“Experimenting” with drugs or alcohol is a warning sign of dependence or addiction if it lasts more than a month or two. As a colleague of mine explains, “If you are experimenting, you are going to know after the first couple of times if you like it or not. If it goes past this, then you are heading into addiction.”
Addiction is an ongoing love affair with intoxication. That infatuation can blind people to the damage and destruction caused by their substance use disorder, and they often resist the idea of getting treatment and leaving mind-altering substances behind.
I’m often asked if treatment will work if someone is “forced” to get help. I’d like to point out that in most cases rehab IS forced because, initially, no one wants to go to treatment. They are forced by the courts, by their families, or by mandates at their jobs. Or their hands are forced by the fear of living on the streets, especially when it is cold and wet outside.
Once in treatment, a light bulb often goes on. The addict/alcoholic realizes he or she does want to get better and begins to embrace the community of recovery and the education of treatment. All of this happens because the brain is allowed to start the healing process. As the brain begins to heal, treatment often inspires people to change because they realize their jobs, marriages, friends, families and health are at stake.
I often tell the families I work with that they have given their beloved addicts/alcoholics the choice to walk away from their disease. Once their brains have begun to heal, they can choose to live their lives without drugs or alcohol. Sadly, because substance use disorder is a chronic disease, that choice may be tested over time. But treatment offers hope, a gift that everyone can claim.
Author Ricki Townsend is a Registered Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, Ncac1, CADC-CAS, Bri-1,
Chaplain and Grief Recovery Specialist
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