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How I Completed Drug Abuse Treatment

Created by Martin Fritzen

How I Completed Drug Abuse Treatment

My will and attitude
In November of 2009 I was ready to change my life. I was tired of being dependent on the drugs, and my will and attitude carried me through. I was living in a small town in Denmark and receiving outpatient treatment at the local rehabilitation center for eight months. I was put on a special drug treatment program where physical activity and health were a large component of the treatment. My team was made up of 15 members who met at the center four times a week. I started treatment at the end of November in 2009 and became clean in February of 2010. In July of 2010, I completed my treatment plan at the center.

The treatment process consisted of sports and many other activities. We went to the gym several times a week. We did spinning, weight training, badminton and yoga. When spring and summer came, we drove to the beach and went swimming and played beach volleyball. At the drug rehabilitation center we were given individual sessions with a therapist. We also had group sessions, lessons in food, diet, habits, abuse, psychology, feelings and much more. The treatment center provided all of the help and guidance I had hoped for and beyond.

Even on my first day of treatment at the center I knew I would do everything in my power to become drug-free and complete the treatment process. My will was stronger than ever, and I had aligned my life with the drug treatment program. Nothing was more important to me than to complete the treatment this time. I had been an addict for more than 13 years and had experienced so much pain in my life: three suicide attempts and three treatment attempts to become drug-free. It had to be now!

I paid for my small apartment with my sick leave and welfare checks. I severed my relationships with those who were bad influences on me and started to look for new, good people, who I could seek support from. I told my close circle of family and friends that I had started treatment and they supported me.
I made sure that the challenges and people that were a burden to me, irritated me, or were bad for me in any way were severed from my life. I made sure that my daily routines were as peaceful and positive as possible. I frequented the drug treatment center, and looked for more positive people and experiences to include in my life.

My mind was determined to persevere through the treatment process. That meant that when I was in rehabilitation and had withdrawals, or just had a bad day, I wouldn't waste my time complaining. I wasn't moaning about lack of sleep, aches and pains, or that I had constant diarrhea and nausea for six months.

I didn't self-medicate with Advil, Aspirin or other medications, like sleeping pills. I knew that it was going to be tough, and that my body and brain were going to freak out. It would hurt and I probably wouldn't sleep very much--I knew all of this. I didn't think that it would be good for me to take Aspirin or Advil to sedate the pain from the withdrawals.
That was my attitude towards my treatment--nothing was more important to me than becoming drug-free, nothing!

The people at the rehab center
I went to the drug rehabilitation center four days a week for eight months. We were there from morning until evening. I got to know the staff, therapists, doctors, nurses, psychologists, coaches and many other people. They were all kind and competent people who wished the best for their patients.
I also felt that when I made an effort, I was rewarded. I liked being rewarded. These rewards were a large proponent that encouraged me to endure the treatment. The recognition and appreciation that I was good enough, and that the effort that I had put in was also good enough, was great!

Another positive tool that I used throughout my treatment was that I actively engaged the staff at the treatment center. That meant exploiting the opportunity to have an appointment with the psychologist or the nurse, or having acupuncture, or an extra workout at the gym. Irrespective of the opportunity offered, I grabbed it, took full advantage and then said THANK YOU!
Finally I had the opportunity to talk about me—my situation, my life, my abuse and my cure. I arrived an hour earlier than the other patients and sought the staff’s help and expertise. None of the other patients did that. I finally had the self-motivation to get clean and I took full advantage of that. I thought, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? ”After eight months I had shared my story and discussed all of my difficult issues. I had a lot of high quality mentoring, and because of my proactive approach, I was given more tools than the other patients who didn't pursue treatment the way I did.

Is my method the only way? No… not at all. There are a million paths to the goal, choose the one that works for you. My strategy and approach worked really well for me. The more people I spoke to, the more tools and knowledge I gained, and the more I was praised and recognized for my achievements. This became a positive self-propelling cycle. The more I showed up at the center, interacted with the staff, and took part in activities, the more recognition I received, only furthering my desire to attend and complete the treatment.

When I say recognition, I don't mean standing ovations and flags waving. Being recognized could be as simple as seeing the nurse, who took my vital signs, and she would say something like, “Yes, that looks good Martin. You are on the right track!” I would smile and know that everything would be just fine. And then I would go home. That small positive acknowledgement was all I needed, as I walked home ready to turn up faithfully the next day.

