Do you, your doctor or someone close to you, feel you have a problem with drugs or alcohol?

Do you, your doctor or someone close to you, feel you have a problem with drugs or alcohol?

For a person who may have a problem with drugs or alcohol, admitting there is a problem is difficult. They may have many reasons for why things are the way they are, or they may feel they can quit at any time, but haven't. Even once one quits using, they may still have a problem. They may now be more irritable, easily angered or just more negative. Even though one quits using, it doesn't mean every things now okay. There still may be a problem.

Alcohol is the most widely available and culturally accepted abusable substance. Approximately 90% of people admit using alcohol at some time in their life, of these, 30% will develop some problem because of their drinking. Specific problems with alcohol or other substances of abuse include: their causing problems at home, work or school, use before or while driving,

  • significant changes in behavior while intoxicated,
  • continued use even after problems from the substance use occurs,
  • taking more of a substance or for a longer time then intended,
  • having unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop the substance,
  • spending more time to obtain or use the substance then intended, or
  • decreasing ones involvement in healthy activities because of ones use of a substance.

The first and most important step to addressing the problem is to admit that a problem exists. This is often difficult because people with substance use problems believe they are in control of their use. To address the problem, they have to admit that they are not in control. To be able to accept that they have a problem, it often take confrontation by the friends and family of the individual. Often the person with the problem has to see and appreciate the negative consequences of their behavior before they may be open enough to see and admit to the problem.

Once one has had a problem with alcohol, drugs or even problem behaviors such a gambling, the goal needs to be total avoidance of that substance or behavior. Just cutting back or controlled use is rarely a successful long term solution. Once you are substance free and admitting that you have a problem, then it is critical that you find out what others have done that has, and then to do it. The most available path to health for a person with an substance problem is Twelve step work, also referred to as Recovery. In recovery, one has to admit a loss of control over the situation, to find that others have done something that has helped them, and to use a set of beliefs that is used by others, referred to as a higher power, to guide their lives, rather then their own opinions and priorities. It is not to say that others will tell you how to think or live; it is to say that they will tell you the beliefs by which they live. If you accept this belief system as your own and use it to guide your life, then they can be of great benefit. If the beliefs held by others are seen as an external and intellectual good idea, and not accepted and brought into your life, then they can be of little help.

In Twelve step work, as with most healthy beliefs and support systems, you are asked to be part of a group, to share with and to listen to the others in the group. It is almost impossible to change ones life and lifestyle without some form of fellowship with a group of believers. Many people seeking help would like everything to be done with them to be on a one to one basis. They report they often feel uncomfortable in a crowd, and while social anxiety is quite common in this population, I often find another reason for their desire to avoid participation with a group. In a one to one situation, people tend to be able think and to judge the situation easier. It is easier to maintain an intellectual separation from emotional issues. They then can focus on what they think about a situation instead of feeling connected with others, for example, they may think, "Do I agree with what's said or not," or they may say that my doctor or my family thinks I have a problem, without their having to feel personally involved and responsible. For a recovering individual, accepting personal responsibility for their actions and letting go of being judgmental can quite difficult. These ideas often keep arising spontaneously in their mind and thoughts. It takes continued vigilance and work before this pattern of pop up thoughts will less and go away.

In addition to twelve step work, Psychotherapy is often indicated as may be medications such as antidepressants. It is also important to consult a trained professional to assist with these decisions and to not try to figure them out by yourself. If you feel you need to know more about this subject, talk with someone who has the experience or training to be able to help and read the Big Book of one of the twelve step programs. It is very insightful reading even for those who don't personally have substance use problems .