Steps to Overcoming Addiction & Substance Abuse

Drug addiction is an all-consuming disease that science has only started uncovering the truth about in the last couple of decades. Prior to that, drug abuse and alcohol addiction were viewed as mainly the result of poor decision-making skills and a lack of self-control. While these traits might contribute to predisposing someone to substance use, there is so much more to the condition than that.

A complex mixture of factors leads you to the point where you disregard your safety and the well-being of the people you love for the sake of chasing a high. There is absolutely no shame in seeking help for a substance use disorder. The best news is that it’s a manageable condition you can gain full control over so it doesn’t control you. Read on to discover our complete guide to overcoming addiction.

What Happens to Your Brain During Addiction?

One of the major reasons addiction has been so broadly misunderstood is because some people are able to regulate alcohol or drug use while others aren’t. However, one person’s genes, upbringing and ongoing social experiences are entirely different from another’s.

There isn’t one gene or traumatic experience scientists can point to as the single cause of substance use disorders. Instead, it’s a complex mixture of factors that accumulate and lead to a predisposition. Not everyone who is predisposed will go on to develop the condition. In many cases, there are several triggers that lead to substance abuse, and then further factors combine to reinforce the behavior and solidify an addiction.

Drugs and alcohol cause a massive surge of neurotransmitters in the brain, which is what leads to feelings of inebriation. This feeling can be overwhelming and unpleasant for some people, especially in excess, but for someone with a propensity for addiction, it’s incredibly pleasant. It can also be a welcome feeling for those who are struggling with an untreated mental health condition.

If someone finds the experience pleasurable and rewarding, their brain takes note and reminds them to do it again. One flaw of the human brain is that it doesn’t differentiate between an experience you enjoy that’s good for you or one that’s harmful. A substance use disorder occurs when a person continues to use the substance excessively to chase that sensation.

As time goes by, they need an increasing amount to achieve the desired results, and their life becomes focused on obtaining, using and recovering from inebriation. Eventually, when a SUD is severe, the individual’s field of interest revolves almost exclusively around drugs or alcohol. Science currently says that this is because the brain is so fixated in on the reward it perceives it can get from substances that it loses sight of other potential sources of pleasure and motivation.

Can You Cure Substance Use Disorders?

Addiction is a chronic disease, which means it doesn’t have a cure. There isn’t any reason to lose heart, however, because you can bring your symptoms fully under control. Just like heart disease or type 2 diabetes, you’ll need to seek medical treatment, receive acute care and actively maintain your recovery on an ongoing basis.

Too many people make the mistake of thinking that once they’ve completed a stint in rehab, they’re cured. If you finish treatment and stop applying the tactics and methods you learned in treatment, the chances of relapse significantly increase. As such, we always recommend that anyone who has struggled with addiction attends support groups or some form of therapy on an ongoing basis.

Which Drugs Are Most Addictive?

It’s not necessarily helpful to label one substance as more addictive than another, because a person’s drug of choice is what causes them problems personally. However, alcohol, opiate painkillers and heroin abuse are particularly pervasive because they can cause such severe physical dependence. The withdrawal symptoms and initial detox phase are usually too extreme to attempt alone with these illnesses.

That said, people can develop severe substance use disorders with any psychoactive drug. The physical sensations in the mind are incredibly powerful, and they can lead people to become terribly trapped in the cycle of addiction.

For many people, alcohol is a casual acquaintance that makes social occasions more lively or tastes good with a meal. However, for someone with an alcohol use disorder, it’s an essential part of life. This addiction is one of the easiest to hide and causes the most damage by far in the United States. Alcohol causes the influx of reward chemicals in the brain that are associated with addiction, but it’s also thought to attach to other receptors that cause drowsiness and disinhibition.

Alcohol usually makes people with an alcohol use disorder feel better, and many people start using it to feel confident and relaxed in social situations. However, it’s a central nervous system depressant. So, while it may make someone feel better as it sends them into the familiar feeling of inebriation, in the long term it’s making any underlying emotional regulation issues much worse.

Widely regarded as the most dangerous and addictive drug in the world, heroin is just one member of the severely addictive opioid painkiller family. It was invented around 150 years ago as an analgesic for extreme pain, and it was even available over the counter at pharmacies until the middle of the last century.

Your brain has naturally occurring opioid receptors that this poppy-plant derivative substance attaches to. A massive influx of chemicals in the brain sends the user into a pain-free state of sedation and intense euphoria. For someone with a predisposition to addiction and a desire to escape their feelings, this sensation can be irresistible.

The body quickly comes to expect you to provide it with this substance and stops producing its own neurotransmitters. Instead, it sends cravings to your consciousness that compel you to use heroin again — and this is how physical dependence is formed. If you don’t take the drug, your body experiences terrible withdrawal symptoms.

