After an individual has been through the initial detoxification stage of their recovery, the most important thing for that person is to allow their body chemistry to regain its balance both mentally and physically. This is where treatment comes in. Essentially, “treatment focuses on educating the addict about the disease concept of addiction.” (Inaba/Cohen) This, in turn, allows the client after detox to begin work with a primary counselor, allowing themselves to learn more about their specific addiction based on the disease model as well as developing and revising a treatment plan to accomplish goals set at the detoxification level. While this gives us a somewhat comprehensive glance at the treatment process or the second phase of a person’s journey of recovery, we need to focus on this idea of abstinence, viewing it as somewhat of a practical cornerstone of recovery.
Like with detox, treatment cannot begin nor continue if abstinence is not reached. That is why once an individual’s brain chemistry normalizes, continued abstinence becomes key. Most clinicians believe that “continued abstinence during this phase is best promoted by addressing both the continuous cravings for drugs and the aspects of the addict’s life that may present a risk of relapse.” (Inaba/Cohen). It is in this vein that we begin to recognize one of the key components which challenges initial abstinence; cravings.
There are two ways to look at cravings, one as intrinsic, such as with PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptoms) and one as environmentally triggered. These symptoms begin in the early stages of abstinence and also continue on to later stages of treatment. (Inaba/Cohen). Symptoms of PAWS vary from substance to substance, as well as from person to person, and consequently, can respond to environmentally triggered cravings, such as old places, people, and things. These things can stay with the client for a very long time, as mentioned previously, and almost always pose one of the greatest threats to continued sobriety.
This relates back to the chemical rebalancing of an individual’s brain during the initial detox phase. Continued use of medical approaches such as psychotherapy and medication continue to combat drug cravings by suppressing or reversing the pleasurable effects of substances prove to be extremely useful in combating these cravings. (Inaba/Cohen)
Once these cravings are addressed, and the necessary treatment components continued with, the addict is able to enter the long-term abstinence phase. This includes practicing a sense of acceptance over his or her addiction as a life-long process as well as a chronic disease. Furthermore, the addict must view their disease as a chemical dependency, not in the vein of “alcoholism” or “meth addiction” etc. if they are to abstain from all mood and mind-altering substances to gain success in their recovery.
While all these aspects enable the client to reach various stages of abstinence, recovery in itself does not come from being confined to a treatment center. Rather, an enforcement of positive and healthy lifestyle, completely absent of all drugs and alcohol is what allows an individual to reach a growing success outside of treatment. Essentially, in order for new and healthy habits to be ingrained, a person must find some sort of nonchemical substitute which allows them in turn to restore self-esteem as well as to repair prior emotional, social and psychological damage. This, of course, involves a lot of continued work on the individual’s part, which they must be assured they do not have to do alone.
Oregon Trail Recovery does not make the claim that once a client is done with treatment, then they are “cured.” It is our goal to strengthen their resources and to ensure them there is a clean and sober lifestyle which they are more than capable of immersing themselves in. These valuable tools will, in turn, allow the client to live a life which is happy, joyous, and of course free.
-J. Dalton Williams
Inaba, Darryl S. Cohen, William E. Uppers, Downers, All Arounders: Physical and Mental Effects of Psychoactive Drugs. 8th ed. CNS Productions, INC. 2014.