03 Sep Should You Go Back in for Addiction Treatment?
If you’re asking this question of yourself, chances are that you already know the answer. But again, maybe you’re not quite sure. Let’s review some of the things that could get in the way of a successful recovery and may prompt the need for a return to treatment for addiction.
Impossible Yearnings and Cravings
It’s human nature to want what we can’t have – even when we know that the activity, action, or relationship is bad for us and causes harm not only to ourselves but others. One definite sign that recovery isn’t going well at all is when you find yourself constantly doing battle with cravings and urges.
There is a caveat, however.
In the early days and weeks of recovery, you have to expect that you’re going to be bombarded by these nasty reminders and devilish invitations to go back to your old using life. You’re too fresh from treatment and probably not as practiced as you could be yet in using your newly-learned coping skills. Addiction recovery experts say that such cravings and urges will diminish over time. They will probably never completely go away, and may resurface months and even years later, but you’ll be better prepared to deal with them when they do reappear.
But let’s say that you’re not in that fortunate group that is able to deal effectively with cravings and urges. It may be that you daydreamed your way through that part of treatment. After all, it may have seemed too elemental or simple to be worth bothering about or you could have figured that you’d just remember what to do. In other words, you may have been a little asleep at the switch. Instead of engaging your brain and comprehending what you were being taught, you may have allowed yourself a little rest and relaxation time – in between other soul-searching, group therapy, or other treatment modalities.
Maybe you listened as hard as you could, tried to practice the coping skills and techniques and thought you had it down only to find out that now, when you’re out on your own and don’t have your therapist down the hall or your group to discuss these cravings and urges with, you don’t know what to do. The impossible yearnings come at you any hour of the day or night. Unable to sleep soundly, you toss and turn and finally get up. That’s even worse, because then you have to deal with your active thoughts – the ones that are telling you that you really need that drink, you really want to inject, you really have to get high. You feel like you’re about to crawl out of your skin, the urge is so strong.
Night after night and day after day, the cravings and urges beat you down. You’ve called your 12-step sponsor and stepped up your meeting attendance, but still you can’t get a handle on these things. Nothing’s working. The only result is you feel yourself sinking back down. You fight hard against it but the realization creeps in that you’re only one step away from giving in.
Maybe you do give in.
This is a good indication that you may need to go back in for addiction treatment.
Back with the Good Old Gang
It’s awfully hard to give up the good old life. At least, that’s what we often tell ourselves when we don’t want to do what we know intuitively we need to do. In recovery, we are well aware that we’re supposed to find new friends, sober friends, and develop new hobbies and relationships and pursue intellectual and spiritual growth.
But when it’s you that has to go through the early days of recovery, when you’re the one who’s struggling just to get through the day that never seems to end, sometimes all you think about is how it couldn’t hurt for you to just get back with your pals for a day. What could be so wrong about catching up on what everyone else has been doing? After all, it’s not like you committed felonies with them (unless you did). You had great times together, shared lots of laughs – all good, weren’t they? Except for the fact that you know you all dragged each other down, egging one another on to the next round of drinks, keeping up the endless flow of mood-altering liquor and drugs and nicotine and…whatever else you were into.
Oh, you could have all the best intentions and think you’re ahead of the game. You’ve got it all covered. You have your catch phrases ready to say when your buddies call and invite you out for drinks Friday night after work. Or, you’ve been sorely missed at the weekly poker game and it’s your turn to bring the beers. What’s the pickup basketball game without hanging around the bar afterward with your chums?
Too bad these old friends haven’t made the choice to overcome their addiction. But, when you find that you really don’t care if they tempt you to return to your drug of choice and you go out with them, you’re asking for a heap of trouble.
And trouble will find you.
Before you know it, you’re nodding yes to the bartender’s inquiry. You don’t just stop at one drink. That’s not how it works. Once your lips taste the alcohol, it’s like a rifle shot to the brain. Whatever you learned goes out the window. You’re hooked. Man, it tastes good, you marvel. What a buzz. Gosh, how I’ve missed this. Next, you may buy drinks for the table, or a round for the bar. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, you stumble out of the tavern and can’t find your car.
The realization that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea won’t hit you until much later – after you’ve slept through your alarm, are late for work, and have a jackhammer hangover.
Yes, you’ve fallen off the wagon. Something went wrong, and pretty big time.
Maybe this is a sign that you should go back into treatment for addiction.
People in recovery go to 12-step meetings for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it was strongly recommended for them to do so when they were in treatment. At first, the attendance may be pretty regular. But often, over time – and it’s quicker for some than for others – the individual begins to feel overconfident, even cocky. I can do it on my own, you may find yourself thinking.
Oh, really. This will go right out the window the first time you’re smack up against a crushing deadline at work, or your kids do something bad at school and you’re called in for a conference, or you stress yourself out so much over all the bills that you feel like you’re going to blow. Can you really handle all the stresses and challenges and crises large and small without help from your 12-step sponsor and fellow group members? Are you really that self-sufficient or that practiced in your skills?
How long has it been since your last meeting? Has your attendance been spotty? Do you move around meetings a lot, trying to find one where you feel more at home? There’s certainly nothing wrong with checking out various meeting locations. Frankly, it’s highly recommended. How else will you find a group of people that you will want to continue to see on a weekly basis? How else will you settle on a home group?
