Continued use for the person who is addicted to drugs and alcohol eventually overwhelms all parts of their life. With continued use, they lose personal goals and dreams. Their values and health deteriorate. Often relationships with the people who matter most are destroyed.
People who are addicted eventually feel constantly out of control and can no longer manage their own lives. The drink or the drug drives the very thoughts in their mind. They experience increasing physical illness as well as emotional and mental distress. Eventually they always feel sick.
Individuals who are addicted become burdened by huge financial costs, risk or loss of employment, loss of freedom if incarcerated, and loss of relationships with family or partners. There is often a great financial cost to the family and partner, as well as for the user. People who are addicted find themselves doing things they would never have done before their addiction, to get the money to continue using alcohol and drugs. Family and friends also feel more out of control as they find themselves doing things they would never have done before, as they try everything and anything to help the person who is addicted and to stop them from using.
In the last stages of addiction many individuals experience the stigma of being called a lush, a drunk or a loser. People with addiction always have a part of them that can’t be numbed by drugs and alcohol. And they are hurt by harsh words and treatment. Eventually they may even feel self disdain or hatred. Stigma, combined with all the negative effects of using, finally causes them to stand up and say, “I’ve had enough.”
Some individuals only decide to quit once they are experiencing life threatening medical problems and fear of imminent death. They have experienced multiple overdoses and have come very close to dying. They are in liver, kidney or heart failure. They have HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) or HCV (hepatitis C virus). They carry the fear inside them that their life will end if they don’t change. So they decide to quit.
You may be like most people and have decided to quit because you had lost large pieces of your life to drugs and alcohol. You may have felt more and more out of control, and had increasing emotional and mental distress. The enormous financial costs may have become unmanageable and the stigma of being an addict may have felt devastating (Beck et al., 1993).
These many problems can feel overwhelming and distract you from the work you need to do to prevent relapse. Now is the time to make a list of the definable problems you will face in the next three months. As you work through this book, you will have opportunities to develop solutions to some of these problems. It is important to make your list now so you can concentrate on learning the skills you need to carry out your relapse prevention plan.
Use the “Problem List Worksheet” at the end of this chapter and identify the most pressing problems you will face with relationships, work/school, home /community, physical/mental health and in communication. List them using simple concise language. Getting them onto paper helps you stop worrying about them. Listing the problems will help you to start focusing on the actions required to manage them.
Take time now to complete your “Problem List Worksheet.”
Your problem list may be a good motivator to stay clean. But it’s not enough just to quit using. As you learned through previous attempts to quit, the single action of stopping use doesn’t end the total life experience of addiction. If you don’t want to relapse and start drinking or using again, you need to take positive action and change your life. You will need to learn new skills to make major life changes. Where do you start? This book will take you through the steps to create your own unique relapse prevention plan. You learned how to become an addict and now you will learn how to leave addiction behind.