If you’re going through this, you don’t have to do it alone. Seek professional guidance at a drug treatment program to get over heroin addiction with minimal discomfort and maximum chance of recovery.

Prescription opiate painkillers such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, oxycodone and morphine are derivatives of — or synthetic copies of — a particular cultivar of poppy seed. They are the strongest form of analgesic available, and they’re essential for the treatment of chronic pain that’s associated with cancer or recovery from surgery.

Unfortunately, these drugs are extremely vulnerable to abuse because of their strength. Just like heroin, they cause physical dependency, and you’ll need effective treatment from a team of professionals.

Outpatient Rehab

Most people who are struggling with addiction still have responsibilities at home to attend to. While residential rehab is the only option for some people, outpatient care is the most convenient and affordable. It also means you can continue with some form of a normal routine while learning how to overcome cravings and develop healthy coping skills. Here’s some more information about it.

Assessment

Before you start a course of treatment in outpatient rehabilitation, you’ll go through a thorough medical examination with a medical expert. At Calusa Recovery, we think this stage of the process is critical. We can help you to work out how severe your drug problem is and suggest the best type of treatment for your individual needs. We are an outpatient rehab with sober living facilities — if we believe you’d benefit from inpatient treatment, we’ll recommend another facility to you.

Intensive Outpatient Rehab

In an intensive outpatient program, you spend three hours a day at the clinic for three days each week. This type of care is ideal for people who have mild, moderate or severe substance use disorders, but inpatient care might be necessary in the case of the latter. While you have plenty of time to focus on school, work and family, you’ll spend around 10 hours a week doing the work necessary to get healthy.

While you’re attending health services, you’ll take part in a broad variety of therapy. Everyone responds slightly differently to the various modes of counseling, so it’s important to find the combination that works best for you. Often, it’s a mixture of group counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic counseling, experiential therapy, psychoeducation and family therapy that helps someone to understand themselves and rebuild the confidence necessary to stay sober.

Substance use disorders are sometimes referred to as family diseases because they can tear relationships apart. As such, it’s crucial you involve the family members closest to you in your addiction recovery journey. The way you interact with loved ones can have a huge impact on the way you view yourself and how you live your life.

During therapy, you learn to build trust, implement healthy boundaries and communicate in a positive and constructive way together. You’ll be able to take these lessons out into the rest of the world and feel more comfortable expressing yourself and forming meaningful connections with other people.

In certain cases, you might need to go to a detox clinic before you start the active phase of treatment. During detoxification, all toxins and harmful chemicals are removed from your system so your mind and body are prepared for the active phase of addiction treatment.

One mistake it’s crucial not to make is to assume that removing drugs from the system is a cure for substance use disorders. Detox temporarily treats one of the immediate physical symptoms, but further professional treatment and plenty of self-care and effort are necessary to address the underlying causes of the conditions and develop clear goals and coping strategies for the future.

Inpatient Rehab

In rare cases, addiction is so severe that the individual requires hospitalization for the initial stages of treatment. If we deem this necessary in the assessment, we’ll make sure you get the care you need — even if that means sending you somewhere else.

At residential rehab, you spend day and night in the treatment center so you can get access to 24/7 care. The actual treatment doesn’t vary much between inpatient and outpatient rehab, but you need to make a significant investment in both time and money.

Sober Living

The reality of addiction is that many people who struggle with this condition come from challenging backgrounds and might not live somewhere that’s conducive to long-term recovery. Stress and troubled relationships are two of the most common triggers we see for the onset of addiction, as well as relapse. In a sober living environment, you live with fellow members of the recovery community with supervision from addiction experts.

Members of the household agree on strict rules to ensure everyone’s boundaries are respected and each person makes a fair contribution to the household. This can be particularly transformative for people who haven’t been living in a healthy environment. When your treatment is complete, you’ll be ready to live alone or in a house-share situation.

Why Choose Gendered Treatment for Addiction?

At Calusa Recovery, extensive research and decades of combined experience have taught us that men and women experience addiction differently. They also respond in unique ways to treatment, but unisex rehabilitation clinics don’t have the time or resources to split treatment sessions into one for each gender.

We believe that male-only treatment facilities are the best way for men to overcome substance use disorders. When you’re among like-minded individuals, it’s easier to be open enough to genuinely share your experiences and learn from others.

While detox certainly isn’t a cure for addiction, rehab alone isn’t either. When people make the mistake of finishing a treatment program and assuming their work is done, there’s a serious risk of relapse. What you learn in rehab is the beginning of the recovery journey. You need to spend each day consciously thinking about your goals and training your mind to use your new coping mechanisms, instead of feeling tempted to slip back into old habits.

