Do you want help?
By Nick Adams
If you thought there was something wrong with you, how long would you wait to seek help? Broken bones usually require an immediate response, but with minor aches and pains, we may only seek out treatment when our mobility or quality of life begins to suffer. Would you listen to the advice of family and friends, or health-care professionals, once you decided that you needed help? If an ambulance shows up at your car wreck, you will usually listen to the advice and follow through on the treatment that they offer.
What about when it comes to your own substance use (or your use of substances)? What would help you determine the need and time for help? Would it be a health-related concern? Would it take others telling you about how they see substances affecting your day-to-day life? If you think that your substance use has become a problem, how and when do you seek out help? It can be a very difficult time as family members see their loved one’s suffering, but as I suggested a few weeks ago, addiction is the only disease that requires some kind of self-diagnosis before effective treatment can begin. Unlike a compound fracture that is protruding through the skin, the person who is struggling with a substance use disorder may have a very difficult time seeing how their substance use is causing harm to them and those around them.
It is important that when someone who is struggling with their substance use realizes that there is a problem that they are able to access local resources as quickly as possible. Drug and alcohol treatment encompasses a variety of approaches and there are different options available depending on each person’s situation. For any of them to be effective, though, there needs to be honesty – first to self and then to others around you. There must be an open-mindedness to look at things that are unfamiliar and a willingness to go where it is uncomfortable to go. People with a substance use disorder have a physical addiction, a mental compulsion. It will take time and effort in order to recover. It is, however, possible. It involves a number of small steps that over time can make up many miles on the road to recovery.
When I first realized that my drug and alcohol use was negatively affecting my life 11 years ago, I reached out to FourCAST, the Four Counties Addiction Services Team. I started one-on-one counselling and attended 12-step recovery meetings, as well. That began a process that eventually led me to entering into an inpatient residential treatment centre in 2009. Cheryl Robinson, a registered psychotherapist at FourCAST in Lindsay says, “At FourCAST treatment begins at point of intake. Our intake workers can meet with clients by phone or in person at the office to complete the intake and then clients will be offered support groups and Acu-detox to start right away (that day). Clients will also be offered phone support or Community Withdrawal Management support depending on their needs (starts within 24 hours of intake).” Not everyone needs to go away to a treatment facility. They can access a variety of services right from where they live.
“Desperate times call for desperate measures” is a modern phrase that can be traced back to Hippocrates, a noted physician in the 4th century BC. He said, “For extreme diseases, extreme methods of cure are most suitable.” In 2014 when I slipped back into destructive habits in terms of my substance use, I should have entered back into the treatment process immediately. The problem for me is that I had slowly abandoned my program of recovery over the period of four years so that by the time I was really beginning to struggle again, I was so firmly rooted in denial that I only went deeper and deeper into my addictions. If I had been practising a healthy plan of recovery at that time, perhaps the problem could have been resolved without having to resort to desperate measures.
One-on-one counselling or group therapy might have got me back on track. Resuming my 12-step meetings should have been a priority. Eventually, the pain of leading a double life, hiding the truth from all of those closest to me, caused me to leave a career that I loved and pushed me to the brink of suicide. Only extreme treatment options were available to me then and I entered into an inpatient treatment centre in November 2017. It was there that I was told that my condition would require further inpatient treatment and I did another 72 days in another facility in 2018, for a total of 117 days. I tell you this just to illustrate that different interventions could have worked at various junctures on my decline, but because I didn’t fully embrace my condition, I was unable to avoid the three-year downward spiral. I literally got into treatment by the skin of my teeth, one or two weeks later and who knows if I would have made it.
Asking for help is hard. It is hard to be vulnerable in a culture that puts so much emphasis on self-sufficiency and being strong. I could not do it alone. That is the message that I want to leave you with. You can’t do it alone. It takes opening up to those who care about you and saying the things that you need to say in order to begin the process. As a community we need to be more sympathetic and more empathetic to those who are suffering under the weight of substance use issues. We need to be able to show care and concern for all so that no one feels alone or marginalized. In the weeks ahead I will talk more about substance use disorders and the stigma that still exists around them.
If you think you might like to talk to someone about your substance use, or if you are looking for support around a concern for someone else’s substance use, call FourCAST at 1-800-461-1909.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter @HKLNDrugStrat and Facebook @HKLNDrugStrategy.
Nick Adams is the Media and Communications Worker for the Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland Drug Strategy. Through a series of weekly columns, Nick will discuss how the Drug Strategy is reducing the harms and stigma around substance use in our communities and will offer a unique perspective to the various weekly topics by sharing his own personal experience.