Positive Outcomes: Recovery from Drug & Alcohol Addiction IS possible
Addiction is a serious problem, but recovery is possible for the millions of Americans dealing with substance abuse. How big a problem is it? In the United States, 40 million people ages 12 or older have a substance abuse or addiction problem, making this a larger health issue than heart disease (27 million), diabetes (26 million), or cancer (19 million). (CASA, n.d.)
While anyone can develop a substance problem, multiple factors contribute to an individual’s risk of addiction. Studies show that genetics account for about 50% of the addiction equation (NCADD, 2015) while the other 50% is comprised of multiple factors:
- Psychological issues such as stress, depression and anxiety, as well as personality traits like impulsiveness or sensation-seeking
- Environmental influences such as exposure to trauma and abuse or addiction among family members or peers
- Certain brain characteristics that increase a person’s vulnerability to addiction
Age and gender can also factor into the mix. Over 90% of people with an addiction started drinking, smoking or using illicit drugs before turning 18. (Addiction Center, n.d.) Gender can play a part in addiction and recovery. While both men and women suffer from addiction, men are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs; women progress faster from use to dependence, suffer negative effects more quickly, and experience more health problems; and women are less likely to seek treatment, due to cost of treatment, cost and availability of childcare, lack of social support, and stigma surrounding female addicts. (Sack, 2012)
Recovery is Real
Recovery can take many forms. By far the most common is the use of a 12-step group such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous. These groups are open to anyone and provide a safe environment to understand and overcome addiction by learning from others and sharing your own experiences.
If you are averse to 12-step groups, there are other options. The most important thing is that recovery does not happen in a vacuum; being a part of a group is vital. Here are a few alternatives:
- Women for Sobriety (WFS) focuses on the unique challenges faced by women in recovery. (womenforsobriety.org)
- SMART Recovery empowers individuals to recover from addiction, rather than be “in recovery” with a lifelong disease. (smartrecovery.org)
- Secular Organizations for Sobriety (SOS) and LifeRing Secular Recovery (LSR) offer an approach that is not based on turning one’s life over to a higher power and rely on human efforts rather than divine intervention. (sossobriety.org and lifering.org)
- Celebrate Recovery (CR) is a Christian-based support group started by Saddleback Church, the church founded by Christopher Warren author The Purpose Driven Life. This group follows its own 12-step approach that incorporates the bible and addresses all types of addictive behaviors.
Success Story: Meet Amanda
Amanda was able to overcome multiple addictions and achieve sobriety by reaching out for help, and eventually embracing her own inner strength and gifts. Amanda grew up in a broken family where she experienced trauma on a regular basis. Her mother was emotionally unavailable and her stepfather became physically abusive as she matured. What was most painful for Amanda was that her mother allowed this to happen. As she grew into adolescence, she turned to alcohol to help her numb the pain that came from abuse and rejection.
Adulthood brought more pain and abuse. She began to use heroin and engaged in relationships that were unhealthy and sometimes violent. Drugs and alcohol became her partner. This is where she found a connection to something that had no demands, was always available, and made her feel good – much like a loving mother would be to her child. She spent some time on the streets making money doing odd jobs and spending it on her addiction. Amanda knew she needed to change her situation, starting with getting off drugs and alcohol. She joined AA, but her boyfriend continually sabotaged her sobriety while physically abusing her and emotionally battering her. She realized that she was on a road to nowhere. This was her “bottom.” This is when she met Maria Droste therapist, Lisa Ransford, LPC CAC II.
Amanda reached out to Lisa after having been clean and sober for three months. She had been going to AA with great success, having found a sponsor who helped her through the first steps. She knew, however, that thoughts and feelings from the past were putting her at risk for relapse. In her first session with Lisa, Amanda made a commitment to herself that, in addition to AA, she would stick with therapy to ensure full recovery.
Initially, much of their work together was centered on building stability in Amanda’s life and routine. At this point, she was working regularly and shared a home with her boyfriend. As they explored this relationship, she denied the impact that the violence had on her. When she was able to accept that this situation was not going to improve, she filed a restraining order and had him removed from the home.
While exploring her past relationships and how they impacted her current view of herself, Amanda continued to battle loneliness and fear. With the support of her AA group, supportive family members and Lisa, Amanda began to love herself and treasure the time that she had to engage in activities that she enjoyed.
Amanda just celebrated her two-year anniversary of sobriety. It would be nice to say that sobriety came without pain and discomfort but this would not be true. Recovery is a hard road that takes a lot of work. Amanda has found that the structure of the 12 step program was a key part of her recovery. She has also found an outlet in art, journaling, and inspirational reading, and found security in having a regular routine. Her ability to establish and maintain meaningful relationships has improved dramatically. Not only has her friendship circle grown, she is now in a serious relationship that is based on mutual respect and love.
Amanda has had many ups and downs over these last two years but she has found what works for her. She has worked hard and achieved success and happiness. She is living independently and is free from the abusive relationship. In addition to finding work that is challenging yet fulfilling, her passion and gift of creativity has grown. She has amazing artistic talent and her artwork was spotlighted at a local business in March. Lisa celebrates with her as she continues to learn about herself and grow mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Many individuals supplement their recovery groups with therapy. At Maria Droste Counseling Center, several therapists are knowledgeable and experienced in working with addictions. Additionally, some groups are offered for mutual support in recovering from addiction. If you are searching for a way out of addiction, contact us for more information.
CASA (n.d.) Addiction Prevalence. National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Retrieved on April 5, 2016, from: https://www.centeronaddiction.org/addiction?gclid=CjwKEAjw55K4BRC53L6x9pyDzl4SJAD_21V1WMKoZ46Yj_lXoies_HBeG2QJsYaIUBFDPC71fnX-fxoCTXXw_wcB
NCADD (2015) Family History and Genetics. National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. Retrieved on April 6, 2016, from: https://ncadd.org/about-addiction/family-history-and-genetics
CASA (n.d.) Addiction Risk Factors. National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Retrieved on April 5, 2016, from: https://www.centeronaddiction.org/addiction/addiction-risk-factors
Addiction Center (n.d.) Statistics of Addiction in America. Retrieved on April 5, 2016, from: https://www.addictioncenter.com/addiction/addiction-statistics/
Sack, D. (2012). Men vs. Women: Does Gender Matter in Addiction Recovery? Psych Central. Retrieved on April 6, 2016, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/addiction-recovery/2012/10/gender-addiction-recovery/
Fletcher, A. (2014) If Not AA, Then What? Five 12-Step Group Alternatives. Pro Talk. https://www.rehabs.com/pro-talk-articles/if-not-aa-then-what-alternatives-to-12-step-groups/