18 Feb Six Tough Questions Every Addict Needs to Face
Tackling addiction is a huge hurdle in and of itself. Many addicts never get to this point, lost in a tangled web of denial, deception, dishonesty and determination to continue doing just what they want. Quite often they either do not see, acknowledge, or care how much they hurt others in the process. For some, however – and these are the lucky few – something other than their self-contained bubble of addiction burbles up through their consciousness. Maybe, just maybe, there is a way out of this vicious cycle. The dawning recognition of the problem is the first step in a long process of recovery.
Getting to this point, however, requires the addict to face a number of very tough questions.
Do You Want to Spend the Rest of Your Life This Way?
Look at the life you currently lead. What does it consist of? Is your daily agenda driven primarily by the desire to drink (or do drugs or engage in other compulsive behavior)? When you wake up in the morning, is satisfying your addiction the first thing that comes to mind – even before having a coffee or taking a shower? Do you have the shakes or jitters or queasy feeling until you down your first shot, snort a line, smoke a joint, pop a pill, make a bet or immerse yourself in online porno or sort out your plans for anonymous sexual hookup?
If so, your life is consumed by your addiction. It has virtually taken over a normal existence, so that everything you do, think and say is colored by the desire to satisfy it. Whether or not you are ready to admit it is moot. The fact remains that you are a slave to your habit – whatever form your addiction takes.
The question you need to ask yourself is: Do I really want to spend the rest of my life this way? Can you fathom doing the same type of things in 5 or 10 years, when you’re 70, 80 or 90? Do you even think you’ll live that long? And what kind of life would it be at that point?
No, it isn’t easy to picture a future like that. You’d have to be able to foresee all the negative consequences of your addiction. Chances are you’re telling yourself right now that you don’t have that big of a problem, that you can handle it, everything’s under control. But is it? Take off the blinders for a minute and really look at your life. What happened to the hopes and dreams you once had? Did they all get discarded, forgotten or dismissed as unattainable? Was it, perhaps, the result of your plummet deeper into your addiction?
Allow yourself, for the time being, to think about changing the path you’re currently on. Picture the future that you once wanted for yourself. Don’t reject it out of hand. Just picture it. Give the thought room to root itself in your consciousness.
Being able to envision an alternate future means you may be ready to take some concrete steps toward making that vision a reality. You’re ready for the next tough question.
Can You Admit You Have a Problem?
While you may gain some insight by taking one of the self-screening tests for addiction available on various sites, deep down you don’t need to answer 20 questions to know there’s something wrong. You pretty much know the drill anyway, but here it goes: if you’re spending all your time in pursuit of your addiction, you’ve got a problem. If your relationships, job, health, finances, and social standing have suffered as a result of your addiction, you’ve got a problem. If you’ve gotten in trouble with the law due to your addiction, you’ve got a problem. If you have become isolated, lost interest in friends and activities that once gave you pleasure, as a result of immersing yourself in your addiction, you’ve got a problem.
It doesn’t take a genius to add up all the negative consequences to reach the conclusion that there is, indeed, a problem. Isn’t it funny, though, that those of us who really love our lifestyle (drinking, doing drugs, gambling, addictive sexual behavior, etc.), can’t quite see the problem? Sometimes it takes a disastrous event to wake us up. Sometimes we just come to the conclusion on our own.
Whichever category you fall in, now is the time to ask yourself: Can I admit I have a problem?
If the answer is yes, you’re ready to go to the next level. And, yes, the questions get tougher.
Will You Seek and Accept Treatment?
For many addicts who have come to the realization that they have a problem, the answer they arrive at is that they can work their way out of it on their own. Perhaps for a small number of addicts this is true, but it isn’t common and it isn’t likely. Why? We’re our own worst enemy, that’s why. Addiction is a disease, and it takes powerful treatment – maybe in the form of some medication, certainly in the form of counseling and support – in order to overcome it.
You might object here, saying that taking medication to overcome an addiction is just substituting one addiction for another. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Medication is only prescribed in certain circumstances, and it’s not a long-term solution to addiction.
