What If You Really Hate Yourself – and Your Addiction?

What If You Really Hate Yourself – and Your Addiction?

When you rise up out of your stupor or take a brief hiatus from your compulsive behavior long enough to look at your face in the mirror, what do you see? At some point, it is likely that you will have to choke back your revulsion at the image that stares back at you. No, you’re not a Frankenstein. It isn’t necessarily physical changes that give rise to such loathing – although that may be part of it. The source of your anguish is self-hatred. If you’re currently in this position, you want to know what you can do about your self-hatred and your addiction.

Don’t worry. There are answers.

The Good News and the Bad News

Looking at addiction and recovery is a case of good news and bad news. The first is the good news. Hating yourself and your addiction is one of the initial stages on the road to recovery. How can hatred be a good thing? It isn’t the hatred itself that is good, but the fact that you’ve gotten to the point where you recognize that your past actions and addictive behavior have caused so much hurt to yourself and others.

Addicts often have a very difficult time accepting that they are, in fact, addicts. Denial of the problem is the first hurdle to overcome, and once you’re past denying it, the reality of your situation sets in. This paves the way for self-hatred. Look at it this way. You can’t overcome your addiction until you go through the work required.

And it’s tough work, make no mistake about it. That’s the bad news.

But when you’re on the road to recovery, you’re taking the incremental steps to put your life back in order, to regain your self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-respect. The pendulum swings again and it’s another example of good news. The longer you work at your recovery, the small successes you have – a day without giving into your addictive behavior, a week, a month, and longer – all add up to a huge plus.

Allow the Emotion to Pass

At first, all you’ll see is your own self-hatred. You’ll need to give this very powerful emotion time to pass. You’ve already taken the big first step of saying to yourself, “Okay, I hate what I’ve done to myself and the ones I love. I hate that I’ve lied, been untrustworthy, let my loved ones and others down. I hate that I’m addicted to (alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs, gambling, compulsive sexual behavior, etc.) and keep falling back into my old ways.”

There’s a lot of truth in the statement that giving voice to your feelings allows you to get past them. It isn’t just some hokey mantra that psychiatrists, psychologists and addiction counselors dish out. One reason acknowledging your hatred is important is that you are releasing it instead of keeping the emotion bottled up inside you. For that matter, any powerful negative emotion, whether it’s anger, despair, bitterness, spite or hatred, that isn’t released will go on to cause further emotional and even physical problems.

How long do you need to wait before the hatred starts to dissipate? You’ll be surprised at how quickly it will go away. No, you won’t be able to tell that it’s gone in a matter of minutes, or even days. Actually, you shouldn’t think about your hatred after you’ve given voice to it. You need to be moving on, doing the necessary work in your recovery.

To begin with, you may find that these thoughts creep into your mind at odd times. Just acknowledge that they’re there, and then go on to do other things – positive things that are working toward your recovery. Don’t wallow in the emotion or allow it to stymie your efforts at recovery.

Before you know it – maybe weeks or months down the line – you’ll be able to look at yourself in the mirror and it will seem like a different person is staring back at you. It’s the same you, yet different. What’s different is your outlook. Gone is the hatred and loathing that furrowed your brow, drew your mouth into a hard line and stifled your life energy. In its place will be acceptance of the new you, recognition that you are making progress toward your recovery and the glimmer of hope in a better tomorrow.

Do Something About Your Recovery

All this presumes that you are actually actively involved in your recovery. You can’t just sit back and figure that your addiction will somehow magically disappear. It doesn’t work that way, as much as we’d like it. To get started in your recovery, you need to take specific actions. Do them in small steps, so that it doesn’t seem overwhelming.

When you are ready, seek out treatment for your addiction. Start by going to the 12-step websites pertinent to your addiction. There are support groups for alcoholism (Alcoholics Anonymous), drugs, (Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Marijuana Anonymous, Methamphetamine Anonymous), compulsive gambling (Gamblers Anonymous), compulsive sexual behavior (Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous), food addictions (Overeaters Anonymous), overspending (Debtors Anonymous).

If you’re not yet ready to physically go to a meeting, don’t worry. Use this time to go through the websites and gather as much information as you can. You need to learn about your addiction, the signs of it, causes, how to avoid relapse, where you can get help or treatment. Peruse the FAQ sections, questions to ask yourself, and take the self-assessment for addiction (most 12-step sites have these). You can download pamphlets and self-help materials. There are links to other helpful sites and resources that may prove useful to you.

Once you’ve amassed sufficient information and feel a comfort level with the organization, look up where in-person meetings are held in your area. You can also begin with an online meeting or telephone meeting, if those are offered by the particular 12-step group (again, most have them).

You may still have a reluctance to attend a 12-step group. That is perfectly understandable. But you do need to take further action to jump-start your recovery. Participation in 12-step groups is free and is often a very viable first step for those seeking to overcome their addiction. But it isn’t the only way.

Check into Treatment

Let’s face it. Addiction is difficult to overcome. You can’t do it on your own. If that were the case, no one would be addicted. In this respect, we are our own worst enemy when it comes to knowing what and how to take care of what needs to be done. We may tell ourselves that we won’t touch another drop, or do any more drugs, or that we’ll stay away from the track or the casino or stop our other compulsive addictive behavior – but we won’t, not without help.

