For many, the struggles of overcoming an addiction are difficult to understand, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing someone can “just quit.”
For most, especially someone who has lived the pain of withdrawal and who maybe hasn’t had the tools to deal with the daily hurdles of everyday life, it’s far more complicated than “just” quitting.
Recovery begins with understanding the science behind addiction and the physical changes that occur in the brain with long-term use.
Ambi Daniel, former clinical counselor in the field of addiction, offers frequent workshops on the science of addiction.
In her role as family support navigator at the Center for Family Life and Recovery, Inc., Utica, she works to educate area residents in recovery, their family members, health professionals, and the community at large.
“It’s a common misconception that someone dealing with a substance use disorder can just walk away and that they ‘should know better.’ It’s important to understand that using drugs and alcohol impacts the actual function of the brain,” she said.
If there are mind-altering substances being used, natural dopamine release is altered. “Our brain relies on this reward-memory system for our basic primitive needs and is driven by it. The brain looks for this release,” she said.
Daniel said the brain can take 18 months to heal. “Retraining the brain to recognize that and to begin functioning normally takes time,” she said.
That’s where both short-term interventions and long-term recovery methods can help someone get through intense withdrawal and onto a path of recovery, she added.
“Without a solid recovery plan in place for addressing routines of home, health, purpose and community changes, it’s easy for someone to fall back to other methods of comfort and release,” Daniel said. “Relapsing back to those substances is far easier in the short term. In the long run, though, recovery gives people a new lease on life that leads to better fulfillment and joy within the hard work of life.”
Typically, addiction treatment programs can last from a few months to several years. “In fact, recovery is ongoing, and while the intensity decreases, recovery is life-long.”
Following the initial detox, treatment options range from day treatment to outpatient to long-term residential programs.
It can include stabilization services, medical treatment, mental health services and more.
But, how does someone who needs help get help?
“We are very fortunate in the Mohawk Valley to have a variety of resources available,” according to Gina Hobika, director of community relations at CNY Services/Milestones. “We have an array of local agencies and organizations who offer addiction treatment, stabilization and recovery services.
Hobika said someone in need of services can walk into any of the treatment facilities, doctors’ offices, hospital emergency rooms, churches, counseling centers, or any human service agency and they will be referred to the appropriate program.
“We also have the 211 helpline that is a great resource,” Hobika noted.
For more information, contact Kathy Peters, advocacy coordinator, Center for Family Life and Recovery, Inc., at 315-733-1709.