There’s often a big line between our intention to quit using drugs and the actual act of quitting. Regardless of your drug of choice, you’ve likely told yourself before that it’s time to quit, that you’re ready to overcome your addiction and seek treatment, ready to leave a life of drug abuse and all its dark times behind you. Regrettably, the seeds of these good intentions rarely bear fruit without a little help.
If you’ve sought addiction treatment in New York or Princeton, you’ve made a huge forward, but having a basic strategy and concrete guidelines will be the best way to turn your positive intentions into a true plan of action. Though overcoming any addiction can be a challenge, having support, guidance and encouragement will often give you the edge you need to stay strong, especially in the early stages of recovery.
To get over that first hump and achieve abstinence initially as part of your addiction treatment, you’ll need to replace all those drug-related behaviors that once filled your life—getting drugs, using drugs, recovering from using drugs—with the healthy behaviors and activities that reflect the positive new path of your recovery. Here are a few useful strategies for reaching abstinence for the first time.
Stay realistic—set short-term goals.
When we get it in our minds that the time to quit using is now, we’re often inhabited by this fierce ideal to never use again. Sometimes, this happens after a particularly negative experience with using, when the consequences become so negative that they make us feel a deep and unshakeable resolve to quit for good. Though this is an admirable goal, it is an undeniably difficult one. Permanent abstinence isn’t something you can accomplish overnight, or even over weeks, months or years—it’s a goal you’ll be working towards your entire life.
To aid in the early stages of your addiction treatment, it’s best to focus on realistic, short-term goals. By focusing on an abstinence goal you can easily accomplish, you’ll bolster your motivation to change, encouraged by your early successes. An appropriate initial goal is often one full week (seven straight days of sobriety), while binge users may want to aim for a period of abstinence twice as long as the typical time period between binges (if binges are usually separated by two weeks, shoot for four weeks of abstinence). Of course, this doesn’t give you license to use again once your week is up, but focusing on one week at a time will help you break things down into more manageable chunks.
Don’t quit gradually—stop using now.
We often hear about how hard it is to quit anything “cold turkey,” but when you are treating addiction and your goal is total abstinence, tapering off drug use slowly can be much more difficult than quitting all at once. If you continue to use at any level, you’ll foster perpetual cravings and make yourself more likely to give in to more intense and frequent drug use. Instead of quarreling over the question of whether or not to allow yourself to use, go with a strict no use rule.
Quit using other drugs.
Any intoxicant can weaken your resolve to resist temptation. Though alcohol, marijuana and other mood-altering substances may not have been what dominated your drug habits in the past, they can be powerful triggers for using your drug of choice. By impairing your decision-making abilities and inhibitions, other substances can invite you to relapse, especially if you used those substances in conjunction with your drug of choice in the past. Studies of stimulant drug abuse have shown that the ability to abstain is significantly reduced by using alcohol and other intoxicants.
Achieving abstinence for the first time can be a challenging part of your addiction treatment, but creating a plan that will help you stay strong in the face of temptation is a big help in getting over that initial hurdle. For other helpful strategies in the early days of recovery, speak with your addiction specialist.