How to Identify and Face Addiction
Let’s start with some guidelines for identifying physical addiction to alcohol or drugs: the substance is required to reduce withdrawal cravings; the individual has no control over when and how the substance is used; an increasing amount is required to achieve intoxication; the individual spends an increasing amount of time obtaining the substance.
Common indicators that an addiction is present include poor health, mood swings, alienation from family and friends, hangovers and interventions from law enforcement. An individual experiencing these symptoms will likely require a period of detoxification under medical supervision in order to become sober.
Ambivalence is normal when it comes to making any change. The addicted individual may be reluctant to give up familiar activities and experience self-doubt about whether they are able to make a change. These reactions often create a setting in which strong cravings can emerge. With consistent positive attention the power of an addictive substance can be lessened. Increasing self-care skills, as well as tapping into emotional support and resources can help reduce the impact of cravings and impulsivity.
Lasting change requires several conditions. A person must stay strictly sober and recognize that their previous behavior was a form of self-abuse. Reliance on a substance to self-medicate against pain prevents the individual from learning from experience and learning life skills. Remaining sober requires an acknowledgement that the addictive substance is no longer a good fit for addressing life’s problems.
Another requirement of getting sober is seeking out appropriate help. Sobriety is difficult to maintain when facing cravings and negative emotions by one’s self. Psychotherapy can help stabilize the patient, and working with a group like Alcoholics Anonymous can also be helpful.
Support groups can provide an antidote to social isolation, replace shame with positive identity traits, provide language and a venue for discussing addiction, offer a context for self-care and promote self-governance rather than self-destruction.
Admitting one’s role in addiction, as well as how it has led to loss of control and affects loved ones, is also an important part of change. A victim role can also be exchanged for a survivor’s role, taking responsibility for the choices one has made in the past.
Individuals seeking to overcome an addiction can also develop a disciplined plan, including self-care activities, identification of secure boundaries and limiting self-abuse. These can all help the addicted individual identify signs that relapse is likely and develop ways to handle stress or other relapse triggers.
Addicts often miss out on opportunities to learn things that non-addicted peers learn at an early age. Even support group meetings may provide so much information that it’s a struggle to absorb it all. Reading about sobriety may help an addict learn about the nature of addiction and how to recover.
These lessons are just the beginning of addressing addiction. Patients must continue to seek out support and continue self-care to prevent relapse once treatment for addiction is complete.