Let’s get back to the issue of how to overcome addiction and whether or not you can do it on your own. Beside the fact that you cannot prescribe medication for yourself, or know what or how to take it, you likewise can’t counsel yourself. You likely haven’t got a clue as to why you became addicted, or what drives you to continue despite mounting negative consequences. Do you know how to teach yourself coping strategies to deal with urges and cravings? Do you have the skill set to create more productive behaviors?
Again, the likelihood is that you don’t. Believe it or not, even doctors and therapists who are addicted and who may have some knowledge of addiction treatment can’t be their own patients. Every addict, serious about overcoming his or her addiction, requires outside, objective counseling and treatment. You simply can’t do it on your own.
The question you need to ask yourself now is: Will I seek and accept treatment?
Hopefully, you’ve answered yes to this question. This is a huge step. No treatment under the sun will help you if you aren’t ready to embrace it.
Before we go on, it’s important that you know where to find treatment. You don’t need to start blindly looking for places on the Internet. Start with the experts. There is an excellent Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator that is maintained and updated weekly by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). It is easy to use and contains 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.
Use the treatment facility locator as a first step, and then drill down to find a handful of facilities that bear more investigation. Check them out thoroughly by visiting their websites, and/or calling or emailing them to get answers to any questions you may have (such as financing options, whether or not they take your insurance, type of treatment program, if aftercare is included, any family counseling included, whether co-occurring or multiple addictions are treated at the facility, etc.).
Having found one or more potential treatment centers, you can make arrangements to physically visit and get a better idea which one best suits your needs. It is best if you have the support of your loved ones and family at this point, but you can do this research yourself if you need to.
When you find the right treatment facility or program, you’re ready for the next tough question.
Will You Stick With Treatment?
Let’s be brutally honest here. You may find that once you get into treatment, it’s not the easy road you thought it might be. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that whatever discomfort you feel is only going to be temporary. That’s not to say that the whole process is without pain. There will actually be considerable anguish as you confront your psychological demons, the underpinnings of your addiction. But that’s further down the line.
The first thing you need to know is that when you enter treatment, depending on what type of addiction you have, how long you’ve had it, how often you use the addictive substances, and whether or not you have multiple addictions and/or co-occurring substance abuse and mental disorder, you may need to undergo detoxification.
The dreaded “detox” phase, however, isn’t all that difficult. You will be monitored by medical personnel on a 24-hour basis. Their goal is to help you get through the purging of your system from the alcohol or drugs or harmful substances with the least amount of pain and discomfort from withdrawal symptoms. For many individuals, the withdrawal phase is over in a matter of 24 hours to a few days. For others, with addictions more difficult to overcome, such as methamphetamine addiction, it may take longer for the substances to leave your body.
You may be strongly tempted to get up and leave during detox. Don’t give into this temptation. It’s just your addiction rearing its ugly head. You can’t get better if you don’t rid your body of these substances. It’s as simple as that.
Fortunately, in no time at all, you’ll be out of the withdrawal stage and on to the next phase: actual treatment.
Don’t think this is a piece of cake, either. What happens next involves some easy stuff and a lot of hard work. The easy stuff is learning all about your addiction. You’ll get this through lectures and presentations, reading educational material, looking at movies and other media. The more difficult part of the therapy comes when you have to start examining your behavior patterns, challenging your underlying thought processes and beliefs – in short, a lot of self-examination, which can be painful. There will also be individual and group counseling, aimed at helping you better understand your motivations, identifying the triggers that occur before you succumb to your addiction, learning new coping mechanisms to deal with those triggers and other stressors, and learning and practicing healthier and more productive behaviors.
What you need to ask yourself when you reach this stage of your treatment is: Will I stick with my treatment program?
Statistically speaking, addicts who enter treatment programs but leave prior to completion have a higher relapse rate than those who successfully finish the programs. You’ve heard of the revolving door in-and-out-of-treatment scenarios involving many celebrity addicts. You don’t need to be a celebrity for this to happen. If you don’t give treatment a chance, and fully commit to it, you’ll go right back to your old habits – figuratively and literally. You’ll be back at the bar pounding back drinks, or sneaking them in the den, or searching out your drug connection (or whatever your habit is) before you have time to think what you’re doing. You won’t be able to tolerate the cravings and urges. You won’t have any tools (or medically prescribed medications) to deal with the anxiety, insomnia, and depression, among other powerful emotions.
