As 2020 comes to an end, many people are looking within themselves to see how they can put self-improvement at the forefront in 2021. For many this is around, reducing stress, eating more healthily, losing weight, getting to the gym more, or starting some form of exercise. Another common resolution is “I’m going to stop relying on drugs or alcohol this year”. Often this can be anything from just cutting down to stopping completely – even if completely might not mean for ever.
The reality is that cutting down or stopping drug or alcohol use isn’t as easy as saying the statement above. It takes time. It takes perseverance. It takes determination. It takes professional help. And it certainly doesn’t take a simple New Year’s Resolution and just will power.
No one undertaken a resolution does it with the intention of not succeeding but as many of you reading this will know keeping to a resolution is not easy and many initial good first steps soon disintegrate. Drug and alcohol use are chronic relapsing disorders characterized by compulsive drug and alcohol seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It is considered both a complex brain disorder and a mental illness. So, it is not just as easy as just relying on stubbornness and will power to stop or cut down.
if you have relied on just willpower in the past and are not doing anything different this time, then unfortunately you are going to get the same outcome – relapse after relapse. As we have said in earlier blogs “If nothing changes, nothings changes”. Furthermore, if this is your first time then please do not think you can just tough it out as this just does not work – studies confirm this as well as personal experience and 20 years of help clients get on top of their drug and alcohol use.
Changes in drug and alcohol use happens through a series of positive behavioural and cognitive changes, facilitated by professional support. When multiple, small changes accumulate, permanent change can be accomplished over time. That’s why these small, practical New Year’s resolutions may help you take a step towards getting on top of your drug and alcohol use:
Many individuals don’t end up admitting that they have a problem or that their drinking or using is causing problems until a terrible experience has occurred, such as losing a relationship or job or after an accident. People often talk about change not taking place until you hit rock bottom. So lets put that one to bed DO NOT WAIT TO HIT YOUR ROCK BOTTOM!
Waiting for your world to collapse and for everything to go tits up before you doing anything is not only illogical but makes your recovery so much harder, so don’t do it!
Denial is a terrible thing; it keeps us where we are and stops us from making changes that are not only beneficial for ourselves but those that care for us or those that we have responsibilities for or commitments to. We have written some blogs on the common excuses those that use drugs and alcohol often come up with so please read these as they often stop us from admitting drug and alcohol use is a problem or is causing problems.
Admitting you have a problem is great but the next hurdle to get over is realising that you can’t sort it out on your own. Much of this is due to not realising how difficult it is to actually stop and stay stopped or even cut down and stay cut down in the first place. As we said above drug and alcohol use are chronic relapsing disorders characterized by compulsive drug and alcohol seeking, continued use despite harmful consequences, and long-lasting changes in the brain. It simply is not just that easy to stop and stay stopped.
Then of course there is pride and ego. Often pride and ego has played a beneficial role in your life. It’s more than likely saved you from embarrassing situations, it’s driven your to perform at work or to take charge and be the reliable one. It’s made sure you stayed stalwart during trying and difficult times. It’s lessened your emotions and calmed you down when your self-confidence has taken a knock. But your pride & ego can also hold you back.
Your pride and ego has kept you from being vulnerable. It has shut others out and encouraged you to isolate. It’s kept you from seeking out help and has probably prompted you to lie instead of being fully honest about what was going on inside your head and heart and your behaviours.
Letting your pride and ego hold you back from getting help with your drug or alcohol use is a mistake. It is no uncommon to hold on for years and years until you finally let go and admit you need help and seek help and consequently leave a trail of devastation and heartache in the process. All of which is avoidable.
So, once you have got past 1 and 2 you move onto step 3. Options for drug and alcohol treatment include inpatient or outpatient, self-help groups, private and funded treatment.