The people at the rehabilitation center were fantastic, and the sense of community, which emerged, was one of the reasons I enjoyed going to the center each day. Irrespective of the weather, frost, snow, sun or heat, I would turn up. I would, more or less, say yes to all activities the treatment center staff offered. I participated actively in the planned activities. I was sociable to the degree I could manage. I tried to engage the staff at the rehab center as effectively as possible, and I'm deeply grateful that they were as professional and supportive as they were. They helped to further my aspirations and motivations to pursue my treatment plan.

There was a good mixture of different personality types at the center. I realize now that the staff could become hardened by the job, as they are around addicts’ behavior (lying, stealing, criminal activity, etc.) constantly. When I look back at the eight months spent there, I have great appreciation for the sympathy and empathy the staff showed me. At the same time they were also very professional and diligent in their jobs. Their professional attitude was especially helpful when I had an off day and would try to avoid activities. They would step in and voice positive affirmations to me about how well I was doing and that there was no reason to skip the gym, or other activities, that I was involved in.

I enjoyed the mixture of therapists who could be empathetic and understanding, but also firm when necessary. It was a contributing factor to me completing the treatment program. Let me take this opportunity to thank them for what they gave me.
My optimism and four principles for healing and wellbeing
I had bad days with withdrawal symptoms, pain and difficult emotions; all of which were very challenging to deal with. The first four months were especially trying with daily battles against habits, withdrawals, pain, negative thoughts, unrest, and fear. The anxiety of whether I could complete the treatment, or whether, once again, I would disappoint myself, was a constant thought.

However, each time I began to doubt my ability to complete treatment, I chose to take a positive and optimistic view on my life. I learned about four keys areas where I could strengthen my treatment process and healing: physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. The common thread was that I could make small, yet numerous, efforts in all areas, thereby strengthening my treatment and healing.

My four principles to break addiction and drug abuse

The physical principle:
The physical principle is about raising your pulse and getting your body into motion. Eat healthy and drink a lot of water. The principle is to emphasize what humans are created to do, and to avoid all of the other nonsense (medicine, cigarettes, alcohol, etc.).

The mental principle: 
Small tasks are important; they can strengthen your resolve and will. Have small, positive sentences or quotes hung on your walls, and surround your self with good people. Establish small goals and then fulfill them. Learn to say no—it's very important.

The social principle:
Being part of positive social community is essential. Whether it's a chess club, Save The Children, good friends, or charity work at a museum or church, it doesn’t matter just find supportive positive people. You have to get out of negative social groups and engage in positive ones so that you can feel that you are a part of something greater and making a positive difference.

The emotional principle:
The emotional principle is about when the rehabilitation process starts and one becomes drug-free/alcohol-free/ and thus, free of the drug haze; your emotions have been latent and sedated for a long time, but at this point they become exposed.
Your emotions are important for reflection and should be discussed, and that was what I did with everybody at the treatment center. If you do not achieve this emotional principle, there can be a great risk that your addiction returns.
There is a lot more to say about the four principles, but the essence is that the addict makes small daily efforts to improve his chance of staying drug-free. Simply said!

The more I undertook a simple approach to my body and diet, the easier it became. When I had a positive and optimistic attitude for the day, everything became easier. The more I socialized with good people that wished for a good life, the easier it became for me to do the same.

The more I spoke about my weaknesses and my feelings, the easier things became for me. Of course I couldn't be optimistic all the time. I had many days where I felt terrible and would have preferred to stay at home under the covers. That is when you need to use the four principles all together. I would call a good friend and say, “Fuck man, I feel awful today, I’m not going.” Then my friend, sister, or anybody I’d call would say, “Well, tell me how you are feeling.” Then we would talk and eventually I would get up and head for the treatment center.
The greatest mistake I made in my treatment was to think that I could manage on my own and without having to talk about difficult issues. My four principles and my positive optimistic attitude helped me persevere and complete my treatment the fourth time around.

Feeling Successful 
A great deal of my motivation for completing my treatment was the fact that I had experienced success earlier in my life. However, at that point in time it seemed like I only knew how to make a fool of myself and hurt other people. I tried on three occasions to quit using drugs without success. It was different at the treatment center, as the treatment lasted for eight months. The longer time period enabled me to have success on several occasions, which eventually manifested in the changes in my heart, self-esteem, and self-reflection. Finally, I experienced that I could do good and was good at something.

I wanted to perform tasks that were manageable and gave me the opportunity for success. I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. In the beginning it was small things. Here is an example:
A female therapist at the treatment center asked whether anybody wanted to come to NADA (acupuncture for detoxification) where needles are put into your ears; it is supposed to alleviate the withdrawal symptoms. I was interested in participating so I went to the treatment room with eight other people.

She turned on the relaxation music and put the needles in everyone’s ears and left the room. We sat there for 30-40 minutes, took out the needles, and then the NADA treatment is over. I felt better. It was a success. Even though it was a small activity and only used minimal effort, I still felt that I had achieved something afterward.

