Addictions to drugs, alcohol, and behaviors such as gambling or obsession with food or pornography are difficult to treat, and recovery programs may be needed for years after the initial treatment.
The best-known recovery programs are run by 12-step groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Gamblers Anonymous (GA), which have 12 steps or stages every member needs to complete. In these programs recovering addicts attend regular meetings and agree to abstain from their addiction for life. Other recovery programs take a different approach but can be equally effective.
The first 12-step program was originally designed to help recovering alcoholics stay sober. These recovery programs were later extended to help in addiction to other substances and behaviors. Meetings are held around the country, and members are encouraged to attend at least once or twice a week. Attendance and access to resources is free.
Recovering addicts follow 12 steps to recovery, which include surrendering to a “higher power” and accepting their own powerlessness over their alcohol or drug addiction. They are also asked to make amends to anyone they have hurt through their addictive behaviors. The steps are designed to prevent a relapse by building a new life that is not centered on their previous addiction.
Each new member is supported by a sponsor who can give one-to-one help, and by the other members, who share their experiences and their skills and coping mechanisms. More information is available at 12step.org.
The 12-step programs are not right for everyone, and other recovery programs work better for some people. Among these is SMART Recovery, a self-empowering recovery support group that teaches recovery strategies based on the latest scientific research. Their 4-point program applies to all kinds of addictions to substances or behaviors. Support is provided online and in face-to-face meetings held around the globe.
The first point in SMART recovery is building and maintaining motivation to remain free of the addiction. The second is coping with urges and the cravings to return to addictive behaviors. The third point teaches recovering addicts to manage their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and the final point is living a balanced life that has no need for addictions.
Music can have a huge impact on recovering addicts since it affects emotions and moods and can help as an addition to any recovery program. It can lift the spirits and enables people to communicate their own feelings to others. Music therapy is a growing area in addiction and other emotional times such as at the end of life and in coping with grief. It can include listening, singing, drumming, dancing, and also writing music in a controlled environment under the guidance of a trained music therapist. No previous musical ability is required.
Benefits of music therapy include reducing stress, encouraging relaxation, lifting depression, boosting the immune system, and lowering blood pressure. It can also help recovering addicts communicate and deal with anxiety. Listening to music can create a meditative state, improve concentration, and produce optimism in the mind of the listener. Creating music can provide an outlet for destructive urges associated with withdrawal.
Another recovery therapy that is becoming popular is restorative yoga, which can also be combined with most other recovery programs. Yoga uses postures and controlled breathing to increase the body’s flexibility and calm the mind. It can give a recovering addict a greater sense of control and provide an effective coping mechanism for cravings and the irritability that often accompanies withdrawal.