Drug addiction is one of the hardest things a person can endure. It is easy to say that one activity or another is more difficult. Childbirth, for instance, is obviously more physically arduous. But once childbirth starts, you cannot relapse back into being pregnant.
Addiction, however, is difficult to recover from precisely because you can climb the mountain of recovery and come within sight of the summit, only to tumble back down to basecamp in a day.
It is a fight. It is a long fight that gives you few breaks to rest. But it is not an impossible fight to win. Far from it, in fact. Many people have fought this fight before you and chronicled how they did it. For that reason, we know the general timeline of how addiction recovery treatment goes.
Recovery generally happens in six steps. We’ll go over each of them and when they happen.
Days -14 to 0
This stage is the most basic to recovery. It is also the easiest to skip over.
Pre-contemplation is when you are identifying the fact that addiction has symptoms, but are not totally conscious of the fact that it is a disease. For instance, you might notice chronic discomfort or pain caused by your vice. This will eventually get you noticing the vice itself.
It is easy to skip over this because some people only enter into recovery because they are told to do so. Pre-contemplation is when people really start to know that they have a problem.
Days 0 to 14
This is when the acknowledgment of the vice becomes conscious. Only once you see the symptoms of the disease in the pre-contemplation stage can you arrive at the contemplation stage, where you recognize that your addiction to your vice is the root of the troubles.
Some people call this the “moment of clarity”. That dramatic language can undercut recovery though. Not everyone sees the clouds part and hears angels blaring trumpets when they realize their addiction is causing them problems. So, do not wait for those things.
Days 15 to 30
Making the right preparations can mean the difference between recovering and relapsing. It can also mean the difference between life and death, as some withdrawal can be deadly.
Concern yourself more with surviving recovery than just avoiding relapse. Relapse is part of recovery—no one likes to talk about it, but it’s the truth. And that means in order to prepare, you have to both prepare for detox and withdrawal, while also preparing for relapse.
That means having a safe place to detox, food, and medicine to help you through it, and counseling to talk about it as it is all happening.
Days 31 to 35 (detox), then 36 to 50 (withdrawal)
It can feel like this is the big, decisive moment of recovery. But the less importance you put on any single part of the process, the better. Action is when you actually start the process physically. Obviously, that means quitting your vice. But “quitting” is not always quitting.
Some people go cold turkey, but the best action to take might be to go slowly. Wean yourself off. This is an action just as much as quitting outright is an action.
Days 51 to 90
The reason why weaning is recommended alongside (and sometimes over) quitting the vice outright is that it makes for easier maintenance. Maintenance is actually the “hard part” of recovery from addiction. It is the day-to-day upkeep of dealing with an addiction.
The most common way this is experienced is in times of stress. For addicts, the default stress reaction is turning to their vice. Does the boss yell at you? Drink. Get into an argument with your spouse? Shoot up. Being an addict means that these are impulses, whether you consciously want them or not. Maintenance is saying no to these impulses at every chance they come up.
But it is not just that. Maintenance is the most complex stage as well. It involves staying healthy. Your body has to rewire itself to crave food more than your vice. This means eating food that is good for you even when you are not hungry and crave literally anything else.
And finally, it means going to therapy. This is critical to holding yourself accountable.
Days 91 onwards
It is easy to think by its name that “termination” means “the end of the road”. That is a pretty close definition. But it is more like “riding off into the sunset”. The road to recovery does not end at a single point. It gets easier as you go on and on, but you can still start using your vice again.
But you should not be looking forward to the end of termination. You should be looking forward to the beginning of it. Termination begins when you realize that you are not thinking about your vice as much anymore. When you get stressed and turn towards something healthier.
Everyone has a chance of using your vice. Your chances are higher, but termination is when your chances of using your vice start to go lower and lower until they come to rest at being equal to everyone else in the world. That is essentially the goal of recovery.
As we said, recovery from drug addiction is difficult. Chemically speaking, your body will tell you that recovery is going to kill you at every step of the way. But it is worth it to get out from under the thumb of the substances that are tying you down.
It is easier if you can find a support group, a therapist, or a rehab center that you can trust. If you want, you can learn more about Ascendant NY if you need a place to consult.
The reason we bring up therapy so much is that no one—and we mean no one—recovers alone. Everyone gets help with it. So, don’t go it alone. Get the help you need to get started.