Possible Consequences of Not Getting Treatment for Addiction
Sometimes being the take-charge individual who has to do everything on his or her own is not the way to go. This is particularly true when it comes to trying to overcome addiction on your own. Chances are you’ll face an uphill battle. But it’s actually more than just a tough road to go: it may be impossible. Here are some things to think about, possible consequences of not getting treatment for addiction.
You Aren’t Your Best Counsel
First of all, let’s be upfront about one thing. If you have an addiction – whether your substance is alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription drugs used nonmedically, or a compulsive behavior such as gambling, shopping, work, sex, or an eating disorder – you aren’t the one that’s best equipped to give yourself advice. You simply don’t have enough information, aren’t trained in how to overcome the challenges and hurdles, aren’t certified and licensed to treat addiction, and so on.
And, even if you are an addiction professional, if the patient is you, all the more reason why you shouldn’t try to take matters into your own hands.
Again, you aren’t your best counsel. It’s too hard to be able to follow the necessary steps, adhere to appropriate schedules, analyze your own thoughts and motivations, or teach yourself how to cope. That’s why people who really want to get clean and sober and change their lives go into treatment. Why put yourself through unnecessary – and pointless – frustration by trying to do it on your own? Go into treatment. It’s the best chance you will ever have to put your life back in order.
Access to the Facts
Let’s say that you are a strong-willed person who is used to doing research, making educated decisions, following things through to a conclusion. These are terrific skills, but it still doesn’t mean that you should avoid going into treatment. You can access a wealth of information through various means, the Internet being the most readily available, and still have nothing but a lot of facts – without context. It takes a licensed and certified professional – actually, a staff of professionals – to do the necessary interviewing and assessment, create a personalized treatment plan, and get you into detoxification, if required, and progress to active treatment. There’s also relapse prevention training and preparation of a recovery plan – none of which you should do on your own.
What you can do, in preparation of getting treatment, is to research addiction treatment facilities in your area. Find out the specifics, including whether they specialize in treating your particular addiction, multiple addictions (such as drug and alcohol abuse), or co-occurring disorder (such as substance abuse and a mental health disorder). Make a list of the treatment facilities (residential and outpatient) within easy access and go to their websites to learn more about their treatment philosophy, staff, licensing and credentials of personnel, go through the Q&A, find out about costs, how much insurance pays for, whether or not the facility offers sliding-scale or ability-to-pay arrangements or other financial assistance, including scholarships or grants.
Where should you start to find an addiction treatment facility? The best place is the Treatment Facility Locator (http://dasis3.samhsa.gov/) maintained through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). You can also call their toll-free treatment facility referral helpline at 1-800-662-HELP. There is no charge for this service, and all calls are confidential. When you are serious about getting treatment for your addiction, streamline the process by doing this important fact-finding step first. That is very much something that you can do on your own. Then, you need to put yourself into the capable hands of the professionals.
Tomorrow Is Not Always Another Day
We are such an incredible species. We are intelligent, resourceful, curious, stubborn, independent – and prone to self-deception, procrastination, denial, finger-pointing and a few other negative traits along the way. While every person is unique in both their addiction, there is one thing each has in common: addiction is something we really don’t want to deal with. We tell ourselves that we’re not addicted, that we have it under control, that it really isn’t that big of a problem, that we’re not hurting anyone, and a dozen other excuses. And that’s really what they all are. There’s no truth to any of it. Telling ourselves these distortions of the truth, half-truths, and outright lies is just another way to put off doing what we need to do – and that is, to get into treatment.
When it comes to facing reality, most addicts, and those dependent on a particular substance or compulsive behavior, find many other pressing duties or activities that demand their time and attention. Taking care of themselves, getting sufficient momentum going to actually do something positive to overcome addiction, just isn’t in the cards. Maybe tomorrow, we tell ourselves, only half believing the words.
Here’s what happens the longer we avoid facing the reality: We get worse. Statistics show that, without treatment, addiction is a progressive and debilitating disease that may result in death. If you think that’s out of the realm of possibility, think again. Whether the addiction is alcoholism (where you can die from cirrhosis of the liver, heart disease, or other physical complications and conditions), or prescription drugs used nonmedically (where you overdose or suffer drug interactions), or gambling (where you may become so distraught and filled with self-loathing, remorse, and despair that you commit suicide), or any other addiction, death – or serious and debilitating complications – are a very real potential outcome.
