Alcoholics and addicts have serious problems managing their own lives, but, getting them to see it and admit it is the biggest step. Nothing will get better for the addict until they take the first step, and it is usually the hardest one to do. Some find it exceptionally easy, intellectually anyways. For example, if you are doing time for your fifth DUI and possession charge, it may be easy for you to admit you have a problem. Accepting it is a whole other story. Addicts have had their addictions to hide their low self-esteems. Admitting powerlessness is a huge blow to any self-esteem, an addict with low self-esteem to begin with is going to resist accepting powerlessness to protect that self-esteem.
Which is why I am offering guidance. When an addict is able to see the disaster their addictions have made of their lives, acknowledging and eventually accepting the fact that they have a problem comes easier. If you are working step one, or are wondering if you have a problem, here are some things to consider:
- Has your addiction caused you relationship problems? Have their been arguments about your addiction? Has your addiction caused you to anger any loved ones? Have you lied to or stolen from loved ones to support your addiction? Have people told you that they are concerned about your addiction?
- Has your addiction caused you money problems? Have you lost a job because of your addiction? Have you missed work from being hungover or because you were busy using?How much money have you spent on your addiction? Has your addiction taken up money meant for bills? Do you have a stable home with electricity and running water?
- Has your addiction caused you physical problems? Have you lost weight? Are you eating well? Have you ever been dope sick? Are you getting the right amount of sleep? How often are you hungover?
- Has your addiction caused you legal problems? Have you gotten arrested for a drug or alcohol related offense, or stealing to support your habit? Do you have custody of your children?
Once an addict takes the first step, depression may set in. Recovery is traumatic. When an addict enters recovery, his or her whole life will need to change. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. Addicts in recovery are forced to face their demons without their crutch. That is really hard.
Fortunately, once this first step is taken, good changes can start to happen and growth is possible. This first step to recovery is also the addicts first step to managing their new lives.
Every alcoholic and addict who wants to recover needs a Relapse Prevention Plan. A lot of people in recovery have it in their heads, but, they are more helpful if written out and specific. Things to consider are:
- What reminds you of drugging/drinking? Have a specific plan to avoid the people, places, and things you associate with drugging/drinking.
- What triggers your specific cravings? Remember not to let yourself become to hungry, tired, or upset. You can control your emotions by controlling your thoughts.
- Healthy substitutes will need to be found to replace the roles drugs/alcohol played in your life. More constructive ways to spend your time will need to be planned at the beginning of sobriety. Otherwise, you set yourself up to fail. Find new hobbies, make new friends, and create a daily routine. A regular routine can comfort you when you struggle.
- Your thoughts. Think positively. Count your blessings. Use self-affirmation to build self-esteem and self-efficacy (belief in yourself).
- What will you do when someone from your past tries to drag you back into using/drinking?How will you handle cravings? Who will be your new support system? AA? NA? Your family?
Your personal Relapse Prevention Plan will not be like anybody else’s. We are all unique. I would advise everybody in recovery write one out and post it in a place where it can be seen daily.
Addiction CAN be the result of mental illness. People with untreated mental illness, such as depression and bipolar disorder, have a tendency to self medicate. If they have the mutated gene that makes them susceptible to addiction, they are an addict waiting to develop. This is something those in 12 step recovery programs, or any recovery program, needs to keep in mind, as soon as sobriety starts. A clean addict with an untreated mental illness or mood disorder will probably not stay clean.
I know a person who was informally diagnosed as an alcoholic, considered a binge drinker, because she had been having personal and legal problems due to her drinking. In fact, she wasn’t. She had undiagnosed and untreated bipolar disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Once she began taking medication and going to counseling, she lost her desire to drink.
It makes you wonder if binge drinkers are really alcoholics, like the psychologists claim, or if they just have an untreated mental illness.
Mood disorders are becoming more and more common. Chronic, acute stress, over time, can cause the changes in the brain that develop into mood disorders. Modern life causes a lot of chronic, acute stress in a lot of people. This is why more people are developing mood disorders, as well as addiction.