Like other difficult life issues, addiction has traditionally been a well-kept secret (or at least it wasn’t discussed in “polite society”). People who were addicted to a substance or behaviour that negatively affected their lives faced losing jobs, friends, and families in addition to community reputation. For many years, addiction was not well-understood and, consequently, not well-tolerated. It was thought to be a failure or weakness on the part of the addict. Many addicts lived out their lives in silent shame because there weren’t quality options to help them.
The millennium saw more advanced and successful treatment methods as well as increased awareness and education about the causes of addiction. The addiction began to be viewed as an illness, much like cancer. Addicts now had support groups and treatment facilities and found strength by openly discussing their struggles.
However, the new age also brought an upsurge in the number of addicts, incarceration, broken families…and the list goes on. In the U.S. alone, we are seeing a highly concerning level of opioid addiction. Family and societal pressures contribute to people of all ages losing control over the behaviour or substance, and the growing numbers of people in crisis make it even more difficult for people to get help and stay drug-free.
There are a variety of complex reasons why people become addicted, including mental health issues. In one year alone, it is estimated that over 7 million Americans suffered from an addiction to an illegal substance. This doesn’t include all the other addictions such as alcohol, gambling, or smoking. Add that to all the other challenges and it’s not surprising that relapse after treatment can be as high as 50% or more.
Rehab is a journey – a journey that usually lasts a lifetime. It is a complete change of lifestyle and mindset, and sometimes a change of friends or even family members. Some people can go it alone, but most need the guidance and support of others to fight this voracious monster. For rehab to be effective, it must fit the individual or target population, and there must be ongoing support and community resources.
The good news is that addiction is considered a disease that is highly treatable. There is no one prouder than a recovering addict, sometimes even to the point of annoyance on the part of their loved ones! Successful rehab can save families, neighbourhoods, and societies. From addiction to rehab is a long and sometimes lonely road but, given that we are each only allotted 1 chance at life (as far as we know!), it is so worth climbing over the highest obstacles and climbing out of the lowest potholes and joining the ranks of those who can say, “I am a recovering addict”.