You Are Not Your Addiction 

Part of ending the stigma of drug addiction is acknowledging addiction is not a character flaw and it is not a sign of weakness.



Don’t give up. Certain substances create powerful changes in the brain and it is going to take more than willpower to overcome those changes. There will be times when getting clean will feel impossible. If you have taken the most important step of all, recognizing that you have a problem and deciding to create change, no matter how hopeless your situation seems, change IS possible. You may experience setbacks, that does not have to mean you stop trying. There is a great deal of help and knowledge available to you to help you on your journey.

Being uncertain if you have what it takes to recover is normal. Being dedicated to sobriety involves changing many things. Examining how you deal with stress and finding better coping mechanisms is one change. Who, What and How: Who you allow in your life, what you do in your free time, how you think about yourself; these are powerful changes to aid you in your recovery. Regaining control of your life by making the choice to give up your drug of choice requires time, motivation and support.


Begin THINKING about the situations you find yourself in and the people you are surrounded by. Keep track of your drug use. This will help you see the role addiction has in your life. Ask yourself, “What are the benefits of using? What are the benefits of quitting?” Make sure to consider the people and things in your life that are important to you: family, friends, work, school, pets, your health. How is your addiction affecting all of those?

ASK those you trust and feel safe with how your drug use appears to them and how it affects them. ASK yourself, “What is preventing me from making changes?” ASK others for advice on what might help you change. ASK yourself why you want to change.

TELL others about your realizations regarding your addiction. Tell friends and family that you’re committing to recovery and ask for their support. TELL others what you think will work for you in recovery. TELL yourself, over and over, your reasons for wanting to change.


Recovery options will vary depending upon the substance used, the time of use and your current state of physical and mental health. Explore options for you which may include detox, counseling, support groups, therapy, medication to ease withdrawal and help with co-occurring disorders if they are present. Follow up support, therapy and medical attention may be necessary for long term sobriety.

Deciding on the type of treatment that you feel will work best for you will take research and time. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to point you in the right direction. Residential treatment may be necessary. At a residential facility you will have time away from work, school, family, friends and addiction triggers. Lasting from a few days to several months, residential facilities offer many benefits to those who may need intensive treatment.

You also have the choice of day treatment. This is for those who need ongoing monitoring but do not want to live in a residential facility. With this type of treatment, you also have choices. You can opt to go to a facility for up to 8 hours a day and then return home, or you can have a concierge service some to your home. Outpatient is essentially the same as day treatment, but this can be schedule around your life, as can concierge services. This type of treatment is mainly focused on relapse prevention.

Sober living communities are safe places to land after you have completed your detox, or intensive treatment. Sometimes a person doesn’t feel ready to return to their previous environments and need the safe, substance free, supportive community offered at a sober living.


Not all treatments will work for you. It is important that you find what does work. It is also important to remember that your addiction affected your whole life, therefore more than just the drug abuse should be addressed. Reminding yourself of the reasons you began to use in the first place is a good tool to help you focus on healthier ways to handle pain or stress.

Commitment and follow-through are necessary for recovery.


Get moving. Exercise, walking, yoga, dancing; these are all great stress busters and will help your body and mind recover.

Get outside. Sunshine, fresh air and grounding will lift your mood and reacclimate your senses to the world.

ANIMALS! Dogs and cats are terrific therapy!

Engage your senses. Eat good, healthy food. Listen to beautiful music. Smell fresh coffee, flowers or something in nature that reminds you of a good time in your life.

Memories. Reach into your soul and remember good times, peaceful times, happy times. Hold these as you breathe and feel into the feeling it gives you to remember these things.

Pamper yourself. Sip hot tea on the front porch. Get a massage. Soak in a tub. Go for a nice stroll in a beautiful park. Eat some chocolate and savor every bite. Plug into a soothing nature soundtrack and relax.


Prepare yourself to cope with cravings. Sometimes they cannot be avoided, and you will need to be ready for this.  Find a healthy activity to distract yourself. Reading, going to the movies, taking up a hobby or sport, spending time with supportive friends or family are all great ways to keep yourself occupied and get you through those periods of craving.

Talking can be useful in determining the source of the craving and can help alleviate the feeling. Cravings are nothing to feel bad about and talking about them will help you restore honesty with yourself and others.


Gaining an understanding of what causes relapse and what your triggers are will help you maintain your sobriety and your sanity. Some common triggers that may lead to relapse are (Centre for Addiction and Mental Health):

  • negative emotional states (such as anger, sadness, trauma or stress)
  • physical discomfort (such as withdrawal symptoms or physical pain)
  • positive emotional states (wanting to feel even better)
  • testing personal control (“I can have just one pill”)
  • strong temptations or urges (cravings to use)
  • conflict with others (such as an argument with a spouse or partner)
  • social pressures to use (situations where it appears everyone else is using drugs)
  • good times with others (such as having fun with friends or family)


Relapse does not mean failure. Call members of your support group: therapist, counselor, clergy, trusted friends and family, your sponsor, or your Doctor. Once you have regained your sobriety, look at what triggered the relapse and what you could have done differently. And, forgive yourself, have compassion for yourself and strengthen your commitment to your recovery.