How to Overcome Addiction

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Medically Reviewed By: Diana Vo, LMFT

December 13, 2022

Table of Contents

Committing to making the personal changes necessary to initiate recovery from drug addiction or alcoholism could be the most rewarding decision you make.

Addiction (described clinically as substance use disorder) is a chronic, relapsing, and incurable brain condition, according to NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse). Despite this, substance use disorders are treatable.

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Learning how to overcome an addiction involves:

  • Discovering as much as you can about the disease model of addiction.
  • Accepting that you have a problem and committing to recovery.
  • Detoxing and engaging with inpatient or outpatient rehab.

While there is no single best way to overcome addiction, today’s guide shows you how to create a healthier and more positive lifestyle, how to manage cravings and minimize the chance of relapsing, and how to reach out for professional addiction treatment.

How to Conquer Addiction

ASAM (American Society of Addiction Medicine) states that addiction is a chronic but treatable medical disease that involves complex interactions between genetics, brain circuitry, environment factors, and individual life experiences.

Central to addiction is the compulsive use of addictive substances regardless of negative outcomes. This counterintuitive behavior is caused by the way addiction changes the reward system of the brain.

A week or so of detoxification will address the physical aspect of dependence. Unpacking the psychological component of addiction requires ongoing treatment involving a combination of the following evidence-based interventions:

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Psychotherapy (talk therapy)
  • Counselling (individual and group)

While you are in the early stages of making behavioral change, you may downplay the effects of your addiction, or you might be in denial. Once you accept that you need to make changes in your life, you may start to feel ambivalent about making those changes.

As soon as you commit to recovery, though, you will be taking the first vital step towards ongoing sobriety.

Rather than abruptly discontinuing use at home and then relapsing to mitigate withdrawal symptoms, instead reach out to your healthcare provider or loved ones so you can begin the process of finding the right level of care for your addiction and personal circumstances.

Avoiding Boredom Can Help You Beat Addiction

During the early stages of recovery from addiction, many people find themselves plagued by feelings of boredom. This happens due to the way alcohol and drugs impact the brain. Using addictive substances exposes your brain to excessive quantities of chemical messengers (neurotransmitters). Over time, the brain stops naturally producing these chemicals to avoid complete overload.

Your brain releases dopamine and other neurotransmitters naturally as a means of rewarding behaviors and encouraging you to repeat those behaviors.

When you consume alcohol or drugs, by contrast, this triggers a surge of dopamine production in the brain, prompting powerful feelings of:

  • Happiness
  • Pleasure
  • Satisfaction

Sustained substance abuse leads to the brain becoming accustomed to inflated levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters. The only means of recreating those feelings is to continue using the addictive substance.

Outside of substance use, everyday activities feel much less exciting and rewarding due to depleted levels of dopamine. Life can feel as though it is moving in slow-mo.

These feelings can result in ongoing feelings of boredom with people in the early phase of recovery commonly experiencing reduced pleasure in activities they once enjoyed.

One of the best ways to overcome boredom in recovery is to engage yourself fully in the process, taking as active a part as possible.

Consider these strategies to stave off boredom and to meaningfully advance your recovery:

  • Take up a new hobby or re-engage with an old hobby
  • Join a peer support group
  • Practice mindfulness to remain anchored to the present moment

Take up a new hobby or re-engage with an old hobby

Active addiction is typically time-consuming. Indeed, one of the diagnostic criteria for addiction is spending inordinate amounts of time obtaining and using addictive substances, as well as recovering from the effects of substance abuse. Resultantly, the early phase of recovery can leave you feeling like you have a vast expanse of time to kill.

Reframe this idea and think instead about how you will fill that time. To thrive rather than survive in sober living, you should start creating a healthier and more positive lifestyle.

You may feel that the time is right to take up a new hobby. Alternatively, you might decide to take up a hobby you once enjoyed but neglected in favor of substance use.

If you are not ready to invest too much time and energy on a new venture right now, consider some of these ways to avoid boredom in your recovery:

  • Join a gym.
  • Take a fitness class.
  • Register for a class.
  • Create a daily schedule.
  • Write in a journal.
  • Read a variety of media including magazines, books, and newspapers.
  • Cook healthy meals and prioritize your nutrition.
  • Join a sports team.
  • Play or listen to music.
  • Go for a walk.
  • Improve your computer skills.

Join a peer support group

While not everyone in recovery from addiction chooses to attend peer support groups, many people find great benefit in support groups like AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) and NA (Narcotics Anonymous). For those who prefer a secular approach to peer support, SMART Recovery offers an alternative to the 12-step methodology of AA and NA.

Attending a meeting can alleviate periods of boredom, and by forming connections with a sober support network, you may also find that you reduce feelings of boredom during the day.

Practice mindfulness to remain anchored to the present moment

Mindfulness is a practice that helps you to become more present, more aware of yourself, and more aware of your surroundings, but without becoming overwhelmed.

Meditation is one of the most effective ways of practicing mindfulness. This practice can be highly beneficial in addiction recovery for the way it creates new neural pathways.

