Tammy Lofink answers commonly-asked questions about addiction and recovery within the community. Lofink is president of Rising Above Addiction, in Westminster, and runs two sober homes for women, called Reclaiming My Life and Keeping My Serenity. She lost her son in 2014 to a drug overdose and has since worked with people who suffer from addiction, including drugs and alcohol. Lofink is not a medical professional or qualified health care provider. The purpose of this column is to offer support and non-professional guidance to families and individuals that may have had experience with issues relating to addiction and recovery. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or psychological advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Question: The vicious cycle of treatment, recovery and relapse can be exhausting for those who are dealing with substance abuse. What is being missed for people in recovery to be successful in sustaining it long-term? How can motivation and hope be maintained when recovery is a daily, 24/7 effort and must remain a priority?
Answer: We all know what it’s like to set goals for ourselves. Take the idea of making a New Year’s resolution to get healthy and in shape. You may join a gym and set goals for working out and eating right. Then, life happens. Sometimes, it may feel like it’s easier – when you don’t feel like cooking – to go through a drive-thru. Likewise, when you are tired and don’t want to get out of bed, you may be tempted to hit the snooze button instead of getting up to exercise. The longer you go, the harder it is to get back on track.
Now imagine that not getting out of bed to go to the gym in the morning could cost you your life. For someone who doesn’t stick with recovery, the consequences can be grave. If you are just coming out of treatment, you are excited and motivated to start a new life, clean and sober. You go back home or to sober living. Then reality sets in and frankly, it is daunting. You know how much the substances have destroyed your life in the past. There is nothing you want more than to live a substance-free life. In order to maintain sobriety, there is a long list of things to do, but life happens. You are constantly being bombarded by cravings. You know that one bad decision of giving in to a craving could send you back to destructive patterns or even kill you. You desire to stay sober, go to meetings and get a job.
In order to stay clean, recovery must be a priority every minute of every day. In addition, it is important to find new and healthy coping skills for life’s daily struggles.
What if something triggers you during the day and every fiber of your being wants to use again? What have other people tried and found success with?
First of all, remember that you are not alone. Unfortunately, relapse can happen. It doesn’t mean that you have lost everything you have gained. You can reach out for help.
The recovery support community is here to help with treatment, sober living, meetings and sponsors, networks, and counseling and therapy.
In-patient treatment is the initial step to help get drugs out of the system and help the mind to become a little clearer. Outpatient treatment is a continuum that still has plenty of accountability to help a person in early recovery.
Sober home living provides an opportunity to regain some life freedoms while still being accountable for responsibilities like working, doing house chores, keeping curfews, and staying sober.
It’s important to get a sponsor, a home group, and to attend meetings, when coming out of treatment. A sponsor is someone who has experienced addiction and is now in recovery. The sponsor can offer mentorship and guidance. The sponsor is in constant communication and meets regularly with the person (sponsee) to work on the 12 Steps.
Networks help to feel immersed in the recovery community. Others who are also in recovery are serving as role models and offering inspiration.
Therapy is essential and unfortunately, it is overlooked. The mental health aspects of addiction can make staying clean even harder. Therapy can help you with common life stressors by providing new and more healthy ways to cope. When a person is taking care of his or her mental health, life becomes more manageable.
Addiction does not have to be a life sentence. With all of today’s resources, there is hope for a bright future ahead in recovery. You are not alone. You are supported. With perseverance, determination and support, life can be meaningful again.
Tammy Lofink’s column appears regularly in Life & Times. To ask her a question, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.