One definition of recovery is “a process of change through which people improve their health and wellness, live self-directed lives, and strive to reach their full potential.” Input from more than 2,000 people helped to identify four key things that support a life in recovery: health, home, purpose, and community.
Counseling: Counseling for addiction often begins by talking with a helping professional about drug use, the problems it has caused, and ways to overcome those problems. It helps to find a counselor with whom you feel comfortable. Research shows that people do better when they have a good relationship with their counselor. Counselors have different ways of working. For example, counseling can be individual or group settings. Counselors can encourage and support people as they deal with day-to-day stress and setbacks, providing them with the tools they need to build a life in recovery. Most counseling for addiction includes some or all of the following:
- Education about addiction and its effects
- Support and guidance to reduce or eliminate substance use
- Help to identify and cope with stressful life issues
- HIV risk reduction counseling, access to confidential testing, and hepatitis screening
- Help to develop ways to prevent and manage setbacks
- Referral to resources in the community, such as peer support groups, housing, and faith-based
Individual counseling may include setting goals, talking about setbacks, and celebrating progress. It may also include discussing legal concerns and family problems.
Group counseling can help people feel that they are not alone with their issues. In groups, you can hear about the difficulties and successes of others dealing with the same challenges. This helps people learn strategies to deal with situations they may encounter.
Family counseling includes parents, partners or spouses, children, siblings, or others who are close to you. It is up to you to decide if family members should be involved in treatment and who should participate. When there is a history of violence in the family, counseling should not include anyone with whom you do not feel safe.
Treatment: Treatment programs are structured, often intensive, time-limited services for dealing with addiction. Programs may be outpatient, daily, weekly, residential, or even hospital-based.
Most programs help you learn about addiction and find new ways to deal with life. Some programs include detoxification and follow-up counseling or support. But, detoxification alone is not considered treatment.
Treatment usually includes an assessment that allows the staff to understand how severe your problem is and to help create an effective personal treatment plan with you. Treatment helps identify thought patterns and belief systems that cause problems. It also helps you to recognize high-risk situations and practice new ways of thinking and acting. Treatment programs may specialize in different kinds of addictions such as marijuana, opioids, alcohol, or gambling. There are programs for just men, women, adolescents, and other groups. Some treatment programs last for a few weeks; others last for many months.
Outpatient programs have the benefit of offering treatment services in the community. They may offer MAT, as well as counseling and other support services. Residential programs combine housing and treatment services in a living situation where peers support each other to stay in recovery. Hospital-based programs may offer both inpatient and outpatient programs that combine health care and addiction treatment services for people with medical problems.
Medications: Prescribed medications can help control cravings and manage withdrawal. They can also help people manage recovery from opioid use disorder over the long haul. The decision of how long to take medication is a personal choice that you make with your support team (doctor, peer support, family, friends, or counselor).
Research shows that generally, the longer people remain involved with treatment and continuing care, the more likely they are to benefit. People in medication-assisted treatment who continue with long-term treatment have better results. Stopping medication too early increases the risk of returning to opioid use. People in long-term maintenance treatment for opioid use disorder should be periodically assessed for their individual ongoing medication needs.
WARNING: Given the high risk of overdose with a return to opioid use, decisions about stopping medication should be made carefully and in consultation with your doctor or treatment provider.
Support: Recovery supports are the people, places, and things that help people stop using drugs and alcohol and begin a life in recovery. Different people find different things supportive. Successful recovery depends on finding and using the supports that work best for you. Recovery support can include transitional housing, employment services, medical care, mental health
treatment, childcare, transportation, and other types of services and resources that allow people to move forward in recovery. Sometimes, recovery support includes finding a faith-based group that inspires you, getting involved sports and leisure activities, or even giving back to the community.
Recovery community: A growing number of organizations, led by people in recovery, support all pathways to recovery, even when medication is a part of the journey. Some groups, such as Methadone Anonymous, are specifically geared toward people in medication-assisted recovery. Recovery Community Centers offer peer support and opportunities to socialize with others in recovery. For more information about these groups and other recovery options visit the National Alliance for Medication Assisted Recovery http://www.methadone.org.