Addiction Treatment

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Addiction Recovery – Living the Solution

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I did not start out living the solution of addiction recovery.

Instead, I evolved into this life. It has been quite a journey. When you tell this story in traditional recovery circles, you start at the beginning, and explain what it was like, what happened, and what it is like now.

So let me explain those things, and you can see how I got to where I am today in my recovery.

What it was like

I waited until I was out of high school to experiment with drugs or alcohol. No one pressured me to try these things, I sought them out myself because I was curious. To be quite honest, people in my life had tried to shelter me a bit from drugs and alcohol as I was growing up.

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When I first tried drugs, it was a real eye-opener for me. I was like I had found my calling. Something inside me had been broken for my whole life and drugs and alcohol fixed that–whatever “it” was. A big part of this was social anxiety, though I had never been diagnosed with this. I was just tired of living in fear. Drugs allowed me to live without worrying.

But of course, all that changed over time. At first, drugs and alcohol were a lot of fun, but eventually they became something that I had to do. I had lost the power of choice in the matter. I told the world that I loved “partying” and that I would never stop, because that was what I loved to do.

This was denial, plain and simple. I had become a shell of a person; someone who lived in fear and had to keep self medicating in order to feel “normal.” Being messed up became my new baseline for existence.

I was afraid to face life without drugs. I was afraid to feel my emotions. So I had to keep using so that I could hold things together.

This was a big breakthrough for me, to look back see that I used drugs out of fear, not because I liked to party. I used to party when it was fun, but after addiction takes over and you have to use, it stops being a party.

The party was over long ago. Many times I left a party, still drinking, wondering why all the “normal” people had gone to bed already. I wanted to keep getting messed up! Didn’t these people know how to party?

And so that was my world. I lived in fear, continued to drink and use drugs, and ultimately pictured my perfect life as being one where I had enough money and enough drugs that I could feel confident that I would never run out. That was my ultimate fantasy: unlimited drugs and unlimited cash, with no responsibilities.

Kind of sad, no?

What happened

Some people who come into recovery do so because of a big, cathartic event in their life. Perhaps their spouse leaves them or they lose their job or they smash their car up. In my particular case, none of these things happened but a certain set of circumstances still caused me to hit a bottom of sorts.

What happened was that I was living with another addict, and I was involved in a relationship with her. At the time, she had left on a vacation with her family, and I was left by myself for a few weeks. That I was left alone for a while was probably important for what happened next. Apparently I was forced to really look at my life and how unhappy I was. I was alone and drinking every night and using lots of drugs and I was finally realizing that it wasn’t working. I could not drink enough to get to that “happy place” any more. The alcohol had stopped working for me and it stopped doing what I wanted it to do. It was no longer fun. And, I realized it.

A chance conversation with a family member opened the door for me to try to change. For some reason, a switch was flipped in my head and I had the willingness to give rehab another try. I had been twice before but never with the intention of stopping all drug and alcohol use. This time was different because I had really surrendered. I was not jumping for joy about going to treatment, but felt like I was finished with the idea of medicating myself every day for the rest of my life.

My family made the calls and arranged for treatment. I stayed with them until they could get me in somewhere. That was the start of my new life in recovery.

The importance of treatment

For some people, treatment is not so important, and might not even play a role at all in their recovery. They might just get sober one day, or start going to 12 step meetings, or whatever. But for me, treatment was a huge part of my early recovery. Without it, I seriously doubt that I would have made it at all.

I went to a local treatment center and stayed for detox and also for a few weeks of inpatient treatment. There, I attended the groups and the lectures and the 12 step meetings that you will typically find at pretty much any drug rehab.

Now I had been to treatment twice before but it had not worked for me, so this time I decided to try something different. One big thing that I did was to follow their suggestions, and that meant attending long term treatment as well. I ended up living for 20 months at a long term treatment center for men. This was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Long term treatment might sound like a death sentence, but it was actually the very thing that gave me back my freedom in life. Sure, I was held accountable, and I also had to live by their rules, but this was the structure that I needed in my life in order to find my footing in early recovery. This is what opened the door to my freedom. For anyone who is struggling to get clean and sober–and especially for anyone who has tried and failed at residential treatment centers–I highly recommend long term treatment.

What it is like now

Fast forward 8 and a half years later and I am still clean and sober today, living a full life in recovery. My life is very different now. Here is how:

1) I no longer live in fear.

2) I work with sick addicts and alcoholics every day – this is a huge part of recovery for me, as it helps keep me grounded as to what is important in my life: sobriety and helping others. In addition to this, I have found other ways to reach out to struggling addicts, such as through the internet.

3) I have found happiness without self medicating – I truly believed that I would never be happy unless I was drunk or high. Turns out that is not true. Now I am happy while being clean and sober.

4) I have found purpose and meaning in life – Life is worth living again. I did not think that this would be possible either, when I was still drinking.

5) I am growth oriented now – I am not really content to simply coast through life anymore.  I now push myself to grow and learn new things.

6) I care about my health and have regained self esteem – I quit smoking, started exercising, and generally care much more about my own well being than I used to.  As such, my self esteem is much greater now and the motivation and energy that comes from this is pretty amazing.

