Excuses are the currency of those who have no control over their lives. They come quickly and flow naturally from the mouths of those who are unable to stand, think, and act for themselves. For addicts, in particular, it is amazing how much creative energy can be used to justify a desire to stay addicted, even when there are competing feelings desiring the freedom of recovery. Here are eight reasons to set those many excuses aside and find real motivation to find recovery today.
1. No Man or Woman is an Island
Trying to quit on your own?
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, relapse is not only possible, but it is also likely. Many drug and alcohol counselors go a step further claiming relapse is almost inevitable. When you confuse abstinence with recovery, you become susceptible to a relapse. Abstinence is necessary for recovery, but it is not sufficient. To experience permanent recovery requires a change that creates a more healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. However, even those that understand this, and take the right steps, often find themselves vulnerable to some of the strongest relapse triggers.
2. Lack of Support
“I’ve got friends in low places…”
Recovery usually includes attending some kind of support group, but this is often not enough to overcome the lack of support from friends and family at home. There are different reasons why an addict may not get all the support they need from those they would expect it from the most. First, they may be too ashamed of their drug or alcohol use and are hiding the extent of their problem from their friends and family. Friends and relatives are unable to help if they are not aware of the problem. They may even say or do things that cause relapse triggers.
In many cases, other members of the same family may be dealing with the same issues themselves. Scientific research shows that genetic factors play a significant role and that a home with one addict is likely to contain another. The family home itself can become a triggering environment. Instead of the support and encouragement they need, those recovering addicts face the same environment that first brought them to their destructive behavior.
Trying to think happy thoughts?
Stress is the number one enemy of anyone in recovery. A heavy workload can build up stress and pressure slowly until you reach a tipping point. Or, stress can come upon us all at once, like a tsunami, after the loss of a loved one or a bad breakup.
Dealing with stress frequently leads people down the road of addiction at the beginning, and that is why it is such a powerful enemy. It lures you in with “one to just take the edge off” and then works, even if only temporarily. Soon the distraction becomes a habit, and then the habit becomes an addiction.
Dealing with stress well involves a two-fronted approach. The first part is avoidance. The recovering addict needs to avoid situations and people that will cause them stress. (It would be nice if we could all do that.) Unfortunately, stress cannot always be avoided, so there need to be effective ways to manage and cope with it when it is unavoidable. Stress avoidance and coping skills are necessary for recovery, and these are rarely found outside drug rehab centers.
A prevailing thought is that proper diet, exercise, and relaxation are excellent remedies for stress. Yet recent research by Brown University is showing us that there is also a chemical component. They have identified the area of the brain that triggers a relapse, and all the neurotransmitters involved. In the rats they experimented on, they were able to block a crucial step in the relapsing process by using the chemical nor-BMI.
4. Forgetting the Past
Home is where the heart is.
The majority of people in recovery are wise enough to avoid the people and places that got them into their addiction in the first place; at least in the beginning of their recovery. They know that being in the company of those that shared an addictive behavior and are still involved in it is unnecessarily risky. Sometimes though, places that appear entirely innocent can present the same risks. Addicts placed on MRI machines had their brain reactions to images observed, and while pictures of drugs and drug use showed, as expected, a strong reaction, observers were surprised to learn that pictures of certain familiar streets and neighborhoods had the same effect. This occurred even when those images did not contain any explicit drug references.
The mere knowledge that drugs are just a phone call away can cause a relapse in the battle of the mind. This kind of relapse is often caused by a trigger that comes out of nowhere. It could be the sound of an old friend’s voice on the phone or an image of drug use in a movie or television program, and it can easily cause an irresistible craving. Most recovering addicts are unable to uproot completely, and therefore are in a constant battle with the past as they try to refocus on the future.
5. Consequences of Recovery
I didn’t think it would be like this.
Sometimes all the avoidance of stress and temptation can lead to a whole new set of problems. While shunning friends and family may be necessary, the resulting void has to be filled with support, or it can lead to pits of loneliness, self-pity, and despair. Likewise, avoiding stress can cause people to feel out of place and bored.
As with stress, these relapse triggers often act slowly, building up gradually to the point that they are overwhelming. A caring support structure is a significant way to keep perspective, but the best way to avoid bouts of depression and despair is to take intentional steps to be happy. You have to replace the old destructive behavior with new interests and activities. When people descend into a downward spiral, they often lose touch with the things that they once filled their life with and enjoyed. Recovery is a great time to rediscover those joys. Going back to the gym, playing music, reading a book, or going through a missed television series can all help in the fight against boredom and depression.
I have arrived!
One of the worst causes of relapse is the pride of successful recovery. This is often a recovering addict’s worst foe. It waits patiently for complacency to take hold and then attacks when it looks like the battle is over. There are two ways that pride can undo a recovery. The first is the belief that the fight is over and that all the demons have been destroyed. The second is thinking that the individual has developed enough strength of character to make future addiction unlikely and “just one” is fine. Even when one leads to another, the risks may be ignored because they think, “I quit before and I can quit again.” This overconfidence becomes an inoculation against recovery.
The sad effect of relapse is that it is often harder to quit the second time. The motivating terror of impending disaster is replaced by the stagnating confidence of inevitable success. Rather than appearing as destruction all of the excellent work that was done before, a relapse can make all that work look like bricks that have been laid out to form a path that can be returned to at any time. The problem is, change is never easy, and if it is easy, it is not real change.
7. Addiction grows in cost over time
I’ve got it under control.
It is no secret that addiction comes at a high cost to the addict and those closest to them. What they sometimes do not realize is that the toll taken grows over time. Once a month was enough to begin. Then it was twice a month. A few weeks later it was once and then twice a week. Within a matter of months, the destructive habit gets control of their life, and they cannot function without it multiple times a day. This affects both those who are openly addicts and those who still manage to keep it a secret. The financial, relational, emotional, and general life cost grows the longer you stay in addiction. By comparison, for each dollar that is spent on substance abuse treatment, 4 dollars are saved in health care costs and 7 dollars are saved in law enforcement costs. See here for more information.
8. You may not have a tomorrow
I’ll do it tomorrow.
The final reason is that tomorrow is not guaranteed to anyone, especially those struggling with addiction. Many times, the choices we make bring our lives to an untimely end, either by accident or intentionally. There are things even outside of addiction that can claim our lives without any warning. Why put off the freedom you could have today by seeking the help you need in your journey to full recovery?