If you ask anybody who has suffered from an addiction what the road to recovery is like, they will likely tell you that it’s extremely difficult and uncomfortable. From the physical discomfort to the lack of hope they consistently feel, being trapped in addiction can seem scary and overwhelming. It doesn’t help that the alcohol industry (among others) benefits from addictions and seems to do all it can to foster them.
It’s no secret that the road to recovery is a long and difficult one. But on the bright side, it’s been said that “nothing worth having comes easy,” and that is especially true for addiction recovery. Substance abuse addictions adversely affect almost every part of people’s lives, but all of the negative effects they bring can be reversed through hard work and strict abstinence.
It doesn’t take very long for those effects to begin to manifest—after just one year of abstinence, people who once suffered from even the most severe addictions have reported miraculous positive changes in every aspect of their lives.
Of course, substance abuse addictions negatively affect physical health. Substances like drugs and alcohol have adverse side effects and vary depending on the substance abused and the length and duration of the addiction. However, with most addictions, there are secondary side effects as well, such as a decline in hygiene and difficulty sleeping. If someone who struggled with an addiction abstained for one year, their physical health would likely improve in some or all of the following ways:
Better oral hygiene and the health benefits it brings. Their teeth would be less yellow, their gums less black. As they recommit to taking better care of themselves, their mouths will look and feel much better. There are plenty of health benefits correlated to good oral hygiene that will help the person feel much better.
Normal weight. Substance abuse addictions often cause weight loss or weight gain that can be reversed as the user abstains from the substances.
Better overall hygiene. They’ll shower more, use deodorant, keep their hair trimmed, and even dress better. People who are engulfed in addictions often either don’t think about or care about their physical appearance and as they begin to abstain from using, they will start to look as good as they feel.
Mental health problems often accompany substance abuse disorders. The point of most substances is to alter people’s minds (often as a coping mechanism to escape their problems). The mind-altering substances have negative side-effects, including an increase in suicidal thoughts and risk of depression. If someone who frequently abused substances abstained for one year, they would likely:
- Have far fewer suicidal thoughts
- Be able to think more clearly
- Overcome the depression that their substance abuse caused
- Be able to think more clearly
Substances frequently cause their abusers to withdraw from people. In addition to the abuser’s sudden disposition for social interaction, the interactions they do have are tainted by their agitated state and irritability. The combination of their antisocial behaviors and their unpleasant personalities often causes abusers to damage their relationships with their friends, family members, and loved ones. If, however, they were to abstain for one year, their relationships would improve drastically. They would:
- Enjoy spending time with people again
- Be less irritable, argumentative, and aggressive
- Be more willing to discuss their feelings
- Have an increased desire to establish and maintain healthy relationships
- Occupational Health
Most people who suffer from addictions have difficulty finding or keeping a job. Their addictions negatively impact their lives and behavior enough for them to not be appealing to employers. Many addicts cannot abstain from their substances for eight hours at a time, making it impossible for them to get a full-time job. Others resort to stealing money or resources from their workplace which promptly gets them fired. There are many other ways in which addictions negatively impact people’s occupations, but if the person were to abstain for one year, they would be able to reverse the effects. They would:
- Be able to think, act, and speak clearly
- Be less likely to steal things from their employer
- Be more motivated to find and keep a job
- Work harder and for longer periods of time
Substance abuse addictions almost always adversely affect people’s spirituality. Most people, in an attempt to feel less guilty about their addictive behavior, decide to stop believing in a higher power. Others become cynical and begin only to believe in themselves. Other people stop going to their respective churches out of a desire to not be judged. Regardless of the individual circumstance, it remains true that spiritual problems almost always accompany addictions. If a struggling person were to stop abusing for one year, they would:
- Regain their belief in a higher power, whatever it may be
- Work toward improving their relationship with their higher power
- Hold themselves accountable for their actions and seek forgiveness from their higher power, themselves, and others
While addictions do negatively affect people’s lives, they can be overcome. Even people with severe addictions and no hope in themselves or their future have overcome addictions and rebuilt their lives. Addiction recovery is a long-term process and often requires long-term treatment to solve, but it is absolutely possible—and undoubtedly worth it.