You don’t have to hit rock bottom to be ready to accept treatment for addiction, but some addicts do. The truth is that the timing of recognizing that you’re ready for treatment is different for everyone. Whenever it occurs, there are some things that are common to the breakthrough moment that may help you take the next all-important step.
Enough is Enough
Whether the issue is problem drinking, alcohol abuse, dependence or addiction, or illicit or nonmedical use of prescription drugs, compulsive gambling, compulsive sexual behavior, overwork, eating disorder or co-occurring disorder (substance abuse and mental illness), there comes a time when you realize that enough is enough. You’ve had it up to here and beyond with the way your life has been going. Not only are the walls closing in with depression, anxiety, sleepless nights and other myriad physical and mental complaints, but your relationships are suffering, your job may be in jeopardy, bills are mounting up, and you can’t stand the sight of yourself in the mirror. Where did the real me go, you may wonder? You’re still there, although you’ve lost yourself under the cloud of your addiction. You have two choices at this point: Accept that you have a problem and seek treatment for it or continue on your path of self-destruction. What have you got to lose? This is a no-brainer. Go for the treatment. This is your breakthrough moment.
Life has No Joy
For some, the breakthrough moment appears gradually, over a period of months or even years. If you find yourself dreading the day ahead, or just barely making it through your everyday existence, life has lost its joy. This is no way to live. What you’ve been doing to mask your pain, beat back the stress, or deal with all your troubles (financial, legal, social, medical, psychological), is just making the problems worse. Alcohol, drugs or other addictive behavior just doesn’t cut it anymore. You need more of it, and more often. You’re totally out of control, or nearly getting there. In any case, it’s a bad situation that you’re coming to realize. When life is all gray, seemingly an endless vista of pain and more addictive behavior, it’s time to cut out the addiction and go for treatment. Can’t remember feeling good without the help of your drug of choice – but you want to? Go for treatment. This is your breakthrough moment.
Maybe They’re Right
Has your wife, partner, family member, boss, co-worker or other person close to you tried to convince you for some time that you need to get help? Have you found brochures or information downloaded from the Internet on various treatment facilities lying around for you to see? Are things a little frosty at home due to your addictive behavior? Tears, angry scenes, maybe even an intervention staged by your loved ones and a professional interventionist? Think about what you’ve seen and heard – really think about it for once, instead of automatically rejecting the obvious pleas for you to get help. If the inkling occurs to you that maybe, just maybe, they’re right – then this could be your breakthrough moment, the time when you begin to do something to overcome your addiction.
Assess Your Situation
Once a year, you have to pay your taxes to Uncle Sam. This involves preparation, of sorts, gathering together all your financial documents and sitting down with your tax professional (or doing it yourself) and getting to work to see what the damage is. Using this analogy, you may find yourself unconsciously doing a self-assessment about your life when it comes to your addiction. Things may not quite add up – or they may be way off-kilter. Where does all your money go? If it’s getting harder to pay the monthly mortgage, car payment and insurance (especially for a two- or multi-car family), utilities, educational expenses, medical expenses, and all the rest, you may soon face the dilemma – if you haven’t already – of where to find the funds to continue to take care of your family obligations. You know, instinctively, what happened to the money. It went to finance your addiction, to pay for the booze, pills, grass, poker, or whatever. You’ve tried your best to hide the big hole in the savings and checking account, or to grab the credit card bills before your spouse or partner sees them, but, after a while, you just can’t stem the flow of red ink. When you begin to assess your situation from a dollar and cents standpoint and you see that you’re rapidly sliding downhill, what will you choose to do? Again, you have two choices: Continue to drain your family’s finances to finance your habit, or put a stop to the self-destructive behavior and go for help.
Getting Past Denial
Most addicts go through a period of denial. I don’t have a problem. I can handle my liquor (or pills, gambling, etc.). Everything’s under control. You’re making way too big a deal out of this. It’s nothing, really. Get off my back. Do these words sound familiar? Despite evidence to the contrary, it’s amazing how often and how long a person will deny what everyone else can see to be true – they’re addicted and failing fast. Denial is one of the first stages addicts generally go through before they move up the ladder of consciousness to admit there is, indeed a problem. If you had an open wound that progressively got worse – and you did nothing about it – that would be completely foolhardy, wouldn’t it? The damage caused by addiction may not be so outwardly visible, but those closest to you are more than aware of the change in your behavior, mood, and physical condition. You know in your heart that things aren’t the same as they once were. You may no longer have the energy, mental alertness, ambition or emotional stability that you once took for granted. All that you can remember is that when you really felt good was before you got hooked on alcohol, drugs, or other addictive behavior. When you start allowing the thought to enter your mind that you do have a problem, maybe this is your ah-ha moment – the time when you begin to consider that the only way to get better is to accept and go for treatment.
