Are you drinking and/or drugging more than you want to?
Please note: I use the words addiction, drinking/drugging, together in this article because it ultimately does not matter what form of substance you use. If it is interfering with your ability to function, it’s all the same.
Many people go to treatment or come to therapy because someone else thinks they have a problem: family members, significant others, doctors, the courts. You might be starting to recognize you have a problem. Are you drinking/drugging more than you intend to? Do you end up drinking/drugging when you said you wouldn’t? Once you start drinking/drugging, do you stop when you planned or do you end up drunk/high again and wonder what happened? You want to be able to control your use. You want to be able to drink and/or drug like you once did, before you started having problems. After all, you’re an adult. Maybe you’re angry that people are bothering you about it! You should be able to drink/drug the way you want. Maybe you drink because it helps you relax after a hard day or helps you sleep. Maybe you consider yourself a social drinker and drink only when you’re with others or on weekends. What works about your drinking/drugging? What does not work? These questions are worth exploring. I can help you gain insight into how drinking/drugging serves you.
Practicing harm reduction.
Maybe you think all you need to do is slow down, regain control. One of the first things people often try is to reduce their drinking and/or drugging through what is called harm reduction. There are a number of ways you can try this. Try limiting your drinking/drugging to times when you don’t have to be anywhere, when you’ll be safe at home and are not likely to get into trouble being around groups of people or out in public. See what it would be like to drink/drug less, or less often. Try drinking/drugging only the amount you have on hand without going out to buy more. What would it be like for you to stop drinking/drugging for a period of time, say a week? How about three days or… one day? Have you tried that? How did it go? Maybe you can quit for a period of time easily. Just know, that it’s not about how much you drink/drug or how often, it’s about what happens when you do. Let’s talk about what your goals are, what you would like to try first, and then what happens with what you try.
Do you need to just stop?
Maybe you are well aware that you have to stop drinking/drugging and can’t. Once you are past the initial physical withdrawal period (we can talk about what that means and options available) and your physical cravings end, there are things that happen in your life that make you vulnerable to drinking/drugging, to relapse. If you are considering change, you must develop some degree of willingness to try things, and make some hard choices, you have never tried before. This is not about willpower. That is thinking that you have to be strong (see the paragraph below about the disease concept of addiction). Willingness is about exploring thoughts and beliefs that make you vulnerable to drinking/drugging. When do you most want to use substances to avoid feeling? Those are the hard issues I can guide you through. Let’s talk about what changes you are willing to make, what hard questions you might consider exploring, and how ready you are to stop suffering.
Addiction is a disease.
Maybe you think you’re not strong enough. Consider the idea that addiction is a disease. I suggest that for a few reasons. First, if you think it’s a matter of being strong, you are looking at addiction as a moral issue. It is not. Addicts are not bad people. It is not logical to consider that the vast numbers of addicts on the planet are weak. Addicts are actually some of the strongest and most creative people there are. Consider how far down some of us go into our active addiction and survive. Consider the variety of ways we manipulate our environment to get that drink or drug. Second, If you had another disease, say Diabetes, you would not consider yourself weak because your pancreas does not produce the correct amount of insulin you need. That would be ridiculous! There are studies that support the idea of addiction as a disease but we don’t need to go into that here. Finally, considering addiction as a disease, even if you don’t believe the idea, is simply much kinder. The concept offers a sliver of hope, hope for change, hope to feel better, hope to regain your life.
I will support you in exploring what happens when you drink/drug, and what underlies your addiction issues. There are reasons we drink/drug to the point that our lives fall apart, we destroy what we have built, and we hurt people we care about. Your willingness can grow, you can learn about your patterns of addiction, what makes you vulnerable, and how to respond to thoughts and feelings without relapse. I believe most people are capable of learning specific, concrete tools that can help in starting to rebuild a life. Let’s talk about taking the first steps.