Meditation and mindfulness will help you to become aware of feelings of boredom without becoming overpowered or frustrated by those feelings.

Relapse Prevention

NIDA states that relapse is not indicative of treatment having failed. Indeed, the chronic and relapsing nature of addiction means that between 40% and 60% of those who commit to recovery will relapse at least once. These relapse rates are similar to relapse rates for asthma, hypertension, and other chronic health conditions.

Internal or external cues – these are known as triggers – can promote the urge to drink or use drugs in those attempting to abstain. Triggers for substance use are personal, but some common examples include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Bereavement
  • Anger
  • Loneliness
  • Fatigue
  • Peer pressure
  • Relationship issues
  • Insomnia
  • Drug paraphernalia
  • Certain physical settings, sights, and smells
  • Withdrawal symptoms

Exploring and understanding your personal addiction triggers is the most effective overarching strategy for relapse prevention. This is something you will achieve during psychotherapy and counseling sessions at rehab – more on this below.

Here are some additional relapse prevention strategies:

  • Focus on sleep quality and quantity.
  • Eat lots of healthy whole foods and few processed foods. Stay hydrated.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily.
  • Consider stress-management techniques like meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
  • Explore healthy coping techniques and holistic practices.
  • Join a peer support group.
  • Attend ongoing counseling and therapy sessions.
  • Surround yourself with sober, supportive, and positive people.
  • Avoid triggers for substance use when possible.
  • Implement and maintain a productive schedule, allowing time for creative outlets and relaxation.
  • Reach out for help when required.

Beyond this, the most effective way to minimize your chance of relapse in recovery is to build as firm a foundation for sober living as possible. How can you achieve this?

 

Reaching Out for Help

If you are addicted to alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs, you should consult your primary healthcare provider. Voice your concerns about substance abuse and express your desire to connect with professional addiction treatment. Your doctor may provide a referral or recommendation.

While not everyone with an addiction will engage with inpatient or outpatient rehab, this is the most effective way to get the help you need to overcome addiction to drink or drugs.

Best Way to Overcome Addiction

The best treatment plan for addiction will be personalized, drawing on the following evidence-based interventions:

  • MAT: Medication-assisted treatment is proven effective for treating opioid addiction (opioid use disorder) and alcoholism (alcohol use disorder). FDA-approved medications can help to streamline the intensity of withdrawal. MAT can also be beneficial throughout ongoing treatment for alcohol or opioid addiction.
  • Psychotherapy: Talk therapy, clinically described as psychotherapy, is commonly used in combination with MAT. CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) is the most popular form of talk therapy for treating addictions and mental health conditions. You’ll learn how to change destructive behaviors like substance abuse, how to manage intense emotions more effectively, and how to improve your interpersonal relationships.
  • Counseling: Individual counseling sessions provide you with the opportunity to explore the root cause of your addiction. In group counseling sessions, you can benefit from sober peers undergoing similar recovery experiences.
  • Motivational therapies: To supplement behavioral interventions like CBT, motivational therapies can be an effective component of an addiction treatment plan. Therapies like CM (contingency management) incentivize healthy behaviors with small but tangible rewards.
  • Holistic therapies: Many drug and alcohol rehabs provide a wide range of holistic therapies and activities alongside the above evidence-based interventions.

You can access these treatments in either inpatient or outpatient rehab.

  • Inpatient treatment is typically advisable for moderate and severe addictions, as well as for those with co-occurring disorders.
  • Outpatient treatment is often recommended for mild addictions and for those requiring a flexible and cost-effective pathway to recovery.

Most people find that a supervised medical detox offers the safest and most straightforward beginning to recovery. We can help you with all of these services and more here at Renaissance Recovery.

Beat Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

If you are looking to initiate your recovery from addiction in Orange County, we can help you at Renaissance Recovery Center.

We specialize in treating addiction to alcohol, illicit drugs, and prescription medications in an outpatient setting, providing you with a flexible and affordable pathway to sustained recovery.

If a traditional outpatient program doesn’t offer you enough support and structure, choose from one of the following more intensive treatment programs:

  • IOP: intensive outpatient program offering up to 15 hours of therapy sessions per week
  • PHPs: partial hospitalization program offering up to 35 hours of therapy sessions per week

If you are unable or unwilling to access our beachside treatment facility, we also offer remote addiction treatment via videoconferencing.

Whatever type of program best suits the severity of your substance use disorder and your personal circumstances, you will have access to the same services and interventions as you would find in residential rehab. These include:

  • Psychotherapy (CBT or DBT)
  • Individual and group counseling
  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies

When you complete your outpatient program, you may step down to a less intense level of treatment – from a PHP to an IOP or an outpatient program, for instance. Alternatively, you might be ready to move directly back into sober living. Either way, you’ll be equipped with an aftercare plan and relapse prevention strategies to maximize your chances of sustained recovery.

Take advantage of professional addiction treatment to increase your chances of recovery without relapse. Call 866.330.9449 today.

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Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.

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