Road to Recovery


Step One: Acceptance and Understanding

If you have decided that you want to quit your dependency and/or addiction, then you have already set foot on the road to recovery. That’s brilliant and well done!

The very first step to recovery is admitting to yourself that you have a substance use or addictive disorder (eg. gambling) and that you don’t want to live like this anymore. You probably feel low and miserable and that breaking your dependency and/or addiction will be too hard. Yes, it will be hard, but know that things are going to get better, and your life WILL be better. Be positive – Think positive – You can do this!

How can a few pills from the doctor cure you? They often can’t, yet some people are naive enough to think that this is how it works. You must be prepared to work with yourself and put in some effort to make life better. You must understand that addiction is classified as a disease, like cancer or diabetes, so don’t underestimate it. It needs the same effort and often professional help to beat it.

It’s not your fault – you didn’t choose to become dependent or addicted. In the beginning, taking the substance or participating in the behaviour may have been through choice but it probably isn’t anymore.

Road to Recovery - start with small steps

Click here for more information on Understanding Addiction

Step Two: Get Help

Get help – sounds easy enough doesn’t it? I know that many will read it and laugh – ‘I don’t need help’.  That’s why step one is the first step – that’s where you need help first, help to realise and accept your dependency and/or addiction. Only then can you start to rebuild your life, because your life IS very precious.

If you are in the terrible black hole where you are having suicidal thoughts or you think that you may harm yourself, then you need to GET HELP URGENTLY.  Tell someone – anyone. Keeping it to yourself feeds the thought, makes it bigger. Sometimes you can’t tell the people that you care about, but there are professionals: your doctor, the Samaritans, A&E, your teacher – anyone.

Check out the Help & Support page for emergency help.

YOU must believe in yourself, trust yourself and learn to define your own beliefs, values and identity.

YOU are important.

YOUR life is worth more than being a slave to substance use and addictive disorders (eg. gambling).

YOU can achieve anything but right now you just need to achieve one thing – winning this battle with your dependency and/or addiction.

There is no shame in admitting that you need help for your substance use or addictive disorder. It’s the bravest thing that you’ll ever do, and people will respect you for it. Doing so could be life-saving. You want to live and breathe and no longer be in chains to this evil substance or behaviour. Only you can make this happen. You can seek professional help through your doctor.

Join a support group – if it’s right for you. You can be with other like-minded people who want to quit their dependency and/or addiction.

counselling mentoring therapiesYou can often find a sponsor/mentor (usually a person with lived experience) to support you through your recovery. Maintain healthy relationships. You may have damaged a lot of relationships along the way, especially family relationships. Think about the relationships that are important to you. Why not work on rebuilding them if they are healthy relationships.

Strength comes from sharing problems and accepting you need help and seeking it. Get help by asking for it and know that life can get better.

Step Three: Avoid Triggers

Unfortunately, it’s best to avoid friends who you relate to your substance use or addictive disorder. It will probably be one of the hardest things to do but you MUST try to avoid places where you buy your substance from or associate with taking substances or participating in your addictive behaviours. Avoid doing things that lead you back or remind you of your dependency, addiction or behaviour. Avoid being with people with whom you may have conflict. Of course, you cannot always avoid high risk situations but as long as you are aware of them you can be in control.

Try to avoid stressful situations and stress in general. If you are in a stressful relationship, speak to your therapist. If it’s stressful at work, speak to your employer. Try to learn coping skills to deal with stressful situations. Often just talking about your problems can make them feel a lot less stressful.

Monitor your most positive days and your difficult days. See if a pattern emerges from which you can use to learn coping methods.

Step Four: Relaxation – Reduce Stress

Relaxation is an important part of recovery. You need to get enough rest and not push yourself too hard with work or other stresses. If you feel stressed, take a break: go for a walk, have a bath, listen to some music, meditate, practice deep breathing, call a supportive friend, do something that you enjoy. You NEED to find time to relax. When you are stressed, it always feels like you don’t have time to relax but you need to make time. You will feel better afterwards. Find what works for you and use your tools.

Women Relaxing on bed

Step Five: Avoid Halt Symptoms

Hungry, angry, lonely or tired. These feelings can make your withdrawal symptoms a lot worse so be sure to look after yourself. Eat a good balanced diet.  Eat regularly. Try to avoid stressful situations; just walk away from them. Try spending time with friends and family; don’t isolate yourself. Try to go to bed at a reasonable hour and aim for eight hours sleep.

Step Six: Diet and Wellbeing

Substance use or addictive disorders harm the body by causing negative lifestyle changes such as irregular eating and poor diet.

Diet is one of the most important aspects of mental and emotional wellbeing. It is often overlooked as unconnected but how false this is. The road to recovery involves looking closely at your diet and making small but important steps to improve this.

Think how lacking in energy and tired you can feel after eating a big takeaway meal, a huge meal of any description, lots of sweets, pastries, chocolate not to mention fizzy, sugary drinks and alcohol. This is because of the huge sugar spike it gives your body and the excessive release of insulin.

Try to maintain a healthy diet, avoid junk food and takeaways, spend time making yourself something nice to eat. Try to eat nutritious food. Try to avoid too much sugar, avoid sugary drinks, avoid too much caffeine, and most of all avoid energy drinks.

