For many of us, it can be difficult to admit it when we feel like something’s wrong with us. Addiction is particularly hard to face, as it means that you got yourself into that situation — and now you have to work hard to get yourself out. However, as you have probably heard many times before, the first step to fixing a problem is addressing it head-on. So that you can recognize when you’re taking pains to avoid the root of the problem, we’re going to teach you the most common ways that people deny their addiction.
Whenever you start to think that you have a problem, you may think “but look how successful I am! Could I be this successful if I was addicted?” This serves to draw the attention away from the parts of your life that may not be going so well and focuses on only the good — and, remember, there are parts of your life that are not going as well as they could. There is also a tendency here to label those who are less successful than you as the people with a problem, which totally misses the point. High-functioning people that contribute to society can still struggle with addiction.
Just like people that are less successful than you are the “people with a problem,” it can be easy to point to friends that use or drink more than you and say “see! They do it too!” This allows you to take the attention off what you are doing, and if it ever appears that this safety blanket is beginning to lift — say, you become the heaviest user in the group — the tendency is to find a new group of friends that are even heavier users so that you can comfortably deny that you have a problem once more.
Prime examples of substances thought to be less dangerous are marijuana, beer, or wine — there’s no way you could be addicted to any of those, right? They’re legal (mostly), and why would they be legal if they were dangerous? In fact, a person can become addicted to any substance that gives them a dopamine rush, triggering the reward circuit within the brain. This is meant to keep us alive — it incentivizes us to socialize, eat, and exercise. However, drugs and alcohol abuse this system, and eventually allow the user to build up tolerance, leading them to seek more and more of the rewarding substance. For this reason, even those substances that may seem less dangerous have potential to cause a damaging addiction.
The first instinct when someone — even, perhaps, your own conscience — mentions that you may have a problem is to point out the last time you were sober. It can also be tempting to make an excuse for using when you do, like “I only use on my free time,” or “I only do it when my friends do.” Using your friends for validation is a problem, as mentioned earlier, and pointing out all the times that you’re sober intentionally misses the point that addiction has consequences beyond the times that you’re using. This can be even more damaging if you point out the times when you’ve stopped using for an extended period of time. When you do that, you switch the focus to stopping, not to starting up again. You may feel that you’ve proved that you can stop — but by starting up again, you just invalidated that previous achievement, and there is no guarantee that you will be able to stop next time.
It’s hard to admit that you have a problem. It’s so much easier to keep ignoring it, to continue the addictive behavior, but in doing so, you are harming yourself in the long run. Fighting your addiction is the brave, strong, and right thing to do. If you’re ready to get help, you don’t have to be alone — seek professional addiction support, and ask your family and friends to keep you honest. It’s not easy, but it can be done.