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People are often under the impression that once a person suffering from substance abuse undergoes a drug detox, that the addiction has been overcome. This belief could not be further from the truth. Drug detox is but the first step in a lifelong journey of recovery. The reason for this is simple. While detox eliminates the poisonous substances from the body, the mind is still vulnerable to cravings, triggers, and behaviors that led to the substance abuse in the first place.

Step 1: Drug Detox

Drug detox is certainly important. It is the first step in the recovery process and without it recovery is impossible. The process of detoxification removes all traces of drugs or alcohol from your system. You may be given medication in order to combat the withdrawal symptoms that accompany this process, e.g. in the case of opiate or alcohol addiction. These withdrawal symptoms occur as a result of the shock to your body after having become accustomed to the regular intake of the substance in question. The severity of the detox depends among other things on the person, the substance, the dosages, and the length of the addiction.

Step 2: Rehabilitation

The next step is rehabilitation. This is where you identify and address the core issues behind your addiction. You learn about healthy and more effective coping mechanisms and you develop the skills necessary to embark on your new and sober way of life. This process can be done either by way of an inpatient or an outpatient program, both of which involve numerous types of therapy. Inpatient programs allow the patient to live at the rehabilitation center and be completely immersed in the process of recovery while outpatient programs allow the patient to continue with their everyday responsibilities while still attending daily sessions. However, the end of these programs is not where the recovery process ends.

Step 3: Lifelong Recovery

Recovery is something that you will have to work towards for the rest of your life. It may be easier for some people than for others, but either way, it is advisable that you immerse yourself in a support system after leaving rehab. This could include attending group meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) as well as individual therapy sessions. Emotional support is especially crucial in the beginning as you attempt to readjust to a normal way of life.

It’s clear that addiction is not something that can be ‘kicked.’ It is a chronic, lifelong disease that has to be managed every day. Recovery can be compared to a muscle that needs to be exercised regularly or else it will grow weak.

Similarly, anyone who has struggled with addiction will need to practice what they have learned in treatment and continue going to therapy on a regular basis. Many people may fall into relapse but this is simply part of the recovery process. A relapse is only fatal when you subsequently fail to participate in any more treatment and give up on recovery completely.

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