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“Every day I had the intention to change, but I never got to it. I got harder and harder on myself, I drank more and more.”
Read about the experiences of a client who successfully completed a treatment of ours in January, 2015 here.
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Using alcohol and other substances is normal. Occasional indulgence also seems acceptable. But where is the line that divides fun and dependence? Using always has its pros and cons.
One moment you think you have a problem, the next moment you think you’re being too hard on yourself.
Do I have a problem? The following characteristics may indicate a dependence:
- You are unable to make reliable agreements with yourself. You may be able to stop using for a while, but you cannot maintain that control on the long term. You feel like you can no longer control your life.
- Using is becoming a big aspect of your life, it’s always in your mind. You know exactly how much food or alcohol is in the house. You become nervous when you’re out of weed or smokes. You’re often obsessing over (not) using.
- You make plans to stop or moderate your use. You might even try, but when you fail, you abandon those plans.
- Your use negatively influences your life. You call in sick more often and when you’re at work, you’re only half there. You only do the basic necessities, but you’re not moving forward. You don’t workout as often and you eat less healthy.
- Your relationships suffer when you use. Arguing with your partner. No quality time with your kids. Less contact with friends who don’t use as often as you do. You can feel empty and alone when you’re not using.
- You try to hide your use from others.
We have a tendency to deny our dependence. That is not in bad faith, we’re just not aware. Dependence is often accompanied by shame and lies to our surroundings and ourselves. Our surroundings usually have trouble addressing this difficult topic. Partners are usually the only ones who mention the problem to you, but since they’re alone in this, it is often disregarded as whining.
This way, we often continue with a harmful habit by ourselves for too long. The use, but also the lies, shame and loneliness slowly creep in. An easily adjusted bad habit can develop into a serious dependence.
The problem always seems too small to take seriously. ‘I should be able to do it myself’.
The substance is still too good to let go. ‘I’ll have to cut down or stop eventually, I might as well make the most of it today’. ‘You need to hit rock bottom first’.
I’m not that bad, am I?
People with a serious addiction who need structure and support from their surroundings might have to be admitted into a clinic.
For the much larger group that is using more than they would like, but are still able to live life comfortably, this is usually not necessary.
The negative association with ‘addiction care’ and the depressing environment in numerous mental health institutions often make people rethink their decision to seek professional help.
That’s a shame, because it’s vital to intervene in an early stage: the ‘need’ usually takes root in the brain, and the longer it’s able to do so, the deeper those patterns of bad habits become ingrained in our brains. That’s something you will want to avoid.
You don’t have to hit ‘rock bottom’ to profit from change. The sooner you intervene, the easier it will be to regain control.