By Beau Black
If you’re going to do it, you might as well get the most out of it.
While that’s true of many things in life, it’s particularly true of the recovery process. Because of the investment required — time, energy, money, and the break from daily life and work — it’s crucial to make sure treatment pays off and that you experience the full benefits of drug and alcohol recovery.
So, how does one get the most out of recovery? Here are four ways that will help you maximize your treatment and recovery experience.
#1 – Know the Benefits
Having a clear picture of what life would be like without substance addiction can be key to helping you through the process. What would your finances look like without your addiction? What about your relationships with family and friends? Or your workplace interactions and career? Your physical health? Your mental health? Having a clear picture of how these areas and others will change in a future free from substance abuse gives you fuel that can help propel you through the recovery process.
#2 – Understand the Stages of Change
The Stages of Change model can help you set your expectations for each part of the treatment and recovery process. Kendra Cherry of VeryWellMind.com describes the six-step Stages of Change model, which was developed by James Prochaska and Carlo DiClemente:
Step 1: Pre-contemplation
You’re in this stage before you’re ready to consider making a life change. You may not feel that change is necessary, may be in denial about your situation, or may feel resigned to your current behaviors.
Step 2: Contemplation
In this stage, you begin to understand the possibility of change and its advantages – but these advantages seem outweighed by what’s required of you to make that change possible.
Step 3: Preparation
You begin the process of making small adjustments in advance of a bigger change. At this stage, you also learn about how to change, find help, and establish objectives for the process you’re beginning.
Step 4: Action
At this point in the process, direct steps toward change occur. Success here is enhanced by giving sufficient attention to the previous steps, as well as positive reinforcement, peer support, and clarity about your motivation to make a change.
Step 5: Maintenance
Keeping momentum in the process of recovery now requires holding onto changed behaviors and avoiding the trap of old ones. It’s important at this step to dodge the temptation of old patterns and ways of coping.
Step 6: Relapse
This may seem like an odd inclusion, but because falling back into old patterns of behavior is common along the road to change, it’s considered a part of the process. When you slip back into old behaviors, it’s important to understand why. What triggers led to it, and what can you do to sidestep those tomorrow? It’s important in the instance of relapse to give yourself grace – but also to review your motivations as well as the process that has gotten you here.
#3 – Gather Support
Whether it’s from peers, sponsors, family, or treatment professionals, support from other people is key to successful recovery. A study published in the journal Substance Abuse: Research and Treatment, reports that “maintaining positive intimate relationships seems to be crucial for reaching long-term abstinence or stable recovery from substance abuse,” but “in contrast, those lacking such social networks are less able to terminate their substance use.”
Just having friends or loved ones around isn’t a fix, though – the quality of these relationships is important.
Another study published in World Psychiatry finds, “Peer supports have been shown to lower recidivism [or relapse] rates in veterans with substance abuse problems.”
Just having friends or loved ones around isn’t a fix, though – the quality of these relationships is important. The study in Substance Abuse also observes that “recent studies further emphasize that the nature and quality of the social network is fundamental for positive behavior change. . . Several studies have shown that most individuals with a SUD [substance use disorder] need a change to their social network to initiate and maintain abstinence from substance use.”
#4 – Own Your Recovery
Lining up a support system is important—and part of each person’s role in taking ownership in their recovery. Patients who take an active decision-making role in their own recovery are more likely successfully engaged in their treatment.
According to a review published in World Psychiatry, “one common theme that has emerged in analysis of successful engagement is the participant’s feeling that his/her goals, desires, and life situation are being considered.” Finding the right kind of support is another part of this ownership that sets you up for success in treatment.
Change is not easy—but the lasting, positive life changes that come along with drug and alcohol recovery can bring a lifetime of benefits across all areas of our lives. With a clear goal in mind, an understanding of how the process of change works, the support of peers, and a sense of ownership in the process, positive change is within reach.