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Recovery from Addiction FAQs


How long does it take to recover from addiction?

Recovery tends to be viewed, especially by those who believe in the 12-Step principles, as an ongoing process. Putting down the drink or the drug is the first step in the recovery process. Once that occurs, recovery is about learning to live an honest, responsible, accountable life that is drug- and alcohol free. Mind-altering substances and mind-altering activities such as internet abuse, sex addictions and gambling can bring a person to a bottom. Learning to manage life in a balanced, emotionally sober manner is a lifelong process. Self-growth is ongoing and never-ending.

Do the body and brain recover from drug and alcohol abuse?

Some changes in the brain and body caused by excessive and abusive using of substances are permanent. For example, once you develop cirrhosis of the liver from alcohol abuse, it cannot be reversed. Drugs too can alter the structure and function of the brain. The damage from substance abuse can remain years after the drug abuse has ceased. It is possible that, with years of abstinence, a return to normal function may return. There are no guarantees of either a return to normal functioning or the continuation of damage.

What is relapse prevention?

Relapse prevention is the component of addiction treatment that provides the addict with tools to handle the daily stressors of life outside of the treatment environment. Relapse prevention is crucial to building a strong foundation for long-term abstinence and continued personal growth.

Why do people have cravings?

Addiction alters the brain's neurological functions. Once the substances or activities that lead to addiction have ceased, the addict still faces the possibility of cravings. These cravings, or neurological messages, are stimulated by triggers. According to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary, triggers are intense, urgent, or abnormal desires. Relapse prevention teaches the addict how to negotiate these cravings in life-affirming ways.

What does it mean to be abstinent?

Once a person has stopped using drugs and/or alcohol and is no longer using substances or self-destructive behaviors, he or she is considered to be living in abstinence. Going to meetings and other support groups helps the addict remain abstinent. In other words, abstinence means not using drugs or alcohol or picking up another addiction such as gambling, sex, or internet pornography.

What is a support network?

In treatment, the patient has a support network of his or her peers as well as the facility's medical staff and therapists. When one gets out of treatment, the addict must build a new group of people that will help him or her stay off of drugs and alcohol. This is a support network. The support network can include other addicts in recovery. such as those who attend 12-Step programs, a therapist or other healthcare professional, or a group of people that have a similar spiritual practice. These different groups can help the addict handle stress, cravings and triggers. Staying clean and sober is difficult to do in isolation. A multi-level support network that includes addiction support groups gives the addict extra security to help him or her through both difficult and joyful times.

What is a 12-Step program?

In 1935, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob met to talk about their drinking problems. What transpired between the two of them led to the foundation of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). After years of meetings and speaking with others about alcoholism and alcohol abuse, the established AA groups wrote the principles upon which their ongoing recovery was based. These principles and steps continue to guide other alcoholics to continued sobriety. The principles are embodied in 12 action steps. Millions of people have maintained sobriety by following these steps in addition to attending meetings. The AA 12 Step program has been so successful that other addicts have developed support groups based upon the 12 Steps of AA.

What is a halfway house?

Sometimes when a person leaves treatment, he or she is not prepared to go back home. To give newly sover individuals more time to learn how to live a clean and sober life, halfway houses opened. Halfway houses can be a blessing if they are reputable, quality houses. In order for a halfway house to be considered of quality, there should be rules and requirements that must be followed by all who live in the house. Halfway houses or sober living homes are not licensed or regulated so it is important to investigate a halfway house before committing to live there. Halfway houses are a way for a newly recovering addict to experience living, working and being responsible on a daily basis without using substances. The environment of a quality halfway house provides everyone with the same goal of recovery.

Why is exercise important in recovery?

Research has shown that the results of exercising regularly are a reduction in stress levels and an increase in a sense of well being. The release of certain neurotransmitters during exercise provides the brain with chemicals that produce a sense of calm and well-being. Before recovery, the addict tried to get this sense of calm from using drugs or alcohol.  Exercise can produce long-lasting benefits, both physical and psychological, and will not alter the natural brain production of neurotransmitters as drugs and alcohol do.

What is the role of meditation in the recovery process?

Many addicts have busy minds. Their thought processes spin out of control with negative thoughts, especially during times of stress. Meditation is one method used in the recovery process to quiet the mind, providing the addict's mind and body with some peace.

If I am addicted to opiates, why can't I smoke marijuana?

Here's a simple reality about addiction: once you grow addicted to a substance, you are an addict. If you are addicted to opiates, you will quickly become addicted to another drug. The pathways affected by opiates are the same pathways affected by marijuana. The need to use a substance remains activated regardless of the drug being used. If you stop taking opiates and start smoking marijuana, the same neurotransmitter is affected. It never works to substitute one drug for another.

Why can't I drink alcohol if I am addicted to drugs and I am not an alcoholic?

There are a range of personality traits that seem to define those who develop addiction. The idea that you are a drug addict but can safely drink alcohol may be a distortion of reality. The addict who attempts to substitute one substance for another can awaken addictive behavior and addictive thinking. Whether it happens quickly or slowly, the alcohol will become the drug addict's new drug of choice.

Does controlled drinking work?

The debate concerning controlled drinking, the moderation or limiting of the amount of alcohol a person consumes, has been around since the 1960s. Since that time, the debate has shifted slightly from one position to the next. A person who is an alcoholic usually must practice abstinence. However, if a person abuses alcohol without being addicted, he or she may be able to cut back and moderate the amount of alcohol consumed. Sadly, many people who have tried controlled drinking either continue getting into trouble or lose control.  They eventually have to admit that a problem does exist and that the problem requires help and abstinence.

Can I drink alcohol and go to NA meetings?

The answer to this question is clear and written in the NA preamble. Narcotics Anonymous does not make any distinctions between drugs and alcohol. They are both mind-altering substances. However, the only requirement for membership in NA is desire to stop using.
Should you pick up a drink, it is advisable to go to a meeting.

Am I considered sober if I go to AA and smoke marijuana?

Ingesting any mind-altering substance is considered using. Since the beginning of AA, much has been learned about addiction, behaviors and brain function. Smoking marijuana alters your perceptions and your ability to be sober.

What is Recovery Connection?

Recovery Connection is a comprehensive website dedicated to helping addicts, family and friends find a solution to addiction. We have the most up-to-date information on addiction and mental health disorders. We also provide you with help in finding the right detox and treatment program for your needs. Our staff is specially trained, experienced with addiction, treatment, and detox and can answer most of your questions.

What happens after a client has completed rehab?

Depending upon the individual needs at the time of treatment completion, a patient may be given an aftercare plan. Part of that plan may include moving into a half way house before returning home, or it may call for attending outpatient treatment. To continue to build upon the work done in treatment, the addict or alcoholic will need to continue therapy while attending.

Are aftercare plans individualized?

An individualized aftercare plan should be developed before each patient leaves the treatment facility and should also include input from the patient. Each individual comes to treatment with a unique set of issues that must be addressed both during treatment and during aftercare. An individualized aftercare plan is a must.

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