For some people the question “do I have a problem?” has an unmistakable answer. Once I experienced arrests, withdrawal symptoms, trips to detox, career problems, breakups, and loved ones telling me directly that I had a problem, my problem was hard to ignore. For drugs and alcohol, I betrayed almost everyone I loved. I stole from family members, lied to romantic partners, betrayed the trust of friends, all because my relationship with them was getting in the way of my relationship with my addiction. By the time I spent my first night in jail, I knew without a doubt that I had a problem.
Is this addiction or just casual drug use?
While some people have no doubts about their status as an addict or alcoholic, for others, the line between addiction and casual use is sometimes blurry, if not unrecognizable altogether. For people who haven’t hit bottom, it can be hard to know when it’s time to stop. I know people who were down-and-out Bowery bums with seemingly no hope of ever recovering. I also know people who got into recovery while they still had a good job, loving spouse, wonderful kids, nice house with the white picket fence, the works. But lurking just beneath the surface of their perfect life was the demon of addiction. I know people who got sober at 17 years old, and I know people who didn’t go to their first meeting until they were over 50. There is no one way. Some people get it early, some people get it late - the important part is that you get it if you need it.
I have a good job and a nice house, I can’t be an addict!
Many addicts hide in plain sight. Whether it’s the businessman who has too many cocktails at lunch, the banker with the cocaine habit, the mommy with the Xanax addiction, the straight-A student with the Adderall habit, or the accident victim who developed an opiate addiction, there are addicts in all shapes and sizes in every walk of life. Often times, people with “casual addictions” - that is, addictions that haven’t completely taken hold of their lives - don’t recognize their own addiction until it’s too late.
There is no wrong time to get sober
The beauty of a program of recovery is that we each get to determine for ourselves when enough is enough. They say the only meeting you’re ever late for is your first one, but that doesn’t mean you have to end up homeless on the street with a needle in your arm before seeking help. We each determine our own bottom. Whether it’s a DUI arrest, one too many sick days, not enough money in the bank, or just a bad hangover, we each have the personal autonomy to say “this is it, this is where I stop.” That onus of personal choice is what makes recovery the gateway to freedom itself. My recovery is my own, and no one else’s, and by that same token, my addiction is my own too.
So how do I know if I have a problem?
A lot of people say “if you think you might have a problem, you definitely have a problem,” and I tend to agree with that sentiment. Ask yourself, how much do I LOVE alcohol and drugs? What am I willing to sacrifice for one more hit of my substance of choice - my relationship? My job? My family? My freedom? My life? If you find yourself making small sacrifices now for your drug of choice, you’ll be making huge sacrifices for that drug later on down the road. Hell, a lot of people would say that if you have a drug of choice in the first place, you might want to take a look at that. Ultimately, the decision is yours, so you have to look inward at yourself, your emotional state, and your own sacrifices to see what you’ve lost or given up in order to pursue alcohol and drugs.
It’s not my job to diagnose others with addictions. That’s up to them. After all, when I go to meetings and raise my hand to identify myself, I don’t say their name, I say my own. Because I’m responsible for my own addiction, I’m also responsible for my own recovery. I chose to go to detox. I chose to go to rehab. I chose to go to meetings. I chose to get a sponsor. I chose my higher power. I chose to work with a recovery coach. I chose to live in a sober living. And ultimately, if I relapse, that’s my choice too. If addiction is slavery, then recovery is the release of that bondage.
Find out if recovery is the answer you’re looking for
For me, the answer made itself apparent when I went to my first 12-step meeting. Before the meeting, I was a nervous wreck. I hadn’t had a drink or a drug that day. My hands were shaking, I was sweating, jumpy, sick to my stomach, and couldn’t sit still. I walked into that meeting, met a couple people who stuck their hands out to me, and then sat and listened as complete strangers described all the feelings I never knew I had. With each person’s share, I felt more and more relaxed, eventually laughing at something that struck me particularly funny.
When the meeting ended, just like the first time I took a drink way back in high school, I wanted more. I wanted to feel the joy and confidence exuded by these people, so I went back for more. I raised my hand, and said “hi, my name is Dylan and I’m an alcoholic.” With that statement, I was freed. I felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. Suddenly, I was reading the 12 steps that were posted on the wall, and although I didn’t understand them, I wanted to. I wanted to know everything. That curiosity led me to pursue serious recovery services like detox, rehab, recovery coaches, and case managers. I fell off the wagon a few times, but the elation I felt at that first meeting is what made me keep coming back.
If you’re wondering if you have a problem with alcohol or drugs, seek help from someone who’s in recovery or an addiction recovery professional. It could be at a local 12-step meeting, a detox or rehab, a professional case manager, or certified recovery coach. The most important thing is that if you think you have a problem, you should ask for help.
-- Anonymous for Life Assurance Recovery 2018
If you or a loved one is struggling with drug addiction or Alcoholism reach out to your health care provider or the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). If you are experiencing withdrawal from drugs or alcohol call 911. You don’t have to do it alone.
For more information about helpful recovery services like at-home detox, recovery coaching, sober companionship, interventions, and more, contact Life Assurance Recovery. We’ve got your back.