It is often said that admitting to a problem is half the battle, and that can be true. But what’s the other half? For people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol, the next steps to take are often an intimidating challenge because of lack of awareness about what to do to move forward after the admission that there’s a problem.

It may seem that the first thing to do is stop using drugs or alcohol. However, as many people who have struggled with these substances will tell you, that’s harder than it sounds. Addiction is, at its core, an inability to control or stop use of a substance. Many people who are addicted have tried and then later find themselves right back where they started. Besides, some substances cannot be stopped cold turkey without major risk to the individual; some symptoms of withdrawal can be uncomfortable or downright dangerous.

I Have a Problem: Now What?

Still, there is a path to take – one that will help a motivated but uncertain individual find footing and move forward toward recovery.

Step 1: Make a plan.

Life Skills Training and Relapse Prevention with CBT

Most people who have come to the realization that they have a drug or alcohol problem are itching to act immediately. However, moving forward without a plan can lead to a dead end. For this reason, it can be important to sit down and think through some elements of how to manage and get help for addiction. Coming up with a plan and a list of things to do can help maintain focus and motivation even when things don’t seem to be happening as quickly as the individual might hope, or if roadblocks or challenges get in the way.

Motivation is one of the most important elements of recovering from addiction. As an example, a study from the American Psychological Association demonstrated that people struggling with alcohol were most likely to successfully moderate their drinking habits if they felt a strong confidence level and readiness to change. Setting a plan can strengthen resolve and confidence, and it can also support an individual in achieving long-term recovery from substance abuse or addiction.

Step 2: Reach out.

Many people who struggle with addiction feel they are alone and have to take care of the problem on their own. However, this is not usually the case. There are often people in the individual’s life who are concerned about the drinking or drug abuse and want to help the individual recover. As part of the plan, it can help for the individual to determine which loved ones can be called on for support throughout the recovery process. Consider:

  • Concerned family members
  • Friends who do not use or encourage substance abuse
  • A trusted coworker or boss
  • A doctor or therapist

This is another key element in motivation. Research from the journal Substance Abuse has shown that interpersonal therapy – that is, therapy that helps the individual learn to build and rely on a social support system – can improve confidence and motivation, improving potential outcomes of substance abuse treatment. Having someone to help along the way can certainly also provide a boost when the individual struggling with addiction is feeling less confident or motivated. So, find that person, reach out, and ask for support.

Step 3: Get informed.

Another important part of preparing for recovery from an addiction is getting information about how to stop drug use in the way that is most likely to result in long-term abstinence and addiction management. As described by the Journal of the American Medical Association, addiction is a chronic condition that – like asthma, diabetes, and other chronic health conditions – requires long-term management and treatment. Because of this, research-based rehab programs can provide the education, tools, and skills required for this potentially lifelong addiction management.

The next part of the step is finding the treatment program that has the level of care needed for the individual, as defined by the American Society of Addiction Medicine. Working with a doctor, intake specialist, or other treatment professional to determine the therapies and services most likely to result in a positive outcome can help the individual in achieving the next step: selecting the rehab program.

Step 4: Select a rehab program.

This can be one of the most important steps in recovery, as described in Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide. While many people have stopped using drugs or alcohol without treatment, there are several reasons that this is less likely to work or may otherwise not be a good idea:

Step 5: Undergo detox.

Once the treatment facility has been identified, the first step in treatment is to detox from the substance. Some programs recommend outside sources for this step, while others have in-house detox facilities, but the important thing is to select a program where the detox professionals are connected directly to the treatment facility.

In order to achieve the best chances at a positive outcome, it helps to have a consistent, personalized plan that can help carry the person through treatment. This plan takes into account the individual’s specific needs, starting with intake and detox and continuing through treatment and aftercare. While the plan might be adjusted throughout the process, depending on the person’s specific needs, having all treatment team members on the same page regarding that person’s treatment can provide a level of consistency that improves the individual’s confidence and motivation. According to further research from the American Psychological Association, being able to monitor the individual throughout treatment provides opportunities for improvement in treatment outcomes.

Step 6: Get treatment.

Once the person is in treatment, the previous steps all come together to offer the best chance at recovery for the individual. The culmination of all these steps is continued motivation and confidence that enable full participation and achievement in the treatment program. The skills and capabilities that emerge from this program arise from the following elements of treatment:

Step 7: Embrace recovery.

When all of these steps are concluded, with continued commitment to sobriety, the person will achieve recovery. While relapse is always a possibility with the chronic condition of addiction, continued motivation, support, and adherence to the skills and practices learned in the treatment program can result in long-term recovery, keeping the individual on the path to a brighter future of abstinence and control over the symptoms of addiction.

Embrace recovery.