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When going it alone is not enough

As a counselor, people often ask me for advice concerning addiction; especially with regard to controlled substances both legal and illegal as well as alcohol.

Alcohol addiction requires professional help
Alcohol addiction requires professional help
Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Addicts and non-professionals always have an abundance of thoughts and comments on the subject.

Some of the more common are, “Everybody is addicted to something”, “There are all kinds of addiction; mine just happens to be one of the big ones” and my favorite is the ever popular, “I can walk away from my addiction at any time I want; I’m just not ready or I enjoy my addiction”.

The last example is most popular among alcoholics. My response is, really?

Yes indeed it’s true; everyone seems addicted to something.

Food, coffee (caffeine), tobacco (nicotine), television, web browsing, video games, pornography, sex and much more are addictions to many people.

More recently developed (at alarming numbers to our young people and others) are, body piercing, tattooing, drinking of human blood, eating plastic and cutting (of one's flesh); all of which are very serious addictions. Usually a Psychologist or Psychiatrist specializing in these areas is the best source of professional help in these addictions.

Even things like sports, body building, college and religion can also become addictions. Some people can't be without their favorite sport team news or going to the gym hours a day, while many persons like college so much they can't seem to live outside the area of academia and become known as a "professional student" and still others just can't be without constant involvement in their church.

Indeed, there are all kinds of addicts in every aspect of life.

The bottom line is, how does one determine if they’re an addict?

As a Christian Psychologist and Certified addiction counselor, over the years I have seen and/or participated in probably every kind of addiction recovery and rehabilitation program available and have concluded that it's not possible for an addict to “just walk away” and recover on their own.

It doesn't matter what the addiction is but especially alcohol and controlled substance addicts require professional help to initiate the recovery process.

For some of the minor addictions (and alcohol and controlled substances are not minor addictions), spiritual help from a minister or prayer group might be all that is needed.

For addictions like alcohol, controlled substances, sex and pornography, there's no way around professional help.

These are tough addictions and thinking you’ll get better and recover on your own is simply wrong; you won't.

It doesn't matter which program you choose; just pick one and try it. You might have to try several before you fine one that is best suited for you.

For most addicts, an outpatient program such as Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous or Church sponsored recovery is not enough.

There must first be the lengthy process of in-patient/resident detoxification or the “drying out period”.

Although such detoxification and rehabilitation processes have come a long way from the dreaded padded room and tie down experiences of old, realistically it is still a tough and painful process requiring professional help.

Detoxification and rehabilitation centers today are far from the hospital styles of years gone by. Most are comfortable and even eloquent places where the patient can under go the process in a peaceful and tranquil environment. In my area here in Deep South Texas, there is even a treatment center on beautiful South Padre Island, right on the beach.

The truth is, most addictive persons know their condition; they just haven’t “followed through” in starting the recovery process.

One of the most common questions asked of any addiction counselor by family and friends is, “When (if ever) do we intervene”?

If the addict will not help him or herself, then certainly intervention is always necessary.

The question then becomes when is going it alone for family and friends as well as the addict not enough?

Here are some determination guidelines based on my experience as an addiction counselor which can help:
1) Does the individual appear more often than not unsettled, easily aggressive, impatient and fidgety; that is, are they constantly picking up, moving about in a close area while constantly moving or playing with their hands and arms and unable to stop picking at their skin.
2) Is the person often unintelligible in their communication with other (even though apparently sober)?
3) Do they have sudden mood swings?
4) Do they blame others for their actions?
5) Do they seem constantly paranoid?
6) Does their personal hygiene often appear diminished?
7) Do they constantly lie or exaggerate (or appear to be hallucinating)?
8) Do they run away (both physically and/or mentally)?
9) Do they attract or befriend other addicts?
10) Do they thrive on and/or live a life of constant conflict?

If you or a friend or loved one can be identified from these guidelines, intervention is a must; both the addict as well as family and friends should seek professional help.

If these guidelines apply to you, get into a detoxification and rehabilitation program immediately.

If these guidelines apply to a friend or family member, gather your non-addict friends and family together and hold an intervention time; get the addict convinced of their need and start the detoxification/rehabilitation process. Don't forget you're dealing with a life.

Addiction is something nobody needs but unfortunately almost everybody knows somebody that has an addiction problem.

For most of us, thank God addiction to life is enough.

For Christians, Philippians 4:13 reminds us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”; even the ability to overcome and recover from addiction. Let's make sure we share that verse with our friends and family suffering from addiction.

God bless all who seek recovery.

© 2014 Dr. Lee W. Outlaw III