Some people are under the impression that addiction is a subjective thing. And yes, while certain beliefs, norms and attitudes do play a role in one’s drug or alcohol use, the damaging effects of addiction show that it is both real and tangible. In fact, substance abuse disorders are characterized as a disease with distinct cognitive, behavioral and physiological symptoms in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-5), the definitive guide used by clinicians to diagnose and treat mental health conditions.
Still, when it comes to addiction, we know that it can be difficult to recognize and accept that you have a problem. After all, some people can use drugs and alcohol recreationally without becoming dependent, and most of us would like to think that we fall into that category. But that’s rarely the case, and when substance abuse begins to affect your life negatively, it’s time to get honest with yourself and reach out for help. That’s often the hardest part; then, it’s onward to recovery. And once you get sober, you’ll realize just how much your addiction has impacted yourself and others.
Unfortunately, a lot of men decide to forego treatment because they don’t think they need it. Either they haven’t hit rock bottom yet, or they simply aren’t ready to admit they have a serious problem. Whatever the reason, the truth is that if you’re wondering whether or not you need treatment, you probably do. At Choice House, we want to help men recognize when their addiction is bad enough for rehab, and what to do about it when the time comes to seek professional help.
GAUGING THE SEVERITY OF YOUR ADDICTION
Substance abuse disorders can vary in severity and are diagnosed on a spectrum. That being said, when your life, health and relationships are negatively impacted by your drug or alcohol use, you should seek help regardless of where you fall on this scale. The following criteria for substance use disorders as outlined in the DSM-5 can help you determine if your problem is mild, moderate or severe.
- LOSS OF CONTROL
- DESIRE TO CUT BACK
- MORE TIME SPENT USING OR ACQUIRING DRUGS
- CHANGING PRIORITIES
- RELATIONSHIP PROBLEMS
- LOSS OF INTEREST IN OTHER ACTIVITIES
- DANGEROUS USE
- WORSENING SITUATIONS
- WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
The extent of your addiction can be determined by how many of these boxes you can check. If you only meet a few of the criteria, your addiction might be considered mild, with each additional sign pointing to a more serious problem. But even a mild addiction can develop into something much worse, so it’s important to seek help no matter what stage you’re at. The sooner you get sober, the sooner you can be free from the bonds of addiction and start living your best life.
BUT MY FRIENDS SAY I DON’T HAVE A PROBLEM!
So you’ve started to question your drug use, but your friends are telling you that everything’s fine. And you’re inclined to believe them, because that means that you can keep on doing what you’re doing. However, some of your friends might have their own reasons for looking the other way, while others might be unable to believe that you have a problem. If you find yourself in this situation, there are some questions you can ask yourself to determine if your friends have your best interests at heart:
ARE THESE MY DRUG-USING BUDDIES?
Your friends might want to avoid losing you as a party companion, or maybe they’re scared of what it means for them if you admit that your own drug use is a problem. Either way, keep in mind that your true friends will support your decision to get help no matter what.
DO THEY KNOW HOW OFTEN I GET LOADED?
You might have some friends that you’ve hidden this part of your life from, so they’re probably not aware of the extent of your problem. If that’s the case, they may not be ready or willing to believe that you need help. Take this as an opportunity to be more open and honest with them about your drug use and ask for their support.
DO WE HAVE A SHALLOW RELATIONSHIP?
Not all of the bonds we form with people in our lives are deep and lasting. If someone questions your decision to get help or won’t acknowledge the issue, it might not be a relationship that can withstand this kind of pressure. Especially for men, problems opening up and connecting with others can lead to superficial friendships, which lack the depth and emotional intimacy to provide much support.
The bottom line is, only you can decide what’s right for you and when it’s time to seek help for a drug or alcohol problem. Unless your friends are qualified to give an accurate diagnosis, it’s best to have a doctor, clinician or mental health professional evaluate your situation.
WHAT IF I’M A HIGH-FUNCTIONING ADDICT?
Don’t let the term deceive you — high-functioning addicts are still addicts. They’re just better at managing their daily responsibilities and compartmentalizing their behavior. They might be able to keep up with family or career obligations and seem outwardly successful, but they’re still battling an addiction behind the scenes. High-functioning addicts live a double life, and trust us, that crap catches up to you. And it limits your potential in some significant ways.
Men in particular are good at hiding their addiction despite daily drug or alcohol use. That’s because they’re highly motivated to maintain appearances and keep their struggles hidden from others, preserving the illusion of control. Men will often deny they have a problem and continue to do so until hitting their own personal “rock bottom,” forcing them to address the issue. Unfortunately, this might involve an accidental overdose, a DUI or some other life-changing event, so it’s better to seek help before things get to this point.
YOUR ADDICTION CAN WORSEN
Addiction is a progressive disease. You might be thinking, “I only meet a few of the criteria on the list above, I don’t need help,” but given time, your condition will likely worsen. Left unchecked, even mild substance abuse can lead to a full-blown addiction as you develop stronger cravings, an increased tolerance and unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, until you have to drink or get high just to get through the day.
Think of it this way. If you were diagnosed with early Parkinson’s or stage I cancer, you probably wouldn’t ignore it until your symptoms become unmanageable. You’d seek treatment to prevent it from progressing further. The same is true with addiction — you don’t have to hit rock bottom to get help. Waiting until things get worse just makes recovery that much harder and puts you at a higher risk of overdose or relapse. While completely preventable, overdose is a leading cause of death among men in the U.S., who make up nearly 70 percent of those whose lives were lost to addiction in 2020.
If you think you have a problem and want to get sober, we encourage you to do it now. Rehab can help you avoid becoming a statistic and give you the tools you need to beat your addiction once and for all. In the process, you’ll also regain the health, wellness and sense of self that you had before drugs or alcohol took over, finally achieving the life you deserve.
At Choice House, we know it isn’t always easy for men to admit or recognize when they have a substance abuse problem. Uncertainty, denial and the stigma of asking for help can get in the way, but recovery is possible with the right support. That’s why we offer gender-specific treatment options for men no matter where they’re at in their addiction, giving them the chance to learn new coping skills and rebuild their lives on a foundation of hope, healing and understanding. Taking advantage of our location in the Rocky Mountains, we combine proven modalities with outdoor adventure therapy to help men reconnect with themselves in a powerful and unique way. For more information about our treatment programs, contact or call us today at 303-578-4978 to learn more.