If you or someone you know is struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism, I would encourage you to explore this website.  You might want to learn about my personal philosophy of recovery, or you might also want to know more about how to help an alcoholic or an addict.  Good luck!

 

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  • Treva

    Can you please tell me about the “long term treatment center for men”? My son has tried many times to get and stay clean and sober and has failed. He is now in the third day of a 30 day inpatient treatment center. His addictions are alcohol, oxycotin, pain killers,
    gambling and goodness only knows what else. He is 42, has lost everything, his family, his job, his life.

  • Laura

    Patrick,
    First off, let me say thank you for all your kind words to those of us who’s lives have been afflicted by this disease, to the addict, to the love ones who suffer watching. I have struggled with staying hopeful so many times, I am married to a recovering alcoholic/addict and we have just celebrated our 29th anniversary. No I’m no saint, just someone who loved the addict more than I loved myself. My journey to recovery has been different yet the same in some ways, one being my own self-worth. Addicts have a way of consuming more than just drugs/alcohol, they consume their loved ones in many ways. We come to believe they will surely die without us. They have no control so we must make up for their lack thereof or so we think. That is the thing that bound me to mine, the huge fear of losing him to self-destruction or death. Although my husband is a recovered alcoholic for over 9 years, along the way he became addicted to presciption drugs and other drugs due to injury, he has now been in recovery for all of it over 1-1/2 years. In the midst of his recovery my son’s heroin addiction reared it’s face to us and thus I find myself dealing with a active addict again. Talk about despair, guilt…it can overwhelm us both at times. My husband now on the same side as I. Somedays it seems easier just to pretend it’s not happening, wallowing in self-pity is something I learned in the years of living with an addict. Here’s the clincher, it was not till I completely let go of my husband did he surrender completely to recovery. Idle threats meant nothing, one long hard lesson I also learned in my journey. It was truly the biggest leap of faith I ever had to muster up, no doubt about it. I did not go into it with the assumption that throwing him out would save him, I knew he could die, oh the worry was endless but for me I now see it is what finally made him take responsibility for himself. God was right beside me when I uttered the words I had so longed to say to him but didn’t have the courage to. “You are an addict and I no longer want to live with an addict” Less than a week later I was helping him get into a rehab, he was greatful to be there, so different from the first time around where he now admits was only to stop drinking, he wasn’t giving up anything else. It showed believe me it showed.
    Regrets that it took me so long, sure there were some..is timing everything, I really don’t know, but I’m sure it can make the difference with some. The hours after making him leave were filled with heartbreak, worry, many emotions so I prayed for relief of the endless “what ifs, the what have I done?? Prayer was all I had. No one could comfort me in the hole I just made in my life as I had perfected isolation by that point. But like the addict you take it one minute, one hour and one day at a time. My breathing depended on his is the only way I know how to describe it, in part from waiting for the ball to drop at any moment. Dying to me was something I longed for many times, sometimes even for him as I thought at least he’d be free of addiction.
    Right now I am trying to muster up the courage to face this evil disease with my son, to let go of the son I love so dearly, the one I tried so hard to protect from ever going to this place like his father. I know full well it can kill him, I know full well he will be more alone than he has ever been and my heart aches to know what he has instore but I now know that I cannot breath for him, I can no longer enable him. I now know that it is his responsibility to get well. Another leap of faith. My granddaughter who is in his care and his girlfiends care has kept me more apprehensive than words can explain however I pray God will watch over her, she is nearly two. Somehow we need to define that fine line of helping her without enabling him.
    I read in a book “living with an alcoholic(addict) is like living in a nut house with no doctors”
    Anyway Patrick, I needed to tell you that it is your words that have encouraged me today to keep on mustering up the courage to set the right boundries with him and learn to detach myself from his chaos. You said tough love has lead to death in some, but more addicts die because we don’t practice tough love…. Those words ring deep within me from my first experience. Thank you and may God bless you and all of us who need your encouraging insight.
    Laura

  • Patrick

    Wow, that is a heck of a story and testimony you said there Laura. I appreciate your wisdom and I am sure anyone who reads your story and your experience will benefit from it. Thank you for sharing that, it sounds like you already know the answers….they are just hard to deal with sometimes. God bless and thank you for sharing….

  • jesse

    been alittle over 3 days wondern is it normal to crave a pain pill after not having them

  • Patrick

    Yes, cravings at this point on day 3 are perfectly normal. You can expect to start getting some relief soon though as you stay clean.

    Amazing trick: take a stopwatch and time the length of your craving. They are WAY shorter than what we believe……

  • Anonymous

    Hi Patrick
    I am on day 24 but i still feel very depressed i do things every day i work out i eat right but it seems its not helping what els can i do thanks

  • Patrick

    @ Anonymous – I would try to find a way to help others in recovery. That will give you a bigger boost than you realize.

    Also, I would try to find other positive people in your life to associate with. Find some “winners” and hang out with them. Stay away from negative people.

    Finally, I would find a way to push yourself toward personal growth.

    Good luck!