No one but the person afflicted with an all-consuming sense of emptiness and hopelessness can answer that question. The addict, whether dependent on illicit drugs, alcohol, or prescription drugs, must find the resolve within to seek relief from an overwhelming sickness that is chronic, progressive, and ultimately fatal. According to a 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, conducted by the United States Health and Human Services Administration, approximately 9 percent of Americans suffer some form of chemical dependency. This statistic corroborates the results of surveys taken two decades before, a study which indicated about 10 percent of persons who drink become alcoholics.
What Are the Indicators of an Addiction?
Alcohol and drug addicts become increasingly dependent on their chemical of choice with time. For instance, a habit of having a couple of beers or a cocktail at the end of the day might lead to heavy weekend drinking, occasional binges, or regular intoxication. For a while, this behavior seems normal, fun, and even socially acceptable to family members and friends. Then, a point is reached when things may start to take a darker turn. Perhaps the drinker loses his job because of frequent tardiness or absenteeism. A marital relationship may begin to deteriorate, and in time may actually disintegrate, followed by inevitable separation and divorce. Consuming too many drinks at a party may lead to the arrest of the intoxicated person for driving under the influence. These examples are oversimplifications of three ways addiction is manifested:
- financial problems
- relationship problems
- legal problems
If the use of any addictive substance is causing difficulties like these, then it is highly likely a person is an addict.
Convincing an Addict to Seek Help
Seeking a solution to addiction is an inside job. The affected person must want help. An intervention by loved ones, with the aid of trained counselors, is intended to help a person seek help. By exhibiting some tough love, the intervention group makes known to the the addict their support, but they also make if very clear that the actions of the addict have caused a great deal of damage. According to one specialist, Dr. Jerry Law, the success rate of interventions, as measured by the number of people who enter treatment after the intervention, is 80 percent.
An intervention “crisis” may be sufficient to start a chemically dependent person on the road to recovery, but there is a phenomenon that affects all addicts and makes any attempt to help them a vain effort. Addicts feel deeply the love and concern of family and friends, but they are unable to return that love. The insidious disease of addiction can actually take the ability to care away from the addict. On a path that begins with carefree indulgence, and leads to fatality if untreated, addicts seldom have a wish to die. Rather, they do not know how to live. That is the dilemma of every chemically dependent person.
The Big Lie All Addicts Believe
There is a profound sense of self-propulsion in the addict that resists all assistance; self-will that is so strong it shuts out love, friendship, family concerns, and the pleas of employers and associates. This is an obsessive drive to tackle the pitfalls of life without help from any quarter. It keeps addicts from knowing others, from knowing themselves, and from knowing any kind of deity. Lost in an abyss of self-pity, the addict may portray quite an opposite image – perhaps displaying self-importance and self-reliance – or arrogance that often offends others and further drives the person into isolation. Though he or she may not be physically isolated, the addicted person tends to withdraw ever further into introspection and distant mental solitude.
The irony is that he or she is unable to be alone. The reasoning of addicts is so perverted that their actions condemn them to spend more time in their own minds – a very dangerous place. The addict’s drug of choice is fundamentally a symptom of an inability to surrender to the love and comfort offered by others. They feel somehow unworthy of that love. Drugs and alcohol lead to all of the addict’s problems, but the great mystery is that these chemicals produce the false impressions of being a part of life, of being in control, of being alive. To give up this artificial life support system is the most difficult decision any addict will ever face. At the crossroads, addicts are convinced that to let go of the only comfort they know – the delusion of being in control – is to die. That is the big lie that those who are chemically dependent believe.
All hope is not lost. There is some great news. Addicts who reach a point of total and unconditional surrender suddenly find a new rejuvenating outlook. For perhaps the first time, they see life worth living, and they begin to see that they might come out the other side whole. After a brief time they are able to get by, day by day, without using. With newfound clarity, they are able to look at themselves as a cog in the great machine in which all of us play a part. Many recovering users experience profound peace and consolation in learning they no longer have any control over the outcome of events. They learn they only have to play a part in them. Most find they now have some connection with a God or Higher Power. This is no religious conversion. It is simply a willingness on the part of a person in recovery to do what he or she can to participate to the fullest in the miracle of the new life they have been given. They learn that if they share their experience, strength and hope with others, it helps them to stay clean and sober.
Making the Right Choice
Choosing the path of sobriety and freedom from any kind of mind-altering chemical is not an easy choice, nor is it possible for many addicts, once they have committed to this course of action, to do so without the help of professionals. The person who attempts to get clean and sober by the “white knuckle” method inevitably fails in nearly every case. On the other hand, many exceptional rehabilitation facilities are available in virtually all major cities in the United States. At these centers, the addict will find a trained, professional staff qualified to assist with any physical withdrawal symptoms, individual counseling by people who have come through recovery themselves, and carefully planned menus and nutritional supplements that help an addict’s body to cleanse itself. The highly structured recovery programs they offer are just what an out-of-control addict needs, and this initial structured sober living environment is more apt to result in long term sobriety for the addict.
Since most chemically addicted persons have been running amok through the lives of others for quite some time, rehabilitation programs are designed to provide a supportive, proven method that gives the addict the best chance of success after leaving the facility. In choosing a rehabilitation facility, not only the professional credentials of the staff should be considered, but also the personal addiction history of those who administer the program. Knowing and practicing the process of recovery is not enough. The addict must have full confidence in the recovery of others who have gone before. Before any of this can begin, however, the addict must stop asking “Am I an Addict?”, and admit the obvious.