“After years of turmoil and struggling with substance abuse, my brother took his second chance at life. Today I am so proud to share that my little brother just celebrated his ninth year of sobriety.
The journey was long and difficult; his entire life had to change. He stepped up to the plate and asked for help because he knew death was pending if he continued to allow addiction to overrun his life.
On his path to reclaiming his life, he was hospitalized close to home for detox. Following that, we took him to an inpatient facility out of state. At that inpatient facility, my brother arranged to continue his care. He went on to another facility in another state. He built up a support team, rode a bike to work, lived in a sober living house, and became acquainted with a 12-step program.
He slowly put the pieces of himself that he had lost back together.
My brother leaving to get help was difficult. I was so proud of him and felt the relief that he was in a safe place. However, when you spend so many years worrying about someone you love, watching their every move, and staying in survival mode, it is quite jarring when it stops abruptly. I did not know how to manage the anxiety of him not being close to home. In those moments, I made the decision to get educated on the disease of addiction. I took time to go to open Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on my own. It gave me a better sense of what my brother was going through and allowed me to release the anger and resentment toward him that I was holding onto.
I sought out therapy and enrolled in college classes focused on addiction and counseling. This gave me a sense of closeness to my brother, even though he was miles away. It gave me the opportunity to understand the steps he was taking to stay in recovery and build his new life. It gave me the tools to be a support system to him as well.
Nine years later, my brother has a beautiful family, he is a homeowner, an awesome dad, and the best uncle. He has a heavy presence in the recovery community and has chosen to help as many people as he can with their own addictions.
As for me, I got my brother back. I got my sibling support back, my best friend, and my confidant. I know that is a precious gift, not to be taken for granted, because so many lose their loved ones to addiction. Addiction is ferocious and relentless, but they can recover.”
– An Addict’s Sister
Most people in recovery remember the moment everything changed. Whether triggered by an event or spontaneously occurring on its own, there is a realization, a reckoning:
I don’t want to live this way anymore. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. I want my life back. If I keep going like this, I’m going to die.
Real recovery from addiction starts with a decision to turn away from the substance and toward a new life. It’s a solid line drawn in the sand.
After that decision comes a process that is very similar for a lot of people who have recovered successfully. That process starts with detoxification, commonly referred to as detox.
What is Detox?
Addiction to drugs or alcohol involves a physical dependency on substances. Coming off them often requires the oversight of medical professionals.
As the first step to healing – and your first stop in the treatment process – detox is the process of ridding the body of drugs and alcohol. The body, grown accustomed to continual quantities of the drug of choice or alcohol, is suddenly thrust into withdrawal. It takes time for the body to return to a state of homeostasis as it must adjust to life without those substances.
The process is not typically a comfortable or pleasant one.
Not only that, but some substances can be extremely dangerous even deadly to detox from.
Therefore, it is imperative to have certified medical professionals aid in the process. A detox center that provides 24-hour care is the best choice for this stage.
Withdrawal Symptoms During Detox
During detox, individuals will experience withdrawal symptoms. These symptoms vary from person to person, but can include the following:
- Abdominal Cramping
- Disrupted Sleep Patterns
- High Blood Pressure
- Muscle Pain
- Racing or Irregular Heartbeat
- Runny Nose
Along with the side effects above, individuals going through the detoxification process from alcohol or benzodiazepines (Ativan, Xanax, Klonopin, et al.) may experience more potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. These include:
- Delirium Tremens (DTs)
How Long Does Detox Take?
The length of time individuals experience withdrawal symptoms can range from five days up to two weeks, or even more.
The duration of detox varies based on many factors. These include:
- Duration of Use
- Family History
- History of Previous Withdrawals
- History of Prior Relapse
- Level of Social Support
- Presence of Co-Occurring Medical Conditions
- Presence of Co-Occurring Psychiatric Conditions
- Risk of Developing Severe Withdrawals
- Route of Administration of Substances
- Severity of Addiction
- Substance(s) Used
- Willingness To Change
When entering a detox program, an assessment will be conducted by a medical professional. They will consider a myriad of factors to determine the best course of treatment for each individual. This also gives clients a better understanding of the level of care and duration of treatment they will need.
Upon evaluation, health care professionals will determine if the individual in active addiction needs medication to help with withdrawal symptoms. After that, the goal is stabilization and preparation to enter further treatment.
After Detox, the Real Work Begins
“Don’t pick up a drink or drug, one day at a time. It sounds so simple. It actually is simple, but it isn’t easy – it requires incredible support and fastidious structuring.”
Detoxing from drugs or alcohol is an important first step to treatment… key words here being first step.
It is highly unlikely that individuals can successfully enter recovery without a treatment plan following the detoxification process. Often, those who only do detox will fall back into active addiction.
Why is that? Because they haven’t addressed what caused addiction to take hold.
Addiction is a Symptom
While addicts may have started doing drugs or drinking with friends, they continued, and it eventually became a problem for them (and not others). That is because there was something underlying their need to self-medicate.
It could be a traumatic experience, a mental condition, inordinate stress along with the lack of good coping mechanisms, or something else. Getting to the root of the problem is much more likely if individuals attend all stages of treatment.
Detoxification only treats the body, the tools needed to stay in recovery are acquired through therapeutic modalities, support groups, and laying a foundation to rebuild the mind, body, and soul.
Don’t cheat yourself out of a full recovery. For best results, take advantage of the entire spectrum of addiction treatment.
READ MORE IN THE “AN ADDICT’S SISTER” SERIES:
A Glimpse Out My Window: An Addict’s Sister Shares Her Story
The Distance Between Us: The Changing Roles within a Family of Addiction
Falling in Love: A Toxic Relationship with Oxy
My Ignorance, Your Addiction: Codependency in Families with Addiction
We All Fall Down: Heroin Addiction