Opioid addiction recovery is a reality for millions of Americans, either as something they need or something they’ve done.
The opioid epidemic in the United States is devastating. Here are some statistics from the US Department of Health and Human Services.1
- 130+ people die every day from opioid overdose
- 4 million people abused prescription opioids
- 42,249 people died in 2017 from opioid overdose
- 17,087 died from commonly prescribed opioids
- 15,649 died from a heroin overdose
- 19,413 died from synthetic opioids other than methadone
Contrast that with the fact that 6,465 people died of AIDS in 2015.
There is a great deal of politics and economics involved in the opioid situation with fingers pointing in every direction, but one fact is indisputable: opioid addiction is one of the hardest challenges to overcome and it’s a lifetime burden.
Understanding how to get started and what is going to happen on the path to recovery is important, both for the addict and for the people who love them.
Not everyone who takes opioids for pain will become addicted. In fact, not everyone who uses heroin will become addicted. Nonetheless, there is a significant percentage that will, so everyone should have a clear view of what opioid addiction looks like.
Drug addiction has some very clear markers. Not everyone will have all of these, but these are the most frequent signs.
- change their friends a lot
- spend a lot of time alone
- choose not to spend time with family and friends like they used to
- lose interest in their favorite things
- not take care of themselves—for example, not take showers, change clothes, or brush their teeth
- be really tired and sad
- have changes in eating habits (eating more or eating less)
- be very energetic, talk fast, or say things that don’t make sense
- be in a bad mood
- quickly change between feeling bad and feeling good
- sleep at strange hours
- miss important appointments
- have problems at work or at school
- have problems in personal or family relationships 2
How to Talk to an Addict
Dealing with a loved one that has an addiction can be frustrating. Often, people will have conversations many times before anything changes. Sometimes, addicts want to change, but don’t know where to start.
The first place to opioid addiction recovery is to find professional help to guide you through a conversation. Drugabuse.gov has a toll-free number (1-800-662-4357) that is staffed 24 hours a day and can help people find professional assistance. Every state has dozens of treatments centers, both inpatient and outpatient, available. If you find that you’re unsure where to turn, try calling your county health department. They will help you find local resources.
While the TV shows often show dramatic family encounters to push an addict toward recovery, it is often much quieter and more tearful.
Particularly with addictions to prescription painkillers where someone’s need to feel better has become a runaway train that they can’t get off of, the conversation is usually one they’ve had with themselves; they just needed someone to guide them to the first step.
The major key to opioid addiction recovery is not to accuse them of moral failings or weakness. These addictions are biological and almost impossible to stop without professional help. Each of us has an addiction of our own, if we really look, whether it’s heroin or beer or books. Some addictions are harmless, but many aren’t.
Be patient. Get professional assistance. Opioid addiction recovery is a long-haul.
If You Have a Drug Problem
If you think you’re addicted to painkillers or other opioids, make the call to 800-662-4357 or you can call a place like Life Center of Galax. Most private insurance companies will pay for your opioid addiction recovery and a place like Galax can accommodate all of your needs. Either, resolve to make the call. It’s usually the only step on this path that you need to do alone. From there, professionals can guide you to recovery; all you have to do is let them do what they do best.
This is a long trip and it will be scary at times. The addiction, like one of those cartoon devils on your shoulder, will be constantly trying to tell you lies. “It won’t work,” “You don’t really want this,” and on and on. It’s lying. It really does often act like some outside force trying to change you. Ignore it and stay the course. You’ll be happier for it.
You’ve already taken the first small step to opioid addiction recovery by reading this article and learning what you can do for yourself.
Finding a Facility
There is really only two considerations in finding the right treatment center: what do you want? and can you pay for it?
What do you want from a treatment center?
There are treatment centers for just about everyone’s wants and needs. There are treatment centers that focus on music, the ocean, simply relaxing, ranch life, and much more. The key is to find what you want and need.
Some important opioid addiction recovery definitions to know going forward:
Inpatient care – Inpatient care is what most people think of as alcohol and opioid addiction recovery. The addict moves into a facility, gets physically clean, and then begins to learn the causes of their addiction. These facilities can range from a hospital like setting to five-star hotel luxury and everything in between. If you live in the US, there is an inpatient facility near you. They’re everywhere.
Outpatient care – If an addict wants to recover while still living at home and in their lives, then they might choose outpatient care. This is often preceded by a few days of detoxification to get the opioids out of their system. Then they will return to their home and start attending counseling, group sessions, doctor visits, and more, while still maintaining their lives.
CEO/Professional care – Many executives suffer from opioid addiction. They don’t want to lose time from their career, but they want to regain control of their lives and their addiction. Many facilities have begun offering CEO recovery that is geared specifically for the jet-set crowd.
Family care – One of the most important parts of opioid addiction recovery is to help the family to be involved in it. Many facilities offer counseling to family members. This is designed to help the family learn to live with a new paradigm, a clean family member, and to unlearn some of their own angers and pains. This type of family treatment helps to create an at-home support system that can keep a recovering addict on the path.
You can find several lists of our recommended rehab facilities in the US on GuideDoc.
Packing for Rehab
Every facility has their own guidelines, but there are some basics that you might want to gather. Anything you’re missing, they can help you find or buy. You’re not alone, so don’t panic if you forgot something or need to buy it. They will help.
