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Fighting Addiction? Commit to a New You in the New Year

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The New Year is full of possibilities and promises. We’ll eat more broccoli and stop using the treadmill as a coat rack. We’ll count to 10 when our spouse gets on our nerves. We’ll skip Starbucks and tuck that money away for a rainy day. We’ll flush the pills or pour the whiskey down the drain – for good.

Researchers have found that turning the page on the calendar – whether to a new year, a birthday, or another significant date – prompts people to create new goals and set high expectations about their motivation levels. However, as anyone who’s ever made a New Year’s resolution knows, these self-promises rarely lead to permanent change.

Scientific research on the topic is scarce, but the mainstream media routinely reports that 80% of resolutions fall by the wayside by the end of January, and only 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals.

“In initiating any good habit, people usually fail within 30 days,” says Bronwyn McInturff, director of the UAB Medicine Addiction Recovery Program. The same holds true for those who feel they’re ready to tackle their addiction. “It’s not that substance use disorders are different – it’s that they’re deadly.”

More than Willpower

Those with substance use disorders face a difficult challenge in overcoming it. “Willpower alone is not a pathway to success,” McInturff says. “Abstaining from a substance is the first step, not the last step.”

Instead, she advises those wanting a fresh start to create a plan to build a long-term support system. “A good plan beats good intentions every time,” she says.

The UAB Medicine Addiction Recovery Program is available to adults age 18 and up. It offers inpatient care for 7-12 days, followed by an intensive outpatient program that can last 4-12 weeks. “The brief inpatient detox gives people a safe place to transition off of drugs or alcohol,” McInturff says. After this medically managed program, those in outpatient recovery participate in weekday morning programs. “Physically, recovery takes time,” she says. “Often, four weeks pass before people are able to make the shift and accept the work of recovery.”

Once patients complete the outpatient program, UAB Medicine Addiction Recovery provides up to two years of continuing care, which includes individual and family therapy, professional evaluations, and personalized recommendations. “We understand that people have different circumstances and schedules, so we develop tailored plans that align with best practices in substance use disorder treatment,” McInturff says.

A formal treatment plan gives those in recovery a proven, relatively easy-to-follow roadmap, though McInturff acknowledges that people battling substance use disorders don’t always have the money for such services.

“There are many communities made up of people who have experience with substance use disorders,” she says. “There are sober support communities, for example, and self-help groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.” In such groups, members attend regular meetings, select a sponsor who’s walked a similar path, and work their recovery plan. “These groups don’t cost a penny,” McInturff says.

Build a Healthy Life

The most commonly used substances used by those seeking treatment at UAB Addiction Recovery are:

  • Alcohol
  • Opiates such as heroin, Vicodin, fentanyl, OxyContin, and other pain pills
  • Marijuana
  • Benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Klonopin, and Ativan

McInturff is quick to point out that recovery is about more than just stopping drugs or alcohol. “The point is to build a healthy life so that one enjoys life,” she says.

To that end, the New Year provides new opportunities. For example, McInturff says, “the first year is for getting sober, the second year may be for quitting smoking, and the third year might be for a healthier diet. As someone spends more time in recovery, their definition of recovery expands to incorporate new behaviors and healthy habits.”

Visit uabmedicine.org/addiction to learn more about UAB Medicine Addiction Recovery and for information and links to resources that can help you overcome substance use.