Are you in recovery from drugs? Do you find it difficult and tempting to often return to a life of drugs? If you answered, “yes” you’re not alone. Recovery can be challenging for many people but the good news is anyone can maintain a drug free lifestyle if they have the desire to do so. To help understand common challenges that someone in recovery may face and what someone can do to maintain a drug free recovery, I have interviewed therapist Octavia Carlos.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
“I have a Masters degree from Howard University in Social Work. I am licensed to practice in Maryland , Virginia and Washington DC . I worked 4 years as a drug counselor at a residential inner city drug program called Second Genesis. I worked two years as a therapist with the chronically mentally ill in a day treatment program. I have also worked over 13 years as a therapist in Fairfax Co. VA. in an outpatient community mental health center and four years as a therapist in the DC Jail. I currently have my private practice in Largo MD where I treat adults who are exhibiting issues with stress, depression, marital/relationship issues and survivors of incest.”
What are common challenges that someone in recovery may face?
“In the beginning of recovery like any neophyte what is new (sobriety) is uncomfortable and scary. Intellectually the patient “knows” clean and sober is the best thing for their lives but emotionally they are afraid to test out all they have learned in treatment. There are many challenges I cannot begin to list them all but here are a few.”
“If the patient went away to treatment returning to the same environment is a very big challenge. Sobriety and recovery are different. Sobriety just means you are no longer using. Recovery means that there was a life style change to enhance sobriety. Addicts MUST have a lifestyle change that will include learning how to self soothe, how to problem solve, how to negotiate issues and ask for their needs to get met, and how to (stay away from person’s places and things (from NA)) avoid relapse. This is a difficult task sometimes because they may have family members (as close as parents and siblings) that also are still using. Understanding they could lose close relationships is daunting. They need to have support while life takes them through trials. Lastly they need to see they have a future being sober and they need to see that that future is worth striving and staying sober for. It is a future that will be free from incarceration and poor health. It will instead include healthy relationships and living like a productive citizen where they can see themselves making career and personal strides.”
What type of impact can those challenges have on their overall life?
“The challenges listed above can simply cause relapse on a fragile newly sober person. Newly sober people exhibit low tolerance for frustration. It doesn’t take much for them to return to what they know (drugs and alcohol) for relief or to give up because they feel the new life it is too difficult for them or not stimulating enough, or the environment that tests them constantly sucks them in because the norm is to be high. Being clean and sober is a lot of work and they may feel they are inadequate to accomplish maintaining the expectations of others who are hoping they can remain sober.”
What are some tips for maintaining a drug free recovery?
“Staying away from people, places and things that will make you relapse. This recovery tool from NA is what I think is the best lesson. I believe sometimes people return to their active addictions because it is a “social” environment. So if you can stay away from the people you associate with getting high or drunk or the places you used to go to get high or drunk or stay away from the things that make you think about it you will have a better chance to remain sober. Relapse is a process, it begins with a thought and then a plan and then giving yourself permission. Replace the thought with support from someone who understands and can help to place another more encouraging thought in it’s place.”
What type of professional help is available to help someone remain drug free?
“There are residential facilities, detox programs, out patient day or evening programs that meet for a couple of hours daily. There are mental health facilities that will treat the substance abuser and the dual diagnosed (drugs and mental health issues) patients and there are private practitioners that will see them in their practice. There are support groups like NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) which are good sources for someone who wants anonymous support. A patient can attend these groups around the clock as many times a day they please and it is free. Many people find this best to maintain sobriety.”
Thank you Octavia Carlos for doing the interview on how someone can maintain a drug free recovery. For more information on Octavia Carlos or her work you can check out her website on www.octaviacarlos.com.
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