Speaking From Experience
I was an addict. I used alcohol and cocaine regularly and couldn’t stop. I did four different rehab programs based on the Twelve Steps before finally getting clean on a program that had a different approach. During the years I was using drugs, it was impossible to imagine life without drugs. I went from getting high because I liked it, to being in a tailspin towards death. I had to use more and more to get high and the lows I experienced got lower and lower. I had several rock bottom experiences, including hospitalizations where I literally had no pulse. So I can personally say that kicking drugs meant the difference between life and death. After getting clean and sober, I dedicated my life to helping others free themselves from the grips of drug and alcohol abuse.
Knowledge: The Key to Recovery
Most addicts would like to get sober, but they just don’t know how. The key to getting sober is KNOWLEDGE. That’s right, knowledge. You may ask how that could be, and I don’t blame you for asking. There are plenty of well-educated drug addicts, so how does knowledge help? Knowledge isn’t just “data” or “information.” Knowledge means understanding. It means know-how. It doesn’t just mean knowledge about things. It means knowledge of self. It means knowledge about others.
Safe & Effective Detoxification
I should back up slightly – the first thing to handle is the physical addiction (also called dependence). You’re not going to impart much knowledge to someone who is experiencing the cravings, discomfort, and pain of withdrawal. Once we have a person’s basic agreement and willingness, we start with detox under careful supervision. This process must be administered exactly in order to avoid the most painful and life-threatening symptoms of withdrawal.
Only after detox has been done can we proceed with the steps of rehabilitation and recovery. Some “detox” programs simply put a person on a replacement drug and leave it at that. This is not detox. Certain medications may be required to make detox comfortable and safe, but when detoxification has been completed, the person should be off drugs entirely and so be able to enter the next phase of rehabilitation.
“If I Knew Then…”
The best approach for prevention of drug abuse is education, i.e. knowledge. Virtually any addict can tell you that if they knew then what they know now, they would never have started. If they had known how the drug would wreak havoc upon their body, they wouldn’t have started. If they had known that they would build physical tolerance and require more and more of the drug to even remotely feel “normal,” they would never have started. Knowledge of the physiology and even the chemistry of addiction is valuable for anyone, whether they have been using drugs or not.
Drug education also happens to be the most effective tool used to help our youth avoid unwise decisions that they regret later.
The Skills of Life Itself
The knowledge as to WHY they started using in the first place and WHY they continued is another avenue that must be pursued. It’s not always fun to look at, but is all part of the process. I started drinking as a teenager when my girlfriend broke up with me. Granted, plenty happened after that, but that was what kicked it off. Fundamental to rehabilitation: Education and training in how to handle life itself. These life-skills are fully applicable for anyone – addicted or not. For example, one of the cornerstone skills is communication. You’d be surprised how many of an addict’s problems boil down to communication.
Another devastating problem that many have: Study and learning difficulties. They didn’t know how to study and missed out on their education. As a result, they may have never gotten the job they wanted or had trouble holding jobs altogether. Many people are functionally illiterate even though they may not appear so when speaking with them. You have to dig a little deeper. Even an educated person can have fundamental problems with assimilation and utilization of data. A drug rehab program is therefore wise to include literacy and educational steps.
Positive & Negative Influences
There are positive and negative influences in a person’s life. I don’t use the Twelve Step program but there is certainly wisdom to be found in that system. One piece of wisdom is often described as people, places, and things. Recovery must include an assessment of people, places, and things. Some are positive and some are profoundly negative and a person must really examine these and be honest about it.
Some people find themselves deep into drug abuse out of sheer boredom. I find this has been the case with many people who started using in their teens. They had nothing much going on so they started using drugs and alcohol. Their friends used drugs so they assumed it was “the thing to do.” Or they perceived drugs as a miraculous solution to a problem.
I recall a young man who was an accomplished athlete. One day, before a competition, he took a hit of meth to help him perform. It worked! He felt like a god amongst men – like he could do anything! But he got hooked and was addicted to meth for years. He was arrested dozens of times, had no career, and no longer resembled the promising athlete from high school. Meth destroyed twenty years of his life. But he decided to get clean and did it! The evidence indicates that ANYONE can get clean and sober. That is another fundamental to be learned.
A recovering addict sets positive goals and achieves victories large and small. They get help to be sure, but they are the ones doing it. They set goals and attain them in rehab; they also look to the future and set goals for their post-graduation life. Envisioning and following one’s purposes and goals is another way a person can maintain sobriety. How does knowledge fit into that picture? One learns HOW to reach that goal. By applying the knowledge and life-skills learned in rehab, one formulates plans and works progressively toward creative and constructive aims.
The Individual Approach
The holistic approach means addressing the individuality that is inherent in every person. A common complaint is that “no one understands me.” This could be true, but what is more important, that people understand you or that YOU understand YOURSELF? It is also interesting that in rehab, a person will start to understand OTHERS better. And in understanding others, they learn more and more about themselves. They realize, however slowly, that they can be HELPED and they can HELP others. If this sounds all too philosophic, realize we are talking about the building blocks of life itself and skills that are so basic they often get overlooked. Nothing could be more practical.
You hear “stay positive,” but you are rarely given any information as to HOW. By concentrating on HOW, we reinforce the positivity in a person’s life. When things look dark and hopeless, it is necessary to focus on the positive. That can appear impossible due to the number of failures a person has experienced in the distant or recent past. One should also realize that in the past they simply didn’t have all the knowledge and tools necessary to resolve the situation.
Finding the Right Program
It is important to find the right rehab program for the individual. There are many things to consider in this decision. These include: the detox methods used; inpatient and outpatient systems; what drug or drugs are involved; history of the addict; methods and therapies employed; success rate; financial and time constraints; comprehensive aftercare program.
A holistic center should include a core program as well as optional steps pertaining to the individual. “How can I make my dreams of sobriety a reality” is a highly personalized question. You are different than anyone else on Earth. A rehabilitation center should understand that and accommodate your individuality.
A special note should be made about aftercare. A strong aftercare department and support network are significant parts of maintaining sobriety. When a person has completed the steps of recovery, they should promptly see an aftercare department where they work with specialists to set up a personalized relapse prevention program. A key part of this is the establishment of an effective support network of friends and family – people that can be trusted to help the person carry forward into a new life of sobriety and goal attainment.