When Tiffany decided to get clean and sober at a residential treatment center, she didn’t know what to expect — or if the results of the program would be long-lasting. “During my stay, I participated in individual and group therapy, mindful meditation classes, and 12-step meetings,” Tiffany says.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the relapse rate for substance use disorders is estimated to be between 40% and 60%. This rate is similar to relapse for other chronic diseases requiring lifelong health maintenance such as asthma and high blood pressure. The good news is that, with the right tools, addiction is highly treatable and manageable.
“The truth is, unlike many other chronic diseases, medication alone isn’t enough to maintain addiction recovery,” says Ryan Hickey, Executive Director, Bayview Recovery in Tacoma. “A successful recovery program entails customizing and integrating a variety of modalities that teach addicts strategies for managing their individual triggers. They learn to respond instead of react, and then they leave the facility with tools they can use in any situation, for lifelong sobriety.”
Here are four tools Bayview Recovery recommends for successful addiction recovery.
CBT is highly effective in managing the internal and external triggers that lead to using drugs and alcohol to relieve anxiety, anger, depression and other emotional pain. This one-to-one therapy with a trained psychologist focuses on reframing the negative ways the substance abuser may think about themselves, other people and situations, so that it’s easier to react and interact more effectively.
DBT, a form of CBT, is a group therapy tool, led by a trained psychologist, that enables patients to develop new ways to self-regulate emotions. “Addicts tend to have emotional flare-ups that lead to behaviors they regret,” Ryan says. The inability to control these flare-ups, including accepting when situations trigger uncomfortable feelings and thoughts, is one of the primary drivers of substance abuse and addiction. DBT provides a set of reliable practices in self-regulating emotions to minimize the risk of relapse.
“A key part of staying sober for life is being part of a safe, supportive community where you can have an ongoing dialogue about what you’ve learned in rehab,” Ryan says. “Twelve-step meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, provide a safe place to report successes as well as backsliding without judgment.”
There’s also the one-to-one support of pairing up with a sponsor. The sponsor’s role is to be a mentor in working the 12 steps and provide accountability as well as emotional support. According to Hickey, this is a win-win relationship. “Helping someone who is struggling to stay sober reinforces the 12-step lessons for the sponsor as well,” he says.
Meditation, the practice of slowing down both thoughts and physical processes through focus and breath, has been used for centuries to ease mental health conditions associated with substance abuse: anxiety, stress, compulsive-obsessive thoughts and depression. Combining mindfulness and meditation provides an increased awareness of thoughts and feelings in an objective manner, which leads to better decision-making and responding to situations as they arise.
“Learning to examine thoughts and situations in an objective manner, is highly effective in complementing other recovery modalities,” Hickey says. “The goal is to look at the destructive thought patterns that can lead to substance abuse and create new, healthy habits of both thinking about yourself and reacting to the world around you.”
Customized Addiction Recovery and Maintenance
Addiction is defined as a chronic disease by most medical associations, and as such requires ongoing health maintenance strategies. Just like diabetes, cancer and other chronic health conditions, addiction is caused by a combination of behavioral, environmental and biological factors.
Unlike other diseases though, says Hickey, episodes of drug abuse are triggered by a wide range of psychological issues specific to each individual. Providing addicts with customized tools to take control of their disease, and the many ways it shows up day to day, is crucial for ongoing success.
“Staying sober is a daily journey of setting short-term and long-term goals, and applying everything I learned in recovery to my day-to-day routine,” says Tiffany.
Bayview Recovery has helped thousands of adult men and women safely navigate their way through addiction and back to sobriety. Bayview Recovery uses the latest treatment modalities and provides care from intake and lifelong aftercare for alumni.