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Exit Addiction

Susanne Johnson
| March 4, 2017

The most difficult roads often lead to the most beautiful destinations. Before you can even walk the road, you must first get out of the quicksand of addiction. There are many ways you can get out, but the truth is that only you can walk your own path. Therefore, you need to be the one to choose it.

Like many others, during my early recovery, I felt completely certain that my method of leaving alcoholism and addiction behind was the best and only way to heal. I was so excited about my own success that I tried to tell everyone around me that my way was the only way to go, and that no other way mattered. My life experiences and the knowledge I have gained over the years have taught me differently. I now believe that every person who has a desire to enter recovery should find his or her own path, based on individual strengths and points of view.

Addiction is like a dark room without windows, and seemingly without doors. Today, if I want to help someone, I can help turn on the “EXIT” signs over those hidden doors. There are many exits and I strive not to show just one, but to light up all of them. If only one exit door is lit, the addicted person might miss it and stay lost in the darkness. The more doors I show, the more likely that person will be able to open one and get out.

Here are some suggestions for you to consider if you are still struggling and don’t know where to start:

Classic 12-Step Meetings

Twelve-step groups have been around since the 1930s and have helped countless people find recovery. Choose between Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Heroin Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, and many more. You don’t have to necessarily stay within a group that describes your drug of choice. I recommend visiting multiple programs and groups and see where you feel at home, where you can relate, where you feel safe, and where you connect with others.

The groups vary greatly between locations, but the steps don’t. The books are slightly different, but the approach is similar. The great part is that these groups only cost you a dollar in the basket per visit (and that is a voluntary donation). The downside of twelve-step groups is that they do not offer the professional help that is often needed to treat any dual diagnoses. Its peer-based only, free, but easily available almost all over the world.

Bigger cities have hundreds of meetings a week to choose from and your home group might feel like a family after a while. The fellowship offers ongoing support without a start or end date or a waiting list.

Other Meetings

There are meetings available that are not 12-step based. I want to mention Smart Recovery, Celebrate Recovery, and Refuge Recovery. They work well, too, but they are not as readily available as AA/NA, especially in rural areas. Another option is to attend local therapy groups with mental health professionals. If you somehow are not too thrilled about 12-step meetings, give them a try.

Treatment Facilities and Residential Treatment

A residential treatment program offers around the clock help in the early stages of your recovery. It’s very helpful to be away from drugs, drinks, using buddies, life problems, and more while you try to kick the habit. Some facilities offer dual diagnosis treatment, which means they have highly educated therapists, counselors and psychiatrists that can help you deal with any kind of co-occurring mental health issues you might have.

In a residential setting you sleep, eat, study, learn, and live with others for a temporary duration of approximately one to three months. Some treatment programs may take longer, if needed. Treatment facilities might offer 12-step treatment, holistic approaches, evidence based treatment, trauma informed care, or any other type of specialty. One thing they have in common: they have an end date.

From there, you need to engage in some type of aftercare, which could include intensive outpatient rehab, outpatient therapy meetings, 12-step meetings, sober coaching, or more. Some facilities offer an alumni program to keep in touch and help you when you experience difficulties.

Residential treatment can be expensive, but health insurance may help cover the cost, depending on your plan. The help you receive is very comprehensive and varies between centers. Choose your center wisely to prevent a waste of time and money. Rehab treatment is not “one size fits all”. Treatment centers differ greatly, and they may also be abstinence-based or offer medically assisted treatment.

If you find yourself overwhelmed with the choices, contact a recovery specialist, an interventionist, a placement specialist, or the Heroes in Recovery helpline at 1-800-312 4220. We will help you pick the right option for you.

Intensive Outpatient Therapy and Outpatient Therapy

If you feel the need to visit a treatment facility, but need to sleep at home, this is the best choice to try. There are various models available, and many differ in time requirements. You can either attend an outpatient facility near home and stay home, or you can live in a sober living residence while doing this. The duration of outpatient treatment usually lasts between one to three months.

If you are not sure which level of care would be appropriate for you, contact a professional and ask. If you are able to honestly talk about your addiction problems, they can determine the best level or type of treatment to fit your needs.