- List of contacts – Create list of relatives, with addresses and phone numbers. Include healthcare contacts. If you have 12-Step sponsors put them in there as well.
- Jewelry – A wedding band, watch, or other personal jewelry is fine. Leave everything else at home.
- Prescription medications – These must arrive in their original bottles with the label intact. Liquids should be new and sealed. A list of all your medications and the prescribing doctor should be in with all of this.
- An alarm clock without a radio – You will probably surrender your phone, so you might need an alarm clock. If you don’t have one, contact the center before you buy one. Many have them already.
- Cash – You only need $50 or $100 for store runs or vending machines. Have it all in $1 and $5 bills.
- Your checkbook or credit or debit card to pay for medications.
- Insurance card and photo ID.
- Calling card – Check to see if your facility requires that you use a long-distance calling card. If so, pick one up.
- A journal – You will probably be asked to journal. Find a journal that you might like.
- Envelopes and stamps – In case you want to write letters to loved ones.
- Photos of loved ones – Wallet or small framed pictures are nice for inspiration.
- Reading materials – Chances are this is restricted to recovery, self-help, or spiritual materials, Check with your center about what’s allowed.
Clothing for rehab
There is often a strict dress code. This is because sometimes addicts don’t make good clothing choices.
Call the facility to see what the dress code is. They may also have it online.
It will be wise to plan to bring layers as most places, even in California, will have cooler evenings and mornings.
- Shirts – If you’re bringing tank tops, bring a cardigan or hoodies to comply with the dress code.
- Pants – Jeans, khakis, etc. You might be asked to bring pants that aren’t torn.
- Shorts – Check to see if there is a length requirement.
- Dress clothes – One or two dressier outfits might be needed for some events.
- Comfortable shoes – You will probably be doing a lot of walking, so choose shoes that you can spend all day in.
- Pajamas – Regardless of how you sleep at home, you will be required to wear pajamas to bed.
- Flip flops – Cheap flip-flops are a good idea if you end up using a shared shower.
- Coat or jacket
- Bathing suit – Women are often required to wear a one piece and men are often required to wear “board shorts”.
Packing personal items for rehab
Some facilities will simply give you what you need, from a toothbrush to feminine products. If they don’t, plan on having about a month’s supply.
- Shampoo and conditioner
- Comb or brush
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Hair products – Pump only
- Shaving cream and razor
- Tampons or pads
- Hair ties
What not to pack for rehab
There are a number of things that you simply shouldn’t pack for rehab. All of it is logical. Think like the center and it makes sense. If someone can use something to get high or awaken a negative thought, it’s not allowed.
- Alcohol or drugs
- Aerosol products
- Food or drink
- Sporting equipment
- Video games or DVDs
- Revealing clothes
- OTC medications that aren’t pre-approved
- Nail polish remover
- Candles or incense
- Clothing with profanity, drug or alcohol references, violence, or politics
Prepare to be searched
It stinks, but the arrival to the opioid addiction recovery facility might feel very invasive. The caretakers need to make sure that everything is in order and that no one is sneaking in contraband. If you’re trying to get off of alcohol, you don’t want someone tempting you by bringing in an alcohol-based mouthwash or a bottle of booze.
The folks at the opioid addiction recovery facility are always nice about it, but it’s necessary.
Cell phones, laptops and other connected devices
Every facility is different when it comes to policies regarding electronic devices. If you’re in CEO recovery, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to keep your phone. Other facilities might cut you off, even from family, for a few weeks to give you a chance to clear your head.
Give your treatment center a call and ask them what you can bring and use.
Getting things back
If you bring something expensive that’s prohibited, like a computer, you’ll get it back. If it’s illegal or worth less than a few bucks, they will likely simply throw it out.
When you arrive
Once you’re at the treatment facility, you can relax. There is a team of people who are there to do everything for you. All you have to do is follow their lead and you’ll be fine.
- Phone interview – Chances are that you or a family member will have a phone interview to make sure that the facility is a good fit for you. They will also figure out if you need detox or not and what your medical needs are, at that point.
- Meeting the intake person – There’s usually a counselor who will meet you at the door and will sit with you and talk. It’s their job to make sure that you’re ready to start and ensure that they have want you need. They are friendly and only there to help, but you might be scared. Be honest with them. They can help you much better if they know how you’re feeling.
- Medical checkup – You might be taken to a doctor or a nurse if you need detox or if they have a concern for your health. They will give you a checkup and likely do a drug test. All of this is designed to make it easier for you to transition safely.
- One day at a time – Even though you might not do the 12-step path, this a phrase to hold on to. “One day at a time” is the best way to get through recovery.
- Therapy – You will probably end up in group and individual therapy. There will be times you don’t want to talk and that’s fine. Therapy is important to understand that you’re not alone and that there’s always a reason that you’re where you are.
This is not jail! In fact, for many addicts, this is a way to avoid jail, either for a DUI or drug charges. The people around you aren’t there to punish you, although when the addiction is screaming to be satisfied, it can feel that way. Try to remember that everyone is there to help you.
Overcoming your fear of opioid addiction recovery
If it’s you that is going to treatment or someone you love, it can be scary. It might be disheartening if this is the second, third, or tenth time for rehab.
It’s okay to be scared. The most important thing is going through the front door and letting the professionals help you.