When you talk with an addiction treatment professional or a clinical professional like a therapist, counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist, many of them might highlight the importance of clinical approaches and techniques to help an individual overcome their addiction or substance use disorder. And while there is vital importance played by therapeutic approaches like CBT, DBT, trauma-informed care, and other clinical approaches, there is much more that goes into someone not only receiving treatment for addiction, but also overcoming that addiction and finding long-term health, healing, and sustainable recovery.


It should be mentioned that clinical therapeutic approaches and interventions are absolutely key in the treatment of addiction. A multi-pronged clinical approach that meets a patient where they are, supports their clinical needs, and helps take them to a better understanding and approach to themselves, the world around them, and their reaction to both is vital. If a person cannot uncover, discover, and discard the things that are blocking them from health, wellness, freedom, and serenity, long-term recovery will never be possible. Healing trauma and emotional pain, learning new and positive coping mechanisms, and engaging in and utilizing many different therapeutic approaches and modalities is the first step in treatment of addiction and for individuals to overcome a substance use disorder. They are also important to incorporate long after a treatment episode ends.


However, there may be a factor to long-term recovery from addiction that is as important as the clinical work that takes place in treatment: a process that includes the patient’s vision for their future self that includes goal setting and life planning. A process that envisions where they want to be in the future, that includes their personal recovery, happiness, quality of life, hopes, dreams, meaning, and purpose, and the steps they will take to achieve that vision.


The idea that a patient receiving treatment for addiction or substance use disorder needs to have a vision for themselves in the future is a powerful tool to helping patients achieve not only sobriety or recovery from addiction but also a high quality of life. While the clinical work a patient will engage in while in treatment is vital, through that clinical work a patient also must begin to believe that A) they are worthy of recovery, B) recovery is available, obtainable, and accessible to them, and C) that the sobriety they often fear of a life without drugs and alcohol will not only be not uncomfortable and scary, but rather exciting, enjoyable, and fun. Underneath that umbrella, a patient needs to be able to see not simply a life without drugs and alcohol, but rather an enjoyable, fulfilling life that they are able to live free and comfortably, making the past needs of drugs and alcohol unnecessary.


The phrase “go slow to go far” certainly applies to this concept. Most individuals that enter treatment, as well as their loved ones, are looking for a quick fix. The idea that addiction has been so painful and detrimental, with an abundance of consequences, that people simply want to addiction to stop and recovery to occur. However, we know that addiction and substance use disorder don’t work that way. First, we know that there are always underlying causes and conditions to address and that the drug and alcohol use or misuse is simply a symptom of a greater issue. We also know that addiction is a chronic, progressive brain disease that will require long-term maintenance and management to overcome, like other chronic medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes. Therefore, while the drug and alcohol use can be physically stopped during treatment and many of the underlying issues uncovered, acknowledged, and begun to be address during a treatment episode, the long-term recovery cannot happen immediately in an acute setting like a short-term detox or traditional 28-da7 inpatient or residential treatment center setting. In a long-term extended care treatment model, these can be better addressed, but the sustainable, long-term recovery must come from the utilization of tools learned in treatment.  Which is why, while in addiction treatment, the need to prepare for a higher quality of life through goal setting and life planning are so important.


In treatment, a patient will learn ways to identify attitudes, behaviors, and thought processes that in the past have been detrimental. They will also learn healthy coping mechanisms, better decision-making, and ways of looking at and approaching ideas and situations differently, all of which they will then be able to put into practical application and action once they leave treatment (and in some cases, while still in treatment.) These then will hopefully become habitual, becoming the baseline by which the patient operates and acts on, as opposed to the detrimental thought patterns, emotions, and behaviors they displayed during active addiction. By creating a more positive, healthy outlook, they can then begin to create a healthy, positive change that will ripple out into every aspect of their life.


However, this sounds very easy when in the safe, supportive environment of a rehab or an addiction treatment center. The issues occur once someone leaves treatment. So, by incorporating a vision for their life while in treatment, they can begin the process of goal setting and life planning that will set them up for future success once they leave the safe confines of rehab. This centers on the ideas of personal growth, dreams, motivation, education, career or work life, family, positive social support, financial stability and goals, and living environment. While a patient, while in treatment, certainly may not have a specific idea of exactly what they would want their life to look like, all patients have a general idea of what an ideal life looks like after treatment while living in recovery.


So, what should this vision for the future generally look like for a patient receiving treatment and care for addiction or co-occurring disorder? Initially, it should be broken down into shorter-term and longer-term goals that include goal setting, strategic planning, and overall life goals. Of course, it is important that in both short-term and long-term, the individual is planning on a life of qualify, abundance, freedom, and happiness. In the short-term, goals should include safe, stable housing, education or employment (or both), financial security, healthy family, social, and/or romantic relationships, health and wellness activities, and ongoing support in a chosen recovery community. Does the patient want to further their education? Do they have stable housing? Can they pay their bills? Do they have a chosen field or career? How are the relationships they have with loved ones? These are some of the important questions to ask to help the individual create what they ideally want they life to look.


Once they have that vision, they can begin setting attainable goals and an action plan in regard to achieving those things. If they need a GED or had to leave college, what are the steps they need to take to reenroll and meet their academic goals? If they are unemployed or working a job that isn’t supportive, what steps do they need to change jobs or careers? Do they have a health and wellness routine that they stick to? These questions can all be answered, and a plan put in place.


In the meantime, future goal setting and life planning can be made. How is this person in terms of their regular health routine? Do they take necessary and important preventive steps for their health? Do they have a primary care physician they see regularly? Do they have any acute or chronic medical conditions they need to receive necessary care and support for and, if so, do they have a doctor or specialist that it guiding their care? Are they engaging in meaningful activities socially or do they want to slowly change what that looks like? Is there ongoing relationship work that needs to take place with a spouse, children, parents, or extended family? If they have a chosen career, but they’ve decided that it would be best to switch careers, what steps need to be taken and what support will be needed?


Finally, are the long-term goals. Patients should be asked what they want their life to look like in 5 years. In ten years? In 15 or 20 years? Are they a young adult that wants a spouse and children? Do they want to own a home? Do they have a passion they want to follow? Do they have a yearning to be something or work in a specific field? What drives their passion? What excites them and gets them enthusiastic to wake up in the morning? Do they have purpose, meaning, direction, and fulfillment? What do they think will help them create those things? Each goal setting and life planning step should build upon itself, creating a foundation that can grow to help the individual achieve a life worth living, a life the individual is proud of and wants more than any drink or drug.


It is through these important ideas that a patient in need of help for addiction can begin to visualize a life for themselves free of drugs and alcohol. But more so than a sober life or a life of a person in recovery, they can visualize a life that they want to live, full of passion and purpose. By creating that vision, and planning appropriately on how to achieve it step-by-step, that individual will no longer fear a life without drugs and alcohol, but rather will enthusiastically go after that life with a vigor and excitement. Supported by ongoing clinical work and personal recovery, they will create a life worth living where sobriety isn’t the goal, but rather the byproduct.


If you or someone you know needs help for addiction or co-occurring disorder issues, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive dual diagnosis addiction treatment in the Mid-Atlantic area. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center has been treating patients in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington D.C. and across the country for many years. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at info@marylandaddictionrecovery.com. For more information on all of our drug addiction, alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorder services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com.

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