Sober Living Communities

Sober living communities vary greatly. Sober living homes may include a simple, shared home with a house manager only. Everyone takes care of his or her own lives in the smaller, simpler sober living homes. Highly structured sober living homes may offer more options, including rides to treatment, employment assistance, connections to outpatient care, monitoring, community trips and events, and other services. Some are in a pretty low-grade transformed motel, others in a 5-star-luxury villa with pool. Like with almost everything in life… the more you pay, the more you get!

Insurance does not pay for sober living residences, though it’s a great way to start a new life. Experience has shown that a stay in a sober living residence after treatment can greatly increase chances of success.

Oxford houses are similar. They are self-run, self-supporting communities, where residents remain drug free. There are over 2000 oxford houses in the United States, mainly in large metropolitan areas. Be careful while picking your sober living or Oxford house, black sheep are frequent. Ask at treatment center or a local professional for recommendations.

Long-Term Treatment

When it comes to life-threatening, chronic, or complicated addiction issues, long-term treatment is often crucial. There are many state funded or faith-based programs that are often peer-support based, that run 6-12 months to help you. Since not many people could afford to pay for 12 months of residential treatment, these long-term recovery programs often require you to work within the facility and pay “rent” for your place after an initial settling-in period. Most long-term programs run on very limited budget to keep the cost for the clients at bay.

You may or may not have a counselor or therapist at a long-term facility. They give you a very safe place for a long period, though. If you struggle with a dual diagnosis, any co-occurring disorders, any medical problems or require detox, you will not typically find comprehensive care for this at most facilities. Since this form of treatment is cheap, often even free, many places have a very long waiting list.

Detox Assistance

A detox facility can be a stand-alone center, or it can be integrated into a residential facility. Hospitals also often offer detoxification programs. Because of health risks (for example, high risk of seizures among people with alcohol or benzodiazepine problems), most people should always do a medically supervised detox.

Detox makes sense in any addiction instance, since a medically supervised detox can be so much safer than quitting “cold turkey”. Why try it yourself? If you made the choice to get clean and sober, make it easy and pleasant; there is no need to suffer.

Ask a professional or the treatment facility of your choice about different ways to detox. If a treatment center is abstinence-based, that doesn’t mean that you be without medical help during your detox. If there are no funds to enter a residential treatment at all, try to detox at a hospital or stand-alone detox facility before continuing your efforts with meetings and/or outpatient services.

Recovery On Your Own

Without help, the success rate of finding recovery is minimal. The addiction center in the brain is always stronger than the part that makes wise decisions. Unless there are serious consequences in place, almost no one is able to follow it through. If you do still want to try it, build yourself a support network of family and friends that hold you accountable and give you the help you need. Please never try to kick a full-blown alcoholism or addiction to benzos on your own, a seizure could lead to a life-threatening situation.

MAT (Medically-Assisted Treatment)

This form of treatment for opiates and opioids is highly discussed. There are specially certified P\psychiatrist or physicians that prescribe assistive medications like Suboxone, along with traditional counseling. Methadone clinics also fall into this category.

Clients of medically-assisted treatment may remain living at home. Many patients receive prescription medication for a duration of 1 day to 30 days. It will help with cravings, but it is still the act of substituting the substance for another substance. You will not be abstinent, just taking a different drug. Some ween down the drug after a short period of time, some stay on it for a long time. This is a decision you make with your prescribing doctor. MAT can also be combined with outpatient therapy of any kind.

You see, there are many ways to exit addiction. Many doors lead out of the darkness. Often, it is not just one door, but the combination of two or more doors that lead to long-term success.

If you are a concerned family member that feels overwhelmed by making those decisions, and when it appears to be hundreds of phone calls, consider to hiring a specialist as an interventionist or case manager to help you in this. They can help you to determine the level of care that is appropriate and varies by drug, time used, amount used, physical condition, environment, age, support at home, and relapse risk.

Most families can come up with the needed financial cushion only for one single rehab stay– make it the right one! Even if you are financially independent, consider that your family members that are in trouble might get really fed up from being sent from one place to another, again and again. We can boost the chances of a long-term success drastically by choosing a proper treatment method right from scratch.

Which path did you take? Just leave one word in the comments, like “residential” or “meetings”, or “nowhere” (if you are still using and looking for answers). Say “five residential, one sober living” if you have been to a number of different places. Thank you for your answers in advance.

We do recover!

Susanne Johnson

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