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Hope for the holidays: Myths about addiction and recovery debunked

The holidays can be a tough time for people struggling with addiction. Here are some tips for seeking help, according to a King County mental health expert.

SEATTLE — Even in a normal year, the holidays can bring a mix of emotions. This year, we’re feeling the intensity of separation and social isolation. For some, that means drinking more and using drugs.

Maurice Lee, the chief operating officer of Navos, a nonprofit providing mental health services organization in south King County, dispels some myths about addiction and treatment.

Learn the signs of a substance use disorder 

To start, Lee says know the signs of substance use disorders. There is a difference between someone who has had too much and someone who has a problem. Frequent drinking or substance use might be a phase for some and a sign of addiction for others. 

  • Be aware of your family history and genetics.
  • Indicators of a substance use problem can include behavior that crosses the line or gets physical, inability to meet responsibilities and missing work, family connections and other important parts of life.

Don’t wait to hit rock bottom 

Waiting for yourself or someone you love to hit rock bottom is the wrong thing to do. Lee says just like any disease, early intervention is one of the best methods to a successful recovery. Once you recognize that you or someone you love has a problem, get help.

Getting help for a substance use problem is different from medical health problems because the diagnosis process is different.

“It takes a lot of courage to ask for help,” said Lee. “It’s best to seek treatment before you’ve lost your support systems like your job, your home and your family. These are the systems that help bolster you through recovery and can make the process easier.”

If you are a family member of someone with substance use disorder, Lee advises you to stay connected – even if your loved one’s behavior becomes intolerable. He says create healthy distance for yourself, and if possible, remain in touch. This can help your loved one when she or he seeks treatment and through the recovery process.

Lee reminds us, that for some, relapses are part of the process. Instead of judging yourself, or a loved one, choose support. Substance use disorders are a disease and not a moral failure. Just like a reoccurrence of any disease, seek treatment from a health professional.

News ways to treat substance use disorders 

In the past, many substance use counselors believed medication should not be part of the addiction treatment process. But, the detox only approach is not the best for everyone who struggles with substance use disorders.

Today, care professionals use a variety of treatment approaches and methods. One method used at Navos blends the use of therapy and medication. Lee says this approach to treatment can help to regulate body and brain chemistry. 

He also says that post treatment, many people in recovery can still have medication. It is important to talk with a doctor about medications and communicate about a history of substance use disorder.