Why Overcoming Addiction Isn’t a Straight Path


Substance abuse recovery can change everything. It’s a journey that can lead to physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing and bring you closer to yourself as you learn more about who you truly are. It’s a path well worth traveling, but it isn’t always an easy stroll. 


In mathematics, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, but in most of life, we don’t take the straight route between where we are and where we want to be. There are many reasons for that, including the following:


  1. We’re still learning. 


If we knew exactly how to transport ourselves to our desired destination, we would be there already. We’re learning about the path we’re on – where to place our feet to avoid stumbling, anticipate what might be around the next curve, and avoid ending up on the wrong trail. 


The longer we’ve been walking, the more sure-footed we’re likely to be, but we’re prone to wander a bit when we’re first starting out. Most people who return to substance use do it within the first 90 days. No matter where we find ourselves, however, we can get re-oriented and take another step in the right direction. 


  1. Overcoming addiction is similar to overcoming other mental and physical health conditions. 


The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that relapse rates after addiction treatment are similar to those of other chronic conditions, such as asthma, hypertension, or diabetes. Management of all of them requires ongoing evaluation, with treatment modification when needed. They note that as in the other conditions mentioned, addiction setbacks and relapse to substance use don’t indicate that treatment has failed, but that it needs to be adjusted, reinstated, or take an alternate form.


  1. There are many things out of our control, and we can’t direct everything that happens to us. 


To a large degree, we can control our responses, but it’s important to remember that some days and seasons of life are going to be more challenging than others. And that we may need to dig more deeply to find the resources to cope during those times. Stress is a well-known challenge to substance abuse recovery and dealing with it effectively is a skill that needs to be practiced.


  1. There’s increasing scientific evidence that change is often a non-linear process. 


Instead of the gradual step-by-step movement in the desired direction that we imagine it to be, it often happens in a less organized way. In addiction recovery and many other areas, there may be destabilization followed by what some researchers call “system reorganization.” An emotionally charged event can lead to an increase in emotional processing and attempts to make meaning of that situation. This can accelerate progress toward the goal. 


There are times on your recovery journey where you’ll need to stop and evaluate. Are you still on the right path? Do you need to make an adjustment to the course?  If so, the adjustment can take many forms. You may decide to add some stress-relieving habits to your routine. You may choose to see a therapist more frequently or change the type of treatment you’re receiving. 


If you’ve never attended a residential addiction treatment program, maybe now’s the right time. If you’ve attended in the past, you may need to return and build on what you’ve already learned. The recovery path may not always be a straight line, but if you keep your goals in mind and let others help you, you can get from where you are to where you want to be. Call us today at 844.675.1628. 

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