The Tsunami Effect: How To Avoid Being Swallowed Up By Your Addiction

The Tsunami Effect: How To Avoid Being Swallowed Up By Your Addiction

This is going to be a tough read for some, a little disturbing for others, a welcome bit of hope for others. What we’re talking about here is the tsunami effect. That’s what happens when you’re swallowed up by your addiction. It doesn’t have to be that way. There are things you can do to avoid being destroyed by continued addiction.

If you’re deep into your addiction, you may not even be reading this at all or, if someone passed it along to you, you may just slough it off and deny there’s any problem. Some who are struggling with addiction, wanting to quit but not knowing how to go about it, may find this unsettling, yet welcoming in that there is a way out.

Admit to the Problem

Whether you slam drinks in the bar after work night after night, do lines of coke with co-workers or friends, take prescription drugs to get high long after the reason for the prescription has passed (or buy/steal prescription drugs from others), inject meth or heroin, or do a combination of alcohol, illicit drugs and prescription drugs used nonmedically, the very first step in stopping the tsunami effect of addiction is to admit to the problem.

Nope, can’t get around this one. It’s a big one, forcing you to come to grips with the reality of what you’ve been doing to yourself that’s gotten you to this point. Unless and until you’re ready to see your life as it currently is – and not what you tell yourself it is in your drug-induced haze – you’re just precious hours, days, weeks or months from being totally destroyed by your addiction.

Does this make you a bad person, that you’ve become addicted at all? Of course it doesn’t. Addiction isn’t your fault. No one in their right mind chooses to become addicted. You didn’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m going to drink until I fall down in a blackout, can’t remember who I am, get the DTs and hallucinate and become a stone alcoholic.” Who would do that? Neither do you look at drug-taking and the associated criminal behavior as something glamorous when it lands you in jail or detox or out on the streets.

Addiction is a disease. It’s not a moral defect. It doesn’t signal a lack of character or willpower. If you’re addicted to Vicodin or meth or heroin or alcohol, it isn’t that you are any less than another person you know. You have a disease, that’s all. Admit that this is so. This is the first step in learning how to overcome the effects of the tsunami of addiction.

Resolve to Do Something About the Problem

Once you’ve admitted to yourself that you have a problem with addiction, that you are addicted, now you have two choices. You can resolve to do something about the problem, to get help so that you can overcome your addiction. Or you can do nothing about the problem, in which case you’re playing a zero-sum game. Sooner or later, you’re bound to crash in a downward spiral of your own making.

It sounds simple to say you should resolve to do something about the problem. In reality, though, it’s anything but easy. Resolve implies determination, a willingness to do something, to take action. If you’re strung out night after night, can hardly make it through the day, or living only to do drugs, it’s virtually impossible to get to the resolution point that’s necessary for you to overcome your addiction.

On a day when you’re clear-headed, maybe the morning after you’ve sobered up and cleaned up and looked in the mirror at the sorry excuse for an individual that you’ve become, maybe this is the time when you say to yourself that you can pick up the phone or go to your doctor or walk into the detox facility and get help.

The next step is to follow through on your resolution. For this you need resources.

Who to Tell, Where to Go for Help

If you’re like many who are in the grip of addiction, your first thought may be that you don’t know where to go for help. It all seems too complicated. You don’t have money or insurance, or your coverage isn’t all that good or you’re afraid that you’ll get fired if you talk with anyone there about needing help.

So, who do you call? Who do you tell about your problem? Where do you go to get help?

These are all good questions and, believe it or not, they occur to every person who decides they want and need help to overcome addiction.

There are several places you can start. One is to talk with those closest to you, your family members and loved ones. No doubt they already know or suspect that you have a problem with alcohol or drugs. After all, they see you most often. They know when your behavior has drastically changed. They’ve seen the changes in your physical appearance, know when you are constantly late for work or take numerous sick days because you’re hung over or strung out. Asking your loved ones to help you find treatment is probably the best thing you can do to begin with.

Another avenue you can take is to go to see your doctor. If you have a doctor that you’ve been seeing for years or is the family doctor, make an appointment and talk with the medical professional about what’s going on with you. Don’t feel shy or ashamed about it. This is the doctor’s job. He or she is trained to be able to screen for problems with drugs or alcohol and can make an assessment and refer you to treatment. This is what you need: a professional who can give you the best possible advice and a referral to where you can obtain treatment to overcome your addiction.

Do your own research (or enlist the help of a family member) on finding treatment facilities by using the Treatment Facility Locator ( maintained by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). This is a searchable online database of more than 11,000 addiction treatment programs, including residential treatment centers, outpatient treatment centers, and hospital inpatient programs for drug addiction and alcoholism. You will find that the listings include treatment for marijuana, cocaine, and heroin addiction, as well as drug and alcohol treatment programs for adults and adolescents.

If you have no or limited resources, you can use the Detailed Search or List Search and check the boxes for “sliding fee scale” and “payment assistance.” Then call the facilities directly to inquire about their policies.

The simplest way around the maze of finding suitable treatment facilities in your area is to call the Treatment Referral Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP

Find help though your state substance abuse agencies by going to the listing that SAMHSA has on its website (

Do More In-Depth Research on the Treatment Facility

You might be a little discouraged at this point. It does take a bit of hard work to find the treatment facility that will provide the kind of services you require to overcome your addiction. You want a rehab facility that specializes in effectively treating your type or types of addiction. If you have co-occurring disorder, which is substance abuse and mental health disorder, you need a facility that specializes in treating both concurrently.

