As an Addiction Medicine physician I am pleased that we now have at our disposal several medications effective against the deadly disease of Addiction. That being said, there is much more to Recovery than taking a pill. It is easy for both patients and physicians to become complacent and lazy, not realizing that Recovery is being taken for granted and hangs by the thin thread of the next prescription.
The evidence that medication assisted treatment is far more successful in opioid addiction than group or individualized talk therapy alone is powerful and unequivocal. However, the flip side is true as well. An individual who only takes medication for his/her addiction without the addition of CBT or other psychologically based therapeutic modality will likely relapse and will have a very hard time discontinuing the medications we prescribe as a bridge to sobriety.
One can argue over the value of one type of therapy over another, but the fact is that such therapy – whichever modality you choose - is an important part of Recovery.
An often overlooked component of Recovery is the role of Community. Community is whatever you define it to be. What is clear, however, is that if your community is predominantly comprised of those who abuse drugs or engage in other dangerous behaviors you will have a hard time maintaining sobriety. Yet, giving up “community” is not a good option either as loneliness and isolation are side roads leading right back onto the highway of drug addiction. What one must do instead is to replace your old community with a new one that will support a sober lifestyle.
One can find community in a number of ways – outpatient treatment programs, AA, and NA are just a few options. These communities are location-specific and require an individual to attend an activity in person. This works well for those comfortable in new social situations but what about the approximately 40% of addicts who have some degree of social phobia. The stress of being thrown into that environment may simply be too much, especially early in Recovery when they need as much support as possible.
For these people, the best answer to the question of how to build a personal Community early in Recovery may be those that are found online. With these online communities, the addict can choose his/her level of engagement. He/she can tailor his/her involvement to
what makes him/her comfortable. Hopefully, over time these online social interactions will increase the addict’s comfort level with specific individuals with whom he/she has interacted online. Eventually in -person meetings with such supportive individuals may be possible allowing the addict to engage in sober social activities that would previously have caused significant anxiety.
There are several communities on Facebook that impress me. Here are a few.
I Hate Heroin – run by a mom who knows the struggles of addiction first hand
Heroin Addiction Support – what I like about this page is that he moderator understands the role of medicine in the treatment of Addiction.
Let me know if you find these links to be helpful. And of course feel free to contact me if I can help lead you or someone else back to a path of sobriety and happiness.