There’s an outdated belief stemming from early treatment programs and some self-help groups that claims that Substance Use Disorder (SUD) is a chronic condition that one will never be rid of. This is only somewhat true, as we now know that it’s possible for SUDs to go into remission. This doesn’t mean that those suffering from it will be able to drink or use again, but it means that the addictive substance will become such a non-issue that it will no longer seriously alter person’s quality of life. And there is some debate whether it is possible for people affected by SUD to safely use again. I don’t have an opinion on that, as my own recovery means ongoing total abstinence, but I know of people who have been able to successfully resume their usage at non-consequence-creating levels. However, as we know from research, serious SUD involves cycles of abstinence and relapse, often over a period of time (years) after the person has decided to quit. It is for that reason why Recovery Management (RM) is extremely beneficial.
As a consultant, coach, and counselor I’ve been offering Recovery Management as one component of my services from the very beginning because I am a firm believer in pro-active recovery that doesn’t just involve putting a drink or a drug away. Recovery management techniques are evidence-based interventions designed to enhance health and reduce relapse rates. Recovery management works to reduce risk factors and increase protective factors through ongoing and regular support, structure, and accountability provided to individuals early in their recovery process.
I was lucky to have a lot of people around me and a wife who had joined a support group when I got sober—so she would know how to help me and how to help herself—but I know all about the secretive nature of addiction. Lots of people with SUD are unaware of secrecy being a part of their disorder, things like ritualistic hiding habits, or drinking or using only in certain situations, or even getting a certain “kick” from having been able to get away with using when people around are convinced that the problem is gone. This is not a reflection of someone’s nature; duplicity is the nature of addiction. Adding recovery management to one’s ongoing care helps to not only fight those urges (to hide or falter in recovery), but it gives people a sense of accomplishment and accountability, which become a part of their recovery capital.
So what is the goal of Recovery Management? RM aims to pinpoint and arrest problems before they interfere with recovery. This might be as straightforward as learning to identify triggers and being able to cope—for example, knowing that a visit to parents’ house usually brings feelings of worthlessness or that staying up too late causes restlessness the next day. The other component is being able to understand that it is those feelings of worthlessness or being restless that weaken one’s resolve. Many people who get sober are surprised to discover that although alcohol might no longer be an issue, the emotions or reasons for why addiction developed in the first place are still there. And without support, those reasons will only grow bigger and one day might become threatening enough that a relapse will be unavoidable.
RM is also an excellent addition or even an alternative to self-help meetings, as ongoing engagement creates a larger safety net where a person is no longer alone with her/his problems. Not everyone loves sharing in meetings (as they may not yet trust people in meetings, or anyone else for that matter), and not everyone is able to go to meetings. Having access to a support system that adds to one’s recovery capital ensures that there are fewer misuse problems, and that relapses—if they do happen—are shorter and that on the average the person has a lot more healthy days than someone without such support system. Research also shows that people using Recovery Management were less likely to need treatment at two- and four-year follow-ups. Finally, RM has a great success rate in populations suffering from concurrent disorders (addiction and depression, for example) and they are more cost-effective than other methods.
Recovery Management by design is readily accessible and easy to use. The sessions can happen in-person, virtually, or via telephone and, as long as sessions are scheduled regularly, they are easily incorporated into overall recovery plans. Depending on the client’s needs, a Recovery Manager can also be available on-call to address challenges in the moment they occur. The ultimate goal is to quickly empower individuals to develop instinctive mechanisms that with time will become so natural in their daily wellness plans that the Recovery Manager will no longer be needed.
Photo by nappy.
Recovery is a process. It doesn’t just happen with a push of a button, and it doesn’t happen just because someone has a desire to stop. A desire to stop is only a beginning—and although it is the most important foundational element of this journey (as it is with all journeys), more is needed. Specific, focused action is needed. Goals along with a plan to achieve those goals, along with the support and accountability to accomplish those goals and actions, are essential for success. And assimilating Recovery Management into a comprehensive wellness plan gives one the best possible chance to succeed.