Does recovery sound like a dirty word to you? People hear the word and they think about movies like 28 Days, Clean and Sober, or even 1962’s Days of Wine and Roses. They say they haven’t seen those movies because they aren’t interested in them, but the truth is, they are either uncomfortable or afraid of addressing the topic of recovery. Recovery from opioid addiction means changing everything that’s sure in your life and going through untold misery, right?
Wrong. Recovery from opioid addiction is the one process that can put your life back on track and let you see the sun shining over your world once again. Sure, it involves change, and change is never easy.
Most people only agree to change their lives when they come to a crisis. The word crisis, in the ancient Chinese language, is formed by using the glyphs for opportunity and danger. It doesn’t always have to be a calamitous crisis—think of the man who decides to propose marriage because he doesn’t want to lose his loved one.
So if you feel that your drug use has put you at a time of crisis in your life, it might be time to grab hold of the opportunity, face the danger, and embrace change. It’s time for recovery from opioid addiction.
SAMHSA’s 10 Guiding Principles of Recovery
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2012 created a definition of recovery that can guide you through the first stages of your journey. We say “the first stages” because once you get your head into treatment, you will be able to recite the definition by heart—not because anybody made you memorize it but because it implies values that you somehow come to welcome into your own life. They don’t come in any particular order, because they are in a wheel—all equally important to your recovery:
- Hope: It’s something that drives the recovery process. It supports your inner belief that there is a better life waiting for you right here on this Earth. It motivates you to overcome both internal and external challenges. If you don’t have hope, you can get it from your treatment counselor and from the people who love you.
- Person-Driven: The agencies that regulate and license treatment centers often talk about person-driven treatment. It means that you create your own goals and objectives, and in doing so you empower yourself. Empowerment means that you give yourself the permission and the strength to reach out for independence and self-control of your life.
- Many Pathways: Regulatory agencies require those who help you with recovery from opioid addiction to explore your strengths, needs, abilities, and preferences. Your recovery must fit in with your cultural background and beliefs. It also refers to the variety of treatment options that people access—abstinence, Medication-assisted treatment, residential, or a combination of therapies. There are many pathways to recovery.
- Holistic: People think of holistic as medical practices that embrace natural therapies. In recovery from opioid addiction, medication-assisted treatment can be an important part of therapy and it integrates well with other holistic treatments you can incorporate into your new lifestyle. It means that you consider a 360-degree view of your world. Do you need better housing? Childcare? A better job, or maybe more vocational skills training? For some, it can mean getting your medical and dental health under control and straightening out your legal issues. For others, it means reading the label on the orange juice carton in the grocery store and joining a Zumba group.
- Peer Support: No man is an island, they say, and that’s truer than ever during recovery from opioid addiction. You cannot imagine until you give them a chance how much value you will find from group therapy and 12-step meetings. Sharing your story and hearing other people’s stories is a big part of the recovery process. Getting rid of toxic secrets means forgiving yourself and opening yourself up to the good things that can still come your way. Healing your relationship with your family might take a long time, but you can improve those relationships—and if you can’t fix them, you can learn to move on from them.
- Relational: Beyond the kind of emotional healing that comes with peer support, you will learn how to set up a support network. This will comprise your most trusted people, the ones you know you can contact if you fall into danger of relapse. This word also refers to the discovery that participation in neighborhood or church activities gives you a new purpose in life. Without drugs, you will now have the time and money to incorporate those relational commitments into your life.
- Culture: Nobody ever wants to change the basis of who you are. That includes your race and ethnicity, and both your family and social cultures. Your basic beliefs, values, and traditions will never change. So even as you eliminate the bad qualities that came out before you got into recovery from opioid addiction, you will embrace and love the person who was always there at the center.
- Addresses Trauma: Too many people in recovery from opioid addiction have gone through trauma of one kind or another. Trauma includes events we could control and others that we could not. It could include physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. It could occur from being in a horrible accident, fighting in a war, or fighting within the confines of your own home. You will learn how to find physical and emotional safety.
- Strengths/Responsibility: You have something called recovery capital that speaks to the strengths deep inside you. Even if you don’t recognize those strengths when you begin treatment, you will come to learn what they are. Every person has some positive qualities, and once you discover and develop yours, you will learn that you have a responsibility to use them in the world around you.
- Respect: You must accept at the beginning of your recovery process that the people at your methadone program have respect for you. They all understand how difficult it is to walk into a facility on that first day, or make that first phone call, and ask for help. Sometimes they may seem busy—and they are! —but they work there because they believe that the people who come through those doors are all worthwhile and deserve respect. Some of them understand the fear you have on your first day because they once walked in your shoes and they are now in recovery themselves. Only when you believe in and accept their respect can you begin to develop some respect for yourself. Only then can you command respect from the people in the world around you.
Recovery from Opioid Addiction: The Surprise Ending
When people watch those recovery movies, there is seldom surprise at the ending. You can tell if the movie will have a feel-good ending, a tragic ending, or even a surprise twist like the one at the end of Days of Wine and Roses. So you might not think that any of this can apply to your recovery from opioid addiction. But it can, and it will.
SAMHSA teaches us that taking those first steps toward recovery from opioid addiction require a great deal of bravery. But you can nurture an identity that embraces who you are and once again learn how to believe in yourself. And until then, just remember that we believe in you.