Alcohol and drug addiction doesn’t discriminate. All around the world, there are people from all walks of life trying to get by while abusing drugs or alcohol. In the US alone, over 40 million people fit the criteria for clinical addiction, yet only 10 percent of them will seek treatment.
If you are starting to think you might have a problem, what is stopping you from reaching out for help?
You think your problem isn’t serious enough.
Maybe you just binge drink on occasional weekends. Or perhaps you just have a few beers or glasses of wine a night. You might be functioning well on the outside, going to work, looking after your children, exercising, etc, but on the inside, you feel unfulfilled.
In my experience of working with clients who ‘don’t think their problem is serious enough’ there is often an underlying issue that is holding them back in life and alcohol or drugs is a way of not dealing with it.
Usually, it is that they are feeling stuck in life or that they problems with anxiety and depression that the substance is allowing them to tolerate. So if this applies to you – try and stop using for a few days and see how you feel.
If it’s not that serious – then it should be relatively easy to do.
You think you can sort it out on your own
It’s true that many people overcome addiction on their own. In one large scale study on overcoming alcohol dependency, 75 percent of people were actually able to do it without any kind of formal treatment.
So yes, you may well be able to do it on your own.
I’ve personally known people who were very entrenched in both heroin and alcohol use who are now free from their dependency – and did it with the help of supportive family and friends.
But if you have tried numerous times to do it on your own and haven’t succeeded, a few sessions with a therapist might help you to pin point your obstacles and help you develop skills to work through it.
You don’t think there is any hope for you.
As long as you are breathing there is hope. Even damaged livers can repair themselves in a few weeks. The body has amazing powers of regeneration. Maybe you have tried AA, NA, or various forms of treatment and nothing has worked. But not all addiction treatment will work for everyone. It really is an individual process.
What is important is you work out what’s keeping YOU stuck, then address that. And it is different for everyone.
You don”t know where to go for help
If there is nothing around your area, and you don’t want to go to AA – there are plenty of online options.
Many people are now using internet forums for support and accountability. While they are not run by professionals, they can provide daily support to encourage you to get through difficult times. It is connection, support and understanding that are key elements of a successful recovery.
You are worried about people judging you.
Yes, there are people who will judge, but the majority of them don’t. Given the high rates of substance abuse now occurring in society – most people will either have struggled themselves, will currently be facing addiction issues or will know someone who is.
More and more celebrities are also coming out of the addiction closet.
Michael Phelps – the Olympic swimmer – recently had treatment for alcohol issues.
Celebrities like Ewan Macgregor, Jada Pinkett Smith, Anthony Hopkins, Drew Barrymore, to name but a few, have all been open about their addiction struggles.
But it really is more common than you think – you are certainly not alone. It is not a character flaw or moral failing. And it is certainly not a ‘chronic relapsing brain disease’. Your brain has wired in such a way that it has survival associations with alcohol or drugs. Addiction is the dark side of neuroplasticity. But it can absolutely be re-wired.
You can’t imagine life without drinking or using drugs.
When you are habitually using substances, it not only affects your health, it also affects your frame of mind and emotional state.
You experience feelings such as shame, anxiety, hopelessness, and lack of motivation – all of which affect your perception of life. Many people think they will be bored without a drink or drug to get them through the day.
But it is actually the substances that cause the boredom.
It is the numbing of your feelings that acts as a barrier to engaging in life.
It is the constant pre-occupation with the addiction that generates a swirl of unhelpful thinking, which stops you connecting with others and being fully present in your life. Once you understand this – you can push through the initial discomfort of early sobriety to change your life to one that is far more fulfilling than a life of using and drinking.
You don’t really understand how you can be helped.
We now know so much more about addiction than we used to. If you want to call it a disease – it is more a disease of thinking and perception. But there is actually nothing diseased about it at all. It is just the result of habitual ways of thinking, feeling and acting that have caused you to see life a certain way. Once you are able to see how your thoughts and actions are creating your dependency – you realise that you have the power to change.
As Laurence Fishburne says in the matrix “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Take the red pill. Give yourself the chance to experience life in a completely different way.