But dashing here and there in an attempt to escape what comes up is a sign that you’re not getting out of the meetings what you could. Ditto if you just sit there and take up space, not really listening, thinking about all the things you should be doing or want to be doing instead of being present in the group.
If you’ve missed meetings for more than a couple of weeks without a darned good reason – like you were sick in bed with pneumonia or in traction in the hospital – you’re avoiding your responsibilities. In this case, the responsibility isn’t to your job or your family or your bills. It’s to you. You’re sabotaging your chances for effective recovery by jumping ship too soon.
What happens when you skip too many meetings? Think of those sleepless nights, the calls from the old gang, the shaky feeling you get in your gut when you hear the clink of ice cubes in a glass. Who are you going to turn to when you feel like you can’t say no? If not your 12-step sponsor and fellow group members, who’s going to serve as your support network? Surely, it can’t be you. Yes, recovery is your recovery – but you simply can’t do it alone.
When you skip meetings to the point where you are finding every reason under the sun not to go – and you’re experiencing or continuing to experience daily issues, crises, and gut-wrenching emotions – maybe this is a sign that you should go back into treatment.
Perhaps the most obvious sign that you should go back in for treatment for your addiction is the one that you really don’t want to hear. When you decide to give up, believing that your addiction is more powerful than you – you’re really at the point where you need to go back into treatment.
Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, fear, desperation, anxiety, depression, and overwhelming anger often precipitate a total relapse. Without help, what’s to stop anyone from falling back into using?
At the point where you don’t care if you relapse or not, that’s when you most need treatment. It’s no longer a case of maybe. It’s a definite. You’re headed straight off a cliff and there’s no safety net to catch you.
Look at how you got here. You allowed yourself to be swept up in the cravings and urges. You gave into the invitations to go to the bar or casino or smoke dope or pop pills or shoot up. It felt good, so you did it again – and again and again. You let your bills go unpaid. You stopped caring if you showered or wore clean clothes. You lost weight or gained it – since how you looked didn’t really matter anymore. Your family and friends got disgusted or concerned or angry or pleaded in vain for you to get help. All to no avail, since you figured, what the heck, I’m just an addict – might as well enjoy myself.
At the back of your mind may be the fairly comforting thought that you can always get clean again – when you want to. Hey, you did it once, so what’s the big deal? Or, maybe you’ve been down this road several times before. Maybe you’ve gone in and out of addiction treatment facilities on a revolving-door basis. You go in, get clean, and ditch before the end of the treatment program. Back to your old using ways, you just had yourself a little mini-retreat. All you needed was a little R & R for the body and forget all the introspection stuff.
Guess what? You’re really in need of going back in for treatment. But don’t even bother if you only intend to skate through and leave when you want. If you don’t intend to commit to overcoming your addiction, what’s the point?
This is really the crux of the issue. Why should you bother going back in for treatment for addiction at all? Who are these people that return to the treatment facility?
They’re people just like you and me. They’re from all walks of life, every stratum of society, every age and shape and condition. They have single addictions or multiple addictions. They have mental health disorders and substance abuse. They struggle with compulsive sexual addiction or gambling or eating disorders. They overspend and overwork. In short, they’re a mirror to many others in society.
Addiction is huge in America today. In 2008, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 22.2 million people aged 12 and older were classified with substance dependence or abuse in the past year. Of this number, 15.2 million abused or were dependent upon alcohol but not illicit drugs, 3.9 million abused or were dependent upon illicit drugs but not alcohol, and 3.1 million abused or were dependent on both. Specific illicit drugs of abuse/dependence that ranked the highest were marijuana (4.2 million), pain relievers (1.7 million), and cocaine (1.4 million).
Of the 22.2 million people classified with substance abuse or dependence in 2008, only 4 million received treatment. Alcohol abuse/dependence accounted for 2.7 million of those going for treatment, followed by 947,000 for marijuana use, 663,000 for cocaine use, 601,000 for pain relievers, 341,000 for heroin, 336,000 for stimulants, 326,000 for tranquilizers, and 287,000 for inhalants.
Treatment can occur in self-help groups, outpatient rehabilitation, outpatient mental health center, hospital inpatient, private doctor’s office, emergency room, or prison or jail.
With such a large population abusing or dependent upon substances – not to mention the many hundreds of thousands who also suffer from a co-occurring mental health disorder – the question of why bother is more than a little relevant. Why should you bother to get treatment if you need it? The simple answer is probably the best one: You should care because it’s your life. To enjoy a quality of living that’s going to allow you to experience joy and self-fulfillment and happiness and love is just the tip of the mountain of reasons why it’s a good thing to do.
Should you go back in for addiction treatment? Look closely at your life today. What dreams have you put off or disregarded completely because of your addiction? Are you settling for less than what you want because you feel like you don’t deserve to be happy, successful, and full of life? Aren’t you doing yourself a huge disservice by thinking so? What could your life be like if you learn how to overcome your addiction, to manage your disease?
Addiction isn’t who you are. Addiction doesn’t define you. At least, it doesn’t if you learn how to overcome it. Given the choice – and we all have choices, every day – which way do you choose to live your life? Think about it. Then, make your decision. Only you know what’s really in your heart and soul.
But don’t give up on your dreams and the hope of a good life in recovery. It’s all possible and waiting for you to take the next necessary step.
Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.
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