How can you prove to yourself that you need professional help for your addiction or alcoholism?
I can remember being in this exact dilemma myself. I knew that my life was falling apart and I knew that I needed help, but I just couldn’t convince myself that I really needed to go to such extremes. I thought that I was smart enough to figure things out on my own, without resorting to professional help.
I was wrong.
My first problem, of course, was denial. I believed that I could justify my addiction and my outrageous behavior because I simply did not want to stop drinking yet, even though it was obviously bad for me and basically ruining my life. Because of my denial I had myself fooled into thinking that I wanted to keep drinking.
“I would get sober if I wanted to do so but I don’t really want to do it”
I can look back at this point of my addiction and see what was really going on.
Back then I could not see it. I was stuck in denial. I wanted to keep medicating every day and continue to hide from myself, to hide from reality.
I told myself lies about why I wanted to drink. I tried to glamorize alcohol and drugs and I thought that I “just really liked to party.”
Who was I kidding? The party was long since over. It wasn’t fun any more. Yet I had to get wasted every day just to avoid withdrawal symptoms. That’s not “fun.” That is not the definition of a party–having to self medicate just to avoid withdrawal. What kind of party is that?
So what was really going on? I was telling myself that I could probably overcome my addiction if I wanted to do so, but that I just didn’t want to. That was what I was telling myself.
But the truth was that I was afraid. I was scared to face reality without being wasted all the time. I was afraid to get sober and discover the person that I had become. I was afraid to take the mask off and find out who I really was, without the alcohol.
That was what was really going on. I told myself “Oh, I just really like to party! People who don’t drink and use drugs are just boring!” But the truth was that I was running away from myself. I did not like the person that I had become so I tried to medicate it all away. I was running away from my own shadow in my addiction.
At some point I realized that I really did not like the life that I was living. And when I finally admitted that to myself I was also at a point of honesty where I could admit that I had no idea how to actually quit drinking and live a happy life.
Note: It is not a problem to quit drinking. That was not my hurdle. Anyone can put down the booze. The question is, can you still live with yourself after putting down the booze? Can you still be happy and free and live a good life without having to self medicate? That was the real challenge I was facing.
That is what makes drug addiction and alcoholism so incredibly difficult. Not that you have to walk away from the chemicals, but that you are left with only yourself. And you have to look at yourself in the mirror and be OK walking around in your own skin every day. And somehow you have to find happiness in sobriety without going crazy. That is what getting clean and sober is all about.
Have you seriously tried to stop drinking or using drugs on your own yet?
Have you really tried to quit in the past?
I honestly tried to quit drinking twice. The first time I really tried, I screwed it up very badly because I was still abusing other drugs. For those who are not aware, this never works. If you substitute one addictive drug for another it will just lead you into more addictive behavior. Eventually you will end up back at your drug of choice, or you will simply move on to find a new way to self medicate. Either way you won’t find recovery, peace, or happiness by switching from one substance to another.
I learned this when I tried to do the “marijuana maintenance program.” I quit drinking booze and just smoked weed all the time. I think this worked for maybe a month or two before I just went absolutely crazy and found myself shaking with frustration. I was actually shaking and in tears when I finally caved in and drank again. And what was causing all of that drama? Nothing in particular. There was nothing serious going on in my life at the time, nothing that I couldn’t handle. But I had just had enough of reality and I wanted my drug of choice. You can’t switch from one addiction to another and consider it any sort of real solution. It just doesn’t work.
That was the first time that I really tried to quit drinking. It failed miserably because I wasn’t ready to change my life. My logic at the time was: “Alcohol is my problem, but I still need a way to medicate my mood, so I will just use other substances and avoid alcohol.” Again, this never works. It lasted about a month and I was back on the sauce.
The next time I tried to quit drinking was my moment of real surrender. That was over 13 years ago and I have not had a drink since. The reason it was so different was because I was actually at a point where I had hit bottom, I surrendered fully, I was willing to do whatever it took in order to stop this time. I was willing to walk into a treatment center and say to the people there: “I don’t know how to live. Please show me.”