Make a concerted effort to find out what treatment for addiction is available to you. This will take some time, as you have a lot of research to do. A good place to start is the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Treatment Facility Locator. This is a searchable database of more than 11,000 addiction treatment programs, including residential treatment centers, outpatient treatment programs, and hospital inpatient programs for drug addiction and alcoholism. Listings include treatment programs for cocaine, marijuana, and heroin addiction, as well as drug and alcohol treatment programs for adolescents and adults. The information is updated weekly to be as current as possible.

When you click on the locator, it brings you to a map of the United States. Click on the state, enter the city (zip code and address is optional), and click “Search.” You can also change the search radius (the default is 100 miles). Information that you will receive for each facility includes the name, address, phone, distance, maps, primary focus (i.e., mix of substance abuse and mental health services), services provided (substance abuse treatment, detoxification, halfway house, Buprenorphine services), type of care (such as residential short-term (30 days) or long-term (longer than 30 days) treatment, hospital inpatient, etc., special programs/groups (women, men, seniors, persons with co-occurring mental and substance abuse disorders), and type of payment accepted (self-payment, private health insurance, state financed insurance, military insurance, etc.). If the organization or facility has a website, that URL is listed.

Pick out two or three facilities that may offer what you need and do further research. Go to their websites. Look through the types of treatment programs they have. What is their treatment philosophy? Here are some other questions to ask when you are considering a treatment facility:

• What type of licensing or accreditation does the program have?  CARF accreditation is a strong indication of quality.
• How effective are the program’s treatment methods? Have there been studies verifying its effectiveness with your type of addiction?
• What medications does the staff prescribe or support to treat any other physical conditions you may have? Is the staff knowledgeable about and willing to prescribe medications that may be useful in helping to treat your addiction?
• What, if any, type of aftercare program is included in the overall treatment plan?
• What kind of relapse prevention program does the facility have?
• Does the facility accept your private insurance? If not, will they work with you on a payment plan, special financing? Do they offer grants or scholarships, a sliding-pay scale or pay-as-you-go option?
• Is the facility well-run, organized and clean?
• Does the staff do an ongoing assessment to monitor the patient’s progress and adjust the treatment plan accordingly?
• Does the facility encompass the patient’s full range of needs: medical, psychological, social, legal, vocational, etc.?
• Does the program address physical abilities, sexual orientation and also provide age, gender and culturally-appropriate treatment services?
• What type of strategies does the program employ to engage and keep patients in longer-term treatment, thus increasing the likeliness of success?
• Does the program offer counseling (individual and group) and other behavioral therapies to help the patient be able to better function in the family and community?
• What kind of services and/or referrals are available for the family to ensure they understand the addiction and recovery process so they’re better able to support the recovering addict?

Make the Commitment

Once you’ve satisfied yourself that you’ve found the right treatment facility – or, if your loved one or family member has done this for you, and you agree to it – make the commitment and enter the treatment program. No one else can do this for you. It has to be you. Sure, someone can force you into treatment (“If you don’t go in for treatment, I’m leaving you.”) Or, your employer or the courts may mandate treatment. But it still rests with you. Without your firm commitment to give the program your complete and undivided attention and a genuine desire to overcome your addiction, just physically taking up space in a treatment program won’t do anyone any good – least of all you.

You’ve come a long way from the addict hating that vision in the mirror. You need to make good on your intentions to kick your addiction and learn new ways of coping with the stresses in your life. Techniques and tips on how to overcome urges and cravings, how to avoid relapse, and improving your chances for a life of recovery are all part of the treatment program.
Detoxification is often the first part of the treatment program. If you are addicted to alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs, or other harmful substances, your body must first be cleansed of the substance or substances. There’s no other way around it. You can’t heal if you aren’t clean. This process doesn’t take that long, and the detoxification is medically supervised on a 24 hour basis. The staff will make you as comfortable as possible while you are undergoing detoxification and will prescribe medication, if appropriate, to minimize withdrawal symptoms and ease anxiety, depression, insomnia and other unpleasant results of coming off drugs.

After you’re clean, you enter the actual treatment phase. Here is where you gain a thorough understanding of your addiction, what may have caused it, what the triggers are that motivate your addiction, and other contributing factors. You learn coping mechanisms, about relapse prevention, and have individual and group counseling sessions. You will also undoubtedly be involved in 12-step support groups while in treatment. Addiction recovery specialists recommend that patients continue to participate in 12-step support groups after they complete treatment and for at least a year or two afterward. Some addicts in recovery make it a point to go to meetings regularly for years after. They consider it a matter of giving back to others who have helped them so much, as much as it is maintenance, a reminder to always be diligent and mindful of the right steps to take in any circumstance.

Once you are an addict, you are always an addict. You cannot be cured. But you can overcome your addiction. That’s why addiction is considered treatable. And, there is much research going on in the area of addiction vaccines and treatments that may one day revamp addiction treatment even further. These wonder drugs are a few years off, however, and even then they won’t be a stand-alone cure. Counseling and 12-step group support will still be part of an overall, comprehensive addiction treatment program.

Look Forward to a New You

Once you complete treatment, you’ll not only be better equipped to handle situations and issues that formerly threw you, you’ll also be a whole new you. Having come through the tough times, the uncertainty, the self-loathing and self-hatred, the new you can embrace whatever future you want to chart. While your self-hatred obliterated any thoughts of pursuing a dream, now the sky is literally the limit. What you want to do, you can create a plan and work to make it happen. After all, you’ve overcome your addiction, and that’s an accomplishment to be proud of. The new you is quite something, indeed.


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