Nothing Else Worked – Maybe Give it a Try
Give yourself a little credit – actually, a lot of credit – if you’ve tried to wean yourself off your fix of alcohol, drugs or other addictive behavior. Chances are, it may have worked for a day or so, but, inevitably, it probably failed. You may have even remained clean and sober for some period of time before you relapsed back into your bad habits. For many addicts, this is a pattern that’s repeated time and again until they finally go into treatment. Sure, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be forever clean and sober following treatment. It could be that you didn’t give it long enough, or learn enough coping skills, or the cravings and urges were just too tough at the time. But you’re not in a good place now, are you? Talking yourself out of using didn’t work. Staying away for a day soon went by the wayside. All you think about is when you’re next going to drink or smoke or pop pills or inject or lay money on the table. That’s no way to continue for the rest of your life. Depending on your type of addiction, you may wind up in jail, a psychiatric institution, or the morgue. That’s no joke. When addiction is chronic and long-term, without treatment, the results are predictable and grim. Since nothing else worked for you – or lasted very long – maybe it’s time now for you to think about getting treatment for your addiction. If you’re ready to allow that maybe you could give treatment a try – for real, not just going through the motions – this could be your breakthrough moment.
Whatever it Takes is Worth it
Naturally, it’s a little scary thinking about the whole treatment process, what it entails, how long it takes, what you have to do, and so on. Pick up one of those brochures your spouse or partner left on the table and read through it. Do your own Internet search and learn more about the disease of addiction, the evidence-based treatments available today, and the promising anti-craving medications on the market to ease the transition off addictive substances and allow treatment to proceed. All you need to do is get to the place where you believe that being clean and sober is the lifestyle that you want to adopt, that you need to adopt, and that you will adopt. When you arrive at this decision, the rest will go along with it. You will tell yourself what you need to know in order to take it to the next level. You will say to yourself, “Whatever it takes is worth it.” This will be your breakthrough moment.
Overcoming Multiple Relapse History
If you’ve been through treatment before and relapsed, perhaps several times, dispel the thought from your mind right now that you’re a failure. Just because you slipped back into your addiction in no way means that there’s something wrong with you. Relapse has nothing to do with lack of will power or strength of character or moral fiber. It only means that you didn’t develop sufficient coping skills to be able to withstand the sometimes overpowering urges and cravings. Perhaps you went back too soon to your old life – including revisiting the same people, places and things that got you into trouble before. In any case, sometimes addicts need to go to treatment more than once before they’re ready to embrace sobriety – with all the requisite tools and strategies to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Experts in the field of addiction treatment say that it’s never too late for treatment. Granted, for a late-stage, chronic alcoholic, it may be nearly too late, but still the quality of life may be able to be improved. You’re most likely not in that position – and you surely don’t want to be. What will happen when you go back into treatment after relapse? You’ll need to detoxify, of course, to purge your body of the toxins of your drug or alcohol abuse (or stay away from the addictive behavior). You’ll again enter the active treatment phase where you’ll receive individual and group counseling, utilizing various forms of therapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy (MET), family therapy, 12-step group participation, and other treatment modalities. You may be prescribed medication to help with the cravings. You will analyze what did work for you and try to come up with modifications on those strategies that can help you in the future to avoid relapse. You will look at where you went astray and develop ways to cope with those types of situations. The good news is that the more committed you are to becoming clean and sober, the better the likelihood that you will be successful in your recovery. So, if you are someone who has relapsed before, but still wants to get clean and sober, this may be the breakthrough moment for you. Seize the opportunity and get back into treatment. The sooner you go, the better your outlook.
One Day at a Time
Remember the old saying by Confucius? The longest journey begins with the first step. This is a wise adage that applies very well to the concept of treatment for addiction. Just as no one would venture on an uncertain journey of indefinite length if all they thought about was how long and how difficult it might be or if they’d have the strength to complete it, so, too, it would be prohibitive for someone to embrace treatment if they concentrated on only the negatives: too difficult, too painful, too lengthy, too uncertain. While treatment isn’t to be considered a cake walk, it isn’t the dank and horrific nuthouse depicted in old black-and-white movies, either. The field of addiction treatment has made many significant strides, particularly in the last two decades. Addiction is treatable and offers positive outcomes for many addicts. Advances in treatment medications mean withdrawal symptoms may be reduced or eliminated altogether. There are anti-craving medications that are non-addictive and can sustain you through the uncertain period of early recovery so that you can get a better handle on effective coping strategies. Support and encouragement from self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous offers long-term fellowship months and years after treatment is concluded. The important point to think about is that you take it one day at a time. This isn’t a religious mantra, or a political slogan, or anything other than common sense. No matter how bad things get, if you tell yourself that you will make it through the next 24 hours, you will. Things will look better and be better if you adopt this type of approach. When you are ready to tell yourself that you will embrace treatment and you will take it one day at a time – this is truly your breakthrough moment. This is the time when you are truly ready for treatment. Now, all you have to do is: Do it.