What is Abstinence?

What is Abstinence?

People sometimes hear the word "abstinence" in the context of recovery. A term that describes one of the pillars to quality life after addiction or alcohol dependence. Abstinence is a term used in mental health treatment to describe the process of abstaining from addictive substances and/or behaviors by not engaging in or avoiding them. An individual is said to be abstinent or abstaining if they don't do the addictive thing at all, either for a long time or for a short time. 

Individuals in our PHP or IOP care plans or those receiving MeRT are required to abstain from mood or mind altering substances and behaviors while receiving our care. Some may be addicted to drugs and alcohol and are here in treatment to make a permanent change because the costs outweigh the benefits. Some stop because battling the effects of alcohol and drug and process addiction has led to a cycle of being sick and tired. Without a plan of recovery that goes along with the cessation of drugs and alcohol, many people white-knuckle their days trying to hang on or become a “dry drunk.” Being a "dry drunk" means that the person may have stopped drinking. However, they will be the same conflicted person that does not have any way to cope with the reasons why they began drinking in the first place.

There are ways to cope with the ramifications that addiction yields. Having a recovery plan before times get tough can be the very thing that prevents relapse and prompts a healthy replacement behavior.

Be willing

All you need is a speck of willingness to change from sobriety to recovery. The difference between recovery and sobriety is that you are willing to work through the issues that ignited your addiction initially while changing your addictive behaviors to give yourself a chance at long-term sobriety. Long-term abstinence is one of the most effective methods to demonstrate that a substance no longer has power over a person. Being sober entails more than not being intoxicated. Sobriety also entails being sensible and sincere.

Find support - from nature and new friends

Family, friends, coworkers, participants in recovery meetings like Celebrate Recovery or AA, sponsors, and therapists are all examples of support. You cannot conquer sobriety alone, that path is fraught with secrets and isolation which could further a mental health disorder. Even though it's difficult, expressing emotions related to schedule changes like abstinence during PHP or IOP or MERT, can help you understand your body more and increase self-awareness.  Accepting responsibility for the results only requires subtle changes today. For example, if 5P always meant having a shot or going home to stream on a screen, today, insert a 20 minute walk outside instead then check in with yourself and see how you feel.

Being outdoors and moving can help with memory, imagination and overall hope. Additionally, joining and being involved in a recovery community is important because it allows for the development of relationships between individuals who have similar experiences and can relate to one another. Remember that a support system isn't just there to help you get through the terrible times; it's also there to help you celebrate the good times. Asking for someone to listen often teaches us how to be a good listener too. Remember, one way through a hard day is to notice how many times you start ruminating on a cognitive distortion or a craving and where possible set your gaze on something outdoors rather than a screen. Experiment with this, you will meet new people! Nature and looking up have quite the impact on temporary or permanent abstinence.

Set realistic goals

When we decide that now is the moment to stop using, we're typically possessed with a ferocious fear of never enjoying things again. Focus on realistic, short-term goals in the early stages of mental health. You'll boost your drive to change by focusing on an abstinence goal you can easily achieve, bolstered by your early accomplishments. One full week (seven days of sobriety) is a common first goal, whereas binge drinkers may choose to aim for a period of abstinence twice as long as the average time between binges (if binges are usually separated by two weeks, shoot for four weeks of abstinence). A clinician will give you some things to work on during these changes and you will be surprised about what you can achieve by making just a few subtle changes to your routines and environment.

Make changes

No one really wants to change. We start to find comfort in the predictable, the familiar. Yet, "Nothing changes if nothing changes.” The middle ground is about putting sleep, healthy people movement and nutrition higher on your priority list. Small shifts from one week to the next. Pause to notice how you feel. It’s ok not to feel great, but it’s not ok to pretend you are great. If no one really wants to change, how are olympians forged and how do great companies emerge? Consistency. After 4 or 5 months, you have learned a lot. Now, stay consistent with what you notice working. When your body gives you feedback, write it down so you can look back on what led to the best results. 

Ready to recover?

Solstice Pacific understands how tough abstinence looks from the outside. We do know, however, that abstinence is often associated with a successful recovery and a high quality of life. We are dedicated to helping people take charge of their own rehabilitation. Begin your journey with us by completing this brief assessment and verifying your insurance coverage.

Abstinence is a great place to start when you are determined to create a lifestyle for health. Preventing chronic illness starts with tuning into your body. If internal feedback or self-awareness feels like a far off idea, we can help. The time and money you can save by helping yourself now rather than later is incalculable. Abstinence will help you notice more of your feelings and patterns as you make a long term plan.

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