That is a sincere plea for help. That is real desperation. The alcoholic has to get to the point where they are genuinely baffled by life and by their addiction and they no longer know how to make themselves happy. That was what it was like for me hitting bottom. I realized that I did not have the answers. I was clueless. I had tried to hard to be happy and I failed miserably.
So basically what you need to do is to ask yourself if you have ever tried to stop drinking or using drugs yet on your own. This is a yes or no question. Either you have tried or you have not.
If the answer is “no,” you haven’t tried, then you need to ask yourself why not? What has stopped you from trying? Because surely there are signs and obvious reasons that you should stop putting harmful chemicals into your body, right? It would likely be so much better for you in so many ways if you were to overcome your addiction, right? Or maybe you just don’t want to stop yet?
If that is the case then you are probably still in denial. There are at least 2 levels of denial:
1) You deny that there is any problem whatsoever. Call this “complete denial” or maybe “total denial.” You argue that you are not a drunk or addict at all, not in the least.
2) You admit that you have a problem, but you deny the solution. You say things like “AA won’t work for me” or “treatment can’t possibly help me.”
Note that both of these are still denial. I was well past number one (I admitted that I was a raging alcoholic) but I was stuck in denial because of number 2. I was too afraid to go get the help that I needed. I argued that AA would never work for me. I argued that I had been to rehab twice already and it failed. I argued and whined and complained and said whatever I could to get people to believe that it was impossible for me to recover. Why couldn’t the world just accept that I have to drink in order to be happy? And yet all the while I was completely miserable. That is real denial.
You should be aware that both of these are denial. Denial of the problem is obvious. But denial of the solution (refusal to get help) can be more subtle.
The difference between a drinking problem and full blown alcoholism
Maybe you just have a drinking problem.
Maybe that’s it. You are not a real alcoholic, but instead you just have a drinking problem.
Sounds nice, right?
Well, let’s get down to the root of things here. Let’s define our terms.
A drinking problem is when you give someone too much alcoholic and they fall down and get all silly.
An alcoholic is someone who starts freaking out when you take away their alcohol entirely.
Which one sounds more like you? Of course that is a very informal definition, but it is also pretty accurate.
Problem drinkers don’t have a massive life problem because of booze.
Problem drinkers might lose control when they drink too much, but it’s not the driving force in their life. They can take it or leave it.
But the real alcoholic has to have a way to self medicate. They are escaping from themselves.
So you may be using this excuse that you don’t really need professional help because you are not really an alcoholic, and you are just a problem drinker.
There are all sorts of quizzes online that can help you figure out the difference. But the bottom line is that if you can’t go for a few months without self medicating then you might have a serious problem.
The problem too is that binge drinkers might go for a very long time without drinking, but then when they drink they lose total control and wreck their lives in dramatic fashion. So it is not really about periods of abstinence, it is about what happens when you put alcohol into your body, and also about your need to self medicate.
Alcoholics generally have a huge problem if you take the booze away and they are not working some sort of recovery program. They can’t function. They have to either self medicate or start actively working on recovery. That is really the definition of an alcoholic or a drug addict. It is a person who is either working on recovery, or working on relapse. But they cannot float in between the two extremes like a normal person can, or a “problem drinker” might do. The real alcoholic can’t do that. They are either sober or screwed up. No in between.
Look at the payoff if you are successful in getting treatment versus the payoff for continuing to self medicate
Maybe you are thinking about treatment. Maybe you are thinking about it but you don’t really know if it will be worth it.
What if you try and fail? What if you go to treatment and then you end up drinking again?
What if you spend money on treatment or take off of work in order to go to rehab and doesn’t work out?
In order to answer those questions you have to do a bit of predicting. What will happen if you never get any help for your problem?
I can tell you from experience and observation what will happen if you never get help for drug addiction or alcoholism. The disease is progressive and it only gets worse over time. It never gets better in the long run. Things always go downhill and the consequences only get worse.
So the worst consequence of addiction is death. Your disease kills you in the end.
