The Continuum of Recovery
This idea for a Continuum of Recovery came about because of an enquiry made from the Employment Service where they said that they had large numbers of clients with drug / alcohol problems and mental health issues. This chaotic lifestyle where many of their primary problems are not addressed, means they cannot hold down jobs, and are continually recycling themselves through a range of social services. One of the most obvious links in Drug/Alcohol Recovery based services is the relationship between recovery from addiction, employment and housing. This proposal aims to set up a complete systemised approach to this problem. A suite of services within the same organisation, and which includes recovery from addiction, employment and housing, can mean the difference between attempting recovery and remaining in recovery. Every addicted person will tell you that they can stop drinking and / or using, in fact they will tell you “I can stop because I have stopped hundreds of times”.! The trick, as they well know is to stay stopped. When a person leaves rehab, they generally report being on a “pink cloud.” This sheer joy at being drug and alcohol free for the first time in many years, soon disappears when they hit the realities of life.
This is the period of recovery from addiction where challenges and feelings are difficult to handle. The individual recovering from drug addiction or alcoholism may still be experiencing cravings, symptoms associated with withdrawal or feelings for the first time in sobriety. Each day is a series of highs and lows, usually accompanied by depression, frustration, hopelessness, anger and resentment. These feelings develop barriers like low motivation and emotional, medical and mental problems. It is these barriers that prevent addicted people from safely meeting their needs related to housing, employment, nutritional needs, social needs, transportation, etc. Some people become so immobilised by this inability to function that they just shut down. All rational thinking goes out the window and they will then revert to the only coping mechanism that they know that works to stop the head noise. They crave the feelings of numbness and oblivion that they know so well. They pick up a drink or a drug and go back to square one.
Evidence strongly supports the idea that primary continuing care including extended aftercare to 90 days minimum is the single most important part of any structured treatment program. Unless a full Continuum of Recovery is developed, which should be 3 months to 1 year, then many clients will usually relapse which will eventuate in re-entry to detox, and the cycle begins again. Breaking the cycle of addiction is probably the most difficult thing a human being will do in their lifetime. Ask a smoker who has kicked the nicotine habit and they will tell you that it was a landmark event in their lives. Recovery is not linear. It is full of starts and stops and sometimes requires many attempts. It is important that any system of support, whilst mindful of addictive behaviour, also acknowledges this fact and is supportive instead of punitive.
The major cause of relapse is a failure to follow through on treatment and continuing care. Most people will run back to rehab to “fix themselves” all over again. It’s not rehab they need, it is the ability and the structure to follow through on a recovery plan. Just like any medical and/or psychological condition, recovery from addiction takes time, patience and a singleness of purpose. This is all provided in a support group. I tell people that if they want to know what it is like to be hit by a hammer, to go and ask another nail. This is why self-help groups work so well. Addicted people need to fill the huge periods of time they have on their hands otherwise their heads will ALWAYS go back to wanting to feel “comfortably numb.”