*** IF RIGHT AT THIS MOMENT YOU FEEL THAT YOU (OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW) MIGHT BE A THREAT TO YOURSELF OR OTHERS, PLEASE CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY. ***
THANK YOU FOR YOUR CARE.
So here we are. Perhaps you or someone you know is on the edge of a crisis. Or worse, in the middle of one. Or maybe it’s more subtle and insidious. Maybe there is a slow progression taking place and negative behaviors are developing and consequences magnifying. Maybe the feelings inside and actions outside are changing, and not for the better.
Either way, now is the time to take action – to change, halt and even reverse this process.
Most people in this position are engaging in one of two trades. Either they are trading Short Term Pleasure for Long Term Pain, or Short Term Pain for Long Term Pleasure. Addiction is all about instant gratification. In the destruction phase, repetitive superficial behaviors like drinking, drugs, gambling, sex, shopping, etc. are being traded for what so often progresses into significant discomfort on a big picture of life level. However, in the recovery phase, short term pains such as abstinence, surrender, and humility can be traded for a deeper level of satisfaction and comfort.
I have seen and heard some of the worst stories out there. Being “in the throes” is far from fun and the accompanying guilt and shame is enough to make a grown person cry like a baby. Life is a gift, a true blessing to be enjoyed and appreciated. But if you are in the throes of an addiction, significantly less is possible and your potential will continue to shrink until one of two things happens: the ship gets righted or nothing is left. The extreme version of the second option is death. I don’t say this to scare you, though perhaps you should be scared. I say it because it is simply a fact. Make no mistake, addiction is progressive by nature. As bad as it is now, it will certainly grow far worse. So for now, let’s try to focus on righting that ship.
The very first thing that needs to be done is to stay away from the given escapist behavior. If it is the consumption of an addictive substance like alcohol or drugs, detox may be necessary so please consult a physician, nurse, clinician or other medical professional. If it is strictly behavioral – and to be clear, even these do have chemical components in the brain – an attempt must be made to abstain right away. I know how crazy or impossible that may sound. But if the cycle is not broken, and I mean smashed to pieces, I promise you that it will repeat. It might take five minutes, five hours, or five months but eventually the loop will regenerate and the addict will inevitably circle back around. If one wants to thrive in this life, you need to straighten out the loop into a line of forward progress, so step one is to stop doing the same things.
Actually let me back up for a moment. There is something equally important to abstaining from the given behavior. Let’s call it step one-half. Without it, step one may not work at all or at least not stick or survive very long. You need to be aware that you are not alone. Addicts like to live in the dark. Even if on the surface the behavior appears to be out in the open, like drinking at bars, telling friends what has been (over) purchased in stores or on-line, or announcing how big the bets are on the Superbowl, the underlying disease – the emotional illness – thrives in darkness. The feelings that accompany those actions: the guilt, shame, and remorse, are kept hidden.
So now I am telling you that you are not an island. You’re not unique. You are not some special case. While no two addicts are exactly the same, no two addicts are exactly different. Millions have suffered and even died, but millions have worked hard to recover and get their minds, bodies and lives back on track. And you can too. You can have feelings (both good and bad), you can have successes and failures, and with support and guidance you can return to a normal way of thinking and living.
But the key to it all, the very heart of recovery, is that the addict has to want it. They have to see that their current state of living is not working and they have to be open to another way. They have to want something different, something better. One cannot be helped if one does not want to be helped, and there is nothing that me or your friends or family or counselors or teachers or doctors or therapists or clergymen or anyone in this entire world can do for you if that most fundamental condition is not met.
But again, you are not alone. Take a moment to take a deep breath. Right now. I’m serious. We’re not going anywhere. There’s plenty of time. Right now, take 15 seconds and take a good deep breath.
Good. Now tell yourself – out loud or in your head – that it will be ok. Don’t remove all of your discomfort such that you relax and see the cycle repeated. A certain level of stress, anxiety and discomfort are to be expected. And if channeled properly, they will keep you safe. But I want you to believe that recovery is possible, especially because it most certainly is.
At this point, the right thing to do is schedule an evaluation session where an assessment can be made and recommendations given.