Why Addiction Recovery Can Be So Hard
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Published on December 22, 2020

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Why Addiction Recovery Can Be So Hard

There’s nothing easy about overcoming addiction. Even after making the monumental step to get treatment, the addict eventually must go forward on their own, and that solo journey into a new future is difficult. New habits don’t come easily, nor do new friendships, mindsets or a sense of patience and grace for self.

“We are a society that seeks immediate gratification, where there is a pill for each ill,” said Malia Holbeck, CSW-PIP, LAC, manager of Avera Addiction Services. “Rehab and inpatient treatment is not a conclusion – it’s actually a starting point. The work to successfully recover from addiction takes a day-by-day, if not hour-by-hour focus on the changes needed to avoid relapse.”

After residential or intensive day treatment, Avera’s approach involves a 12-month program with multiple tools to help people continue their recovery with positivity and support. But the difficulties remain.

It’s Hard to Stop Addictive Behavior

Holbeck mentions several key obstacles that can trip up efforts toward a sober life.

Behavioral changes are tough. When the immediate satisfaction that comes with a drink or use of a drug ends, the addict’s brain still remains ready for the quick satisfaction it grew to know over years of response.

“The cravings and the triggers will still be there, and that’s why we tell patients to see the year after inpatient treatment as the beginning,” said Holbeck. “Those who use those resources and put in the work will have better outcomes after that first 12 months of working with the necessary pieces in place.” Using the resources can pay off.

Reminders of Addiction are Everywhere

Social networks often have to change. We can all remember how we developed friendships in grade school. Considering the mean age of people in recovery is 40 – the difficulty of making new friends later in life is plain.

“In addition to making new friend groups, many people compare leisure time to having a beer or using drugs. Stopping that pattern can be hard work,” said Holbeck. “We’ve had patients tells us about stopping at a convenience store to buy beer – then realizing what they were doing. Those sorts of changes require a good family and peer network of people who they can be with where drinking or using is not part of the connection.”

Even in the grocery store, an addict might walk by a “meal plan” display that has all the ingredients to make something harmless like chili. Alongside the display: several beers or a wine that pair well with the dish.

“It’s like a bowl of candy in an office. It’s more natural to take one than to ignore it. The addict faces that reality every hour of each day,” Holbeck said.

Mental, Emotional Health and Addiction Recovery Go Hand-in-Hand

When people in recovery recognize it as a lifelong change – and a process – they do better. There’s no on/off switch – and when they engage with the resources, they can recondition their mindset and succeed.

“It’s like losing weight – you won’t do it over night. Relapses can happen to anyone in recovery,” said Holbeck. “Overcoming other things in the way – mental conditions, like depression and anxiety, or negative emotions, like shame of the addiction itself – these barriers will be part of the learning experience. We want everyone in recovery to go from clinical to self-management as they progress and adjust their plans as necessary.”

If you or someone you love is facing addiction, you can get help. Just ask your primary care provider, call the 24-hour Avera Behavioral Health Center assessment line at 800-691-4336 or call the Avera Addiction Care Center in Sioux Falls at 605-504-2222.

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Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

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