There are unique parts of your life that are shaped by your own personal history. This being said, do not assume that all parts of your history are completely unique. There are some common elements that many individuals in recovery share. For example, when you go to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, you will even hear some similar stories—or at least similar parts of the stories—from other members. Some of the similarities for many addicts are in the following areas:
No One Plans to Be an Addict
Addiction is not something any one plans. In most cases, addiction starts as experimentation, often in a social setting such as at a party. Whether the substance is alcohol, heroin or any other substance, the influence of peer pressure often leads to different decisions being made than if an individual is alone. In many situations, drugs are even combined together. Drinking alcohol can lead to marijuana use. Poor decisions lead to more poor decisions. In some cases, what happened is not even remembered, which can be a sign of having a black out. Symptoms of substance abuse from the NCADD include changes in appetite or behavior, shakes, tremors, slurred speech, changes in personality, seizures and unusual smells on breath, body or clothing.
To move forward, know that it is essential to be aware of your surroundings and to not allow others to manipulate you into doing things you do not really want to do. For the recovering addict, it is essential to not put themselves into very risky situations. Having a support network and a sponsor is often very helpful. Knowing what makes you want to use is very important as well.
Experimentation Turns Into Dependency
After social use, drugs are used more in isolation and in larger amounts. The reasons for continuing use are often stress related. It may be due to a job that is very stressful, financial problems, marital problems, relationship problems or many other reasons. Some addicts choose to pick up the bottle of alcohol or pills as a way to escape the world around them whether it is the past or present. There are many different factors here that may be unknown such as genetics. According to the National Institute of Drug Abuse, between 40 and 60 percent of the tendency toward addiction is related to genetics.
So if your father or mother was an alcoholic, you are much more likely to be addicted to alcohol as well. There are possible environmental factors that will vary from individual to individual in this regard. For example, you may have had an abusive relationship that was influenced by alcohol. This could even be part of the reason you use addiction to cope with stress from the past.
Being Chemically Dependent Has Many Different Repercussions in Your Life
Once an individual is fully addicted and not just using occasionally, your life changes. No longer do you have interest in anything else. The time you spend not getting high or drunk drags along. You are likely cranky, depressed and even suffering from withdrawals. There are many functional alcoholics according to the New York Times as high as 50 percent, but even if an individual is still employed and contributing to society, the individual is slowly falling apart. Relationships start to deteriorate. Slowly lies and half-truths start to pop up and this leads to distance. It is impossible to be fully engaged when you are addicted. You must be sober to be fully present and healthy.
This is a similarity where all addicts must find healing and restoration when they enter the recovery process. While it is impossible to fix the past, there can be healing and forgiveness which lead to a brighter today and tomorrow.
Treatment Is Not a Quick Process
At some point to enter recovery, your addiction requires treatment. The specific treatment does not matter as much as the use of treatment. The Twelve steps and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) are two popular methods that have many things in common and also have helped millions of people. These treatments do not need to be recreated or torn apart to be applied. The general concepts of recovery are very similar.
The following is a summary of the fundamentals of recovery:
- Be humble and honest enough to admit that you are addicted.
- Get help from someone you trust like friends or family.
- Get professional treatment, if needed, to stop using.
- Have accountability for your newly sober life.
- Seek out continual treatment like a therapist or support group.
While your situation often has many shared characteristics with others who struggle with substance abuse, you need help for your individual unique situation. This best treatment is often through talking with a certified professional who understands the situation.