Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Recovery or RelapseThis quote can be important to anyone who is in recovery from alcoholism or drug addiction. While for most people, the past CAN be an invaluable teacher, for people trying to get or stay sober, it MUST be. To “learn from history”, we take all of our experiences—good and bad—and use them as a blueprint for a successful future.

Because the second part of that statement—“doomed to repeat it” is also true. When we ignore how addiction has in the past brought us down and hurt us, then we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over and over again.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest mistakes that can undermine lasting recovery as well as the lessons we can learn from those mistakes.

Mistake #1 -Believing That Addiction Is A Choice

Too many people – including struggling addicts and alcoholics -mistakenly think that addiction is a personal moral choice. They believe that if someone really wants to get better, it just takes willpower. And when that’s not enough,  they are blamed and feel guilty and weak.

This unnecessary shame can directly lead to relapse.

Lesson #1 -Addiction Is A  Real Disease

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, addiction – Substance Use Disorder—is a “chronic and relapsing brain disease”.  It is an illness with medically-diagnosable symptoms and established treatment strategies that are backed by medical science.

Long-term substance abuse neurochemically changes the areas of the brain responsible for:

  • Pleasure
  • Reward
  • Cognition
  • Higher reasoning
  • Impulse control
  • Motivation
  • Memory

At first, the person chooses to use drugs and drink to feel good. But once their brain has been changed, they are now compelled to drink and use to keep from feeling bad.

Choice is no longer even an option.

Understanding this is key to resolving the burdens of guilt and shame.

Mistake #2 – Believing Detox is Enough

Too many newly-sober people think that once they stop drinking and using for a few days, the hard part is over. Now, everything will go “back to normal”.

This mistake leaves the person woefully unprepared for the challenges ahead.

Lesson -Detox is Not Recovery

But recovery is MORE than mere physical sobriety. The REAL work has only just started.

Where once, the addicted person’s life revolved the next buzz or the next high, they now must learn how to live without substances.  Practicing newer, healthier habits takes time, dedicated effort, and a real commitment to making those changes to their lifestyle that support continued sobriety.

Mistake #3 -Attempting to Recover Alone

Often, people new to recovery stubbornly insist that their recovery is solely up to them. They believe that since they got themselves into such a terrible situation, it is their complete responsibility to get out on their own.

This is a serious mistake, because a SUD is too big a problem for just one person.  Trying to beat it on their own is almost always impossible.

Lesson – Recovery Requires Outside Help and Ongoing Support

Today, someone in an evidence-based treatment program has more professional resources than ever before.  Addiction specialists, licensed counselors, and medical doctors work together to provide a variety of treatment services, including:

Mistake #4 – Relying on Willpower to Fight Cravings and Withdrawal Symptoms

Trying to quit “cold turkey” is a major mistake during early recovery, for two main reasons:

FIRST, irresistible drug cravings and painful withdrawal symptoms be physically and mentally distressing as to cause relapse if they aren’t relieved.

SECOND, without proper medical supervision, withdrawal from some addictive substances—alcohol and benzodiazepines ( benzodiazepines self assessment quiz)—can be extremely dangerous or even potentially fatal.

Lesson – Medication Assistance Really Works

However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

There are FDA-approved prescription drugs that reduce or eliminate cravings for many addictive substances. There are also different medications known to alleviate withdrawal symptoms and allow the person to better focus on other areas of recovery.

These medications prescribed by medical doctors include:

  • Acamprosate (Campral)
  • Baclofen
  • Benzodiazepines such as Valium, Klonopin, or Valium
  • Buprenorphine (Subutex)
  • Buprenorphine/Naloxone (Suboxone)
  • Bupropion (Wellbutrin, Zyban)
  • Buspirone (Buspar)
  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Clonidine (Catapres, Kapvay)
  • Disulfiram (Antabuse)
  • Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)
  • Gabapentin (Neurontin)
  • Methadone (Methadose)
  • Mirtazapine (Remeron)
  • Modafinil (Provigil)
  • Naloxone (Narcan)
  • Naltrexone (Vivitrol, ReVia)
  • Nicotine Replacement Products (Nicorette, Nicoderm CQ)
  • Pregabalin (Lyrica)
  • Propranolol (Inderal)
  • Pyridoxine (Vitamin B6)
  • Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
  • Topiramate (Topamax)
  • Varenicline (Champix, Chantix)

Medication-Assisted Therapy is the “gold standard” of addiction treatment. When education, counseling, medication, and other practical recovery strategies are used in combination, 70% of those in rehab remain drug-and-alcohol-free for at least a year.

This article continues in Part 2.

If you want to stop making the same old mistakes and successfully regain your sobriety, Lasting Recovery is your best resource. As one of the top rehab programs in San Diego, Lasting Recovery can help your learn how to use your addicted past to build a sober future.

To find out more, contact Lasting Recovery TODAY.

Lasting Recovery—“Where Wellness Begins…”