If you are currently using drugs, you may be focused on the experience of getting high and how it makes you feel. The idea of addiction recovery may not be a priority for you when you are actively using. Learn more about what may be holding you back and how your life can improve when you get the treatment you need to stop using.
What’s Holding You Back From Living Your Best Life?
You may be in denial, or you may realize you have a problem but aren’t ready to face withdrawal. Maybe the perceived social stigma of being a recovering addict is holding you back from living your best life.
Denial is part of being addicted. Many people who live with this illness have trouble admitting to their family and friends that they have a substance abuse problem. They also go through all kinds of mental gymnastics to convince themselves that they have the situation under control.
Have you ever told yourself or someone you care for that you’re “not ready” to quit yet, or you will quit “when” some other circumstance in your life happens? You may have even said to a loved one that you can give up drugs, “anytime you want.” All of these statements are forms of denial about the issue. If you are completely honest with yourself, these are excuses. You’ll say what you need to say so you can keep using.
When your loved ones talk to you about giving up drugs, another reason you may be hesitant about making a change is going through withdrawal. You may have heard stories about how challenging this process can be.
When you go to a drug treatment center that offers professionally supervised detox, you will have help and support every step of the way as your body frees itself from the influence of chemicals. Your symptoms will be closely monitored and medications can be given, if necessary, so you don’t feel unduly uncomfortable.
Stigma About Being a Recovering Addict
Another reason you may be hesitant about going for treatment is your concerns about the stigma that comes with being a recovering addict. To date, you may feel as though you are doing well at handling your drug use, and you have a pretty good handle on things.
The idea of having to go to your family and tell them you need help because you don’t really have it all together is daunting. You don’t want to approach your boss or the head of your Human Resources Department at work to talk about needing help for an addiction problem. It would mean looking vulnerable in front of other people. You’ve probably spent a lot of time putting up psychological walls and defenses so other people don’t see you in that state.
If you do go for treatment, does it mean you will always be thought of as an addict? This might be something that concerns you, and you may be thinking you are better off just having people leave you alone.
Your family and friends want you to be well, and continuing to actively use drugs is not the path to good health. When you overcome an addiction, people will see you as courageous and strong.
How Continued Drug Use Impacts Your Life
Continued drug use affects your health, relationships and life in many ways. It can be difficult to appreciate the full spectrum of how your relationship with your drug of choice impacts your life when you are in the cycle of actively using. You may be focused on the feelings you get from the experience, and it may be difficult to step back to see the full picture when you are in that state.
If you use illegal drugs, you are more than likely putting your overall health at risk. You may notice your body doesn’t feel at its best when you are using drugs. Some signs you should be aware of include:
- Chest pain
- Frequent illnesses
- Hangovers or blackouts
- Nausea or vomiting
- Stomach upset
- Skin that’s cool and sweaty to the touch or hot and dry
Depending on your drug of choice, you could be increasing the likelihood of experiencing heart issue symptoms ranging from an irregular heartbeat to a heart attack. IV drug users also put themselves at risk for collapsed veins, as well as bacterial infections of the heart valves.
Cocaine and amphetamines (“uppers”), as well as heroin, act on the body’s nervous system. They can also:
- Increase heart rate and blood pressure
- Change body temperature
- Cause seizures, respiratory arrest or heart attack
Out of all the illegal drugs, cocaine is the one most often associated with emergency-room visits in the United States. This drug was involved in 40.3 of patient visits related to illicit drugs, as opposed to 36.4 percent for marijuana and 20.6 percent for heroin.
Cocaine can damage the aorta, the main artery in the body, which supplies oxygenated blood to the circulatory system. Even in young, healthy people, using the drug can cause stiffness in this and other large arteries. Once the stiffness takes place, the heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout the body.
Cocaine use can also damage small blood vessels in the heart, causing users to go to the emergency room complaining of chest pain after using the drug. When their complaint is investigated with an angiogram, the blood flow to the main arteries would appear normal. Doctors are often at a loss to explain the cause of the chest pain.