Another example was when I was at the gym and some of the patients were wasting time walking around and talking. I went to our trainer, Lasse, and asked him for an assignment for the day. “Yes,” he said. “You should run 10 minutes without breaks on the treadmill.” I had been working out so I knew that I could handle it, so I ran for 16 minutes. After I walked over to Lasse and said, “So, I ran for 16 minutes.” He smiled, gave me a high-five and said, “Great Martin! Well done!” I experienced success. To undertake and complete a task, gives us, as humans, a good sense of self-esteem, quite simply said.

Further along in the treatment process I wanted to find activities in my own life to pursue. I spoke to the staff at the treatment center and we came up with an idea; I could become an assistant soccer coach at the local soccer club. I didn't want to have too much responsibility and too many working hours, so in the beginning I was only there a couple of hours each week. As an addict I was used to signing up for a lot of activities, then failing to uphold my agreements and thus burning all of my bridges. I had experienced failure and disappointment. I didn't want that anymore, so I started out easy.

It was voluntary work, or in other words, I was not paid. I did it because I wanted to make a difference for the players and myself. I worked there for two years, and as time went by, I was given more responsibility such as coaching games, running parent meetings, setting up tours, managing member fees, and helping with social activities.

My interaction with the soccer club started after three months of my treatment. I finally felt successful, and others appreciated me and voiced this. They told me that I was a good soccer coach, which made me happy and was a contributing factor in the completion of my drug rehabilitation program.
Less can be more. Most importantly you need to experience success. Setting up small tasks for your self can be beneficial to the success of your treatment program. Working together with other people allows for positive recognition from external voices, leaving you with positive feelings that reaffirm your success.

The feeling of success became stronger and more apparent the further I got in my treatment program. I observed that other addicts, whom I had started with, were not able to get clean. I saw people leave, and new ones come. Others fought life battles and didn't make it. Even though it is sad, this accentuated my feelings of success.

Days and weeks passed, and my self-confidence became stronger and stronger. My experiences of success changed into a feeling of being successful.

Plan for the future 
The last couple of months in the treatment process, I spoke to several staff about how my future would look. In our group sessions we undertook several pro and con activities in order to discuss what we should aim for when we got back into the real world. Most of the people had treatment left to complete, but I was drug-free and finished. I could not live on welfare and voluntary work any longer.

The rehabilitation center had counselors and other good people employed who helped brainstorm ideas for what we should aim to work with or study. I was proactive during this phase. I reached out to people that I knew who could give me guidance relating to what they thought I was good at or could be good at.

I went for long walks where I thought about what I was good at and when I was the happiest. I spent hours on the Internet and at the library studying the book, What Can I Become?
I collected tons of information, and in collaboration with the rehabilitation center, I was able to locate opportunities where I could take classes for college credit in sales (which I had previously worked with). I landed a job at Berlingske Media, Copenhagen, Denmark, where I had a successful job for two years. Thereafter, I began studying for my college credit classes, which was also successful. The final plan now is that I will start studying psychology at Copenhagen University in the summer of 2015. Let’s see how that goes.

I have never had a dream or plan for my life. As an addict, I could only look 12 or 24 hours ahead. Sometimes only one hour ahead. I have never been able to think about what I wanted to do in five years. It was irrelevant for me when I was an addict because things were so unstable and insecure; plans were only there to be changed.

In the last few months of my treatment I was given help to gain clarity concerning my future—a very important factor. Suddenly, I could take a piece of paper and make a list with all of my positive qualities and aspirations: good friends, lovely family, my soccer team, being drug-free, healthy body, good mental state, good home, security, financially secure, a plan for an education, a job, and happiness.

When I looked at myself in the mirror........... I had clean clothes, pumped up wheels on my bike (we ride bikes a lot in Denmark), and the freedom to do what I wanted.

The last months of my treatment
Suddenly my life had taken a new shape and form, contrary to the previous 33 years. I was still the same Martin, but I had changed my surroundings, my outlook on life and my behavior. I was finally happy and deeply thankful that I was able to create a new life for myself and my closest friends and family had stuck around.

The desire for a better life and the plan to get there were both contributing factors in completing the drug rehabilitation program. It is similar to weight loss, quitting smoking and much more. There are thousands of ways to change your habitats; this is the way that worked the best for me.


This Story of Hope was created in celebration of recovery and to let families know that there are pathways to hope and healing. The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families who are struggling with their son or daughter's substance use. Please consider sharing this page so that families know where to turn to for help, and that there is always hope.

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