Several years ago, an interesting study was published in the journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence regarding adults who were addicted to drugs and alcohol and their desire to want to change. The study looked at 303 young adults, ages 18-24, who attended a 12-step-based residential treatment center. The study measured things like motivation, coping skills, self-confidence, psychological distress and commitment to being a part of a support group such as AA.
What the study found was quite amazing, actually. The participants were very motivated about staying clean and sober at the beginning of the study, shortly after treatment. Unfortunately, they scored low in coping skills, self-confidence and commitment in attending support groups. By the time that treatment had ended, three months later, all of these measures had improved.
What can we learn from this study? A lot.
At The River Source, we appreciate studies like this one because it looks directly at the addict instead of the factors that surround addiction. While it’s always interesting to learn more about what causes addiction and which people are most at risk for addiction, how do we help the ones that are already addicted? How can we step in, offer the best treatment and improve chances for recovery?
What we find at The River Source is very similar to what the study described. The initial few days of treatment can be some of the hardest since the client is going through withdrawal and learning to live without their drug of choice. Yet as the days and weeks go by, the person starts to feel better about their recovery. They’re clean, they’ve successfully gone through withdrawal and they’re on the road to recovery. Most importantly, they’re motivated to stay clean and sober, and they’re starting to look toward the future.
Aftercare Plans: Why Every Addict Needs One
Our doctors and counselors send each client home with an aftercare plan that we expect them to follow, as it will increase their chances of staying sober and sticking to a healthy recovery regimen. But, as the study suggests, our clients still lack fundamental coping skills, confidence and commitment. As much as we try to teach our clients necessary coping and life skills, there just isn’t enough time – especially in 30 day treatment programs – to teach them everything. The stress of integrating back into the real world requires essential coping and life skills, and it’s easy for recovering addicts to feel overstressed and forget what they learned in recovery.
Support Groups: The Importance of Belonging
Additionally, if the recovering addict does not have support from family or close friends, it’s easy to lack commitment and confidence. We know that many people get deterred early on. They feel that they can’t possibly live in a world without having something to self medicate with, but that’s where the help of support groups comes into the picture. Support groups offer guidance, practical advice and unbiased support.
Group members learn from each other and are able to understand one another’s struggles. We encourage each client of ours to have a sponsor when they leave our holistic treatment center, as this person will be there in times of need. Sponsors are not meant to be best friends, or even someone that you “click” with right off the bat. They are mentors, leaders and the very people that will prevent you from going into relapse. But, in order to benefit from a sponsor, a recovering addict must heed their advice.
Avoiding Temptations: The Most Dangerous Weapons
We also strongly encourage our clients to avoid people, places or things of temptation. We know that many recovering addicts leave our treatment center with high hopes, but when they return to their community or drive past old hangouts, they realize very quickly that staying clean is going to be harder than they thought. It’s important not to get too confident too quickly, as temptations can be high throughout one’s life. Shortly after treatment or in times of stress are when temptations are highest.
Continued Growth: Life Skills, Self-Confidence and Commitment
In the meantime, it’s important to focus on the three measures that the study addresses: coping skills, self-confidence and commitment. Recovery is a lifelong journey, and you can’t simply overcome addiction within a month or two. Recovering addicts must continue to work on their coping skills and build up their level of confidence. Surrounding themselves with a strong support network is one way to do this, as well as sticking to an aftercare plan, attending support groups and choosing a sponsor.
Recovering addicts must also stay committed. When you make the commitment to be sober, it’s one that lasts a lifetime. You must continually work at this commitment, even through times of stress or sadness. The road isn’t always an easy one, but it’s one worth traveling.