Getting Treatment

As cliche as it sounds to me sometimes, I’ve come to realize my addiction is a disease. A disease I carry with me for the rest of my life. A disease for which there is no cure. And it should be handled like any other disease: with care and treatment to improve your quality of life as you live with the disease.

Today I have chosen the safe coping strategy:

Attend treatment. AA, self-help, therapy, medications, groups–anything that keeps you going.

Treatment is not a one size fits all sort of deal. What works for one addict will not work for another, and vice versa. You have to try out different forms of treatment to see which ones work for you, and which ones just don’t seem to be helping. Eventually you will find the magical combination that will get you through the tough days.

For me, the three most important pieces to my treatment plan are counseling/therapy, self-help and medications.

My counseling and therapy are very important. I have a hard time opening up to people, but not opening up for so many years about my anxiety and depression is really what landed me in this boat, so I’ve learned to harness the power of counseling to benefit my recovery. I used to feel foolish just sitting there and talking about myself to someone else, but I’ve learned how important it is. How good it can feel to just get things off my chest. And often, the person on the other end has enlightening advice, or I come to an amazing discovery on my own, just by talking it out.

Self-help has also been really helpful. As I said, I’m an introvert and an independent person. I like doing things on my own, for myself, whenever possible. And thankfully, we live in an age where there is information around every corner. I read self-help books, I find articles and discussion groups online. I host this blog, which on most days feels more like a glorified journal. I journal on paper. I meditate, I exercise, I go out and treat myself once in a while. There’s more to self-help than just reading the books, although there are so many good books out there to motivate you. But it’s just about self-care. This approach won’t work for everyone. Some people thrive on the interaction with other people, and for those kinds of people, the groups like AA and SMART are there for you, and will greatly benefit your recovery. Even way back when I was attending AA meetings and still actively drinking, those meetings still helped, believe it or not. Just knowing you’re not alone, and that sobriety is possible, is a very powerful thing.

And my medications have been the final piece of the puzzle. I rejected the idea of taking an anti-depressant and anti-anxiety pills and Antabuse, but these three drugs have changed my life in ways I previously could never have imagined. The anti-depressant has lifted my mood to the point where I no longer feel like sobriety is impossible. I wake up with hope in my heart, rather than the dread I lived with for so many years. The anti-anxiety medication has helped me with my panic attacks and swirling negative thoughts and the urge to run and hide. I’m not completely free from these feelings, but it’s a matter of feeling them once a week vs. 10 times a day. A complete transformation.

The Antabuse has freed my mind completely from the desire to drink. Not only am I much too afraid of the drug’s reaction to drink even one sip of alcohol, but it has even made drinking, and the smell and appearance of alcohol, seem undesirable. Sometimes I interact with people who have been drinking, and I smell it on their breath and I get a very queasy feeling. And I have memories of myself drinking, which I had a lot of with this past Independence Day holiday, and I am both disgusted and confounded that I’d ever have done that. That’s also a drug that doesn’t work for everyone, my psychiatrist has grisly stories of people who take it and continue to drink, despite the violent reaction. But, for me, it’s a total game-changer.

I can’t forget to mention the one thing that has helped me above all else: my stay in rehab. This is sort of the Granddaddy of all treatment options, and might seem like a drastic approach for some people. I pushed off the idea for months, and tried to do it all on my own, but through a series of events was eventually convinced that it was what I needed. 30 days away from my husband and children, and away from my home and friends, and all my familiarities, was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. But, it was the only thing that got through to me enough to make me really want to make a change. It’s not too drastic of an approach if it helps you. Nothing that helps you, even just a tiny bit, is too drastic or a waste of time. If someone in your life has suggested a rehab program, and you are serious about your sobriety, you may want to give it some extra thought.

Help is out there. And it’s not very hard to find. Take it, and believe me when I say you won’t regret a second of it. Get out there and get yourself some treatment, in whatever form(s) work for you.

Getting Help

In light of my recent relapse, I have chosen this safe coping strategy for the week:

When in doubt, do what’s hardest. The most difficult path is invariably the right one.

It was definitely a difficult choice to return to my rehab house. Not only is it disrupting my husband’s life again, not only is it confusing for my children, not only did I have to uproot myself from a number of commitments, but above all else, it was so difficult and frustrating to have to admit defeat and failure and return to a place I swore I’d never need to.

But, a skill I’m still trying to master is to take help when I need it, and from whom I need it. At this time in my life, I need serious help, and the counselors here are professionals trained to help people like me. I must remember that what’s happening to me is not entirely my fault, and not entirely in my control. So, I am getting help and support and learning to build a new life on the foundation I have left.

This is also a coping strategy I will need to use when I do return home again. Things in my life have really shifted this time around, and it will be a long, hard road to get back to where I want to be. I will have to do the hardest thing in most situations to get ahead.

I’ll add a bonus coping strategy for this Monday, since my situation has become more serious. It is (I think not coincidentally) the very first one on the list of safe coping strategies:

Ask for help. Reach out to someone safe.

That’s what I did when I decided to come here. I was no longer safe at home. Maybe I never really was. I knew that I’d be safe here, and that they’d know what to do with me. My husband and kids and friends and family have no idea what to do with or think of me right now. But here, they do.

I needed help. Badly. I finally owned up to it and did what, for some reason, is the hardest thing for me sometimes: I asked for help. It’s difficult to be here. It’s killing me to be away from my children and husband. And I feel very ashamed to have to give up my daily duties to other people, that I was no longer able to fulfill them. But, I know that at some point in my life, I can look back on this time positively, and know that I made the right choice.

Deep down right now, I already know I made the right choice.