You need to make the commitment to stick with the program until you’ve completed it. If you say yes to this, you are now ready for the next tough question.
What Happens If You Relapse?
Not every person who completes addiction treatment will go on to live the rest of their life clean and sober – at least, not right away. It is true, and it may happen to you, that you make a misstep. You falter, give into your temptations, and have a drink, do some drugs, or whatever. This doesn’t mean failure. If everyone who had a relapse considered they were doomed and went on to submerge themselves in their addiction forever, our society would be populated by millions of unproductive zombies, pervasive crime, and ruined lives.
You know the next question is: What happens if I relapse?
So, you make a mistake. Admit it, and get back into counseling. It’s not a failure or a sign of weakness. Remember, addiction is a disease. But it’s a treatable disease. You can get over this – although you will never be “cured.” Addiction will always be there as a possibility. But it doesn’t have to claim your life. You are the one who can be in control of your destiny. Don’t give it over to your addiction. Reclaim your life, and all the possibilities that go along with exercise of personal power.
During your treatment phase, you will have been introduced to 12-step support groups. There are 12-step fellowships for every major addiction, including Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Cocaine Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Spenders Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, five for sexual addiction, including Sexaholics Anonymous, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, Sex Addicts Anonymous, Sexual Compulsives Anonymous, Sexual Recovery Anonymous, Workaholics Anonymous, and so on. If you feel yourself ready to relapse, or can’t deal with your urges, double or triple your attendance at your 12-step support meetings. Reach out to your sponsor and ask for his or her help. That’s what sponsors are for.
If aftercare is part of your treatment program, get additional counseling – individual and/or group. Family counseling and/or couples counseling is also available that can provide tremendous assistance for the newly recovered addict.
Give yourself credit for all you have accomplished, and push even further. Now, you’re ready for the final question. This one is not as tough as the others, but it is an important one.
Are You Ready to Grow?
Life should be all about possibilities. This also includes recovery from addiction. Too often people assume that being an addict means they are doomed to suffer forever. They feel they have a stigma to overcome. There is also often a lot of shame, guilt, and remorse to deal with. There are many relationships that need repairing. It’s hard to ask for and receive forgiveness – from others as well as yourself. But this is all part of the process of healing.
You need to forgive yourself for all that you have done. Let the past go. It doesn’t mean you don’t recognize where you’ve been. In fact, you are here because you squarely faced your addiction and made the conscious and deliberate choice to overcome it. But you have to forgive yourself – and then move on.
Now, you need to ask yourself: Am I ready to grow?
Remember back when you wondered if you wanted to spend the rest of your life as an addict? Think about the glimmer of a successful future you allowed to creep into your thoughts then. Now think about all you have learned, how much stronger and more self-confident you are today. You now know you have resources and the support and encouragement of others who have successfully overcome similar addictions. You know you are able to face daily stresses without capitulating, and that you have powerful resources available to help you when you encounter difficult circumstances and situations.
With this as your solid base of experience, tools, and mental preparedness, you are now ready to chart a new future. It may look a lot different than the tiny shred of a dream you once had. It may be totally in a new direction. This is growth, and it’s just the start. Whether you once wanted to finish or start a degree program, travel the world, find a loving relationship, have children, be a better parent or spouse, or any of a thousand different hopes and dreams, now you have the opportunity and the ability to turn those dreams into reality. Make a list of short- and long-term goals. Figure out what you need to do to achieve them and get down to it. As you reach a goal, make new ones. You should always have new goals. This keeps you actively working to achieve your higher potential.
Finally, and this isn’t a question as much as a statement, allow yourself to love. Love yourself and love others. Reach out and give wholeheartedly, without thought of anything in return. Your life will be so much richer than you ever could have dreamed.
It is possible. It is within your reach. And you can do it. Accept this as a fact and embrace it. Take each day at a time, keep revising and updating your goals, work hard to achieve them, and keep on going.
Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.
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