Admitting that drugs or alcohol may have the upper hand usually isn’t easy. Whether it’s pride, fear or overconfidence that causes a person to remain in denial, it’s clear that we can’t begin to solve a problem until we accept that it exists. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) more than 23 million Americans struggle with drug addiction at some point in their lives.(1) The same NIAAA study also found that nearly one-third of adults in the U.S. have an alcohol use disorder at some point, but only about 20 percent receive treatment.
Most experts agree that cases of drug abuse and alcoholism in the U.S. are likely under-diagnosed and studies show the majority of sufferers never receive treatment. The disease of addiction does not discriminate. It does not matter how educated you are, how wealthy or accomplished you are. Addiction is not a moral failing or a sign of poor discipline. Addiction is a mental health issue that can affect virtually anyone. The first step towards a solution is recognizing that there is a problem and accepting that we need outside help to solve it.
Here is a series of questions you can ask yourself to help determine if addiction may be a problem for you:
- Do you drink or use drugs alone?
- Has your drinking or drug use affected your work or school performance?
- Do you find yourself avoiding social situations where you cannot drink or use?
- Have you ever lied about or minimized the extent of your drinking or drug use?
- Have you ever had a DUI or any other legal consequences as a result of drinking or using?
If you answered “yes” to at least one of the above, there is a good possibility that you have a substance abuse and/or drinking problem.
Addiction ultimately comes with consequences. Often times we are already suffering those consequences before we become fully aware of our addiction. This is perhaps one of the most insidious things about the nature of addiction. It tries to keep itself hidden. Addiction lies to us and denies its own existence, often until we reach a point where the consequences are so terrible, they stop us in our tracks. Every addict reaches that crossroads at a different time. The good news is you get to decide where your bottom is. You do not have to wait until tragedy befalls you. You don’t have to wait until you lose your job or your marriage or family. You don’t have to wait until you are bankrupt or destitute.
The truth is if you are in a position to be asking yourself if you are an addict, then you probably answered ‘yes’ to more than one of the questions above. You already suspect you are addicted, but perhaps you weren’t quite ready to admit it to yourself. Shame and guilt can be two of the biggest obstacles that prevent people from getting help. It is important to recognize that an addiction to drugs or alcohol is a medical condition. Admitting you may need help is not a confession of failure. It’s affirmation that you aren’t going to let a substance control your life any longer. The key is to see that moment of awareness as a gift. Use it as inspiration to take the next step and ask for help. There is a whole new life waiting outside the spiral of addiction and despair. There are people who will help. All that’s needed to begin is a little willingness.