It starts innocently enough. A drink at a party. Trying drugs with friends. First times are usual for social or experimental reasons or both.


An addiction takes root when a dependence is formed – when the substance is no longer purely recreational. Most addicts don’t set out to become addicts, and may even be in denial that they are. Even when an addict recognizes an unhealthy relationship with a substance, quitting isn’t as simple as flipping a switch.


Getting off drugs or alcohol doesn’t need to be something an addict does alone. With the right treatment, recovery is possible. Below, we’ll discuss how an addiction is formed and the best treatment options available, including those at Station House Retreat.


Forming an Addiction


Not all substances are created equal. Just as the effects and potency vary, so does the risk of addiction. But this is for sure: once you’re hooked, you’ll need larger and larger doses to get high. What started out as a tendency to self-sooth after a long shift or a distressing experience becomes something more – you depend on the substance just to feel good. Going without it becomes more and more difficult. You need the substance. You crave it. You feel sick without it.


According to the US Firefighters Association, drug use may be as high as 10% among firefighters. Alcohol use is far more prevalent – among the 112 career firefighters surveyed in the study “Sleep Problems, Depression, Substance Use, Social Bonding, and Quality of Life in Professional Firefighters,” 80% used alcohol (averaging about one to two drinks per day), 56% binge drank (four or more drinks for men; three or more drinks for women) and 14% binge drank multiple times per week. Compare that to the general population, where 55% have had one drink or more in the past month and 17% binge drank.


With substance use comes substance abuse, but it would be wrong to assume that the people who go on to become addicts are somehow morally inferior or lacking in the willpower to quit on their own. Yes, what they are doing is harmful to themselves and potentially others, but the complexity of the disease means that giving up the habit is harder than other lifestyle changes like dieting or maintaining a workout routine. The National Institute of Drug Abuse points out that “drugs change the brain in ways that foster compulsive drug abuse. Quitting is difficult, even for those who are ready to do so.”


Many substance abuse problems arise from what is known as the Cumulative Effect, which states that rather than one isolated, traumatic incident being the root cause of substance abuse, it’s regular day-to-day stress: dealing with some of society’s worst problems, seeing citizens at their most stressed, a lack of resources in your department, feeling like you haven’t done enough, knowing that each new day brings its own unique set of challenges and problems to overcome. Cumulative stress chips away at a person’s mental well-being and has been shown to lead to higher rates of anxiety and depression down the road.


With proper self-care, the Cumulative Effect is manageable. But for those who self-sooth with drugs or alcohol, an addiction can be formed. While the signs of addiction differ from substance to substance, treatment programs involving group therapy, like those at Station House Retreat, have been proven to be helpful in treating dependence and abuse.


Treating Substance Abuse


According to American Society of Addiction Medicine’s Criteria for Addictive, Substance-Related, and Co-Occurring Conditions (Third Edition, 2013), “Participation in group therapy and/or support groups by individuals who have similar work issues and who conduct themselves under the same professional codes for ethical behavior is essential for a return of a healthy self-concept, and for a decreased probability of relapse.”


At Station House Retreat, we provide that environment. These common bonds lend strength to recovering addicts as they address job-specific traumas and personal ordeals. The environment here is safe and supportive, designed with first responder culture and comradery in mind.


We take a holistic, task-model approach to recovery. Our patients overcome specific obstacles and increase their ability to manage their emotions without a need for the false relief provided by drugs and alcohol. Once the client completes the program, our clinical team creates a personal aftercare plan. We coordinate with the client’s home community to ensure that the right resources are in place for continued recovery.


Types of Treatment


Here are some of the treatments for recovering addicts offered by Station House Retreat:


Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Cognitive Behavioral Therapy builds an understanding of the relationship between a person’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Clients identify negative thought patterns and behavioral cycles while gaining positive coping skills and learning new ways of replacing maladaptive thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.


Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a skills-based therapy that focuses on distress tolerance, mindfulness, regulation of emotions, and interpersonal effectiveness. DBT helps people learn to manage their emotions by providing them with skills to remain in the present moment, to interact and to communicate with others, and to help maintain a sense of control.


Rapid Reduction Technique (RRT). Available for clients who have experienced significant trauma, Rapid Reduction Technique is a memory management skill that removes the emotional potency, intensity, and charge of flashbacks, nightmares and other intrusive memories. RRT allows the client’s brain to revisit, process, reset, and create emotional closure.


Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT). Cognitive Processing Therapy is an adaptation of CBT used to explore recovery from posttraumatic stress disorder and related conditions. CPT helps clients by giving them a new way to handle distressing thoughts, gain an understanding of these events and change the way they look at the world, themselves, and others.


Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). Available for clients who have experienced significant, unresolved trauma, EDMR helps patients process disturbing memories. This is done in an eight-phase approach that includes recalling distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, including side to side eye movements.


Psychoeducation. Psychoeducation is a therapeutic focus in which clients learn practical and positive emotional and behavioral skills to improve life adjustment, management of emotions and self-awareness.


Stages of Change. Stages of Change is a therapeutic process based on the concept that behavior is modified in stages. While the time spent in each stage is variable, the tasks required to move to the next stage are not.


Motivational Interviewing. Motivational Interviewing serves as a form of collaborative conversation that motivates while strengthening a person’s commitment to change. It is designed to push a person towards a specific goal by eliciting and exploring the person’s own reasons for change within an atmosphere of acceptance and compassion.


Nonverbal, Art, and Music Therapy. Music bypasses our thought process and is used as a way to help people identify difficult feelings. Art therapy accesses emotions in much the same way that music does. Often the act of creating a collage, a mask or a drawing of our stressors and dreams can bring about new levels of understanding. These discoveries can accelerate the healing process.


Recreational Therapy. Recreational therapy is provided by a team of dedicated professionals that provide opportunities for outings, sports activities and social skill building games. The residents have the opportunity to channel energy, while practicing focus and concentration, as they work toward team or individual goals.


The therapy process, at its heart, is more than an intervention. It is more than detox. It is an attempt to identify the underlying problems of addiction. Substance abuse is merely the outward sign of internal smolder. A firefighter takes part in treatment to extinguish the flames of personal anguish, stymie addiction and learn the early warning signs of encroaching relapse.

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