Self-help groups like AA, NA, CA and SMART are great. But they are not therapy, they do look at the underlying reasons for your use, they do not deal with these and they are not run by qualified therapists. That doesn’t mean don’t give them a go but for many they are not enough https://helpmestop.org.uk/blog/when-aa-is-not-enough
Inpatient treatment is fine but not always necessary depending on how severe your drug and alcohol problem. Private inpatient treatment is expensive and can cost between £15,000 - £25,000 for a 28 day stay and as such often precludes a large part of the population and getting local authority funded places is not quick and can take 6 months or more. Also, not many people can easily go to their boss and say they need 28 days off to go to rehab or take 28 days out of their work if they are self-employed. However, inpatient treatment isn’t the only game in town and isn’t always the most appropriate.
Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab centres/Dayhabs can provide very effective treatment and some services, like those offered at Help Me Stop, are designed to fit around work and targeted to those individuals who may class themselves as “functional users”. They are even available online. Online programmes are highly effective and have the bonus of being accessible from the home or the office and are also available in the evenings, which is great if you work a 9-5 type job.
Regardless of which option is chosen, it is most beneficial to have a chat with a treatment professional beforehand as your current circumstances my preclude you from your desired choice.
Help Me Stop offers a free chat about your treatment options so please call us now on 0208 191 8920 or jump onto Live Chat/email us directly at https://helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us
There are many benefits to your physical and mental health if you cut out alcohol and drugs completely.
This may be a "Doh" moment but stopping your drug and alcohol use means you will no longer suffer from come downs and hangovers. The paranoia, insomnia, irritability, nausea, headaches or tiredness you may have felt the morning after using or drinking will also not only be gone but likely to be replaced with improved mood as well as feelings of more get up and go.
Regular drinking at hazardous and harmful levels and drug use interferes with chemicals in the brain that are vital for good mental health. So while you might feel good, or at least unworried about things, while you are drunk, stoned or otherwise affected when you stop using or drinking the things that you are worried about are still going to be there. Not only are they still going to be there but the substances you have used to block them out will now bring in new issues such as anxiety, depression, psychosis, paranoia, insomnia etc.
If you stop drinking alcohol and taking drugs, one of the first things you notice should be improved energy levels and better sleep after a while. Getting drunk and passing out is not the same as sleeping. Nor is getting stoned or out of it through drugs. Both alcohol and drugs affect your normal sleep cycle so stopping all of this and letting your body find its natural rhythms will give you better sleep in the long term and give you more energy as a consequence.
Stopping drinking and taking drugs will not turn you into George Clooney, Son Ye Jin or Kirsten Stewart but stopping your alcohol and drug use will improve your skin as alcohol and many drugs cause the body to dehydrate as well as a host of other things. Just type into google "before and after rehab" and then click "images" and see for yourself.
Of course, you don’t have to wait until the New Year to make changes and in some way making changes now will be the best Xmas present to yourself and others you can give. Help Me Stop is open all through Xmas and the New Year and is providing face to face and online treatment throughout December apart from Xmas Day, Boxing Day & New Years Day.
However, we know, because all of us at Help Me Stop have a personal use history with drugs and alcohol, that many of you reading this are holding out for a last hurrah and that Xmas & New Years Eve is a great excuse to yourself and others not to do anything until they are done and over. So if this is the case please be kind to yourself and those that care about you and modify your use as we also have COVID-19 to deal with this year and those that use alcohol and drugs are more susceptible to catching it and have more problems in overcoming it.
And if you are deciding to make changes in 2021 then remember actions are loader than words.
If you are concerned that things are getting to much and you are hitting the bottle or taking drugs to cope and want to know how get your life back on track, or you are concerned about someone you know then call us now on 0208 191 8920 or jump onto Live Chat/email us directly at https://helpmestop.org.uk/contact-us
Chris Cordell is Help Me Stop's General Manager and is a senior associate member of the Royal Society of Medicine, Certified International Recovery Specialist, member of the International Society of Addiction Medicine and a member of the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals.
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