Recovery Management

Managing addiction recovery

Long term recovery

I’m as guilty as anyone writing about the problem more than the solution. It’s no wonder that many in society have a negative perception of addiction — they hear about the problem and consequences of addiction and substance abuse, yet hardly ever hear about or read about recovery. I’ve worked in this field long enough to see recovery happen over and over. People ask if working in this field is depressing, and if it leads to burn out. The answer is no, not if you don’t take it personally and follow up on those who recover. Addiction is a disease of relapse, so, even if a person relapses several times, if that person is sincerely trying, then recovery can happen — the relapses become learning experiences and reinforcement of recovery principles. Recovery management is a concept that addresses the chronic nature of addiction.

I started working in inpatient in a town that is a real recovery-based community — even the local university has an addiction support system to deal with students who are recovering from a problem with alcohol or other drugs. The treatment facility also had a half-way house component, so I witnessed long-term recovery many times over. In practically all the incidences in which recovery happened, the person used all the support resources available to manage recovery. Many  people in recovery return to school to finish their education, exercise, eat better, work on relationship problems, gain stable employment, learn to manage money, take care of their appearance, develop their interests that were before neglected, etc. A person recovering from addiction doesn’t have to go inpatient and a half-way house, this is just where I first witnessed the process of recovery. Recovery can managed through outpatient and ongoing community and family support, or a person can go into Alcoholics Anonymous and learn to manage recovery with the help of others. There are many pathways to recovery.

Recovery is recovery of the whole person. Addiction tears down the whole person, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually, so in recovery all these areas should be part of recovery. Attending Alcoholics Anonymous or some other support group is critical for long term success for most people in recovery. I won’t say everyone has to go to a 12 step groups or a support group, but I will say that I’ve seen the most success when do attend AA, NA, church groups dedicated to recovery or some other type of group support. Here is a link to a website that writes about recovery.

Outpatient Addiction Treatment

relapse preventionSo, what’s the purpose of outpatient addiction treatment? There are several aspects to addiction treatment, and it’s important to understand the transitional phases. In the beginning, the main goal of treatment is to assess and stabilize. If the assessment shows outpatient treatment is appropriate, then the person is medically assessed to make sure there are no physical complications. Addiction presents itself as an acute, immediate problem, characterized by loss of control, legal problems, relationship problems, financial problems, employment problems, physical problems, emotional problems, etc. Not everyone coming into treatment is dealing with problems in all these areas, but they have problems associated with drug use. When I write “drug use”, I also mean alcohol, which is simply a legal drug, even though it causes more problems, collectively, than any other drug.

Although treatment professionals are presented with symptoms of addiction in the beginning, after a period of assessment and stabilization, treatment shifts to a different client/therapist relationship, an educational/therapy phase. Outpatient treatment doesn’t have the luxury of inpatient treatment where the patients are a captured audience. Outpatient clients go home after group, so it’s important to educate the client on abstinence skills from the beginning. Relapse prevention education should start immediately in outpatient. Once the client enters group, there’s a dual approach of group therapy and education. The client is taught that they are responsible for their recovery, although they don’t have to do it alone — there’s support available. Recovery support can come from different sources: family, employer, 12 Step groups, churches, etc. Clients in addiction outpatient treatment are encouraged to develop relapse prevention plans that best suit them and their situations. Not everyone has a supportive boss, or a job, and not everyone goes to church, and not everyone has a supportive family — so the individual works with the counselor to develop a realistic recovery plan.

As outpatient treatment comes to an end, the client should understand by this point that recovery is a long term process. When the client came into treatment, they presented with an acute, emergency situation with lots of symptoms, but the client learned addiction is a chronic and progressive condition that will only get worse if they don’t manage their recovery long term. Treatment is the difference between dealing with symptomatic problems with symptomatic solutions and dealing with fundamental problems with fundamental solutions. Although outpatient addiction treatment programs deal with symptoms in the stabilization phase, treatment is about applying fundamental solutions to fundamental problems. Too many people deal with the symptoms of addiction and never address the fundamental problems.

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