But along the road to that miserable ending is a whole bunch of pain and misery that could be avoided. Addicts and alcoholics lose cars, homes, jobs, spouses, entire families, and so on. They lose their health. They lose their love for life. They lose everything on the way down.
You can’t really say “oh, but that won’t happen to me.” Of course it will happen eventually, it is merely a matter of when and how quickly. Some alcoholics live a long time, but most do not. The mortality rates are not good. I have looked at some data and it is pretty horrific. Not to mention the quality of your life and lack of happiness while you are alive.
So consider the risk versus reward in this case. If you go to treatment and you are successful, your whole will turn around and you can be happy again. Or in some cases, you can be happy for once. I have met people in recovery who were abusing drugs or alcohol when they were only 6 or 7 years old. They have never known a life of sobriety until their got into recovery. So everything is a gift to them, they are grateful for all of it.
And this is the attitude that can lead you to a better life in recovery. Be grateful for all of it. Be grateful for the chance to experience happiness and peace without having to self medicate first. If you can be grateful about your sobriety then it is so much easier to hold onto it.
What have you really got to lose?
You can prove it to yourself.
For once and for all, you can find out the truth. You can go to treatment and commit to a year of sobriety. A full year should be enough for you to evaluate if it is truly worth it or not.
What have you really got to lose? If you decide that sobriety is boring or not fulfilling, you can always go back to a life of addiction later on.
Think about that for a moment. Really digest it. The drugs and the booze aren’t going anywhere. They will always be there if you want to go back to them someday. You aren’t really missing anything if you sober up for a year. It will just be this amazing year of clarity where you get to see things much clearer for a while. And then you can make a decision with a clear mind if you really want to stay sober or not. But you will have full freedom within yourself to choose your drug of choice again if you desire.
When you put it like that, you have nothing to lose. Anyone can take a year off from their addiction, go to treatment, maybe do a few meetings and meet some new people, and then decide if they really want sobriety or not.
I had this equation all backwards when I was stuck in addiction. I thought that if I sobered up for a year that I would miss out on all of that time when I could have been getting drunk and high all the time.
Just imagine: A whole year of getting drunk and high! Really, what is the point of that? It is like sand dripping through an hourglass or something. Getting drunk and high every day means nothing. It accomplishes nothing. You have literally nothing to show for it at the end of it all. And you can’t even remember most of it! Unbelievable that I would spend so much energy defending my right to get drunk and high all the time. You have nothing to show for it, it ruins your health, it completely demotivates you, and you can’t even remember the supposedly “good times” that you had while getting drunk or high. What is the point?
There is no point. Addiction is a dead end, a trap. It used to be fun, it started out as being fun, and then it slowly morphed into something that is just a chore. Now you have to use your drug of choice every day just to feel normal. It’s not even fun any more. What’s the point?
In order to convince yourself that it is time to take the plunge you have to get honest with yourself. What is your drug of choice really doing for you lately? Is it magically transporting you to a virtual party whenever you take it, like it did in the beginning? Of course your drug of choice was magical in the beginning, that was how it hooked you! But the magic is gone, isn’t it? Be honest with yourself. If the magic were still there and if it were still a lot of fun then you would not even be trying to decide about this. You would not be struggling with the decision at all.
If you can quit on your own then just quit. Do a year without any addictive drugs or alcohol, the evaluate again. You can decide after a full year if you really want to be sober or not.
Me, I couldn’t do it. Not without some help. So I had to ask for help. I had to go to treatment and say “show me how to live. I no longer know how to be happy.” And I had to mean it. I had to be totally defeated when I said that. And I was defeated. I was at my bottom and I genuinely wanted help.
Prove to yourself that it is time to do something different. Addiction is a downward spiral that only ends in death. Don’t you want better for yourself? Don’t you want to be happy again?
It’s possible. Any alcoholic or drug addict can transform their life, if they are willing to take the plunge and ask for help.
Scary, I know. But what have you got to lose? If you are already miserable, then just go for it, and see what happens….