When it comes to substance abuse, there is no one on earth who would dispute the fact that the first 90 days are not only the hardest to get through but also the most critical to ongoing, long-term recovery. If statistics were to be analyzed, more people relapse within the first few months than they do later in recovery.
There are reasons why those first days are so critical and as the founder of a series of drug rehab treatment centers, Per Wickstrom understands on a personal level just how hard it is to get through those 90 days. Here he looks at what the addict faces so that anyone dealing with addiction or impacted by a loved one or coworker with an addiction, can begin to understand what you might be up against.
Per Wickstrom’s Story
When asked about his own journey to recovery, Per Wickstrom is very up-front and open about his own journey to recovery as a young man. He attributes his entry into the world of addiction to a number of circumstances in his life including the fact that more than 1/3 of the people he knew were addicted to some kind of substance from tobacco to alcohol to illicit drugs. What he feels led him into substance abuse was a feeling of being inadequate that came to fruition when a girlfriend he was involved with left him for his best friend.
From there the journey was downhill until he looked around him and saw what substances were doing to him and those he loved and respected. It was at this point in his life that he began seeking a holistic approach to recovery and found that if you ate well and lived well you could still play hard but without the consequences of substance abuse.
What You Can Expect to Feel on Those First 90 Days – Alienation
The one thing that most addicts are not prepared for is the emotional roller coaster they will be riding during those first 90 days of recovery. Per says you have to keep in mind that along with combating the physical and psychological addiction you need to be ready to deal with a totally new way of life, of living your life with people who may not be ‘disposable.’ Friends you got high with you can avoid, but what about family members you need to face when you come home from detox or a short term intervention program?
Many of these may still be using some form of substance such as wine with dinner, cigarettes, pain killers and prescription sleeping pills or even the lure of a hangover pill. The temptation may be too great to withstand so Per advises doing whatever it takes to go from detox to a long-term program before subjecting yourself to temptations that you are not ready to face. At this point you are feeling alienated from everyone in your life up until now except for perhaps those who are clean and sober and supportive of your efforts towards recovery.
Relearning Life Skills – Endurance
Through all of these conflicting emotions and feelings of alienation, Per Wickstrom says you will also be confronted with a need to relearn life skills – skills that will help you live a healthier lifestyle. Structure is important, in fact, “Just as important as it was when you were a toddler learning to cope with a big world of the unknown all around you,” he says. “Structure is critical in this stage of your recovery. You need set bed times, set times to awaken and a solid routine where you know what you are doing at any point in the day. Meetings are essential and you need to do 30 in 30 and 90 in 90. He also says that it is vital that you stay in contact with your drug rehab counselor.
He goes on to say that “Yes, you need a sponsor but we feel that it is sometimes even more important to maintain a relationship with the counselor from your program who has the credentials to understand the disease (addiction) and verifiable methods of recovery. That’s why we have what we call a year-long aftercare program. Our program has a very, very high success rate which we attribute largely to our highly effective aftercare connection with program graduates.”
The one thing that you should expect in those 90 days that no one can prepare you for is a feeling of loss. It’s like an amnesiac trying to figure out who all these people are in his or her life. Why are they here? Were they important to me at one time and if so why? But, on the bright side, loss can be turned around to a positive force in your life. “You don’t ever want to be on the losing team again and if you really, really focus on this, you can be a winner through every situation you face and every relationship you encounter.” That first 90 days is critical but help is out there. “Don’t face it alone.”