If you have poly-drug disorder, that is, you’re addicted to multiple substances such as alcohol, cocaine, and prescription drugs, you want a facility that’s got a good track record in treating patients with multiple addictions.

Keep diligent. Find the treatment facility that you believe can provide you the best outcome. Then, make the necessary calls and appointment to go in for an interview and screening. Yes, that’s correct. You have to go through a thorough interview process, answer all kinds of questions about what you use, how long you’ve used, what dose, frequency and so on. Be prepared to answer questions on your general medical condition, questions about your family background (any family history of alcoholism or mental health disorder, for example), and other interview questions. Why? These are all necessary so that the professionals can diagnose your addiction and prepare a personalized treatment plan that will best accommodate your needs.

Commit to Sticking with Treatment

Once you’ve been admitted to treatment, you have another big hurdle ahead of you. This may not be what you bargained for at all. You have to go through detox first, more than likely, since you can’t begin formal treatment until you’re clean and sober. Don’t worry about the detox process, though, since the treatment professionals will help you through detox so that it’s safe and as comfortable as possible. They may prescribe medications to help ease or eliminate the symptoms of withdrawal and to help with anxiety, depression and inability to sleep.

Treatment programs may be short-term, less than 30 days, or long-term, longer than 30 days. There are also outpatient programs of 30- to 90-days in length as well as extended treatment programs that may last up to a year or longer. There are sober living homes, peer support recovery services, aftercare or continuing care, and intensive weekend treatment retreats. In short, there are a lot of treatment options.

But they all require a commitment if you are to gain the most out of them. This means that you have to be ready and willing to stick it out through the entire treatment program. No ditching it because you just have to be with your buddies or you don’t like the people or the therapist is asking too many questions or you don’t like sharing in the group sessions. It’s all part of the healing process.

While you’re in treatment you’ll learn about the disease of addiction, how to identify and recognize triggers – the people, places and things you associate with your addiction. You’ll learn about coping skills and practice using them to overcome cravings and urges to use. You’ll also spend one-on-one time with a counselor or therapist that’s been assigned to you as well as participate in group sessions. There’ll be lectures, educational readings, and you will be introduced to the concept of 12-Step groups. In many cases, you’ll attend Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Participation in self-help groups is essential, since you will need to continue to go to them following completion of your treatment.

The best thing you can do for yourself is to keep an open mind and be willing to make the kind of changes in your way of thinking and your behavior. That’s if you’re serious about not being swallowed up by your addiction. No, it won’t be easy, but it won’t last forever. Use your time to your advantage. Learn all you can. Ask as many questions as you need to get the answers you want to help you beat this addiction.

Encourage Loved Ones to go to Family Treatment

No one recovers alone. That’s a mantra in the treatment community and in self-help groups. Since you will be returning home following treatment, it’s best if your family members are able to participate in family treatment while you are in active treatment. This is a little like the education process you’ll be going through in that they’ll learn about the disease of addiction, but it’s focused on how they can change their own behaviors and learn how they can support you in recovery.

There are also 12-step family groups that will prove invaluable to your loved ones both during and after your treatment. These include Nar-Anon (the family group component of Narcotics Anonymous), Al-Anon/Alateen (the family group connected with Alcoholics Anonymous), and so on.

Solidify Your Support Networks

You really need two strong support networks to help you in your recovery. These are your family and your 12-step groups. There’s no way you can successfully navigate the inevitable tough times that will occur once you leave treatment. There will be stresses that threaten to do you in, crises large or small that you think you can’t handle without a drink or going back to drugs. You may suffer depression, continuing anxiety, or wake up at night with overwhelming cravings and urges.

What do you do? You rely on the support and encouragement of your loved ones and your 12-step sponsor and fellow group members. In fact, one of your first goals upon completion of treatment and after you’ve gone to a few 12-step meetings is to find a person to be your sponsor. This is the person who will be your guide, helping you understand the 12-steps, how to do them, what to do in times of crisis, how to overcome urges, and so on. This is a responsibility the sponsor has gladly assumed, and he or she is firmly committed to helping newcomers like you as they embrace recovery.

New to recovery, you’ll find that you need this kind of support. Go to as many 12-step meetings as you need to, whether it’s three times a day to start or three to four days a week. The first 90 days is when you’ll need the most support, since this is the greatest risk period for relapse.

Keep a Positive Outlook

You’ve been through a lot. The temptation is to think you can’t handle sobriety. Don’t think of the negative. Think of the positive. When you’ve gone through rehab and are entering recovery, you’ve made a tremendous achievement. This is something to be proud of, since you made the commitment and stuck with it.

Remember that addiction takes time to overcome. You’ll never be cured, but you can learn how to manage your life in sobriety so that you can live a happy, healthy and productive life without drugs or alcohol. Over time, your mind will be clearer. You’ll feel stronger and more self-confident in your abilities to live drug- and alcohol-free.

After you have a year of sobriety, you’ll likely find that you are firmly grounded in recovery. This is the outcome you want. When you know how to live your life in sobriety and find joy in each day, creating goals and action plans to achieve them, living in the present and embracing each moment as the best life has to give, you will know the peace that comes from overcoming your addiction. This is true recovery.

Find relief in recovery. Life gets better with addiction treatment.

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