Why Education is an Important Part of Addiction Treatment
Most people are aware that addiction treatment involves detox and therapy, but sometimes people are surprised to find it also includes education about addiction. This often covers a range of topics like what happens in your brain and body when you have a substance use disorder, common behavioral changes caused by addiction, risk factors for developing an addiction, and how best to participate in your own recovery. You might wonder how this knowledge actually contributes to recovery. It can make a big difference, actually. Here are some ways in which addiction education matters.
It helps motivate you.
Perhaps the most important reason to learn as much as you can about addiction during recovery is that it helps keep you motivated. This motivation is both carrot and stick. Many people enter treatment still unsure whether they really want to be sober. Knowing more about what addiction does to your mind and body can be a motivating factor. Many people only know what friends have told them about substance use or what they’ve experienced themselves. They might not know important information about substance use and addiction that might motivate them to quit. For example, many people are not aware that alcohol significantly increases your risk of cancer and dementia.
However, many people were acutely aware of the downsides of substance use and kept using anyway. That’s why it’s important to let them know what’s possible with quality treatment and commitment. For example, current research shows our brains are far more malleable than we once thought. That means even deeply ingrained behavioral patterns can be changed for the better. Knowing that real recovery is possible can keep you motivated when things are tough.
Finally, when you better understand the process and can see how each part of treatment and recovery fit together, you are more motivated to do the work. When recovering from addiction, you often have to do things that are unfamiliar and uncomfortable. If you have no idea why you’re doing them, you might be reluctant to try or you might just quit doing them whenever there’s not someone around to make you do it.
For example, many studies have found that exercise is one of the best things you can do for your recovery. It lowers stress and anxiety and improves your mood. It helps you sleep better. Exercise also improves your emotional regulation and willpower. All these things are crucial for a successful recovery. However, exercise is hard and it takes time. If you’re told to exercise without understanding all the ways it supports recovery, you will probably just skip it. On the other hand, if someone explains how exercise affects your physiology and shows you the mountains of research behind it, you may decide it’s worth the effort.
It lets you know what to expect.
Addiction treatment and recovery can often feel like you’re groping in the dark. Hopefully, during treatment, at least, you will feel like you have a competent guide. However, it helps to feel like you have some idea of where you’re going. Everyone’s recovery journey is different and you never really know what to expect, but there are often common features in recovery and knowing these helps you orient yourself. This both gives you milestones to look forward to and warning signs to look out for.
For example, many people experience a lull or plateau after nine months or a year of sobriety. This is a dangerous time because they might become cynical or pessimistic and stop doing the things they helped them stay sober. Knowing about this common problem can help you catch it early and adapt. On the other hand, it might be encouraging to know that your risk of relapse drops significantly after a year of sobriety, then again after five years. This can give you something to look forward to, especially early on when cravings are strongest.
It helps you see your situation more clearly.
It’s hard to objectively evaluate your own situation. You’re the only person who has lived your particular life and you only get one shot at it. What’s more, all of us are prone to the fundamental attribution error. That means you may look at someone else’s addictive behavior and think that person is an “addict” but you look at your own addictive behavior and think you’re just responding to work or family stress and you basically still have things under control. You’re not like everyone else in treatment. This is a mindset often referred to in 12-step circles as “terminal uniqueness” and often prevents people from engaging with the group or doing what’s necessary for a strong recovery.
It’s hard to overcome the feeling of being unique–because, after all, you are unique–but learning the patterns of thinking and behavior common in addiction can help you see your situation more clearly. Many people feel a shock of recognition when they see their own habits reflected in a lesson about addiction or other mental health issue. This recognition can help you move forward with a better appreciation of your own situation.
It helps your loved ones support you better.
Finally, it’s important to recognize that the education isn’t just for you. While you will certainly get a lot out of it, your loved ones can benefit also. Ideally, they will attend sessions and support groups as well so they can learn about what you’re going through. Even loved ones who want to be supportive often have difficulty understanding what drives addictive behavior. There are still many misconceptions out there about addiction and education can help close that knowledge gap and help them better understand how they can support you.
Daylight Recovery Services takes a holistic approach to substance abuse and co-occurring disorder treatment to address the physical, psychological, and spiritual facets of addiction and recovery. We ensure clients emerge from our facility with the proper tools and confidence in their ability to lead a healthy, enjoyable life. If you or someone you love is ready to break free of the bondage of addiction, contact one of our recovery experts today at 1-833-2DAYLIGHT.