Fighting addiction alone: The good, the bad and the ugly

Can a person beat their addiction by themselves? The answer really depends on your particular situation and level of willpower.

Research suggests that about half of people who recover do so with some sort of help, while about half do so on their own. However, many of the people who recover ‘on their own’ do so with the help of community support, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, instead of going to a residential treatment centre.

So, what path is right for you? Let’s explore what you need to know before making this important decision.

Do you need to detox?

If you’re addiction involves illicit substances or alcohol, it is highly recommended that you seek out professional help for the first stage of recovery – detox.

The acute withdrawal symptoms that occur when you first stop using a substance can be severe – not only unpleasant to experience, but also life-threatening in some cases, especially when coming off alcohol or certain drugs.

You will need to have physicians checking your vital signs on a regular basis to ensure your safety and to intervene if your symptoms become dangerous. They may also be able to prescribe medication to help ease the severity of the symptoms.

For heroin and opioid addiction, it’s not the physical withdrawal symptoms that can kill you, but rather the state of mind it puts you in. Withdrawal is known to cause suicidal behaviour in some cases, so medical supervision during detox helps keep patients from hurting themselves.

Rehabilitation – do you need support?

Whether you choose to recover on your own or in a treatment programme, it is always you that is rehabilitating yourself. No-one can make you get sober, eat properly or stop gambling; you have to want it on a deep level. You have to be willing to do what it takes to make the necessary changes in your life.

What everyone does usually need is some support along the way. Recovery is hard enough; doing it with the help of others eases the burden. However and wherever you choose to recover, you may need some or all of these things:

  • Support from people who’ve been through this and understand what you’re going through, and can provide advice on what worked for them
  • Tips and training on how to prevent relapse
  • Counselling or therapy
  • Medication to ease post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS)
  • Help with establishing a new life – work, living arrangements, etc.
  • Ongoing encouragement during this process

What if I relapse?

The most common reasons why people relapse are:

  • Motivation wasn’t strong enough
  • Not enough changes to environment or habits
  • Strong PAWS symptoms (physical addiction still at play)
  • Other contributing factors such as trauma, or mental illness, that hasn’t been properly addressed

Beating addiction alone can be done

You may find success in recovering on your own if:

  • You have an intense motivation to quit your addiction and recreate your life.
  • You’re typically good at exercising willpower.
  • You’re willing to make changes throughout your life to support your commitment to sobriety, including saying goodbye to old relationships and other situations that you used to enjoy but which may tempt you into relapse.
  • You don’t have a mental illness or psychological issue that is contributing to your addiction.

When to get professional treatment

In addition to professional detox, opting for a residential treatment programme may be a good idea for you if you have one of these situations:

Dual diagnosis: If you have an underlying mental health issue, then having a psychiatrist’s help is very important because both the substance use disorder and mental health disorder need to be treated at the same time.

History of relapse: If you’ve tried to quit on your own before and keep relapsing, then there’s no shame in getting professional help.

Motivation problems: If you’re having difficulty really committing to sobriety, then seek out an option with one-on-one therapy to help you get to the bottom of your motivation issue.

It comes down to you

Each person caught up in addiction has a unique situation. The type of addiction, as well as the underlying psychological and lifestyle factors play into how a person experiences addiction and what they need to do to quit.

Some people are able to quit on their own. Others benefit greatly from the support that a formal programme provides, either at a treatment centre, or at a community-based programme like AA.

If you’re confident you can do this on your own with support in the community, go for it. If you’re sure that you’ll back out when things get tough (maybe because this has happened before), don’t feel bad about this. Acknowledge the reality of your situation and opt for a treatment programme where there will be people to help you find the motivation to tough it out. If beating addiction alone isn’t possible for you, then don’t hesitate to seek out support.

Tabor Group

Tabor Group is a leading provider of residential addiction treatment services in Ireland. We provide support and care to hundreds of clients suffering from addictions to alcohol, substances, gambling and eating disorders. For more information on Tabor Group’s services, click here.