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When I Finish Treatment, Am I Still an Addict?

Once you become addicted, the “it” of addiction never really goes away. Even after you finish treatment, you aren’t the same as you were before addiction. Addiction changes your brain in such a way that you can easily relapse if you do not maintain the various components of a recovery lifestyle which are scientifically proven to help you stay sober.

Think about what happens when you learn something new, for example. Typically, you repeat it over and over until that thing becomes easier and a normal part of everyday life. Eventually, you might get so good at it that you can do it without thinking, like reading or driving a car. The grooves are very deep and you no longer have to exert any effort to do the new behavior. Sometimes your drive to work or home is so automatic you don’t even remember it.

A similar thing happens with addiction, except that learning happens much more quickly. Drinking or using drugs is strongly reinforced in the brain because the feelings associated with it are so intense. Addiction is a bit like trauma in that regard; your brain learns a lesson a little too well. As a result, it mistakenly believes this one thing–the drug–is really important and your brain reorganizes itself to optimize its ability to get it.

That whole structure doesn’t just disappear when you quit using. It may never disappear. The goal of recovery is to learn new habits and stick to them long enough that they eventually get easier than the old habits. Even when you have good, new habits, the old grooves are still there and you can easily slip into them.

If you ever learned to ride a bike, you can almost certainly still ride a bike now, even if it has been years since you tried. Addiction is a similar sort of thing. Addiction affects everything from your logical thinking down to your physical movement patterns. Once some part of that is activated, unless you consciously stop, the automatic conditioning takes over. You drive to the office without even thinking. In this metaphor, it’s best not to get in the car.

When you finish treatment you have gone from active addiction into recovery. It’s a huge positive step but you have to understand what that means and what it doesn’t mean. It means you can start taking control of your life instead of letting addiction control you. It doesn’t mean you can take sobriety for granted. You can’t have just one drink. You have to be conscious of your choices, including where you go and who you spend time with. You have to live more deliberately, which can be challenging, but also much, much better.

If you are ready to leave active addiction behind, Gardens Wellness Center can help. We can help you detox and figure out what program of treatment is right for you. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at info@tgwcdetox.com to learn more.