You CAN live a SOBER LIFE again - CALL NOW for treatment options

Admitting You Have a Substance Abuse Problem


For many, the hardest step of recovery is admitting you have a problem. Denial is a powerful tool and often carries addicts through years of unnecessary suffering. According to a 2009 survey by SAMHSA, only 11% of the 23.5 million persons aged 12 or older who needed treatment for an illicit drug or alcohol problem received help at an addiction-based facility.

As addiction centers steer away from a “one size fits all” approach, addicts are discovering that there are countless ways to engage in recovery. Admitting you have a problem does not mean handing over the controls to a recovery team, but rather opens the doors to the formulation of a highly individualized treatment plan.

Making that leap from denial to action is a critical time period. Whether an addict reaches out to a trusted friend or family member or a treatment professional for help, it is most helpful to be aware of the physical, social, and emotional factors that are at play:


The more severe withdrawals from drug and alcohol abuse require medical monitoring. Symptoms of physical withdrawal run the gamut from shakiness and sleep disturbance to seizures and possibly even death. The severity of withdrawals is impacted by the frequency and duration of use as well as the types of substances that were being abused. Less severe symptoms can be monitored on an outpatient basis and often diminish within the first few days of sobriety.

In addition to navigating physical withdrawal symptoms, recovering addicts also experience the discomfort of cravings. Narcanon explains, “An addicted person experiencing drug cravings will feel like life itself is dependent on getting and consuming whatever substance is causing those cravings.” Identifying healthy replacement behaviors is a key step in addressing these symptoms. Cravings tend to decrease in frequency and duration as time goes by and successfully combatting them in early recovery often leads to the adoption of healthy long-term coping strategies.

Nutritional Factors
Long-term drug and alcohol abuse wreaks havoc on the body. As a result, the adoption of a healthy diet and exercise regime is often incorporated into an addict’s treatment plan. Whether disease or more general dietary deficiencies are present, the introduction of a healthier lifestyle can yield promising results.


Setting Boundaries with Existing Peers
It comes as no surprise that addicts associate with other addicts. Aside from ensuring easy access to substances, these unhealthy connections reinforce the common cycle of denial. In early recovery, boundaries must be created between the addict and his former peer group. This is a daunting process, particularly for those addicts who have grown completely alienated from their healthier supports.

Formation of Sober Community
As unhealthy associations are eliminated, it is critical that addicts begin to form relationships with individuals that can empathize. In both inpatient and outpatient treatment settings, sober peer support is encouraged. While trained professionals play a key role in the recovery process, the guidance and strength gleaned from other recovering addicts plays an invaluable role in long-term success.

Involvement in Sober Activities
For addicts, socializing is often synonymous with substance use. Activities are selected based on a the availability of drugs and alcohol, while healthy hobbies and interests are placed on the back burner. Recovery programs encourage reintroducing these healthier social outlets as well as exploring new ones. Click here for a list of fun sober activities.


Ending the Numbing Cycle
Many addicts report using drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medicating or numbing. When life’s inevitable challenges surface, addicts turn to the “quick fix” afforded by substances. While it’s clear to non-addicts that drugs and alcohol are more of a problem than a solution, the addicted brain thrives on misguided distortions. In early recovery, addicts often report an onslaught of emotions. In addition to working through withdrawals and cravings, many years of suppressed feelings bubble up to the surface. Having the support of a treatment team can prove critical during this overwhelming time.

Forging Emotional Supports
In addition to forging healthier social supports in early recovery, it’s also important that an emotional support system is secured. Feelings in early sobriety can range from shame and fear to depression and anxiety. Trained professionals can help addicts identify the source of these emotions while introducing evidence-based tactics to address them.

Establishing a Self-Care Routine
Through the course of an addiction, everything from general hygiene to self-nurturing practices falls to the wayside. The universal goal of substance abuse treatment programs is to equip addicts with the tools necessary to maintain long-term sobriety. While the formation of social and emotional support systems is imperative, it’s also critical that the addict adopts a self-care routine. Attending to one’s physical and emotional needs on a daily basis reinforces self-respect and a commitment to long-term well-being. Learn more about self-care in recovery here.


Admitting you have a problem is the most critical step in the addiction journey. Introducing supports into what can be a highly alienating struggle makes the prospect of recovery far more navigable. Initially, the shifts that occur in early sobriety can feel overwhelming, but by understanding the physical, social, and emotional implications, addicts can remain in the driver’s seat from the onset of the journey.

Brene Brown quote - admitting you have a problem

Rona Barrett quote - admitting you have a problem


jen-anderson-addiction-counselorJen Anderson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), Sobriety Coach, and former alcohol enthusiast living in Florida with her husband and son.

Related Articles

Hypnosis for Addictions Like many people, my first impressions of hypnosis were on TV, on stage, and in the movies, where it was used almost exclusively for entertainment. It wasn’t until I studied therapeutic hypnosis in gr...
Helping Your Addicted Loved One Through the Holidays Jingle Bells piping through every speaker system in the city. Families laughing in Santa hats as the ham gets carved. Children tearing open gifts as they squeal with joy. The holidays are here again! ...
Dr. Oz: ‘The Face of Addiction Has Changed’ Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of the nationally syndicated “The Dr. Oz Show,” was recently the headline speaker at the UNITE to Face Addiction rally in Washington D.C., where he said “the face of addiction in A...
Convincing Kids to Avoid the Temptation of Street Drugs Even in this day and age of increased awareness, the addictive nature of street drugs, referring to illegally distributed substances often hastily prepared with no uniform manufacturing guidelines, st...
Ithaca Mayor Wants to Offer Heroin Injections to Public The mayor of Ithaca, NY is requesting the nation’s first supervised injection facility, where people can shoot heroin and other illegal drugs under the care of a nurse without getting into trouble wit...
Heroin Use Among Teens May Begin with Abuse of Painkillers For many years, addiction to both legal and illegal drugs has been a cause of concern for parents of teenagers. Among young people who abuse heroin, a certain percentage can directly link their substa...
The Link Between Addiction Treatment, Religion, and Spirituality Addiction takes over your body, mind, and spirit. It leads to confusion and commonly results in repeated cycles of disappointment and hardship. The solution to breaking this pattern most often require...
The Inspiration of Watching a Recovering Addict Struggle I consider myself to be one of the luckiest women in the world, having found my other half. He is not perfect, but he is perfect for me. He used to have a massive drug habit, but he has been recovered...
Ohio Community Fights Heroin Addiction with Unique Vivitrol Program An Ohio community is tackling the issue of opiate and heroin addiction head on with a unique prosecutor Vivitrol program that’s the first-of-its-kind in the state. Athens County Prosecutor Keller B...
The Long Road of Depression and How I Came Out of It Many people think that alcoholics are all about fun and they don’t care about anything else. While this may be true for a small portion of alcoholics, that isn’t true for most of them and it certainly...
Recovery Begins With Getting Real With Yourself Sometimes when it comes to addiction, the last person to really come to terms with an active addiction is the user. Yes, admitting that you are an alcoholic or drug addict is not the easiest thing to ...
Managing Chronic Pain While in Recovery According to the National Institute On Drug Abuse, doctors treat more than 100 million patients in the U.S. for chronic pain, including some in the recovery phase of addiction treatment. The challenge...

Leave a Reply