detox is the first step

Detoxing Is a Necessary Step Towards Addiction Recovery. Why Does It Sound So Scary?

Published on October 5, 2020 by First Responder Wellness

Recovering from alcohol and/or substance use disorder presents many emotional and physical hurdles that one must rise above in order to lead a healthy lifestyle — the first of which for many is detoxing. Detoxification is essential to eliminating the presence of alcohol and/or substances from the body. It marks the first step within the system of an addicted individual as they begin seeking recovery. So why is it that this initial procedure is responsible for deterring so many struggling with addiction from seeking recovery?

For starters, the term sounds unnecessarily dangerous. Any process with “toxin” as the root word will immediately be flagged by the language center of the brain. There’s also the information gap between what exactly detox centers do and the perception among those who are unfamiliar with detoxing. 

First responders often turn to substances as a self-regulated means of managing pain, whether it is physical or emotional. A leading cause of apprehension about detoxification amongst first responders often has less to do with the process itself and more to do with the return of this pain after removing the pain-numbing chemicals from one’s system. There are many factors that lead to the negative perception of detoxification. But with some research and planning, the process may begin to appear more helpful than harmful in the grand scheme of things.


Is It the Lack of Familiarity?

Detoxification and addiction in general are subjects that don’t often come up in conversation unless the information is sought out or someone is confronting alcohol and/or substance use disorder within their own life. If people had the same exposure to addiction and detoxification as they did to say, wisdom teeth extraction, the process would likely be regarded as more commonplace.

The stigma behind addiction also shrouds the topic in guilt. Anyone who has been through detox knows how challenging it can be. Recalling the experience to someone who hasn’t been through a program might be as uncomfortable as reliving it. Today, there is more readily accessible information related to detoxification than ever before, with personal accounts and blogs available on the internet. Even so, the social hurdle of discussing detoxification — even amongst close friends and family — can feel like too great of a height to clear. For this reason, many will neglect to talk about detoxing, leading people to develop their own assumptions about what the process entails.


What About Withdrawal Symptoms?

Let’s be honest — detoxing is no walk in the park. Starting around day two and typically lasting through about the sixth day of detoxification, patients can experience nausea, chills, anxiety, and even vomiting. As alcohol and substances leave one’s system, the body goes into shock.

Many experience flu-like symptoms during a week-long detox. While these physical setbacks are survivable, they are unpleasant at best. Securing the attention and care of medical professionals within a treatment facility will make withdrawals much more tolerable. If one is interested in getting sober, it will be a much smoother process to detox with the supervision of those who are trained to facilitate the experience. Plus, attempts to go cold turkey can be dangerous for an addicted individual.

First responders often feel an obligation to maintain a healthy mind and body as they take on the health and well-being of others. Withdrawal opens up the possibility of first responders dealing with feelings of weakness or inferiority, which runs counter to the narrative of strength that many rely on to stay vigilant in the line of duty. However, detoxing can actually indicate the first step towards empowering one’s future.


Isn’t Rehabilitation Looked Down Upon?

Checking into a facility to detox crosses a line for many, especially those who’ve had the concept of rehabilitation shaded by the negative judgment of social stigma. From a very young age, youth are conditioned to think anyone addicted to alcohol and/or substances has somehow failed or fallen short of potential. In reality, the circumstances leading to addictive behavior tend to result from situations outside of the person’s control. From socioeconomic situations to genetic predictors, not all individuals enter into this world with the same tolerance against addiction.

It’s so important to realize as a central truth that detoxing is not the end. In fact, the opposite is true — it’s the beginning. Rehabilitating initiates either a commitment or re-commitment to recovery and a new chapter of life. For every reason not to detox, there are multiple reasons to begin the detoxification process. While fear can deter first responders and others from seeking help, the hope of starting anew can also inspire hope.


First responders face unique challenges in the line of duty, but you are not alone. An estimated 30% of first responders develop a behavioral or mental health disorder during their service, but few seek the help they so readily give to others. Detox is often the first step to recovery that helps prepare you for the road ahead. Alcohol and other addictive substances can have lasting effects that change the way you think and feel, and some substances cause uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms that make it difficult to stay sober without professional help. Detox helps to counteract these effects by clearing toxins from the body and safely managing any symptoms you experience, so you can regain your strength and begin to make meaningful progress toward recovery. If you or a loved one needs help recovering from addiction and/or mental health issues, First Responders Wellness is here for you. To learn more, call us today at (888) 743-0490.