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The decision to get sober from drugs and alcohol may be very difficult for some. There are countless reasons why one may continue to use addictive substances such as alcohol, heroin, and opioids. Naturally, reasons for continued drug and alcohol abuse may vary from person to person. However, there may be broad reasons that can be applicable to the majority, which are discussed below.
1. Lack of alternative coping skills: When one lacks any other means by which to cope, turning to drugs and alcohol can be a quick and easy way to manage even the smallest of stressors. Drugs and alcohol provide a quick and often times easy relief, which the brain remembers for next time there’s any threat of stress. Due to this, implementing healthy ways to deal with life’s stressors is an especially important step in addiction recovery.
2. Self-medication: There are many reasons why one would abuse drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medication; history of trauma, current abuse, financial stress etc. Self-medication often allows individuals to ignore the increasingly complicated issues around them. With the aid of professional help, one can learn how to handle small issues before they become unmanageable.
3. Lack of awareness: Drug and alcohol abuse / addiction as a disease is a relatively new concept for the medical field. Those struggling with addiction may not be fully aware of the seriousness of drug or alcohol abuse or believe that they are suffering from an illness. Furthermore, some may downplay the severity of their addiction by comparing their situation to those who may be further on in their addiction.
4. Medical issues: Medical issues can be a huge deterrent for those seeking substance abuse treatment, especially those with chronic pain. Individuals who rely on pain medication to manage medical issues are faced with having to find alternative ways to manage any pain. Successful pain management in the those struggling with drug or alcohol abuse provides primary care physicians with unique challenges; however, pain control can be achieved in these individuals if physicians follow guidelines put forward by leaders in the industry such as the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.
5. Lack of resources: Finding a place to get sober from drugs and alcohol can be overwhelming. Google searches may produce an endless amount of detox facilities and countless rehabs. How does one narrow the search? What about costs? Insurance? Transportation? What happens when I get there? Too often do the many unknowns paralyze and/or prevent someone from pursuing drug and alcohol treatment. The best advice we have, pick up the phone and seek to educate yourself or your loved one.
6. Positive feelings associated with using/chasing the high: The feeling alone of being high or drunk off of drugs and alcohol itself can hold people back from getting addiction treatment. Feeling carefree and liberated are often associated with drug use. Thus, it may be difficult to encourage someone to make the decision to stop using. It helps to find alternative and healthy coping skills that can be used in lieu of substances.
7. Mental illness: Drugs and alcohol can temporarily alleviate symptoms of mental illness; for example, the manic episodes associated with bipolar, the psychosis associated with Schizophrenia. Those that do not have easy or affordable access to proper health care may choose to use drugs and alcohol to manage their symptoms to allow them to “function” each day. While this may be seen as a temporary fix for some, research has shown that drug and alcohol can often exacerbate mental health symptoms.
8. Lack of sober support: There may come a point that the only “friends” left are those that are also using and not ready to stop. Without a presence of positive support in an individuals life, they may not be as inclined to seek drug and alcohol treatment. Furthermore, seeking treatment alone can be a scary thought for individuals.
9. Family influences: An individuals introduction to drugs and alcohol may have come from family. Being surrounded by family who is also using, may discourage someone from seeking treatment for many reasons. For one, standing up to or making choices different than your family is not always easy and can be a stressful endeavor to take on. Individuals may fear that seeking treatment may lead to being ousted by family. Additionally, when using drugs is an accepted behavior, it can be hard to see drug use as a problem that needs to be addressed. A family may even discourage other family members from seeking treatment.
10. Trouble asking for help: Asking for help can be difficult for some, especially given the stigma that still surrounds mental health and addiction. Furthermore, asking for help means acknowledging that you have a problem and need guidance. Addiction can be a very isolating disease that can leave people feeling like they have no one safe to turn to.
There are numerous reasons, that go beyond the above list, why individuals may continue to use drugs and alcohol despite the negative factors associated with their addiction. One of the most effective things you can do to combat this, whether for yourself or a loved one, is to educate yourself on drug and alcohol addiction and addiction treatment. The timeframe in which individuals may be open to seeking help can be small; therefore, it’s important to have a plan set in place for when / if they do.
Find out more information on what to do if you’re struggling with drug and alcohol abuse and contemplating addiction treatment, as well as how to prepare here.
Author: Beth Grady, LAC – Footprints to Recovery – Intake Clinician