Dr. Varun Kumar, a researcher and internist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago, and his colleagues looked at the way the heart’s small blood vessels were functioning in 412 patients who came to the ER for chest pain (210 non-cocaine users and 202 cocaine users). The results showed that in cocaine users, the blood vessels were dilated, leading to increased blood flow. The researchers concluded that even when there are no apparent signs of damage to the arteries, damage is already starting in the smaller blood vessels, causing chest pains and shortness of breath.
Emotional and Mental Effects
Long-term drug use takes a toll on your emotional and mental health, too. You may have started using your drug of choice to get away from hurt or uncomfortable feelings in your life. Using may have been a way to zone out for a while because you were bored or looking for a self-esteem boost in social situations.
Over time, though, you may have noticed you don’t really feel better. You may have started using higher doses of drugs or changed the type of drugs you were using to start feeling more confident or happier. Instead of feeling good emotionally, you may be experiencing:
Drug use takes away your joy and interest in just about anything other than wanting to find your next dose. It doesn’t help with creativity, and that spark that makes you unique is worn down as the addiction takes over. There simply isn’t any time or energy left for it.
Initially, you chose to take drugs, but as your addiction gained traction, you lost the ability to choose whether you were going to take them. A full-blown addiction is a brain illness that leads to the compulsion to use in spite of negative consequences to yourself and the people around you. Repeated drug use leads to changes in the brain that affect your self-control and decision-making abilities.
Emotional and Physical Distress to Your Family
Your drug use not only affects you, but it also has a negative effect on your relationships with loved ones. They find it very difficult to see you living with your addiction, and it leads to difficulties in their relationship with you.
Many families have trouble understanding that addiction is a brain illness. They feel it is a sign of weakness on the part of their loved one, and if someone was “stronger” or wanted to stop using badly enough, they could simply walk away from drugs.
They may use ploys such as bargaining — “If you really loved me, you would stop using drugs” — to try to get an addict to stop. Even if you were to promise to stop using in these circumstances, you would not be able to keep the promise — the addiction is too strong.
Other family members think that by yelling or trying to “shame” the addict in the family, they can get them to stop using drugs. This tactic also doesn’t work, any more than yelling at someone with diabetes would make a bit of difference to their insulin levels. The fact is that when someone in the family is addicted to drugs, it’s a disease that requires professional treatment.
A loved one using drugs creates a very stressful situation. The rest of the family is left in limbo not knowing what to expect from their addicted loved one. The unpredictability of being in a relationship with an addict is a source of emotional stress for the rest of the family, who is not sure whether:
- They can trust their addicted loved one to keep promises
- The addict in the family will keep their word
- Their money or personal property is safe
- Their loved one will come home
- Their loved one will survive
This level of stress on the family takes its toll, and family members start to break down under the strain. It should come as no surprise when your loved ones find it challenging to look after their own health if they are busy worrying about you. They may not be able to focus on good self-care, such as eating a balanced diet or getting enough exercise and a good night’s sleep.
Living in a high-stress environment puts your loved ones at higher risk for many health issues, such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes. It can also lead to headaches, high blood pressure, upset stomach and skin conditions. You may not notice right away, but your family members may become susceptible to more viruses than usual as their immune systems are less able to protect them.
Some people cope with long-term stress by turning to substances themselves. They might start or increase smoking, drinking or using drugs, which will only make the issues in the home more complicated.
Damage to Social Relationships
As an addiction becomes more entrenched, it has a definite effect on your relationship with your friends. You may find yourself becoming suspicious of people you have known for years, even feeling paranoid around them. These feelings are part of the changes that take place in your brain due to your drug use.
If your old friends do not take drugs, more than likely, you will replace them over time with new friends who share your interest. Since much of your time and energy is devoted to looking for and achieving your next fix, you will likely drift apart from your old friends.
