September marks National Alcohol and Drug Addiction Recovery Month. It is so valuable that this month is dedicated to uplifting those in recovery and educating sober allies as recovery from a substance use disorder can be a long and arduous process.
While reading this piece you may be curious about your own relationship with drugs and alcohol. Perhaps your loved ones have expressed concerns about how you use substances or maybe you are experiencing consequences from your use.
Where Does Your Path to Recovery Begin
When considering your relationship with substances, you may be experiencing a range of emotions possibly including fear, anger, curiosity, or shame. Your emotions are valid and may encourage you to consider if recovery is the right choice for you. Below are signs and symptoms that may indicate that engaging in recovery is something to pursue:
- You are using larger amounts of drugs or alcohol for longer than you planned to.
- Have you ever gone out with friends and said, “Oh I am only having one tonight,” or, “I can only stay until nine pm,” but then find yourself four drinks deep at midnight? Has this happened often?You may want to reflect on your substance use.
- You want to cut down or stop using your substance use but are unable to.
- Maybe you went out with every intention of being a sober driver but suddenly found yourself being talked into a drink. Maybe this seems to be happening more frequently and it feels more challenging to avoid.
- You spend a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from your substance use.
- This might look like spending a lot of time reaching out to your contacts to find your substance of choice. This might look like spending most weekends going on a weekend-long bender. This can also look like finding yourself in a cycle of intoxication and being hungover with little time for sobriety in between.
- You crave drugs and/or alcohol.
- Craving drugs or alcohol can feel like thinking a lot about using, getting irritable when not able to use, and trying to find any opportunity or reason to engage in substance use.
- Your substance use is causing issues in relationships, at work, and/or in other responsibilities.
- Have your family, friends, partner, or colleagues mentioned concerns about your substance use? Have you found yourself prioritizing using over your responsibilities?
- Your substance use has become dangerous or triggers a physical or mental health-related issue.
- Are you engaging in risky behavior while using like unsafe sex or driving a car while intoxicated? Do you notice that your use worsens your mental health or triggers physical illness, yet you still feel the need to use?
- Your tolerance for substances continues to increase.
- If you have increased tolerance, this means that you have to drink or use more to get the desired effect.
- You go through withdrawal if you stop using or drinking.
- If you get sick or experience significant physical symptoms like cramps, shaking, severe headache, or psychosis-like symptoms, you may be experiencing withdrawal.
As you read over the above symptoms, you may be noticing your own experiences playing out which can feel scary. That feeling is valid, and know that if you choose to pursue recovery there are many communities of people ready and excited to provide support. Depending on the severity of your substance use, you may need specialized care.
Finding Support & Care for the Journey Ahead
To determine the level of support needed, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline can be contacted at 1-877-726-4727. They will connect you to a treatment provider who is local to you and who can assess your level of need. These providers will assess you and recommend treatment at the following levels of care:
- Outpatient: Outpatient treatment typically involves weekly therapy and/or group therapy. Clarity Clinic provides group therapy specifically for people exploring early recovery.
- Intensive Outpatient (IOP): IOP is one step above outpatient therapy and typically involves going to group treatment three to five times a week for two to four hours to build stronger recovery skills.
- Partial Hospitalization (PHP): PHPis a step above IOP and typically involves going to group treatment five to seven times a week for the full day. People in PHP are stable enough in their recovery to stay in their own homes, yet continue to need significant support.
- Residential: Residential substance use treatment can range from two weeks to ninety days. People who cannot safely stay sober while at home can benefit from residential treatment where they can focus their energy on building recovery skills.
- Inpatient: The highest level of care for substance use is inpatient treatment. This level of care is for people who need medically managed support to be able to be sober. This level of care is for those who are unable to withdraw from their substance of choice without medication.
When engaging in recovery, you may not need a medicalized treatment service, but that does not mean you will not need support. It has been said that the opposite of addiction is connection, which I find rings true. Pursuing recovery alone can be lonely and unfulfilling. Thankfully, the sober community is alive and thriving. Some excellent options for support groups include 12-Step Groups, Recovery Dharma, and SMART Recovery.
Know that if you do decide to pursue recovery, your unique journey will be what is best for you. Everyone’s experience of recovery is uniquely their own because it honors their story. Your journey will likely have peaks and valleys, but what is most important is that you take the first step.
This blog was written by Sarah Kelly, LCSW, CADC, who is currently leading Clarity Clinic's Early Recovery Support Group that meets every Tuesday from 7 pm to 8 pm. This group is offered via telehealth and provides a safe space to process the experiences that come with early recovery from addiction and learning to live life without substances. Follow the link below if you'd like to learn more:
Early Recovery Support Group (Virtual) - Clarity Clinic
At Clarity Clinic, we have highly trained staff who specialize in therapy and psychiatry services including addiction medicine psychiatrists. To learn more about how we can support your mental health and find a certified alcohol and drug counselor, call Clarity Clinic on (312) 815-9660 or schedule an appointment today.