Thoughts about quitting your addiction can pop up at any time. Usually, however, they creep in slowly, gradually taking root until the desire to quit your drug of choice becomes almost unbearable. While it would be wonderful to be able to predict when such an intention to change begins to command more and more of your attention, it just doesn’t happen that way. Some addicts need to lose everything – family, relationships with friends, home, car, job and health – before they grudgingly accept they have a problem. Others come to the realization more quickly after only a few negative consequences. While each person arrives at the decision differently, there’s one thing in common: when you can ask who can help me heal, the time is definitely right.
Addiction: the Long Battle
Sit in on any 12-step group meeting and listen to the stories of the addicts. Whether the addiction is to alcohol or drugs, gambling, eating, sex, overspending, overwork, or a combination of simultaneous addictions, a pattern emerges from the tales that causes other group members to nod in recognition. They’ve been there, or experienced something akin to the kind of misery and misfortune that’s befallen the addict speaking at the time.
This sense of kinship is one of the keys to the success of 12-step groups. The mutual support members provide for each other is transformative. The power of the group support is so important in an addict’s recovery that some members continue to attend meetings for years. Many even give back by serving as group or team leaders, sponsors to new members, or otherwise volunteer to help out.
Everyone knows that addiction is a long battle. In fact, addiction is never over, never cured, never far from the addict’s consciousness. It isn’t something that happened before and can be shoved aside because we’ve somehow got beyond it. Certainly, following treatment, our hope and intention is to put our addictive behaviors behind us and progress with the plan for recovery that we create for ourselves.
Still, we need to remember when we groveled in the pain of our addiction, when we blew our savings and those of our children on gambling or getting high or drowning our sorrows in endless bottles of whiskey or vodka. We have to acknowledge the hurt we’ve done to others and try to make amends. In fact, in order to progress in our recovery, we need to do all this and more by following the Twelve Steps and act according to our group’s Twelve Principles.
Every Addict Deserves Redemption
The core principle of 12-step groups may very well be boiled down to a simple principle: every person, every addict, deserves a chance at redemption. This is not meant in a religious sense, although for many recovering addicts redemption does involve a profoundly spiritual reawakening. Call it redemption, a second chance or starting over. The term itself doesn’t matter. What’s important is that no one is beyond help. No matter how despicable their actions, the abject misery, poor health, financial ruin or other blots on their lives they’ve racked up, everyone has an equal, and deserved, opportunity to change their behavior and chart a new course for the future.
Many addicts fear the judgment and condemnation of others, especially in a group setting, and for that reason they stay away from meetings. This is a mistake. There is no room for condemnation in recovery. Judging others is not conducive to healing, nor is it tolerated.
Attending a 12-step group meeting is simple and easy to do. Look up any of the 12-step groups appropriate to your addiction. Check their websites out and see where meetings are held in your area. Addiction experts recommend you attend at least six meetings of a particular group in order to see whether or not it’s a good fit for you. If not, try another. There are group meetings available online and over the phone, as well as meetings in numerous international locations. In fact, you can get support from your group members wherever and whenever you need it. These are your allies, your lifeline, in your recovery. Don’t be afraid to use it.
How Do You Know You’re Ready?
Okay, so you know there’s a resource available to you in the form of the 12-step groups. And they’re free. There’s never a charge for membership. The only requirement is that you have a genuine desire to quit your addiction.
But how do you know when you’re ready to get help? What are the signs you should look for? Or, are there any? Again, the answers are different for everyone. And, no, this isn’t a copout. Just as the path toward addiction is unique to each individual, so, too, is the path toward recovery. There are, however, some things to look out for that may signal your readiness to change.
• You begin to hate the fact of your addiction.
• You hate yourself and what you’ve done to others as a result of your addiction.
• You’ve lost your family and want to reconnect with them.
• Due to your addiction, you’ve been unable to hold a job, been fired from your job, or quit going to your job – and now you are destitute, or nearly so, and want to do something to remedy the situation.
• People used to look up to you as a role model. But now they turn away in disgust – all as a result of who you’ve become in your addiction.
• You’ve fallen into a deep depression, so much so that you’ve contemplated or attempted suicide as the only way out of your addiction.
• Your life has deteriorated so much that you can’t justify your continued addiction any longer. You feel that perhaps giving treatment a chance may
• You realize you can’t blame your addiction on your failed chances, or excuse it because you’ve been wronged, suffered losses, or had a miserable childhood.
