Facing Reality: When Drug Abuse is Ruining Your Life

You’ve heard the expression, “It’s time to face reality.” Funny, though, how it’s nearly impossible for you to own up to what you’re doing to yourself, especially when it comes to drug abuse. It’s simply too easy to engage in rationalization, finger-pointing, playing the blame game or just ignoring the truth. But when drug abuse is ruining your life, there can be no more denying the facts: You’ve slid downhill just about as far as you can go. How do you face reality? What are the signs that drug abuse has nearly done you in? Is there anything positive you really can do, now that you feel like you’re a lost cause? The answer is an unquestionable “Yes.” But it means you need to stop what you’re doing and take a good, long and unflinching look at just what you’ve done to yourself. Then you can begin to take action to crawl back up out of that hole of despair and ruination that you’re in right now.

Take Stock of Your Life – and, Yes, It Will be Painful

First and foremost, it’s time for a reckoning. That is, it’s time for a self-reckoning. No time now for putting the onus on someone else. They didn’t force you to destroy yourself, your career, your family and your finances, even your health, by taking drugs. They may have encouraged you, since you probably surrounded yourself with like-minded users, but they weren’t responsible for you getting hooked on addictive substances. No, you did that all yourself. The good news is that, as painful as looking at where you are right now is, now is an excellent place to start changing your life. You certainly have enough reasons why this is a good idea, but let’s list just a few of them – in case you need reinforcement for making this drastic change in your life.

  • You want to become healthy again. – Who wouldn’t want to wake up feeling refreshed and ready to greet the day, instead of being constantly in a fog, susceptible to all kinds of physical ailments and conditions brought on by chronic drug use? There is a way out of this mess, but it will take some doing. Resolve to do what you can to regain your health. If you’re now in a debilitative state or end-phase disease, you can still take steps to make your quality of life better for your remaining days.
  • You want to mend relationships with your family. – If you have a family, they’re likely estranged or may even have disowned you by now, due to your chronic drug use. No one wants to live a life devoid of the love and support of those closest to us, even if we have our differences. Family should be able to transcend all that. But your drug abuse and addiction has cost you dearly here, and you may be afraid or even unwilling to go through the difficult challenge of mending relationships. Yet, you still want to, somewhere deep in your psyche. Not to worry. This is possible, although it may take longer than you think. The key is to have this as a goal, and then work toward achieving it – once you’ve become clean and sober again.
  • You want to reclaim your job. – Anyone who’s a drug addict knows full well that working and career don’t mix with the never-ending pursuit of the next fix, the next high. All you think about and all your actions revolve around your drug use – scheming to find, borrow or steal money to obtain your drugs, angling for where to secure them, using, getting high, coming down from the high, and beginning the cycle all over again. Likely your job was one of the first things to go once your drug use began affecting your performance and attendance, as well as your appearance, interaction with co-workers and boss, and your overall demeanor. Getting back into gainful employment should be one of your goals after you are clean and free of drugs, since you cannot support yourself or others or make any meaningful headway in recovery if you are indigent.
  • You want to make something of yourself. – Somewhere along the line you gave up on your dreams, didn’t you? Instead, you relegated yourself to something less than, to living in the shadows, to only getting by. Why was that? Did you grow up in a dysfunctional family, constantly browbeaten and ridiculed, humiliated so that you felt like you were worthless and no-good? Were you physically beaten, sexually abused, and neglected to the point of having to fend for yourself? All this can and does put children at serious risk of falling prey to the lures of drug abuse. But, once again, you can come back from all this. You can make something of yourself. It will take a great deal of effort and the help of professionals to build your self-esteem, but it can be done. You have to want to try. It is not only a worthwhile goal, but it is essential to achieving all your other goals in sobriety.
  • You want to have financial security. – There’s likely a lot more that’s been ruined as a result of your drug use, and one of these is the state of your finances. If you’re like most chronic drug addicts, every cent you have has long ago been used up in the insatiable pursuit of your drug of choice. Not only your own bank accounts, but many of your possessions were sold off, traded, or bartered to finance your drug use. Beyond that, it’s highly likely that you stole from your family and friends, neighbors, even strangers. If money was available, it found its way into your hands. Lying and stealing became second nature to you. Anything you had to do to get money to finance your drug use was par for the course. Now, however, you know you have a steep uphill battle to get to the point where you have at least a little financial security. This challenge will also require discipline and a plan of action, and you’ll need the help of someone who can help you decide on the best course of action. Make this a goal and you will be putting another solid leg in your foundation of recovery.
  • You want to feel worthwhile and human once more. – Drug addiction is devastating in so many ways that it’s almost impossible to chronicle them. One of the most damaging effects is what it does to your sense of worth and self-purpose. After many months or years of chronic drug abuse, it’s often the case that addicts have so little self-esteem left that they wouldn’t recognize it if the attribute was called to their attention. Years of engaging in deceptive, selfish, even criminal behavior all in the pursuit of drugs, will do that to you. Surely, there can’t be anything good left at your core, right? Isn’t that what you tell yourself, often as an excuse to keep on using? The truth is that you do have a kind of DNA of goodness that still resides within you. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done in your past, once you make the determination to change your life and get clean and sober, you have a clean slate to start over again. You can rebuild your life. You can find something worthwhile within you and build upon that. Yet this may be your greatest challenge. It is also a goal that professionals can help you with, along with the support and encouragement of your sponsor and fellow group members in the rooms of recovery.

Now, What?

