Learn / Overcoming Addiction: How to Approach Recovery

Overcoming Addiction: How to Approach Recovery

Hannah Friedman
 April 11th, 2023|   Clinically Reviewed by 
Rajnandini Rathod

Key Points

  • How to overcome addiction
  • Treatment options for addiction

If you have a severe addiction, it can affect every part of your life. It might feel like a mental health issue, a behavioral problem, a physical condition, a spiritual wound—or like it’s your whole world. You may want to learn long-term coping skills or overcome habits that enforce addictive behaviors. And by the time you decide to get help, you might not know where to start.

That’s partly because healing looks different for everyone. And there are countless types of addiction treatment for behavioral and substance use disorders. Before you decide which one is right for you, you can learn more about how addiction works.

What Makes Something Addictive?

The National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction1 as compulsively taking drugs or drinking in spite of the negative impact it has on your life. Several different factors can contribute to substance use disorders:

Because it’s a little different for everyone, addiction impacts people’s lives in different ways. The more severe your addiction, the more areas of your life it can affect. For example, if you always drink too much at the bar, you may start losing friendships. And if you start drinking at your desk, you might lose your job. The severity of your symptoms can determine which type of treatment you need.

The Different Types of Addiction

There are 2 basic types of addiction: chemical and behavioral. They may look different on the outside, but they can have similarly destructive effects on your life.

  1. Chemical addictions are drug or alcohol addictions. Even serious chemical addictions may or may not include physical health issues. To explain this, researchers note the difference between physical vs. psychological drug dependence.5 Being physically dependent on your asthma medication, for example, isn’t often an issue. On the other hand, drinking too much can cause serious problems even if you’re not physically addicted to alcohol. 
  1. Behavioral addictions are patterns of destructive behavior that you just can’t seem to stop. For example, gambling in moderation can be perfectly harmless. But if you’re gambling away your life savings, you might need treatment. These addictions can be just as severe as chemical ones. In fact, data shows neurochemical similarities between behavioral and drug addictions.6 

How to Tell if You or a Loved One Has an Addiction

Whether you’re dealing with a drug addiction or a behavioral one, it can be hard to know when you need help. If you think you or someone you love might need treatment, you can start by answering these questions:

  • How often do you use drugs, drink, or engage in a certain behavior?
  • How much time do you spend thinking about the next time you’ll drink, use drugs, or engage in the behavior?
  • Do you take risks in order to obtain drugs or alcohol, have sex, gamble, etc?
  • Do you lie about how much you engage in this behavior?
  • Is it hard to focus at work because you’re drinking, using drugs, or planning risky behaviors?
  • Have you ever missed an important meeting or family commitment because you were drunk, high, at a casino, shopping, etc?
  • Have you gone into debt to afford this behavior, including for the purchase of drugs or alcohol?

Once you go through this list, share your answers with a doctor, therapist, or other addiction expert. They’ll perform a full evaluation and give you specific advice about what to do next.

Preparing for Recovery

There’s a lot to consider when you first begin healing. If you’re the person starting rehab, choosing a program can be a vulnerable process. Even if you have to move quickly, you can still talk to the admissions teams at a few different centers. They’ll give you a clear idea of what to expect from treatment.

You’ll also need to take care of certain logistics before you start rehab. For example, you might need to request time off work or arrange for a house sitter. If you’re traveling to rehab, make sure you bring someone with you. That person could be a friend, family member, or even a staff member from your program. They can handle the logistics while you focus on your recovery journey. 

If you’re helping someone else with addiction, there’s even more to think about. In some situations, you can admit your loved one to rehab. But that’s not always possible. If it seems necessary, you can also consider staging an intervention.

Planning an Intervention

Successful interventions take a lot of preparation. This is too big a task for just one person. You can hire a professional intervention leader or get support from mutual friends and family. 

Take some time and think about what you want to say in advance. Perhaps more importantly, think about what you’d like to happen next. Are you hoping your loved one will start treatment? If they refuse, will you set new boundaries? Be as clear and specific as possible, and take your notes with you to the conversation. That way, if things get emotional, you can trust the decisions you’ve already made.

You can also refer to this intervention checklist while you’re planning what to say. 

Choosing a Type of Treatment

When you’re planning to attend rehab, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from. You might look for a center that treats co-occurring mental health conditions, or one that focuses on medical care. Certain addictions are harder to break than others, and may require specialized treatment. Ask your doctor or another expert for advice about which approach might be best for you.

Medical Detox

When you first stop drinking or using drugs, this short-term treatment helps you handle any withdrawal symptoms. You’ll probably work with a team of doctors, nurses, and therapists during your 5-14 day program. 

While medical detox isn’t always necessary, it’s extremely important for certain people. When you’re detoxing from alcohol,7 opioids,8 or benzodiazepines,9 medical supervision is essential. Without proper treatment, withdrawal from these substances can be life-threatening. 

These programs can also be a good fit for people with other health problems. Your care team can help you detox as safely and comfortably as possible. Most of these centers require you to enroll in longer-term rehab before you arrive on site. When you finish detox, you’ll go directly into your next phrase of treatment.

Inpatient Rehab

In most residential rehab centers, treatment lasts for about 30 days. Clients attend talk therapy, support groups, and complementary therapies. You might also work with a medical team. 

Traditional rehab programs will help you address the root cause of your addiction. When you step back from the stress of your daily life, you’ll gain new insight into your own behaviors. This empowers clients to identify triggers and learn new coping skills. You’ll also plan ways to prevent relapse. This process sets you up for success when you transition out of rehab. 

Outpatient Treatment

If you need more flexibility while you recover, outpatient treatment might be a better fit. Most outpatient rehab programs fall into 1 of 2 categories: 

  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) offer intensive outpatient care. Think of a PHP like a full-time job, except you’re attending therapy instead of going to work. Patients live off site but spend most of their time in treatment.
  • Intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) give clients a little more independence than PHPs. With less time in therapy, some people keep going to work throughout recovery. These part-time programs are a good fit for people with less severe symptoms, and those with strong support networks at home.

Support Groups

Social support is hugely important during recovery.10 But because addiction can damage your relationships, you may need to build a new community while you heal. Support groups are one way to accomplish that.

  • 12-Step groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous, are free and easy to find anywhere in the world. You can even go to online meetings. Members commit to addiction recovery through faith in a higher power. 
  • SMART Recovery is a secular organization. These free meetings focus on self-empowerment instead of spirituality. 
  • LifeRing participants connect with each other just as they are in the present moment, instead of sharing stories of past trauma. Members encourage each other to maintain their sobriety.

Each of these groups also host meetings just for loved ones of people with addiction. These spaces let friends and family members connect with people who understand what they’ve been through. Anyone can attend these free support groups in any stage of recovery—even during rehab. 

Search our list of luxury treatment centers around the world to find a particular type of therapy, location, or approach to addiction recovery.

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