The question I am most often asked on here is this: how did you do it? How did you get sober? It seems like such a simple question, but the answer is complex. For some people struggling for years with addiction, I'm sure loved ones and significant others are always asking the question, "why now?" in terms of getting sober. I know that I was in dark place for a few years and asking for help never occurred to me. So how do we get to that point? Why is it so hard to ask for help with an addiction? Here are some reasons why I think it's difficult.
1. Deciding if you have a problem or not
This may be the number one reason people fail to ask for help or put it off for years. It's incredibly hard to decide if you have a problem or not in many cases. For me personally, I had myself convinced that my drinking behavior was totally normal and in line with that of my peers. In addition to binge drinking being the norm on college campuses, our society is very alcohol centered. It's not uncommon to be only one or two drinks away from putting yourself over the edge, and once that happens our minds have a powerful justification system that is good at justifying unhealthy drinking or drugging behavior. I clung to the fact that in certain stages of my life I only went out on the weekends and didn't wake up drinking alcohol every morning. I thought this meant I didn't have a problem. What is a drinking problem anyway? It's hard to know. The limit is different for everyone. Trying to determine if you have a problem or not can be miserable. I spent many years feeling defeated wondering what was wrong with me. That's why I encourage everyone who is even thinking about sobriety to try it or to ask for help because it could save your life or greatly improve its quality. You never know if you don't try.
2. Feeling like it's the end
I don't think I'm alone when I say that many of us don't ask for help with our drinking because we think it signifies the end of our fun times. We often think it's the end of freedom, of life as we know, and that we are destined for a mundane existence forever more. I was that drunk girl who was disgusted by sober people. I truly thought there could be nothing worse than being sober. Why would anyone ever want to do that? At three days sober I messaged a woman who I trusted and who I knew had been in recovery a long time, she is the mom of a dear friend. I asked for her advice and guidance. You know what she told me? "I know this may sound cliche, but you will live a life beyond your wildest dreams." She was so right. Deciding to get sober can be emotional and absolutely life-changing, but it's definitely not the end. It's the beginning. It was the day I finally started living.
Ugh, shame. It's like one of the worst, if not the worst, feeling there is. I will be writing a whole post about shame in the future. It's paralyzing, seething, and it can rob you of a lot. Shame is like a small, dark room where you're straining to see the light and you just can't reach it. Shame is not only feeling guilty for actions you've taken part in, but the belief that you're a bad person because of them. Shame leads many people suffering from substance use disorders to believe they don't deserve help - that they're a lost cause. They fear judgement from their peers as well. This is all caused by the root of addiction being perceived as a moral failing by a large portion of the general public. I was so ashamed and scared of the words "alcoholic" and "addiction" I didn't ask for help for a long time. For many years I preferred the labels of "party girl" and "drunk" to admitting I had a problem. It took me a whole year of the sober life to come out on my blog and talk about why and how I got sober. Don't let shame prevent you from getting help. You do deserve it. You are worth it. You can get it.
At the point and time that you are considering help for your drinking or drug misuse, you may have overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and loneliness. Addiction isolates you from the outside world and we quickly feel as though no one could possibly understand how we feel or what we're going through. We almost believe the hopelessness that we're feeling is irrational, so why tell anyone or ask for help? I know I told myself to snap out of it multiple times. I thought I just had to deal with it. I didn't realize that there are millions of people out there just like me, dealing with the same issues, and living beautiful sober lives in recovery. The truth is there is hope, there is always hope, and you will find your people. We are here waiting for you with open arms! All you have to do is ask.
5. Lack of knowledge about options
Those of us who are speaking out about living sober and life in recovery, realize many people are unaware of all of the amazing options there are out there for help with addiction. I didn't go to a treatment center, but looking back I'm sure I could have used one and would have benefited from it. I wish I had known more about what options were available. Alcoholics Anonymous is the not the only way, it's just one of many options. I was left to google for options about sobriety and reading books/memoirs and addiction information, I found sites that helped me stay sober during my first year. Not religious? There's SMART recovery or Refuge Recovery. There is literally something for everybody. If you're looking for a sign, here it is: help is available and treatment works! There are thousands of places you could go to or people you could talk to. People that won't judge you. Yesterday I stumbled upon this great resource from The Fix called Free Insurance Benefits Check - it's a form where you fill out your information and they check what kind of addiction treatment coverage is available with your insurance. There are sober coaches and other trained professionals who can help you choose the best path for you. Don't give up just because you don't like one pathway or one doesn't work for you.
There are many reasons those of us who are still sick and suffering feel they cannot ask for help. I hope by reading this, if you're one of those people, that you know help is ready and waiting. When I finally asked for help the only thing I wished was that I had asked for it sooner.
I know you're tired, exposed, and hurting. But you don't have to hurt anymore. Choose help. Choose self-love. Choose sobriety.
I promise you'll live a life beyond your wildest dreams. I am.