Others Will Undoubtedly Suffer
Addiction treatment professionals say that addiction is a family disease. What does this mean? It doesn’t mean that everyone in the family is an addict – although in many instances, there are numerous addictions within the same family. It does mean that when one family member has an addiction, everyone else in the family suffers as well.
Let’s take a look at how this works. Perhaps the wife and mother is an alcoholic, or pops pills to be able to get through the day. Originally, she may have needed prescription medication as the result of an accident or injury, or to combat depression or anxiety. She may have found that a cocktail helps ease the stress and tension of work and taking care of the family. Maybe she combines alcohol and medication without thinking.
Over time, the combination of alcohol and medication, or too much of alcohol or medication, isn’t enough to dull the pain, take away the anxiety, smooth out the stress. She takes it more often, and increases the amount. Pretty soon – sooner than you think – she’s so dependent on the alcohol or pills (or both), she can’t function without them. After more time passes, she’s completely addicted. She may want to, or try to, wean herself off them, but can’t take the withdrawal (nausea, pain, headaches, jitteriness, anxiety, depression – the list goes on). She goes right back to her drug(s) of choice.
What do you think happens in the family when all this is going on? The husband and children gradually notice that something’s not right. Things aren’t being taken care of like they should be: meals aren’t on time, or are haphazard, the house isn’t clean and orderly any longer, the wife/mother’s appearance begins to suffer, and emotional outbursts may become common, and so on. When questioned, the wife may lie to her husband about drinking or taking pills. She probably hides the booze and medicine all over the house and will become hysterical if it is discovered and destroyed.
The children no longer want to have their friends over, fearing their mother will embarrass them or create a spectacle. They may no longer trust their own mother, since she begins to act in more bizarre ways, can’t be relied upon, and shouts and screams at them. The husband probably notices a distancing on the part of his wife. She’s no longer loving and receptive sexually. She may exhibit coldness or an aloofness, or suspicion and jealousy. Money may start disappearing. Bills are no longer paid on time. The family may suffer financial collapse, especially if another addiction that’s been added to the wife/mother’s list is gambling.
It’s easy to see that one person’s addiction, in this example, has an adverse effect on all the members of the family. Again, it doesn’t matter who has the addiction – husband/father, wife/mother, child, sibling, grandparent, aunt or uncle – if the person who’s addicted resides in the household, everyone suffers. It also doesn’t matter what the addition is. Addiction is a family disease: everyone in the family suffers. Without treatment, they will not only continue to suffer, but the suffering will get worse as addition progresses.
Time Is Not On Your Side
Another negative consequence of not getting treatment for addiction is that time is not on your side. Without treatment, you more than likely can’t overcome your addiction on your own. That’s not to say it’s totally impossible – some people can and do overcome addiction without going into formal treatment. They may make do with self-help books, going to 12-step meetings, and sheer strength of will. But it very rarely happens.
Do you want take that chance? After all the heartache and self-doubt and anxious nights and tortuous cravings and urges, do you really want to go through this alone? Worse yet, are you willing to allow your life – and that of your family – do continue to spiral downward as a result of your addiction?
Sure, it takes time to go through treatment. Depending on your type of addiction, how long you’ve been addicted, how frequently and how much you use, your physical and mental health, family history, environmental, genetic, and other factors, it may take 90 days to six months to a year before you are in recovery. Actual treatment times vary greatly. Since a treatment plan is tailored to each patient, there is no one-size-fits-all type of program. This is true whether the treatment takes place at a residential addiction treatment center, an inpatient hospital setting, or an outpatient facility.
Some types of addiction can be effectively treated on an outpatient basis. Those patients who require detoxification should have that done only under close medical supervision at a licensed detoxification facility. Many residential treatment centers have detox facilities on-site. You can’t go into the active treatment phase until you are clean of the addictive substance (alcohol or drugs). In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help ease the withdrawal symptoms you may experience during detoxification. This is another reason why you need close medical supervision and why you should never attempt detox on your own. You can’t prescribe yourself medication and you likely won’t go through detox by yourself if you have to suffer the withdrawal symptoms – which can range from mild to moderate to severe (and life-threatening, in the case of alcoholism).