Loss of Employment
Even if you are careful not to use drugs in the workplace, you may still find your drug use has negative career consequences because it causes:
- Productivity or quality issues — For example, your drug use may make you less productive or lower the overall quality of the work you produce. While everyone can have a bad or an “off” day from time to time, a pattern like this is one that will be noticed by your supervisor and noted on your performance assessment.
- Tardiness or attendance problems — Your drug use may interfere with your normal sleep patterns, leading to excessive tardiness or time off from work. This is another issue that will come up during your performance evaluation. Your supervisor will ask for an explanation if you are unable to get to work on time, or you have been taking a lot of time off compared to your fellow employees.
- Sloppy appearance — Your employer expects you to come to work looking neat and well groomed. One of the signs that a person is living with an addiction is they do not care about their appearance. If you were someone who previously took pride in your appearance and now appears unkempt, your employer is going to notice and ask for an explanation.
- Poor attitude — Drug use can rob you of your motivation to do well on the job and make you feel irritable from lack of sleep. That’s a recipe for disciplinary action — or even dismissal from your job — if you aren’t able to reign in your attitude. Not everyone can tread carefully if they feel provoked or put on the spot. If you feel you are being asked questions you would prefer not to answer, you may not be very diplomatic when answering. Your employer may decide to end your working relationship as a result.
Benefits of Addiction Recovery
There are several benefits of recovery from drugs that you may not be taking into account when you ask the question, “Why do I need to recover from addiction?” By getting clean, you’ll enjoy a better life overall.
You will notice your physical health improves once you get treatment for your addiction. It will be easier to get a good night’s sleep once you are free from the influence of chemicals. As a result, you will have more energy during the day and strength to complete your daily activities.
Increased appetite is another positive effect of getting clean. It’s important to stick to a healthy diet that includes a mixture of lean sources of protein, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
A stay at a long-term treatment program will include regular exercise as part of your treatment plan. If you incorporate physical activity into your lifestyle going forward, it will help you cope with stress, deal with anxiety and beat depression. Exercise releases endorphins, the body’s natural “feel-good” hormones, and you may find your mood improves naturally after you hit the gym or go for a walk.
Getting clean is not some type of magic salve that will automatically heal your relationships with loved ones. Just as getting clean takes work, you also need to work on healing the damage addiction has caused to your relationships.
Taking the step forward to get treatment is a big change, and family therapy is available to help your loved ones adjust to the changes you are going through in treatment. Your loved ones need a safe place to talk about their feelings and the pain they experienced around your drug addiction. Only when they address their underlying issues with your addiction can they get to a place of healing.
Your family can love you without having to like or accept your previous behavior. They need to be able to acknowledge what happened and then move forward to a better place in their relationship with you — in sobriety.
It is possible to take time away to get help for an addiction and return to the same — or a similar — job with the full support of your employer. They understand you are taking some time away to get help for a disease, and it’s no different than if you were seeking treatment for any other medical condition.
Once you complete your initial treatment, and you are in the after-care stage, you will find you are better able to perform your duties on the job. The performance issues you may have had due to drug use will no longer be a factor, and your overall attitude will be a more positive one. You will probably find it is less of an issue to keep a job than when you were actively using.
Since you no longer have a drug habit to support, you should have more disposable income. Keeping your bills paid should be less of a problem for you than when you were actively using drugs.
Now might be a good time to draw up a new budget that reflects your current income and expenses so you can plan exactly where your money is going to go. You’ll want to have a category for all the bills you need to cover, as well as a certain amount of money for savings each month. By planning everything out, you’ll see you don’t have “extra” money to spend on drugs.
It takes real courage to admit you need help, and you want to change. Giving up drugs is not easy, but the benefits are worthwhile in improved self-esteem, better coping skills and a new lease on life.
If you’re wondering, “Why do I need to recover from addiction?” the answer is your life is waiting for you. You’re worth it.
To get started on your journey to a better, more fulfilled life, contact 12 Keys Rehab today. Our compassionate team of addiction specialists can help you design a treatment plan based on your specific needs, challenges, goals and interests — a plan that helps you heal on every level.