One of the major achievements you can have as an addict is kicking the habit of using substances and committing to a lifetime of therapy. You should be proud of the goals you have reached thus far, but know that there is still work to do up ahead. Detox is only one part of the process you need to do in order to manage your drug cravings and avoid going into relapse. However, lifetime therapy is needed in order for you to stay sober and live a healthy and happy life.
Therapy is an essential component of an addiction and substance abuse treatment program. Working with a licensed counselor is how you learn to confront and process your trauma, build confidence, and learn valuable coping skills, among many other things. But many people have the misconception that therapy naturally ends once you complete the program. This is not the case. In fact, lifetime therapy is the key to maintaining a sober lifestyle. In addiction, and life in general, you should always be striving for constant, consistent improvement. And it’s really hard to do that alone for the rest of your life. Sometimes you need outside validation and guidance to move you out of your own way. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of lifetime therapy, and why everyone should see a therapist regularly.
Addiction and Mental Illness
Addiction and mental illness go hand-in-hand. Usually, a person either develops a substance abuse issue in order to cope with the negative thoughts and feelings that can cause discomfort for a person struggling with mental illness, or the addiction manifests first and begins to cause mental health issues that weren’t there before. According to multiple national population surveys, about half of those who experience a mental illness during their lives will also experience a substance abuse disorder, and vice versa. When one is diagnosed with a mental illness and substance abuse disorder, they are referred to as co-occurring conditions or dual diagnosis. Essentially: two psychiatric diagnoses occurring at the same time in someone’s brain. Some of the most common co-occurring mental illnesses are:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Attention-deficit disorder (ADHD)
- Psychotic illness
- Borderline personality disorder (BPD)
- Antisocial personality disorder
In addition, patients with schizophrenia have higher rates of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use disorders than the general population. Data also suggests that people with mental, personality, and substance use disorders were at an increased risk for non-medical abuse of prescription opioids, and around 43 percent of people in treatment for prescription opioid abuse had diagnoses or symptoms of mental health disorders (especially depression and anxiety).
Why lifetime therapy benefits those with substance abuse disorders
Addiction runs much deeper than on a physical level. While it’s true that illicit substances can have an effect on the brain’s overall chemistry which plays a big role in a person becoming addicted, scientists have now discovered that it’s not the only cause. As we now know, substances aren’t the only things that cause addiction. It’s possible to become addicted to activities and repeated actions like shopping, gambling, pornography, etc, which create a shift in the chemical balance of the brain despite not introducing any outside chemicals to the body (Harvard Health Publishing). This shows that it’s not necessarily the chemicals within substances themselves that cause addiction, but rather the way the brain’s reward center is stimulated.
Because of this, an essential part of recovery is tackling these mental blocks so that you may begin training your brain to no longer be dependent on the substance. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) outlines several principles of addiction treatment based on data the organization has collected for the past 40 years. These principles aim to improve the odds of success in treatment by ending (or moderating) drug use, lowering the risk of relapse, and allowing the person with an addiction to be successful in a lifetime of sobriety.
These principles include things such as:
- Addiction is a multifaceted problem, but one that can be treated effectively.
- Treatment should be directed to the individual person rather than to their drug(s) of choice.
- Treatment can be helpful even if the client initially goes involuntarily. (Eventually, the client’s voluntary participation in treatment will influence their recovery path.)
- Medications can be an important part of treatment to address drug abuse or the mental health aspects underlying substance use.
- Counseling and behavioral therapies are highly utilized and the best available treatment options for drug abuse.
- According to these principles, counseling and behavioral therapies are some of the best methods of treating addiction issues. This is because therapy tackles the root cause of addiction, and what allows it to persist: uncomfortable feelings and emotions stemming from trauma. And because most people have yet to fully confront their emotions surrounding past experiences and trauma, they will never be able to completely heal without the guidance of a trained therapist.
Why you should continue attending therapy regularly
Counseling does a number of things. It:
- Addresses flaws in thinking and teaches the person to productively modify them
- Helps the person combat negative thoughts and behaviors
- Provides coping methods and skills
Recovering from addiction is a lifelong journey. But equipping yourself with coping skills and methods of combating dangerous and harmful thoughts will make a world of difference in your substance abuse disorder treatment and your overall well-being. Even if you are fully sober and have zero desire to turn back to a life of addiction, going to counseling consistently will only serve to benefit you in all areas of your life. We as human beings never stop growing and striving to become our best selves, and counseling is an excellent way to get the guidance and support you need to do so.
So whether you or someone you know needs little or intense assistance, getting lifetime therapy can help. These are diverse therapy programs for those who are seeking the support of a group or as an individual, therapies like this can adapt to your needs. Getting the treatment you need is a must if your goal is to be sober for the rest of your life.
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