In this article, I’m going to discuss a topic that needs more attention. It has to do with how you think about the timeframe it will take to recover from opioid dependence.
Over six years ago, I finally got clean off opiates after years of my severe addiction and numerous failed attempts at quitting.
Then I made it my Life’s Purpose & Mission to help others detox from opioids and feel better fast.
I got my foot in the door by becoming a Certified Substance Abuse Counselor at a popular Opiate Treatment Program 15 minutes away from my home.
“Sprinting” To Get Clean
At the methadone clinic, I met with over 500 patients, either to do their intake and/or provide individual or group counseling. A common theme was patients wanting to end their addiction right away after signing up.
Many people wanted to begin a fast taper off their medication within a few days of enrolling. And a lot of times these were individuals that had long-term, severe opioid dependence.
I know the feeling of wanting to get clean FAST.
It’s what I wanted in my own addiction as well.
So I really empathize with people wanting to end it quickly. Sometimes it’s possible to have a miraculous recovery on the first try.
More commonly, it takes 2-7 attempts at quitting before a person gets off opioid drugs long-term.
Opioid dependence wreaks havoc on your brain chemistry, so people typically feel pretty bad for weeks to months or longer after detoxing.
Left untreated, the brain can take seemingly forever to start producing adequate amounts of dopamine, endorphins, and other important neurotransmitters after a person successfully transitions 0ff opioids.
Lingering symptoms such as:
Most opioid-dependent individuals think they just need to get through the acute withdrawal and are unaware of a phenomenon known as Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS).
PAWS is the main reason most people relapse before they get 90 days clean.
It can be really challenging to stay off opioids when you’re experiencing severe fatigue and anhedonia.
One time I got off opiates for almost five months.
But I still didn’t have energy or motivation, and since I was a single dad that worked full-time as a cook at a busy restaurant in upstate New York…
I needed ENERGY, so I decided to start using again, which instantly gave me that energy, happiness, and relief of anxiety that I was desperately wanting to experience.
In my opinion, post-acute symptoms are why it’s difficult for people to “sprint to recovery.” They don’t understand that even if they have a relatively easy time going through the acute withdrawal, it almost always takes a couple of weeks or longer to get their energy back.
And since most of us either work, take care of kids, or both, we can become extremely prone to feeling incapable of having so many important responsibilities and keeping them when we’re so exhausted.
The “Marathon Metaphor”
Now that I’ve covered the topic of “sprinting to recovery,” let’s discuss the opposite end of the spectrum. When I say “marathon,” I mean viewing opiate recovery as a process that could take six weeks, six months, or even longer.
In my online course Ultimate Opiate Detox 2.0, I provide the simple strategies you can use to have a relatively painless withdrawal.
I also provide detailed yet simple information that can allow you to significantly reduce and shorten the duration of post-acute symptoms.
However, after going through the acute and the post-acute phases, there is still one more phase to consider and plan for.
That phase is called “Relapse Prevention.”
I describe Relapse Prevention as “learning and/or developing adaptive coping tools for living a fulfilled life without the use of opioids.”
Common relapse prevention tools include:
Again, I’ve seen some people quit opioid drugs quickly and on their first attempt, without major effort and time. Much more commonly, opiate addiction recovery is a marathon.
I’ve broken the process down to four phases, which are:
- Phase 1 – Strategic Learning & Planning
- Phase 2 – Acute Detox
- Phase 3 – Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome
- Phase 4 – Relapse Prevention
As you can see, opiate recovery is a linear path with multiple stages and hurdles. And for most of us (myself included), it very often takes several attempts to get through these stages before we finally create long-term recovery and psychological well-being.
And during this process, a person could ruin their lives…or even die.
It’s just too sad for me to think about all of the people that are suffering from opiate addiction.
And that’s why I created this website over four years ago, which now has over 300 free articles and two free online courses that contain valuable strategies for helping anyone conquer their opioid dependence for good.
After learning about the difference between the “sprint” and “marathon” methods of recovery, you can now think about the benefits of approaching opiate recovery with more of a marathon mindset.
You might fail the first, second, or even third attempt or more.
Don’t give up.
Learn from your mistakes and keep trying until you achieve your goal of being clean from the use of opioid drugs.
Additionally, develop and nurture self-compassion while you’re going on this journey.
It’s so important to not beat yourself up or think negatively of yourself.
Instead, develop these skills while you’re beating opioid dependence:
- Persistence (or better yet…RELENTLESSNESS)
I promise these skills will pay off for you big time in the long run if you make a conscious effort to enhance and maintain them consistently over time.
If you have any comments or questions about sprinting or marathoning to your recovery, please post them in the comment box below. Please take good care of yourself, and I wish you the best of luck!!!