All of us have heard the old adage, “The first step is admitting you have a problem.”
Easier said than done.
Admitting addiction is terrifying, even if you’re opening up to people who are your closest friends or family members. In fact, it might be easier to open up to a complete stranger because there’s no risk of letting down someone you don’t know.
The key to recovery isn’t avoiding the problem and hoping it’ll go away. The key is asking for help and admitting that you are no longer in control. And for that reason, you can no longer manage this on your own.
No one ever wants to say, “My life is out of my control and I’ve made some poor choices because of it.” But, in fact, that’s exactly what you need to say in order to get the help you need and get back on the right track. The trick is finding the proper moment when to say it and how to say it.
Admitting to yourself
It might feel like, by admitting the problem to yourself, you’re a failure, weak or whatever other cruel adjectives your brain concocts. But the truth is, addiction is a manipulative and powerful disease of the brain, and admitting a problem is not a weakness — it’s one of the bravest things you can do.
You might have noticed signs that the addiction is out of your control. It may be interfering with school or work, occupying all your energy or causing you to act recklessly or in ways you’ve never behaved. This might be alarming, but it’s a good practice for self-awareness. If you recognize these things in your life, it’s important to next decide how you’re going to make a change.
When the addiction shows signs of getting out of control, you’ll want to start by admitting, “Yes, this is beyond what I can handle.”
And that is okay.
It’s brave, even. Hard, yes, but very brave. And because it’s hard and vulnerable, it’s important to be gentle with yourself. Do what you can to limit negative self-talk, practice self-care and take care of your mind during this vulnerable stage. This includes talking to the people in your life who can offer you support and help you find the treatment you need to begin recovery.
Admitting addiction to your loved ones
Telling your loved ones about the struggle with addiction can be terrifying, but it can give you the support you need during this crucial part of the journey.
Pick the right moment
Addiction is a hard subject for a lot of people to handle, whether or not they’re actively involved in addiction. Therefore, bringing up the topic of addiction needs to be done at the right moment.
Once you’ve made the choice to talk with your family or friend(s), do so in the right place at the right time. Don’t suddenly drop it on them in the middle of dinner at a restaurant — take the time to plan when you can both sit down at home in a peaceful environment and have plenty of time to talk as much as needed. Odds are, they’re going to have questions.
Ask for help
When opening up about addiction, you know you’re doing so because you need their help to break the cycle. Make sure they know that, too. If they ask, “Why are you telling me this?” tell them it’s because you trust them and you need their help. It’s because you need someone on your side who knows what’s going on, who can support you and help you find the treatment you want and need.
Their questions might force you to face some negative aspects of the addiction that you haven’t faced, or haven’t wanted to face. But recovery is rooted in honesty and authenticity and the only way you can begin the journey is by putting those practices in place now.
Be honest about how the addiction started, whether from chronic stress, an untreated mental illness or peer pressure. Be honest about where the addiction is now. Be honest about your goals in recovery, if you’ve even thought that far ahead. And be honest and sincere in your desire for their help and support moving forward.
People fear what they do not understand — addiction is no different. If your loved ones do not understand addiction, they may respond out of fear or misunderstanding. It’s important to not take offense, to try to understand where they are coming from and to help them understand where you are coming from yourself.
Help educate them about addiction (and maybe even educate yourself alongside them). The more both of you understand, the more able you’ll be able to act wisely and in a way that will benefit your recovery.
Seek additional help
Once you’ve been able to take that first step and admit to struggling with addiction, the next step is seeking out the help you need. Lean on your family and friends to help you research and find a treatment center that meets your personal needs and promises to walk with you through all the stages of recovery.