Kicking a drug habit can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Kicking a habit takes hard work, determination and motivation. It also takes dedication and commitment to building a better life for yourself. It isn’t impossible but it is going to feel like it is at times. It will take a lot of blood, sweat and tears – probably literally – but every minute of that struggle is worth it. It makes you stronger. It makes you a better person. It is important, though, to be as prepared for the journey as possible. Knowing what to expect and preparing yourself for what you’ll face can not only make sure you’re ready to handle the worst but can also help you really commit to the process. Let’s start with the basics – determining you have a problem and admitting it.
Admit you have a problem and need help.
“I can quit whenever I want I just can’t right now because …” Anything that follows that ‘because’ is an excuse, not a legitimate reason to continue using. Some might argue that saying you’re an addict should be easy and your addiction should be obvious to you, but that’s just not true. It can be hard to accept you have an addiction and it can be even harder to actually admit it. You’ve come here though and that’s a good start.
The signs of addiction you need to look for in yourself are:
- More focus on your drug than social or recreational activities you enjoy. For this one, you may find yourself putting off an activity you enjoy because you need to get high or you need to have a drink. You may find yourself abandoning the activity altogether in favor of hanging out with your drug or drink buddies or getting high/drinking alone.
- Preoccupation with the drug. This one basically means that you spend an unusual amount of time focusing on when you’ll be able to get your drug, when you’ll be able to use your drug and making a plan to do both. It is difficult to focus on anything that doesn’t include your drug in some way.
- Difficulty cutting back. Let’s say you only have a little bit of your drug left and you decide you want to make it last. You find it harder and harder to cut down your usage to make your supply last longer. This is a big sign of addiction, especially if you experiences it alongside our next addiction symptom.
- Withdrawal. If you get depressed, angry, anxious, nervous, irritable or physically ill when you haven’t used your drug for a while, that is called withdrawal and it is a major sign that you have a drug problem. The good news is that with help, withdrawal can be treated and the symptoms can be reduced if not eliminated entirely.
- Tolerance. Tolerance is not only a big sign of an addiction but it’s also makes a drug habit incredibly dangerous. Over time, your body will build up a tolerance to your drug which basically means you’ll need to use more to feel the effects. The “this gets me to normal” cliché is definitely cliché but it’s also true. After a while, you stop getting high and are just using the drug to chase away the symptoms associated with withdrawal.
Before we move on, I’d like to take a moment to talk about withdrawal. People often thing that withdrawal is only an issue with users addicted to hard drugs like heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine, but whether you’re consciously aware of them or not, withdrawal symptoms come with any kind of addiction. This includes prescription medication abusers, alcoholics and cigarette smokers. Being prepared for withdrawal is important so don’t just assume you won’t have to deal with it because you’re not using a needle to get your fix.
Once you’ve accepted that you have a problem, it’s time to admit it. Say it out loud. “I’m an addict and I need help.” You don’t have to say it to anyone else just yet. Say it to an empty room. Say it to your pillow. Say it to an old picture of yourself. Say it to a mirror. Just say it. That’s the important part. The more you say it the more you’ll understand it and the more ready you’ll be to move on to the next step.
Ask for help.
Asking for help does not make you weak. It makes you smart. Everyone needs help sometimes and asking for it is the best way to get it. Trust is important. When you ask for help, go to someone you trust, respect and feel comfortable with. Telling someone you are an addict and need help is incredibly difficult to do so the more comfortable you are with the person, the better. Reach out to the people closest to you even though you may have pushed them away with your behavior. They may be willing to do more than you think to help you get clean if you let them know you’re serious about it. That part really is important. They need to know you’re serious about getting help. Make sure you make that clear. If those closest to you aren’t ready to help (as can be the case when an addiction has been especially destructive to those around you) don’t give up on yourself. They might not be ready to accept you back into their lives yet but you need to stay focused on changing. Seek out support groups. Go online. Look for communities online that offer moral support to each other. Call help lines (I’ve included a few great numbers/websites at the bottom of this article). There is help out there. Don’t give up.
Look for treatment options and choose one that’s right for you.
Once you’ve admitted you have a problem and have asked for help, you’re ready to look at what options are available to you in your area and in your price range. Look for any and all drug addiction treatment options in your area and discuss those options with someone who is willing to help you. Figure out what you need to get clean. You might need detox to deal with the initial withdrawal symptoms followed by a stay in rehab. Outpatient treatment may be better for you. No two addicts are the same. One treatment will not work for everyone. Be honest with yourself though. If you need rehab than rehab is the option you should go for. It isn’t a pleasant experience and it can be painful at times but as I mentioned in the intro, this isn’t going to be a pretty process but it is well worth it.
This one could not be more important. You’ve admitted you have a problem, you’ve asked for help, you’ve looked at your treatment options and you’ve found the option you think is right for you. You need to make sure you follow through but you need to prepare yourself for what the process will involve and make sure you’re ready. This isn’t just about getting ready for a tough emotional and mental journey. This isn’t just about making sure you have people to talk to. This is about making sure anything that needs to be taken care of is taken care of. Are there legal matters you need to consider? Do you have children you need to think about? Do you have a job you need to think about? This is all especially important if you’ve chosen inpatient rehab. You want to make sure you have everything outside taken care of so you can focus on yourself and your recovery inside. Talk to your lawyer or public defender about your rehab plans. Talk to your boss about your rehab plans. Make sure you have someone you trust looking after your children. Get as much help as you can and then focus on getting clean.
See yourself as ‘drug free’ and set post-addiction goals.
Your mind set is important as you’re getting clean. You need to believe you can quit. Picture yourself drug free. Drugs change you. They make you into a different version of yourself. Look back on who you were before the drugs and see yourself becoming that person again. The only difference is that you’ll be smarter now. You’ll make better choices because you’ve learned the consequences of bad choices first hand. You’ll be a stronger, smarter version of the person you used to be. Look at old pictures of yourself and compare them with pictures of how you look as an addict. Don’t have any? Take some. It’s important to be able to see what the drugs have done. You may not be able to look like you once looked or have what you once had right away but getting clean at least puts you on the right path.
You also need to focus on why you want to quit. If you’re having a tough time with cravings or withdrawal symptoms, make a list of all the reasons you’ve decided to get clean. Write it down, say it out loud, say it in your mind – it doesn’t matter. That list is a reminder than the pain and struggle is worth it. Help yourself even more by coming up with a list of post-addiction goals. It can be reuniting with a family member you’ve become estranged from because of your addiction. It can be buying a big ticket item you want but haven’t been able to afford because of the money you’re spending on feeding your addiction. It can be traveling somewhere. Think about all the things your addiction is keeping you from doing and make a list of what you’ll do when you’re clean. Write this list down so you can cross things off those goals as you accomplish them. Imagine what your life could be like if you were drug free. It’s important to keep things realistic though. Think about your life as an addict and what would be different if you were drug free and plan your goals from there.
Don’t forget how far you’ve come.
When you come through the other side of your addiction, you’ll remember everything you went through and everything you did while in the haze of that addiction. You might feel embarrassed – even ashamed – but hold on to that. Remember that. When temptation comes knocking – and it will – remember who you were when you were still using and remind yourself why you don’t want to be that person any more. Having help and support is important, of course, but your best friend when you’re trying to get clean is who you were when you were still in the grips of your addiction. The person you were is a constant reminder of who you don’t want to be. The person you were is a constant reminder that you need to remain committed to staying clean.
Here are a few websites you can visit that may offer you the support you need. Some have free, 24 hour hotlines you can call if you need someone to talk to.