Health And Wellness

Getting Sober: Why Overcoming Addiction On Your Own Is Totally Possible

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Getting Sober: Why Overcoming Addiction On Your Own Is Totally Possible

Overcoming addiction is not impossible. It is hard, yes, but impossible, no. Whether you battle with drug addiction, alcoholism, or another type of addiction altogether, or if you want to fight to get your mental health, happiness, and sobriety back on track, then yes, you can do it.

Overcoming addiction on your own is possible. However, there are some commonalities among those who have succeeded. Whatever road to recovery you choose, you have to make a choice to put in the work to move past addiction into sobriety. Here’s what you need to know.

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Addiction is not incurable.

Robert DuPont, former director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, said, “Addiction is not self-curing. Left alone, addiction only gets worse, leading to total degradation, to prison, and ultimately to death.”

But the New Zealand Drug Foundation reports that more people quit addictions than maintain them. Current research indicates that addiction is intractable due to the automatic patterns of behavior triggered by neurologic changes.

But quitting is not impossible, though it is hard and may take several tries.

Success doesn’t come from wishing and wanting, but finally realizing that you need to change because the addiction is interfering too much with something you value. Addiction becomes a competing action to something you no longer wish to risk or destroy.

This desire sparks momentum. And with that momentum comes the confidence to take first steps and keep going, no matter what.

So, how do you get started?

Treatment centers and 12-step programs are not the only way to be sober.

Common knowledge suggests the only way to recover from addiction, any addiction, is some combination of seeing an addiction counselor, going to a treatment center, joining a 12-step program, or taking medications to reduce cravings.

However, some people overcome addiction without such help.

The results from the National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey suggest that formal treatment is not a cure-all for addiction and that it isn’t even necessary. Of those who responded to the survey, three-quarters recovered without going to treatment centers.

Maybe the non-confrontational approaches that encourage self-chosen change allow addicts to adapt and be successful in overcoming addiction on their own.

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There is a natural remission in addiction.

Typical hallmarks of those who experience natural remission in addiction:

  • They want it bad enough that they are willing to face the challenge and adapt to each success and failure along the way. Some challenges along the way include coping with withdrawal symptoms, avoiding and coping with relapse, controlling behaviors, avoiding replacement addiction, and navigating changes in your relationship with friends and family.
  • Whether on their own or with support, they succeed with an approach that offers positive reinforcement, rather than degradation or humiliation at lapses.
  • They find a new hobby, challenge, or healthy relationship to help fill the emptiness or void left by the addiction. Having a purpose beyond addiction can help provide meaning in your life.
  • They also tend to begin exercising and become more active. An active lifestyle is vital to health because it serves as a natural antidepressant and relieves stress. Also, exercise releases endorphins, which trigger your brain’s natural reward pathway, promoting a sense of well-being.

Some, or better yet, all of these lead to reinvestment in yourself, a confidence boost, and engagement in a new community.

A special note on hobbies and finding your tribe: Choices should not involve the object of addiction or reminders of your addiction if you genuinely want to recover.

As you work toward recovery, there will be inevitable social, environmental, or emotional situations that remind you of your drug or alcohol use. These triggers may create a craving that leads to relapse.

Learning to cope with these triggers successfully is part of the recovery journey. It's important to learn more about triggers, types of relapses, and how to work through them so you can be prepared for what you might face.

You may want to work with a mental health addictions counselor.

Using these tips won’t mean you will quit without problems. Addiction is hard to overcome, and statistically, you're likely to struggle and “fail” a few times. But failure means lessons learned, and with each recovery attempt, you're more likely to succeed.

However, the more severe and complicated your addiction, the harder it is to overcome on your own because of other psychological components that made your addiction complicated. These can include depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues.

The symptoms of mental health issues and addiction can make it difficult to manage life’s challenges. In part, this is because each co-occurring disorder negatively affects the other(s).

Substance abuse and mental health issues worsen when ignored. And if you're struggling with depression, anxiety, other mental health issues, it can feed your addiction.

This is when it’s best not to overcome addiction on your own. Working with a drug addiction counselor will improve your chances of success, whether you have co-occurring disorders or want to quit on your own.

It’s essential to realize long-term recovery isn’t a destination achieved where you can finally be carefree. Recovery is an ongoing process of successfully facing and coping with what life throws at you.

This isn’t unique to recovering people — every human being on this planet experiences the slings and arrows of everyday life. Successful recovery takes a continuing commitment, especially during times of stress.

If you're beginning your journey toward recovery or are struggling to stay sober, know that reaching out for help can make the difference in not engaging with your addiction.

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Jean Tschampa PharmD, LCPC, CADC, C-IAYT, BCC, is a board-certified coach, professional counselor, registered pharmacist, and DUI/substance use consultant at Life Care Wellness. She specializes in life transition, anxiety, and addiction treatment. 

This article was originally published at Life Care Wellness. Reprinted with permission from the author.