• You begin to understand that you are responsible for your continued addiction.
• While your spouse or family have been after you for years to quit your addiction, it finally occurs to you that you really do want to change your life. You accept that you have a problem, and you want to quit your addiction.
• You admit you cannot quit your addiction on your own.
• You ask for help.
Where to Find Help
Money is often a problem with addiction. Don’t let lack of finances prevent you from seeking help for your addiction, since there is help available. You already know that 12-step meetings are free of charge, and many addicts start off by attending these meetings. The various groups also offer a number of publications, books, pamphlets, workbooks and other literature that can prove helpful. Learning about addiction, the sources and causes, as well as urges and cravings, tools to overcome negative behavior, and how to restructure your life without drugs, alcohol or other addictive behaviors – all are crucial to your early recovery.
But there are other sources of help. Ask your 12-step group sponsor or the group leader for help finding treatment. Talk with your family physician, your minister, or family members and enlist their assistance in finding appropriate treatment. If you really want to get treatment, you will find it. But be prepared to do some serious legwork. You not only need to find treatment for your addiction, you also need to find the right treatment that works for you.
How do you go about this? One good way to start is to use the Substance Abuse Treatment Facility Locator sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). This is a searchable directory of drug and alcohol treatment programs that shows the location of facilities across the country. There are more than 11,000 listings for treatment programs, updated weekly, including residential treatment centers, outpatient treatment programs, and hospital inpatient programs for alcoholism and drug addiction. In addition, listings include treatment programs for cocaine, heroin, and marijuana addiction and for drug and alcohol treatment programs for adults and adolescents. SAMHSA also operates a toll-free 24-hour confidential referral helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (available in English and Spanish), or TDD at 1-800-487-4889.
When you enter the locator site, you’ll also have access to many other links and resources. Check out the frequently asked questions, do a quick search, detailed search or list search. In the quick search, click on a state on the map and enter city or zip code. A street address, if known, can be entered to more precisely center your search. Then, choose a radius for the search. Information returned per facility includes the name, address, and phone number of the facility, distance in miles from your starting location, and the ability to map it. Each listing also includes:
• Primary focus of the facility – such as substance abuse treatment services
• Services provided – such as substance abuse treatment, halfway house
• Type of care – such as residential long-term (more than 30 days) treatment, outpatient
• Forms of payment accepted – such as self-payment
• Payment assistance – if there is payment assistance available, it will say so. Usually, the listing will say “check with facility for details”
• Website URL
The locator site also provides a compilation of State Substance Abuse Agencies. In California, for example, the agency is the Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs, with address, phone and fax numbers, email and link to the agency’s website. State of California Find Treatment Help page includes phone numbers and links to other resources. Other state agency listings have similar information.
SAMHSA also sponsors a Mental Health Services Locator, offering comprehensive information about mental health services and resources available to consumers and their families, the general public, and professionals. Similar to the substance abuse treatment facility locator, the mental health services locator is accessible by clicking on the map or the drop-down menu of states and U.S. territories.
Once you find several listings for treatment facilities in your area, go to their websites to check them out. See what services they provide, and look through all the information available on the site. Make a list of questions to ask and then contact them.
The Partnership for a Drug-Free America lists 13 questions to ask when choosing an addiction treatment program. These include questions on licensing and accreditation, effectiveness of the program’s treatment methods, medication support, aftercare programs and services, relapse prevention, insurance coverage or financial aid, ongoing assessment, individual and group counseling and behavioral therapies, and services and referrals for family members, and other questions. Use these as a starting point for when you contact each facility.
After going through several potential treatment facilities, you should have a better idea of which one seems more appropriate for your particular addiction and situation. Arrange to visit the facility and, if it is a fit, undergo an initial assessment. You are on your way toward entering treatment for your addiction.
What’s Most Important
Having the desire to overcome your addiction and being willing to stick it out, no matter how difficult or unpleasant, is the most important part of entering treatment. Before you can get there, however, you have to be honestly able to ask: Who can help me heal? Once you reach this point, you are ready to embrace a new life – one without reliance or dependence on addictive substances or behaviors.
How long will it take? Think of it this way. Each day is one step closer to recovery. Concentrate on healing, on rebuilding your mind-body-spirit balance, learning new coping methods, improving your communication skills, and charting your future. And, once you are on the path to recovery, think about giving back to others who may be just beginning their journey – just like you did. You may one day be the inspiration that helps another addict who has finally found the courage to ask: Who can help me heal?