Okay, now that you’ve taken stock of your life and decided that there may be some things that you want to do differently with it, beginning today, what should you do next? Maybe you’re completely in the dark about where to do to get help, even if you’ve heard rumblings in your travels about acquaintances that have gotten clean and are now out of your circle of use friends. You might even know a few who tried rehab and it didn’t work. More likely than not you’ve used their experience as a rationalization why you didn’t go for treatment. You figured if they couldn’t do it, you couldn’t either. Put that mistaken thought aside for a moment and concentrate on the things that you want to change about your life as it currently stands. You know, deep down inside, that you cannot possibly kick drugs on your own. You might be able to go through withdrawal for a day or so, but once the shakes and nausea kick in and every bone in your body feels like it’s being wrenched apart violently, you’ll quickly revert to drug use – anything to stop the pain. No, to do this properly requires professional help, help in the form of round-the-clock medical monitoring of detox so that it’s safe and effective. But how do you get yourself into the right kind of detox? And, is that all there is to it? The answer to the second question will lead to the answer to the first. No, detox is just the prerequisite to the real treatment phase. If all you do is get clean and sober and have not learned anything about the disease of addiction, learned and practiced coping skills so that you have something to use to help you steer clear of drugs once you complete treatment, and gathered a whole lot of other strategies and techniques in your recovery toolkit, you won’t stand much of a chance of keeping drug-free. Finding treatment is your highest priority if you’re serious about changing your life and ending the drug use that’s ruined it. The question is: How do you find the right drug treatment or rehab for you? Where do you begin? The answer to that depends very much on you. Each person’s situation is different, and personalized treatment protocols have to be developed according to the person’s background, family history, and type of drug, frequency and duration of drug use, among other factors. There is no one-size-fits-all drug treatment program. You might find that you can go to an outpatient treatment center and successfully overcome your drug addiction. Many have chosen this route and it has proven successful. Others, particularly those with heroin addiction or dual-diagnosis (substance abuse and/or mental problems, drugs and/or alcohol, multiple drug abuse, etc.), require a residential or inpatient treatment program for the best recovery possibility. Look at the type and duration of your drug addiction and think about which may work best in your situation. It’s also important to think about what you’ll require after you complete treatment, since drug rehab only gives you the preliminary skills to enter recovery. Following treatment, you are going to need continuing support. Consider this a type of reinforcement of the kind of counseling and coping skills you learned during treatment. Some recovering substance abusers are able to abstain from taking drugs fairly easily. Others relapse quickly and have to return to treatment, while some may experience a long period of abstinence only to succumb to drug cravings at a later date. And there are some who are unable to resist the lure of drugs regardless of treatment. Time for a reality check here: Drug abuse, dependence and addiction cannot be cured – despite the considerable medical research being conducted through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) to find cures for various addictions. There is hope, but the potential pharmacological advances are still a ways off. In the meantime, treatment is the only proven method that works. The longer you stay off drugs, the more likely that you’ll be able to remain drug-free in the future.

How to Go About Finding a Drug Treatment Facility

This isn’t something that should cause you undue stress or anxiety. Go to the experts. Call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) referral hotline at (800) 662-HELP. You can also check out their treatment facility locator at There are also numerous helpful websites with information on drug abuse and treatment. You can also check out various treatment centers you learn about or get referrals to on the Web. Here are some important points to consider when choosing a drug treatment center:

  • Make sure that the facility or center is licensed to treat addictions in your state and that all of the staff is licensed and accredited.
  • Be sure that you concentrate on finding a treatment facility that specializes in treating the specific drug (or drugs or combination of drug and alcohol) you have been abusing.
  • Inquire about the rehab facility’s track record in successfully treating patients with this type of drug problem.
  • Learn exactly what’s involved in the treatment program, including all costs for treatment, and any extra costs for additional services.
  • Ask about aftercare, continuing care and support following treatment. This involves continued support to help you stay free of drugs and learn new ways of dealing with work, family and social situations that may have aggravated or contributed to drug or alcohol use in the past. Not every drug and alcohol treatment center or facility offers or provides aftercare. You really should search for one that does provide it.
  • Find out about what’s covered by insurance, whether the treatment facility or center has a sliding pay scale or ability-to-pay program, scholarships, or any available loans.
  • Will the program you’re looking at offer an adequate amount of time for the treatment to work? If you have a long-standing addiction, this may involve months of time, not just a period of 21 to 30 days that may be appropriate for less severe or less chronic addiction.
  • Tour the facility to ensure it’s a place you feel that’s conducive to your treatment and recovery. Does is feel comfortable? Is it in a pleasant setting? If the place is a residential treatment center, does the atmosphere feel like home? Home-like accommodations are a tremendous benefit in helping patients with transition to a normal life, providing a realistic environment where they can practice the new skills they learn.

Final Thoughts on Changing Your Life

Keep the end goal in sight when searching for the best drug treatment center. You want to get off physical addiction to drugs, deal with the emotional and psychological baggage that addiction carries and help restructure your life so you can remain free of drugs when you leave treatment. It’s also best to get everything you need in the same facility, rather than have to go to separate locations for detox, counseling, educational discussions, group meetings, and other services. Choose a drug treatment center that is full-service – and one that best meets your needs. Finally, remember that recovery is a lifelong process. It isn’t something you do for a certain period of time and then forget about it. When you choose treatment with a genuine commitment to remain clean and sober, that’s what you choose for the rest of your life. Treatment, counseling and aftercare support are the only ways that you will be successful in your efforts.

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