Many people drink socially or take prescription medications. But you are reading this because either you or someone you know seems to have a different relationship with substances. You are concerned and sense something is not normal. Perhaps because you see:

•Always heavy use; uses when alone
•Intense cravings
•Sneaky behaviors, lying, and unreliability
•Regular, frequent use throughout the week
•Blacking out and passing out
•Issues with family, school, work
•Wild mood swings; and more…

You should trust your instincts and make sure there isn’t a problem. But in a world and culture that emphasizes control and mastery, it can be extremely difficult to come to terms with reality: you keep saying “last time, no more” and then you do it again…and again…and again.

So what do you do? Push for a therapist or go to Alcoholic Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meetings?

You do both. But first things first: get to a meeting.

Find an AA meeting         Find an NA meeting

Here’s why. Therapists often make a mistake with addicts (both substance addicts: alcohol, drugs, prescription meds; as well as process addicts: gambling, internet). They view the addiction as secondary to other emotional and psychological problems, which they then try to treat. Thankfully, counselors are changing their approach because it doesn’t work. Drinking and drugging is the primary problem, and it has to stop before counseling can move on to other issues and make a difference.

Why meetings? In order to get to behavior change you have to focus on the behavior. Meetings keep the focus firmly on drinking and drugging. They help addicts keep the focus on their addiction, and come to terms with it, with their life being out of control, and with their powerlessness over their drug of choice. It helps them accept the loss of control over drinking and drugging, and identify as an addict who needs help.

Meetings help you acquire the essential skills, tools, and support for establishing a base of abstinence or “clean time.” It’s how you get some firm ground to stand on. Only they can you start to explore the causes of the addiction, reconstruct your personal history, and discover how you got to be where you are. Fail to understand the kinds of thinking and behaviors that led to the addictions and you are likely to fall right back into it.

Meetings are the ideal treatment for active alcoholics and drug abusers.

However, the abstinent recovering addict has new needs. As recovery begins to happen and an abstinent recovering addict begins to emerge, it’s time for therapy. With the addiction being addressed, you can get at the underlying emotional and psychological issue – life problems much like everyone else. These respond well to counseling and therapy.

But you don’t necessarily have to wait between meetings and talking to a therapist. Some therapists are trained in addictions and can be brought in while the addict is still active, since they understand that the initial sessions need to focus on the addiction and obtaining sobriety through meetings.

Also, an addict doesn’t have to wait until they have significant “clean time” in order to start working with a therapist on issues. A sensitive therapist will use sessions to encourage the addict’s regular attendance at meetings, address resistance and difficulties with the 12 Step Program, discuss emotional issues that come up in connection with attending meetings and the process of obtaining abstinence, and increase the overall effectiveness and success of the meetings.

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