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The drug epidemic: Our clinical psychologist discusses ways YOU can help yourself or a family member

The drug epidemic: Our clinical psychologist discusses ways YOU can help yourself or a family member

Overcoming an addiction is not easy! In fact, it’s very difficult  and challenging – often with many setbacks along the way.

Our Clinical Psychologist, Michele Carelse says, “Addiction is a complicated disease and recovery is a gradual process - it takes time and relapse is common”.

However,  with the correct treatment, support and professional help, it is possible to beat an addiction and become sober.

1. Admit you have a problem

Michele says: The first step to overcoming any addiction – alcohol abuse, substance abuse, gambling, etc - is recognising that you have a problem. This is always the hardest thing to do and once you have taken this step, things become easier. 

Be honest by taking a good look at yourself. You must want to make the change. Do you need a drink to get through the day? You must have a hit to feel good about yourself? Are your family and friends worried that your drinking or drug use is out of control? Is your substance use affecting your work, your health and/or your relationships?

When you become dependent on alcohol or drugs and they start to affect your relationships, work and personal life, it may be time to acknowledge that you have a problem and that you need to stop. Making a commitment to rebuild your life is just the beginning of a  substance-free life.
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2. Explore treatment options

It is not always possible to quit an addiction on your own and there are many treatment options to consider. Everyone has different needs. Depending on your alcohol or drug use history, a treatment facility or rehab may be the best option.

Some addicts may need a 30-day rehab stint while others may need a 60 day stint. Some rehabs recommend a more long term treatment plan of 6 – 12 months or more, especially if the person has a chronic problem with frequent relapses and shorter treatment periods have not been effective.

There are also inpatient and outpatient options. The inpatient facility offers a structured environment where the addict is monitored closely and held accountable his or her actions. In this type of environment, the focus is primarily on recovery. As there are no drugs or alcohol available, there is no risk of temptation for the addict. Here the addict will receive around the clock care, therapy, lodging and meals. 

The outpatient facility also offers patients therapy, treatment as well as other services – the only difference here is that the patient can leave at the end of the treatment session. This option allows patients to come for treatment and still attend school, work or for those who want to stay at home.

Not everyone may need to spend time at a rehab centre and some people can benefit from working with a counsellor, psychologist, support group or attending regular 12-step meetings. 
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3. Create a support system

Many addicts think that they can overcome their addiction on their own. Don’t be fooled! Recovering from alcohol or drug addiction is hard and there will many times when you may need to turn to people for support, guidance, encouragement or to listen.  Having a support system in place during your recovery period is very important.

Accept support from close family and friends. These people only want what is best for you and it will benefit you to have positive influences around. If you are not on good terms with your family and friends, try going to counselling/therapy sessions to deal with issues that crop up, such as temptation or when you feel you may fall off the wagon.

Build a strong network of sober people who can relate to your situation. Attend regular AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous) meetings where you can connect with recovered addicts or alcoholics and receive the support you need. These support groups can be a life-saver and it is important that you make meetings a priority. Sharing experiences with group members helps to learn from others and is also very healing.

Many addicts and alcoholics have a sponsor that they call when they need someone to talk to or feel they are not coping. Consider a sober living home as an option while you are recovering from drug addiction. This is a drug-free living environment which provides the safety and support the addict needs.
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4. Coping with stress

It is important to understand that recovery doesn’t happen overnight. Addicts can easily be tempted and fall back into old habits. Many alcoholics and addicts often use alcohol or drugs to cope with stress or deal with their emotions. Had bad day at work? You reached for vodka. If you argued with your boyfriend, you’d make yourself feel better with a few lines of coke.

Now is the time to learn healthy ways to cope with stress. Try exercising, meditating, doing yoga, practising deep breathing exercises, going for a long walk, listening to music, write in a journal or cooking to distract yourself from your old habits.
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5. Dealing with cravings and triggers

Once you have completed your treatment, you may wonder how you’ll deal with cravings. Don’t think that you won’t have any because you will. Cravings can be intense and sneak up on you when you least expect it. Be prepared and have a plan in place how you will deal with cravings or triggers.

Manage your cravings for alcohol or drugs by avoiding people and places that will trigger your urge to use again. Don’t hang out with your old drinking or drug buddies - replace them with new friends who are supportive of your sobriety.

Avoid places like bars and clubs where alcohol and drug use may be easy to obtain. Be honest with medical practitioners about your alcohol or drug history if you are having a procedure done and the medication may be addictive.
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6. Building a life free of alcohol or drugs

If you want to stay alcohol or drug-free, you have to create a new life with new interests and new activities. Learn to find something that adds meaning to your life, something that you enjoy and gives you a sense of purpose. Many recovered alcoholics and drug addicts admit that when they found something rewarding, it helped their addiction to lose its appeal.

There are a number of things that you can try – find a new hobby, become a volunteer in community organisations, join local clubs, set goals for yourself and do what you always wanted to do.

Remember to look after yourself and your health. Eat healthily, get enough sleep,  exercise regularly and reduce your stress levels. Choose natural alternatives if you are feeling depressed or anxious.

In the Feelgood Health, Mindsoothe is a herbal remedy which acts as a natural antidepressant to stabilise and keep your emotions balanced. Use PureCalm, a wonderfully soothing tonic if you are feeling anxious, stressed or overwhelmed.  PureCalm contains a herb called Passiflora, which helps to calm the nerves and reduce frustration and irritability. This herb has also been studied for its ability to reduce cravings.
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7. Forgive yourself if you have a relapse

Having a relapse is a very common part of the recovery process. It can be very discouraging but it is also an opportunity to learn from the experience. Relapses are caused by many things but the important thing is to forgive yourself and get back on the wagon again.

Don’t see it as a failure! Contact your sponsor, therapist, or go to a meeting. Once you are sober again, you can look at what triggered your relapse and how you will commit to overcoming your addiction. Remember, it is one day at a time... 

Lastly, learn the Serenity Prayer, a wonderful prayer that can be used by all religions and faiths to help you during recovery. 

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting the hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

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