care, just as their personal doctor would work with them to find a treatment plan which works for them.
Speaking to a physician may give an idea to the extent of how long recovery will take, but they will often refer patients to an addiction specialist for a more accurate assessment. However, getting a clear picture of an addict’s substance abuse can go a long way to finding the appropriate treatment.
Treatments often depend on how long the subject has been using substances as well as the kinds of substances being abused. Treatment at a rehab facility will often include some combination of medical and behavioral solutions, in addition to encouraging patients to participate in support groups like A.A. for long-term sobriety.
The First Days of Recovery
There will be no tougher time for a recovering addict than the first day to the first few weeks. Because addictive drugs and alcohol make changes to the way the brain processes emotions and regulates mood, the absence of the target substance can cause irritability, mood swings, and even irrational behavior.
An addict’s brain is looking to find the next “high” and will form an often physical connection to it. But it doesn’t just stop there — withdrawal is what comes next.
What is withdrawal?
Simply put, withdrawal is a term to describe the physical and mental symptoms experienced by individuals who stop or limit their intake of a drug. Withdrawal manifests itself in different forms, and it seldom is specific to one type of drug. For example, a long-time smoker experiences withdrawal symptoms when trying to quit smoking.
Drugs either suppress certain physiological functions and/or depress functions stimulated by the drugs. Withdrawal essentially causes an opposite reaction; if a drug is meant to suppress pain, the affected individual will experience intense pain.
What are the symptoms of withdrawal?
Withdrawals can vary from patient to patient, but here’s a breakdown of the common symptoms:
- Emotional Overreaction or Numbness
- Sensitivity to Stress
- Lack of Motivation
- Rapid Mood Changes
- Changes in appetite
- Stomach Cramps, Nausea, Vomiting
- Sleeping Problems
- Sensitivity to Pain
The exact withdrawal symptoms experienced during the detox phase depend on many different factors including, but not limited to, the extent and potency of substance abuse, the type of substance, how it was ingested, overall medical and mental health.
How long does withdrawal last?
The duration of withdrawal will vary from person to person, but the biggest factor in determining how long withdrawal will take is the type of substance abused.
- Alcohol: Within several hours to several days, withdrawal from alcohol typically peaks 24 – 72 hours since alcohol was consumed. Alcohol withdrawal can last up to several weeks.
- Opiates: Prescription opiates like Vicodin, OxyContin, methadone, and morphine will cause withdrawal symptoms with 8 – 12 hours, peaks soon after, and then can least up to 10 days.
- Cocaine: Cocaine withdrawal can happen several hours after the last dose, reach peak after several days, and then can last between several weeks to over 2 months.
- Heroin: Withdrawal for heroin will typically occur after 12 hours of the last dose, peak within 1 to 2 days, and then last anywhere from a week to several months.
Recovery After Detox
Once the detox process has run its course and withdrawal symptoms begin to subside, the recovering addict then transitions into the next phase of treatment. This phase is mostly about understanding some of the root causes behind their addiction.
Many recovery programs involve some form of a process like the “Twelve Steps” where addicts learn to forgive themselves and how to avoid situations where they are more susceptible to abusing substances.
Long-Term Recovery & Sobriety
Staying sober for years or decades can be an amazing accomplishment, but it’s less about how long an addict stays sober. The road to recovery will take time and be extremely trying. It will be a daily struggle, and they may fail from time to time, but recovery is possible.
If you or anyone you know is ready to take that very important first step towards living their best life substance-free, reach out to us today to learn what FHE Health does for our patients.