Although addiction can happen to anyone, the good news is that it is a treatable disease. This month is National Recovery Month, celebrating the gains made by those in recovery, and reinforcing the positive message that while addiction doesn’t discriminate, people can and do recover.
There are safe and effective ways to recover from addiction, and those in recovery rely on the support from loved ones to be successful in overcoming substance use disease. Understanding addiction is the first step to take when supporting those on the journey to recovery.
Reducing Stigma is Important
While one in 7 Americans reports experiencing a substance use disorder, many don’t seek treatment for a number of reasons. A major obstacle to overcoming the challenges of addiction and overdose is stigma. This often happens due to a lack of knowledge or understanding, combined with the belief that those with addictions can just quit. However, there’s no one driving factor that leads to substance use disorder – it can affect people of any race, gender, social class or income level.
Whether people use drugs or alcohol to cope with stress and trauma, to help with mental health issues, or they overuse prescribed medications, intense cravings and continued use can lead to addiction. This is because drugs and alcohol flood the brain with chemicals that cause people to repeat behaviors that are unhealthy but feel good. The brain then develops more tolerance, which means that it takes more of the substance to feel the same result, and the brain is less able to resist the temptation. This creates a cycle of abuse.
Recovery is Possible for Everyone
The good news is, people can and do recover. The recovery journey isn’t just for the person with the substance use or mental health issue—everyone who cares about them, including those working in the behavioral health profession, play a role in the support of the person in recovery. Understanding addiction and the ways to support those in recovery can help reduce stigma and encourage treatment-seeking behaviors. There are a number of ways that healthcare professionals support the recovery process, and those affected by addiction can use many of the same methods to support loved ones:
- Identify support people. Who will stand in solidarity with them as they go through the recovery process? Different people will offer different types of support, and the variety of help will make an enormous impact on the process.
- Identify realistic goals. Encouraging abstinence from alcohol and/or substance use is the recommended route, but there are negotiated treatment steps that make sense for some patients.
- Understand that recovery is a process. Recovery comes in stages, and continuing care during the recovery process is key, as there is no “quick fix.” There will be challenges, but positive encouragement can help maintain the momentum of progress, not perfection.
- Be a resource. Encourage activities that do not involve alcohol, and give some suggestions. Identifying hobbies and activities they once enjoyed or would like to try can be helpful. Identifying possible mutual support groups — such as Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, women only meetings, groups structured with or without religion involved — can help with the recovery process.
If you’re looking for a way to make an impact in the behavioral health field, becoming an alcohol and drug counselor can be an immensely rewarding career. Here are a few highlights that make this field so fulfilling:
- You have the opportunity to aid vulnerable individuals in improving their lives.
- You can make a significant positive impact on society.
- The role allows you to build robust relationships with clients.
- It provides a deeply meaningful and emotionally rewarding career path.