Can you afford the time away from your job, family, and friends? Naturally, this would be high on your list of reasons why you can’t go into treatment at this time. But it’s not a good enough reason. If not now, when will be the right time? In fact, when you look at it that way, you’ll never find the time is appropriate to go into treatment. Frankly, you need to get over yourself and your own obsession over controlling what happens. You obviously aren’t in control of your addiction right now. It’s controlling you, and it will only get more demanding as time goes on.
You don’t have time on your side. The sooner you make the decision to go into treatment – and go through with it – the sooner you can resume your life on a clean and sober basis. You need to go through a little pain and discomfort, learn how to cope with cravings and urges, make healthier behavior choices, and plan for and embark upon a new life. You can do all this. But you need to take the all-important first step. You need to admit you have a problem and accept treatment.
You Lose Everything
No one wants to be alone. The thought of losing our family, our friends, and our way of life scares the living daylights out of all of us. When we are the instrument of our own demise, it’s all the worse. The rest of our lives will be spent in self-hatred, self-recrimination, anger, self-destruction, and downward spiral.
Who in their right mind would wish such a future upon themselves? No one would, of course. But it happens all the time when someone pretends their addiction isn’t that bad, that they have it all under control, and that they’ll just gradually cut down or taper off or… fill in the blanks.
The truth is that the longer addiction has a hold on you, the less likely you’re able to think and act clearly. You will find yourself saying and doing things that you’d consider reprehensible if you witnessed it in anyone else. But watching someone else self-destruct and doing it yourself are two different things. When it happens to you, you often never see it coming until it’s too late.
You don’t want to lose everything, do you? Stop what you’re doing and get busy figuring out how to get the help you need.
Once you make the determination that you want to overcome your addiction, you need to take action. Start by doing your research on where to find treatment that may be appropriate for you. Get your finances in order. Talk with your family – your significant other, your parents, siblings – whomever you need to and who will be your immediate support network. Tell them that you have a problem and you want to get help for it. Ask for their encouragement and support as you go through the treatment process and into recovery. The fact is that you can’t make it without support – and a loving family is the best support network you can have.
If there’s a time delay or waiting period before you can get into treatment, don’t let that stop you. Buy books or take them out through the library on overcoming your particular addiction. Learn all you can about the disease. Look up 12-step groups in your area and attend meetings. Start with their websites. Every addiction has a 12-step group, everything from Alcoholics Anonymous to Narcotics Anonymous to Marijuana Anonymous to Gamblers Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Sexaholics Anonymous, and so on. These people are committed to one thing: recovery – yours and theirs. They know what it feels like to be engulfed in compulsive behavior or locked in an endless drug-seeking way of life. They can offer encouragement and support that’s nonjudgmental and asks nothing in return – except for the same type of encouragement, support, and understanding when they may need it. It’s at least a good way to get started on your own personal journey to recovery.
Will you ever be normal again? This is a question many people ask, usually when they’re new to recovery (after they’ve completed treatment to overcome their addiction). It’s perfectly understandable to be anxious and wonder if your life will ever get back to normal. The first few months of recovery can be pretty scary, since this is the time when you’re putting into practice all the things you learned during treatment on how to avoid the people, places, and things that caused you to use, how to cope with cravings and urges, how to establish better communication with family and friends, and how to live a healthier life.
The good news is that you will get better. The longer you are in recovery, the stronger you will get. There will be good days and bad days at first. Over time, you will gain more self-confidence in your abilities, more trust in your decision-making, more pride in your accomplishments. You will look forward to your future, a future that will be of your making according to the plans you’ve put into place.
Will you ever be normal again? For many in recovery, this is the time when they first started to feel normal. For others, it’s the best time in their lives. Why not make this your plan for your future?
Remember the saying from Confucius: “The longest journey begins with the first step.” While it’s appropriate for many things, it’s really apropos with respect to getting treatment for addiction. Begin your recovery journey today by taking that first step. Make the decision to get treatment. Your future awaits you.