Too often, one of the biggest problems facing a person in recovery is experienced when they get too confident in their sobriety. Many begin to believe that they are “cured”, and that they now have the strength to have a couple of drinks or use just a little of their drug of choice without worrying about backsliding into their old mindset and way of living. Nothing could be further from the truth. Only with true drug or alcohol abstinence in recovery, can addiction begin to be overcome.
Many recovery programs are designed to give patients a strong foundation in recovery, with the tools they need to face life head-on without resorting to using drugs or alcohol. Patients discover a sense of confidence in themselves and in their recovery, with the understanding that they have a personal responsibility in their continued sobriety.
Abstinence in Recovery
In absolutely no way does this mean that a program has “fixed” or “cured” them. For a person in recovery, the idea that they can have “just a few” is not their strength and resolve to give them power over their addiction. It is their addiction talking to them, trying to take control over their minds and lives again. Complete abstinence in recovery is the only path to take in overcoming addiction and staying clean and sober.
There is also the idea that a person can use a different drug than the one that they might have had an addiction to. For example, a person might say, “Well, as long as it’s not heroin, I can smoke pot and I’ll be okay.” But, marijuana is a mood-altering drug, and using it or any other drugs can and will lead the person back to a full-blown addiction. The simple fact is, while they might have been addicted to heroin, cocaine, meth or alcohol when they got treatment, their addiction is not restricted to just that one substance. Addiction is, in large part, a result of an uncontrollable desire to “escape from reality”, and in that aspect, any drug will do.
The Science Behind Abstinence in Recovery
An analysis of a 2014 Addiction Health Evaluation and Disease Management study, conducted by the Department of Community Health Services at Boston University’s School of Public Health, found an association between marijuana use and the ability to abstain from the use of other drugs. In short, the results showed that using marijuana led to a 27% increase in the odds of a person in recovery going back to heavy drug or alcohol use. And marijuana isn’t the only culprit.
Often, heroin users who quit without treatment attempt to find some solace in alcohol. It seems to help stave off the cravings and, at least for a while, keeps them from using. This is because of the similarities between the effects of alcohol and heroin on the brain. Both of these substances affect the neurological pathways in the brain that regulate the flow of dopamine, a chemical that, in large doses, gives the user feelings of pleasure, euphoria, and sedation. In fact, all addictive substances affect dopamine levels in the brain, but none are as similar in their effects and processes as alcohol and heroin.
But, ask any drug abuser who has tried this method, and almost without exception, you will find that this did not work and that eventually they went out and used again. Drug replacement in recovery doesn’t actually address the causes of addiction, but rather tries to “fix” the symptoms. This is true even in the medical world when doctors or clinics prescribe other drugs to treat addiction, such as methadone or buprenorphine.
Clean Living: Completely Removing Substance Abuse From Our Lives
In order to remain on the path to recovery, it is critical that a person abstains completely from using any drugs or alcohol at all. There must be a complete lifestyle change. Often, this means that a person can’t hang out at the same places with the same people that they were hanging out with before. For many, this may require completely removing themselves from that environment. Many of the patients that come to Best Drug Rehabilitation for help in overcoming their addictions move to a different town or even a different state after they have graduated from a program. But, above all, the patient must understand that “just having a few” is never going to be okay. Complete abstinence in recovery is the only option for a person to stay clean, sober and free from addiction.
Understanding that there is much more to recovery than just getting clean, rehab helps addicts to address the underlying causes of their addictive behaviors. Beginning with a thorough detox process under medical supervision, they show patients that they have the ability to solve problems in their lives without depending on drugs or alcohol. Treatment will also help them to discover that they can lead a healthier and more productive lifestyle with the promise of a brighter and more fulfilling future.