Whether you are looking for help for your own addiction or you are a family member or loved one seeking help for another, it’s important to educate yourself about some basic concepts that are necessary to understand before you take those first important steps.
Here are ten tips that can help in the process:
1. Never try to quit alone, especially in the case of drugs (including prescription medications), alcohol, or any other substance or chemical that is ingested in an addictive way. Stopping cold turkey can have negative health effects ranging from mild discomfort to seizure or death, depending on the substance you are ingesting and your history with it. Talk to a trained professional such as your doctor, detox unit, or an addiction treatment center in order to determine the best way to stop using safely. Sometimes medical or other detox is necessary for your health. If you enter a detox unit, go straight to a recovery center right after detox. Many people relapse because they gain false confidence after leaving a detox unit. The time between leaving detox and entering a recovery program is critical. Even waiting one day can put you at risk of relapse.
2. Be careful about weening off of drugs, alcohol, or other substances. This includes tobacco. Weening off can work in some cases but mostly it doesn’t work. The reason for that is that your brain has been substantially changed through the use of the substance. Your brain will crave the substance, even if it can get only a little bit of it. It may be easy to decrease your use, but quitting completely, without help from trained professionals in a recovery center or detox unit, is very difficult for most people. Weening off also carries some risk with regard to your health. If you choose to ween off anything, at least consult your doctor and let him/her know what you are doing so that the process of weaning off can be monitored appropriately. Even quitting or trying to ween yourself off of porn, sex, gambling or food addiction can be incredibly difficult on your own because of the changes in your brain chemistry.
3. Avoid just picking an addiction treatment center based on a random google search or search of the phone book. You may not resonate with the approach of a particular program. Do some research or have someone do it for you. The key to success in the first stage of recovery is being involved in a program that will work for you and that conforms to your worldview and beliefs.
4. Do not just travel to a treatment center expecting that the center can admit you, especially if the center is not located in your area. Call the center first. A good center will create a plan for you, including detox if needed, a recovery plan, and even aftercare. They will connect all the dots for you to make the transition between each step work effectively. Making rash decisions may result in important steps being missed.
5. Pay attention to how staff members from a center treat you when you call them. Are they making time for your questions? Are they calling you back within a reasonable time? If you call a center and the staff does not speak to you about a plan, find another center. This may be an indication that the center does not understand the value of a long-term plan or is too busy to really give you the attention you need. If staff members treat you rudely, dismiss your questions, or fail to call you back within a reasonable time, this may be an indication that they are overwhelmed and cannot provide the services and attention you really need.
6. Make sure that someone knows what you are doing. It is good to let family members know that you are seeking treatment. If you cannot tell your family members, then find a friend you can trust and let them know. Simply disappearing will make friends and family members very concerned about you. There is often shame or guilt associated with seeking help. Make sure the center you choose helps you work with that shame and guilt and has services available for family members who also need support during this time of crisis.
7. If you are suffering from trauma, anxiety or depression in addition to addiction, make sure you find a substance abuse center that deals with co-occurring disorders. Treatment of addiction alone is not enough in cases where there are other issues underlying and fueling the addictive behaviors.
8. If you are someone seeking help for a friend or family member and the person is not willing or ready to enter treatment, you may need to seek help yourself through a group support program or treatment facility. Family members often experience serious mental and emotional issues around an addict who will not seek help. Co-dependency is an addiction. If you are healthy mentally and emotionally, you will be better able to help the addict or at least be able to accept that the addict is not yet ready or willing.
9. Be honest. If you are being interviewed over the phone or in-person about your frequency and history of addiction, tell the staff member everything. Let them know about every drug or chemical you have ingested and the amounts including the last time you used it. If you are seeking help for addiction and have been having suicidal thoughts, be sure to let the treatment facility know about this. There are certain moral and legal obligations that a treatment center must follow in such cases. Your mental and emotional health depends on being as honest as possible about everything you are experiencing when you contact any treatment facility.
10. Sometimes an intervention is necessary when a friend or family member will not willingly admit him or herself to treatment. An intervention is a process by which a trained professional meets with the family and creates a plan to intervene in the addict’s life and “raise the bottom” for the addict. This may include each family member being willing to no longer enable the addict in any way. Intervention is a strong step to take, but sometimes it is the only thing that will save an addict’s life. Make sure you find a trained interventionist who will communicate with the detox unit and the recovery center. A good interventionist will create a long-term plan.