See Diet & Wellbeing for more information.

Step Seven: Manage Thoughts and Feelings

We are often faced with that constant chatter inside our heads. Those overwhelming feelings of guilt, worthlessness, sadness, loneliness. All those negative thoughts. You need to try and replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. When you think you cannot continue to beat your dependency and/or addiction, tell yourself you can. You are better than that, YOU HAVE CONTROL.

destroy what destroys you addiction

Stop those negative thoughts from coming into your mind. They are the past, they are the future, they may never happen. Live in the present moment. Try practising meditation/mindfulness.

Be mindful and think about your decisions and actions before you do them in a way that observes, anticipates and evaluates the consequences if you make specific choices.

CBT is a very beneficial therapy to help stop the cycle of negative thinking. It can help with a wide range of symptoms from anxiety and panic attacks to depression and psychosis.

See the Alternative Therapies page for more information.

Step Eight: Hobbies and ‘You’ Time

Exercise is one of the first things to consider.

Exercising outside is a great option, whether it be walking, running, cycling to name but a few activities. Just getting fresh air is very beneficial and, if the sun is out, you will benefit from a dose of Vitamin D which the sun provides, and this can really lift the mood. Not all exercise requires going to the gym.

Exercise relieves and reduces both physical and psychological stress and can help you get rid of any negative emotions that you have been keeping in.

Exercise naturally and positively alters your brain chemistry to release endorphins which create a natural high and make you feel good. These are the same endorphins produced when you are taking substances or participating in an addictive disorder. However, substance use and addictive disorders cause an imbalance that interferes with a person’s ability to feel pleasure, happiness and satisfaction. Exercise during treatment and recovery will help you to reintroduce natural endorphins into your system. This re-educates your body so that it is capable of regulating its own brain chemistry and mood in healthy ways.

Find new hobbies to occupy your time. You may find that you have a lot more time once you quit your dependency and/or addiction. You could join a walking club or try yoga. Yoga is extremely good for the mind and body.

See Yoga on the Alternative Therapies page for more information.

You could take up reading, studying, learn a new skill or even learn to play a musical instrument. The list is endless! You could also do volunteer work; this will give you a sense of meaning and purpose. Helping others can be extremely rewarding.

Most importantly, just remember to take some ‘me time’ whatever that may be. You may just need a break or even just some time alone. Do what makes you happy apart from your substance use or addictive disorder activities.

Step Nine: Goals

Set yourself small achievable goals. You cannot change everything overnight. You are probably doing one of the most difficult things that you will do in your life by quitting your dependency and/or addiction. Make small changes to your diet, lifestyle and relationships. Keep a diary and reward yourself with things you enjoy. Tell others so that they know you are getting better and they can remember and encourage you to continue.

Don't Give Up motivation goals

Keep a note of how you are feeling each day and what things have affected your day emotionally. Make sure that you include the foods that you have eaten as you may begin to see a pattern in how you feel at certain times and following certain food intake.

Step Ten: Detox

Detox is the first part of recovery treatment and is best carried out under medical supervision and with support. During a detox your body is given time to flush away the harmful effects that your dependency and/or addiction has caused in your body. Detox on its own is usually insufficient for a successful recovery. Detox is different for everyone although the symptoms are often similar. The severity of symptoms depends upon the specific substance or behaviour, the duration and seriousness of your dependency and/or addiction. Sometimes, depending on the severity of the dependency and/or addiction, you may be offered prescription drugs to ease withdrawal symptoms. Some people prefer to go ‘cold turkey’ and do it alone. However, this is not always possible and can prove fatal. Detox can be carried out both as an inpatient or outpatient, private or NHS.

See Drug and Alcohol Detox for more information.

Step Eleven: Balancing the Brain Naturally

Supplements can help to naturally balance the brain chemistry to help restore the brain’s natural reward system to achieve happiness, pleasure and balance without the need for the use of substances or behaviours. It’s good to work with a specialist consultant and not try supplementing whilst taking prescription medication unless first discussed with a specialist or your GP. These methods of balancing the brain naturally can have profound results; a natural detox aimed at reducing toxic build-up in the body will help reduce inflammation in the brain and body thereby alleviating symptoms of depression, anxiety and illness.

Balancing Brain Chemistry with Supplements.

Step Twelve: Avoid Relapse

The disease of addiction requires constant vigilance. You must learn to recognise the conditions that generally make you feel like you cannot cope without the substance or behaviour and learn to overcome the period and deal with it and try to avoid it.

Avoid stress and always remember to take your medication or supplementation if prescribed and keep using your tools. Don’t forget to rely on others for support and care.

As you begin your journey on your road to recovery, take a long, hard look at your life and the things which could make you happy and the things which cause you to reach for your dependent/addictive substance or behaviour. Be positive and focus on trying to achieve the things which could make you happy, even if it is only one thing – having a positive focus helps you to leave the negative path. It may be that the events which led you to dependency and/or addiction cannot be changed, but the way in which you think about them CAN be changed and you can learn to use the experiences as positive reactions to lead you away from dependency and/or addiction. You can’t change what has happened in your life, but you CAN change where tomorrow will lead you.

Good luck on your journey to happiness and freedom from dependency and/or addiction.