Is there a quick fix for addiction?
No. There is no quick fix – not to addiction, diabetes, or any other disorder. For that matter, quick fixes rarely appear in any other context, including climate shift or family budgeting.
Here, we explore what it really takes to recover from addiction in the long term. Then, we invite your questions or comments about addiction recovery in the section at the end.
The Mythical Quick Fix for Addiction
In general, most types of quick fixes are more of a “duct tape” than a solution. In fact, one of the reasons relapse is that a short-term treatment view was taken in addiction recovery. But when it comes to addiction recovery, the longer and more active approach is the best solution. People don’t become addicted to drugs or alcohol overnight. Likewise, recovery cannot be expected overnight, either.
The problematic quick-recovery perspective, was recently highlighted in the New York Times by guest columnist Peg O’Connor, Ph.D. Dr. O’Connor takes issue with the rampant trending idea of, “the addicted brain”. She does not disbelieve this idea; it is just that she view addictions as much more complex, and the treatment for a person’s addiction equally so. Brain addiction is just one part of the larger picture.
Beyond Getting Clean
Detox and residential rehab provide the opportunity, structure, and environment to become drug free. It is a good start, but not the whole enchilada. Dr. O’Connor states, “One still needs to learn the skills or ways of living healthfully and happily”. That is a long term proposition and far from a quick fix. It is also something that is profoundly personal. Why and how?
During the drug, alcohol or even food addiction years, the substances themselves took on a major meaning and focus of life. They provided release, comfort, and even a kind of joy. They gave purpose to daily life, even if that purpose was only in finding the next fix. One of the hardest parts of addiction recovery is learning ways to fill that gap.
Many individuals experience addiction, or the root causes that led to an addiction, at the center of life for years and even decades. Take that away, and the idea of “a meaningful life” can be intimidating. Making healthy choices can be overwhelming and confusing. Those in recovery must also recognize that a meaningful life does not mean it is a perfect one. This adds the idea of how to be human along with that new, purpose driven life.
Finding Meaning In Life
The continuum of addiction treatment is a more stable solution than the “quick fix” idea of addiction recovery. Beginning with detox and residential care and carrying right on through outpatient addiction care, finding meaning in life is a core part of treatment. This includes experiential therapies and also some personal soul searching through journaling or contemplation. It means finding purpose in life. Just as the idea of a Higher Power is defined by the individual, so is the notion of meaning and purpose in life.
Another problematic notion of the “quick fix to addiction idea” is that there will be a sudden, powerful “AHA” moment during recovery that defines personal purpose and meaning. For most, it takes time and a willingness to keep moving forward that helps create a deeper meaning in life. Moreover, it may even take a bit of trying and experimentation in terms of jobs, volunteering, and health pursuits before finding a comfortable combination.
As a society, one of the best things we can change is the idea of a quick fix. Believing that change takes time, effort and shared support also helps reduce the isolation of recovery.
Photo credit: Michael Coghlan