Everyone has been to a doctor at some time to get advice. After hearing the doctor’s recommendation, have you ever thought I’m not sure about this drug or treatment? Then, have you gone for information from another source, perhaps another doctor, a pharmacist, a nurse, the library or the internet, before agreeing to take a prescription or have surgery? This is an example of self-management at work: getting quality information to make your own health decisions in consultation with a professional such as your doctor.
People who practice self-management of their health intentionally use coping skills. They manage their own situations by exercising deliberate conscious control to improve the outcome of the situation. They recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and work to overcome them. They take the time to find meaning and value in their life. They are always searching for new knowledge.
Self-help for mental health and addiction issues consists of learning about the nature of your problems, learning how to measure or assess those problems, and learning how they can be resolved. Self help then involves choosing and following a course of action that will help you to resolve those issues (Dombeck, 2006).
Some health problems are simple to solve and have only one or two options. Complex health problems often have more than one option for treatment, require more than one action, and involve more than one health professional. Addiction is a complex health issue.
You know the most about your personal experience of addiction. You have proven that you can make good decisions. You have stopped using. You have proven that you want to get and stay mentally and physically healthy. You are reading this book and beginning work to improve your health. You are the best person to manage your life and its problems.
By stopping use you have made a commitment to your own health. Now it’s time to create a concrete plan for your health issues and to decide who will be on your health team. To be in control of your health you need to continue to educate yourself about all aspects of your overall health and about relapse prevention. You can be the leader of the people helping you to succeed and prevent relapse. No matter who is on your team: doctor, therapist, family member, personal trainer or meditation coach, you can be actively involved in all of the decisions that affect you.
To be effective at self-management, you first need to make decisions about who is on your team. Then make sure your team members are aware of your life plan. Choose people with whom you are comfortable and who challenge you, but also understand and are willing to support your new life plan which includes abstinence. Choose people who are not threatened by your challenges to them and who will support you to reach your goals. Make sure you read enough to know more than anyone else on your team about addiction and are at least familiar with recommended treatments or life style actions for your other health problems. Choose key members for your team who have some knowledge about addiction and who share a similar belief as yours about addiction treatment. You will be effective at self-management of your health if you keep learning from credible sources, treat your health as important as any other part of your life, learn to recognize when you need help, and learn where to go to get it.
When you are free of alcohol and drugs, you can become the expert on your health needs. Take the time to choose and use tools which are effective for you such as screening tools for depression. Become assertive about your needs and take responsibility for your actions and your health. Many health professionals are not experts or even knowledgeable about addiction. To obtain quality health care and lead your health care team, you will always need to continue learning.