Most people know that addiction, can be overcome with treatment. But like many other diseases, it is often a winding road to get there. So, what are the steps to a healthier, drug-free life?
Seek treatment. The first step to recovery is to decide to seek treatment. It’s hard for people to recognize or admit they have a problem, even when they are putting their lives – or the lives of others – at risk. It doesn’t help that the brain’s decision-making center is impaired when under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Treatment may mean medications, behavioral counseling, or a combination of the two.
Learn new habits. Relapse (or returning to drug use) is common with addiction and is an expected part of treatment. Returning to the people, places, or things associated with former drug use can actually trigger relapse—before the addicted person is even aware of it. Behavioral therapy can teach the person in recovery to avoid these triggers and learn new coping skills so they can make better decisions.
Take it one step at a time. Recovery takes time. Treatment works best when it is long-term, at least 90 days in most cases. And because people treated for drug addiction are vulnerable to relapse even after they’ve been off drugs for a long while, most treatment professionals would say that someone with a past drug or alcohol problem is “in recovery” for a lifetime.
Find treatment. If you are interested in finding drug abuse treatment for yourself or a friend or family member, look up facilities near you by using the Substance Abuse Facility Treatment Locator, provided by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration.
Because addiction is a disease, it can be treated with therapy and, in some cases, medication. People can enter recovery from addiction, just like people can enter recovery from other diseases, like cancer.
Maybe when you think of someone who gets treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, you picture a middle-aged person who has struggled for half his life with the disease of addiction. That’s not always the case. Many teens and young adults enter treatment and recovery at a young age.
Take it from Ben Chin, who submitted his story to the “Youth and Young Adults” section of the website for September’s National Recovery Month health observance. Ben was addicted to alcohol by age 14—but he hasn’t had a drink since he was 19 (he’s 24 now).
In a video, Ben talks about how alcohol affected his life. “I missed a lot of opportunities,” he said. “I got arrested a lot. I missed a lot of school.” He also threw away a promising athletic future. “I lost the things that I cared about—my friends, and eventually, my family.”
Entering treatment and recovery, though, changed all that. Ben says, “Recovery has given me a new life and much hope for the future.”
In honor of National Recovery Month, take a moment to read and watch these personal stories from young people and adults in recovery.
Do you have a story about drug abuse or addiction? Consider submitting it here, which you can do anonymously. You never know who you might help by speaking out. Kristina Fenn says in her video, “My greatest fear before finding recovery was that I was the only person who had ever struggled with this disease. It’s never too early to get into recovery.”
As always, feel free to share your story in comments. We may offer you the opportunity to write a guest SBB post.
Recovery from addiction doesn’t mean completing a rehabilitation program and then you are cured. Addiction is a brain disease that requires commitment and effort every single day to stay off drugs.
It can also mean more than one round of treatment—and usually does.
In April 2013, “Glee” star Cory Monteith checked himself into a treatment facility for drug addiction. This is the second time the actor has been in rehab.
When Cory was 19, he went to rehab after developing a severe drug addiction and dropping out of school. He went back to using drugs soon after, and eventually became so desperate he stole money from a family member. His family gave him the choice to either stop using drugs, or they would press charges for the theft.
Cory sought help to stop using drugs and began working with an acting coach. Just 2 years ago, he received his high school diploma, while starring as high school student Finn Hudson on “Glee.”
Now 30 years old, Cory has chosen to refocus on his recovery. We’re not sure if he was using drugs, or if he simply was struggling with the urge to use again. But we do know that he’s making the smart decision to put his health first.
Cory’s out of rehab now, and we wish him the best in his recovery journey. Recovery from addiction is a lifelong journey that sometimes requires multiple treatment episodes, just like some other illnesses like diabetes or heart disease. But if you have a problem, you’re never too young to start addressing it.
NIDA continues to research the science of addiction, so that we can learn how to better prevent, manage, and eventually cure this disease.
What do you think about Cory Monteith’s second stint in rehab?
Question: What happens when 10,000 people in recovery from drug abuse and addiction get together to celebrate their sobriety?
SBB was part of the team that went with NIDA Director Nora Volkow last month to march across the Brooklyn Bridge as part of Recovery Month. Celebrated every September, Recovery Month honors the thousands of Americans who have kicked their addictions. Recovery Month is sponsored by government and other organizations dedicated to fighting substance abuse.
The event at the Brooklyn Bridge was an amazing experience. People in recovery came from every state. Some had been sober for only a few months, others for many years. You could see their stories on their faces, and many of them had been through a lot. But you could also see their hope that came from hard work. On this day, they all came together to walk across one of the most famous bridges in America, the same bridge that many American immigrants helped build more than 100 years ago to connect Brooklyn and Manhattan.
The bridge is a great symbol of hope and incredible achievement, since the technology behind its design seemed nearly impossible a century ago. It was so difficult to build that many people were injured and died during the construction - but it was eventually completed and still stands today. For the 10,000 people who had the courage not just to get treatment for their addictions, but to go public with their struggles to inspire others, their victory is a major achievement, like the bridge.
The Recovery Rally at the bridge was sponsored by A&E Entertainment, which produces the TV show Intervention. Counselors on the show work with families to help convince their loved ones to seek treatment for their addictions. Many of the counselors on the TV show led the way at the march across the bridge, along with Dr. Nora Volkow, holding a banner that says "A&E Recovery Rally."
If you watch the show Intervention, you might recognize some of the counselors in the photo.
Musician Elton John recently said he’s been helping rapper pal Eminem work through his problems with substance abuse.
Eminem (aka Slim Shady and, before that, Marshall Mathers from Detroit, MI), was in treatment for substance abuse in 2005. Since then, he has abused prescription drugs like Vicodin, Ambien, and Valium. Some bad things happened after 2005, and maybe that led him to start abusing drugs again. In December 2007, he was devastated when his marriage ended and his closest friend and fellow rapper DeShaun “Proof” Holton died. Eminem was even hospitalized for overdosing on methadone. Then in early 2008, he began a program to recover from his addiction, and he says he’s been off drugs since April 2008.
Skip to now…if you read the lyrics on his latest album, called “Relapse,” Eminem continues to glorify drug use and violence, even while he himself is trying to stay sober. So, here’s a question for you:
Does artistic expression mean you can say whatever you want, even if you know you could be influencing others to hurt themselves by taking drugs?
Elton John has acknowledged his own problems with substance abuse in the past. He says he wants to be there now to help anyone who has addiction problems. It’s good that Eminem has a more experienced artist like Elton John to guide him through this personal struggle. Wouldn’t it be great if this true friend could also help Eminem use his talents to contribute a positive musical message to the world?