Stepping Past Addiction – One Step at a Time

If you or someone you love has an addiction, you may be feeling lost or confused. The journey to addiction is long and winding, with plenty of twists and turns, and navigating your way back to a substance-free life can be confusing. This is true whether you are experiencing the addiction yourself, or you are trying to help a friend or loved one cope with their addiction. Like any long journey, you just have to plot your course to recovery; then take it one step at a time.

The most important thing to know is that there is hope. Treatment for addiction to drugs or alcohol can help you or your loved one lead a healthier, substance-free life. Professional treatment for drug or alcohol abuse can help you or your loved one move past addiction.

You do not have to hit “rock bottom” before you seek out and start treatment. In fact, early treatment can lead to better results. Furthermore, you can benefit from treatment even if you have only a mild problem with drugs or alcohol.

Step 1: Recognizing the signs and symptoms of addiction

The signs and symptoms of addiction include:

  • Using drugs or alcohol, despite knowing the dangers of doing so
  • Craving the substance
  • Frequently taking more drugs or alcohol for a longer period than intended
  • Spending a lot of time getting and using drugs or alcohol
  • Continuing to use drugs or alcohol, despite its negative effects
  • Failing to fulfill work, family or social obligations due to substance use

Step 2: Acknowledge that you or your friend/family member has a problem

It can difficult to acknowledge that you or someone you care about has a problem. After all, nobody wants to be the person struggling with addiction. Acknowledging the problem is an important step toward recovery, though.

If you think someone you care about has a problem with drugs or alcohol, talk to them. Hold a professional intervention if you must. An intervention is when one or more caring friends or family members come together with the person struggling with addiction, share their stories of how the individual’s addiction has affected their lives, and encourage the individual to seek treatment.

If you think you have a drug or alcohol problem, talk with your doctor, mental health professional or a representative from an addiction treatment center.

Step 3: Review your treatment options

Addiction is complicated, and every person struggling with addiction experiences it in his or her own way. Some people need to focus heavily on overcoming the physical aspects of addiction, for example, while another person might need to work on modifying the behaviors associated with addiction.

Many people with addiction need treatment for co-occurring conditions, such as depression, which often accompanies substance abuse. In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says that individuals with mental health disorders are more likely to have a substance abuse problem. These conditions can mask a substance abuse problem or even complicate addiction treatment. Integrated treatment, which involves treating both the addiction and the co-occurring condition, can create better outcomes.

There are several types of addiction treatment, including:

  • Detoxification, in which medical professionals administer medications and care that reduce the duration and severity of withdrawal symptoms – best for those who are physically dependent
  • Inpatient or residential care, where clients receive 24/7 treatment for several days, weeks or even months – ideal for those with severe addiction or who have been using drugs or alcohol for a long time
  • Outpatient care, in which people go to a clinic once or twice a week for care and counseling – optimal for those with mild addiction or for those with family or work obligations that prevent inpatient treatment

Step 4: Plan for detoxification

Using drugs or alcohol at very high doses, frequently or for a long time can cause your body to become physically dependent on the substances you use. In other words, you have to take a certain amount of drugs or alcohol each day to feel “normal.” If you are physically dependent on drugs or alcohol, you will feel uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you stop using your substance of choice.

Withdrawal symptoms can vary, depending on the substance you use and the doses used. Withdrawal from alcohol can cause the shakiness known as tremors or “DTs,” anxiety, nausea and vomiting, headache, sweating and more.

Depending on the substance, length of use and doses used, these withdrawal symptoms may last for hours or days. In some cases, uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to cause a relapse, overcoming even the strongest person with the most commitment to quitting.

To reduce the risk of relapse due to overwhelming withdrawal symptoms, contact an addiction treatment center to discuss various approaches to detoxification.

Step #5: Participate in aftercare for ongoing recovery

Addiction is a chronic condition, which means there is a potential for relapse long after treatment. Treatment in the form of counseling helps you recognize triggers that might cause you to use drugs or alcohol again, and it provides you with the tools you need to deal with stressful situations without using drugs or alcohol. Aftercare creates the support you need for an ongoing recovery.

For more information on stepping past drug or alcohol addiction, or if you need help finding an addiction treatment facility, visit