Recovery as a marathon

I have a piece over at The Fix:

Addiction is not an acute illness—like, say, strep throat—that can be treated and cured. Addiction is a chronic illness and, like other chronic illnesses, requires long-term treatment, monitoring and support.

Think of someone suffering from cardiac disease—let’s say your Uncle Bob. He has a heart attack and ends up being admitted to the hospital to get a coronary stent. The surgery is a success and a few days later, he is released from the hospital. Is that the end of the story? Can he just go back to his old life? Hell no, right? He may, or may not, require additional medical treatment or daily medication. If he wants a long and healthy life, he will definitely need to make some major lifestyle changes. Goodbye McDonalds, goodbye salty and fatty foods. Hello portion control, lean meat and veggies. Goodbye lazing around on the couch all day. Hello treadmill, elliptical. Hell, he may even go all out and hire a personal trainer.

If his recovery is to last, it needs to be supported by more than just behavioral changes. He has to undertake a lifestyle change—maybe even an identity change. To fend off his condition, he may need to spend less time with friends who are sedentary and eat poorly. He may need to make new friends that share the active, healthy lifestyle he’s trying to adopt. Support from Aunt Beth will be critical, too. Uncle Bob’s really going to struggle if she insists on maintaining a supply of Oreos around the house. So, in the end, there’s no “completion” for Uncle Bob. The risks to his health are always waiting around the corner. He just has to do his best to fend them off.

Read the rest at The Fix.

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