It’s a huge burden to live with an alcohol or drug addiction, as this illness affects all areas of your life. However, like almost any other illness, chemical dependency can be treated.
There are three stages of chemical dependence: The early, the middle, and the chronic stage. The early stage of chemical dependency is often difficult to recognize as the signs are not as obvious. Your body is developing a tolerance to the drug, which causes you to need more and more to get the same feeling of pleasure as you did in the beginning. Sometimes, you may be able to realize that you are developing a chemical dependence if you notice that you are using drugs to deal with your problems or that getting a high is not as easy as used to be. However, the change in tolerance level is often so gradual that many do not have any idea that they are becoming addicted.
It becomes more apparent when you reach the middle stage of chemical dependency that you have an addiction, because more serious symptoms arise. You might blackout. You have an irresistible urge to use and experience painful withdrawal when you do not give in to that desire. When you are not using, you feel anxious and depressed. You have difficulty handling the easy, mundane things that you always could take care of in the past. Something as simple as dressing into fresh clothes may even seem impossible. In fact, your appearance in general may begin to suffer. It is during this stage that others really start to notice that something is wrong.
Once you reach the chronic stage, you are physically, socially, and mentally a slave to your chemical dependency. Your relationships may be suffering so greatly that friends and family become estranged. Your tolerance level is to the point where you need your drug just to barely function. Many addicts wind up losing their jobs during this stage, because the careful balance of using just enough to get by but not to be high becomes harder and harder to find. Your body will also suffer. Your heart, lungs, and liver become diseased or infected. Your brain usually experiences damage as well.
Different treatment approaches
There are several ways to treat chemical dependency. One thing that most people consider is detoxification, in which your body gets rid of the drugs in its system. However, there is much more to it than that. That is not enough to keep you from making the same mistakes in the future. Also, detoxification can actually be life-threatening if not handled in the right way. Medication may be necessary to safely treat an addiction, especially if you have a dependence on opioids, tobacco, or alcohol.
Behavioral counseling is usually needed. Many addicts simply do not know healthy ways to respond to the difficulties of life, and behavioral counseling can help with that. However, counseling is helpful for other reasons. Trauma is often at the root of how people wind up with a chemical dependency. This needs to be dealt with. Also, as mentioned previously, withdrawal from a drug can result in problems with depression and anxiety. In-patient counseling is sometimes necessary. Out-patient counseling can be done in group settings or one-on-one. Long-term counseling on a predictable schedule is helpful in preventing a relapse.
Types of behavioral counseling for treating chemical dependency include: Cognitive therapy (leaning to recognize what causes you to use alcohol and drugs and how to deal with that); multio-dimensional family therapy (helping addicts and their families work together); contingency management (using positive reinforcement to reward an addict for staying sober).
Accepting, believing, and taking action
Chemical dependence can be treated. However, you will only start to heal from this disease if you accept that you have a disease, believe you can recover, and take action to begin the recovery process. You would not expect someone suffering from cancer to experience remission if they refuse to admit they have cancer and never receive any treatment. Your addiction is not going to disappear if you hide from reality.
No one chooses to be an alcoholic or a drug addict. No one chooses pain and danger of addiction or withdrawal. However, you can choose to treat your chemical dependence.