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Five Tips for Climbing the Hill to Recovery

There’s no way around it – recovery is tough. There is no easy path to a sober life. The path is full of potholes, traps and unexpected turns. Failure is often a short-term part of the package. But, by applying certain strategies, it can be easier to attain a successfully rebuilt life.

  1. Remember that is takes time.
Five Tips for Climbing the Hill to Recovery

There is a period of time in which you have to almost battle with your brain against the memories of your drug use

You didn’t fall into addiction overnight, and it is unrealistic to think that you can get out of your addiction in a snap. It takes time, because an addiction is a multi-faceted problem. Addiction changes the neuroscientific makeup of your brain. Your memories are indelibly impacted by your drug use.[1] Unfortunately, your memory cannot always be relied upon for accuracy, and in the context of drug addiction this means that your brain remembers the sensations of being high as better than it actually was. As a result, the appeal of the drugs is more appealing than it ought to be.

For this reason, there is a period of time in which you have to almost battle with your brain against the memories or perceptions of your drug use. You have to remind yourself that the highs are not as great as you remember them. Conversely, you have to pull back your vision and see the full picture of your addiction – the broken relationships, the need for more, the anxiety and the loss of control.

  1. Habits are subconscious after a few weeks.

It has been scientifically proven by various neuroscientists that there is a habit loop, in which the brain moves from a conscious choice and focused effort over time to a nearly automatic response.[2] Habits literally move out of the conscious decision making part of the brain and into the automatic response part of the brain. Though not at the same level as breathing or blinking, over time any habit becomes second nature.

Armed with this knowledge, an individual battling an addiction would do well to carefully consider all the habits around using the drug. For example, if she smokes a joint after her morning coffee, it might make sense to actively replace that habit with a new normal. This will allow the brain to superimpose a different habit over what was previously a moment for drug use.

  1. Set short term goals.

One way to build a sense of success in recovery is to set short term goals for your progress. Having a more specific goal than ‘never dong drugs again’ can build momentum in the rehab process. For example, you could set a goal of going 10 days without any drugs; then, when you accomplish this, it instills some self-confidence. This confidence will make a huge difference in the way you approach your recovery process, as you will start to believe that you can have a sober life.

  1. Find some people to support you.

It is pure and simple – you will not be able to make it to a sober lifestyle without others supporting you along the way. You will have weak moments, in which you are driven back to your addiction of choice. You will inevitably come across an old friend who offers you a chance to reenter your old life.

In these times, you must have someone to turn to, preferably more than one person. But, choosing the right type of person is vital. These individuals must believe in you wholeheartedly, so that when you call or show up in a tough time, you are not scolded for it. At the same time, these individuals must be able to show you some tough love when you need it too.

  1. Know your trigger points.

Understanding your trigger points is an invaluable tool in the recovery process. A person in recovery has to become very aware of the events, people or patterns that evoke a psychological desire for his substance of choice. This is a powerful tool that can be quite useful in recovery, because it gives you the chance to actively avoid these triggers.

You Might not be Able to Get Sober on Your Own

Maybe you have tried to quit on your own, and you haven’t been successful. Perhaps you have even tried to apply one or more of these strategies, and nothing seems to help. You could feel stuck, as if there is no other option except for staying in addiction.

That is simply not true. With the right support system, anyone can build a sober life. And remember, there is no shame in asking for help, and getting to that point is no reason to quit trying. The reality is that most individuals need help to start living a sober life.

If you find yourself at the end of your ability to battle your addiction in your own strength, there is support available. We can help you. We can answer your questions. The admission counselors at our toll free, 24 hour helpline can help you learn more about your mental health condition. They can help you find your way.


[1], “Neuroscience of Need,” by Bruce Goldman, accessed December 13, 2015

[2], “Habits: How they form and how to break them,” accessed December 13, 2015