Excellent rehab centers devise aftercare plans with each individual to support them in the long term. This usually involves therapy to address any underlying mental health issues and attending group sessions on an ongoing basis.

Lots of people find that supporting their self-help efforts with a 12-step program is hugely effective. AA is almost 100 years old, and it’s a tried and tested method of helping people overcome addiction.

There are many reasons it’s so successful, but perhaps the most striking is the way it encourages people to open up about their experiences. Negative emotions have much more power when you’re trying to hide them, force them away or cover them up. When you share your story and listen to other people, you gain a sense of perspective and gratitude that’s hard to get from anything other than through meaningful human connections.

As you progress through your recovery, you go from being a newbie and a junior member of the community to someone for new people to look up to. This sense of responsibility can be hugely inspirational and gratifying.

Understanding Relapse Through the Six Stages of Change Model

Sometimes, people who successfully complete a substance abuse treatment go on to experience a relapse. Even if they were fully engaged with the program and intended to maintain recovery, they can slip back into old habits. It’s crucial to understand this is not something to be ashamed of. Too many people experience one or two relapses and feel like they’re not cut out for recovery.

On the contrary, in most cases, there’s an undiagnosed co-occurring mental health condition. Alternatively, stress, triggers or even complacency can lead to relapse. The most important thing to do is speak to someone about what’s happened and seek help. You’ll be tempted to hide away in shame, but this is how addiction can take over again. We think it’s helpful to understand relapse using the six stages of change model.

Addiction causes significant changes in the pleasure, reward and motivation systems in particular. However, just as your brain adapted to addiction, it can adapt again to get you back on track. This takes significant effort, a true desire to get alcohol- or drug-free and self-discipline that’s grounded in self-care. Most people go through the following six stages while making the necessary changes. It’s completely normal to get stuck in a stage or to jump back and forth between stages.

During pre-contemplation, you are unaware of the full extent of the harm you’re causing to yourself and others. Deception is common with substance use disorders because they help to reinforce behavior that your body and mind want to continue.

Some people rationalize their reasons for abusing drugs or alcohol, some don’t believe there’s hope for them and others are rebellious and don’t want to comply with other people’s wishes. Gentle encouragement and education are most effective at this stage.

At this point, the person realizes there is perhaps a problem with their behavior, but they struggle to generate any motivation for change. While the seeds of change are planted here, this isn’t a decision to heal — it’s just letting a crack of light in that there might be hope. People might start conducting research about the recovery process and how addiction works, which is excellent — knowledge is power when it comes to making changes!

During therapy, someone in the contemplation stage is encouraged to conduct a risk analysis based on staying in their current predicament and making change. If they comprehend the serious risks at hand, they move into the preparation stage. It can happen without counseling, but getting someone from contemplation to preparation can be a challenge.

During this phase, you make plans about quitting and become determined to turn your life around. It can take quite some time before someone is ready to move from prep to action, but you’ll feel amazing once you do.

The action phase is underpinned by you putting your plans into action. This usually involves telling your loved ones your intentions and getting excited about future possibilities. Sometimes people jump back and forth between preparation and action before moving into the next phases.

As previously mentioned, relapsing is an expected part of the addiction recovery process. That doesn’t mean everyone will relapse or individuals should use its prevalence as an excuse to not engage in treatment. Bear in mind that the person who misses out most if you don’t engage with treatment is yourself, so there’s no point in pretending for the sake of other people. Getting from pre-contemplation to maintenance is a huge challenge, but we’ve helped thousands of people to get there.

It seems counterintuitive to some people, but the harder you are on yourself after a relapse, the more likely it is to happen again. Once you understand your addictive behaviors are partly your body and mind looking for a way to feel better, you no longer need to beat yourself up for struggling with this difficult condition. It can take a long time to reach a stage where you’re kind enough to yourself to be disciplined.

Often, those who have been through addiction have low self-worth and use a lot of negative self-talk, which can be unhelpful. During therapy, you’ll learn to be firm but fair with yourself so you can base your actions and behavior on helpful thoughts.

Maintenance occurs when you’ve succeeded in a treatment program and implemented what you’ve learned in your daily life. Relapse is still possible at this stage, but the more you focus on your future goals and enjoy a healthy lifestyle, the less likely that chance becomes.

There's No Shame In Asking for Help — Even If You've Sought It Before

At Calusa Recovery, you can learn to express your feelings, gain an understanding of yourself and work toward a happy and healthy future. Call us today at 844-331-0471 to find out more or book a place in our rehabilitation center for men in Florida.