Imagine living your whole life under the unforgiving thumb of addiction, then reclaiming your life back by getting sober and clean? This may seem like a pipe dream, especially for individuals who are deep in addiction and have tried to get sober using numerous channels but failed. Well, failure, in this case, should no longer be an option because not only do the consequences of addiction affect the addict, but they also radiate outwards causing a ripple effect that reaches an addict’s loved ones, the community and the population at large. Additionally, the effect of addiction on a country’s economy can be counted in the billions of dollars in terms of health care costs, crime, unemployment, lost productivity, and more. An addict’s behavior will in most cases negatively impact their;
- Legal status
Living with an addict is also not easy because not only does their dependency impact a household’s finances, but the fact that you can’t count on that person disrupts a family’s dynamics and its state of calm. Addiction starts somewhere for everyone, in fact, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health children as young as 12 are already abusing substances such as cigarettes, alcohol, inhalants, weed, and prescription drugs such as sleeping pills and anxiety medicines. While there is a seeming genetic tendency toward addiction, this is only part of the equation that makes a person vulnerable to addiction. There is a variety of contributing factors that determine what causes a person to become addicted to substances, which may include a person’s physical constitution such as age, gender, ethnicity, and a variety of other attributes. Other predictors of a person’s risk for future substance abuse and addiction can also be a combination of factors such as:
Environmental risk factors – Statistics show that a person’s risk of addiction is increased if their surroundings such as the community, family, school, and friends have a propensity toward drugs, alcohol, violence, and crime. While the marginalized are more at risk of becoming addicted in part due to a lack of access to quality healthcare, studies show that privileged individuals can also be susceptible simply because they have the financial means to support a drug or alcohol habit.
Mental illness – According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, there is a clear correlation between mental health disorder and addiction. In fact, more than one-half of substance abusers are dealing with a mental illness, and they rely on drugs or alcohol to either numb the pain, to feel more socially acceptable, to calm their symptoms, or to increase their energy and motivation.
Trauma – A report from the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and The Department of Veteran Affairs suggests that there is a significant and undeniable link between trauma and substance abuse. Experience with traumatic events such as neglect, physical abuse, verbal abuse, sexual abuse, loss of a loved one, accidents, terrorism, natural disasters, etc. can leave a scar on the mind, and over time, victims of such trauma choose to dull their pain with their drug of choice or alcohol. Between 25 to 75% of people who survive abuse or violent trauma, including 33% of survivors of accidents, illnesses or natural disasters develop issues related to substance abuse.
Consequences of substance abuse
In most cases, it’s very hard for an individual struggling with drug or alcohol addiction to see how bad their problem has escalated and sometimes it takes an intervention from their loved ones for them to realize that what began as a voluntary social experiment, a form of self-medication or a legitimate prescription has developed into a full-blown addiction. Each form of addiction poses a series of negative consequences on a person’s overall well-being because it is a disease that can raise its ugly head in many behaviors such as stealing, abuse, sexual misconduct and much more. It takes a huge toll on families, the workforce, the society which ultimately results in additional pain and disconnect that only exacerbates the problem. The most common indicators of substance abuse are lack of control, continued use despite the repercussions, obsessing about using, failed attempts to quit, tolerance and withdrawal. Consider the following consequences of drug and alcohol abuse:
- Health Consequences of addiction
People with severe drug and alcohol addiction often develop illnesses as a result of the disease and can ultimately die without treatment. Someone with substance use disorder may suffer long-term effects that range anywhere from changes in appetite, wakefulness, heart rate, blood pressure, to more serious, even life-threatening illnesses such as heart or lung disease, cancer, mental illness, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, heart attack, stroke, psychosis, overdose, and death. Excessive alcohol consumption leads to changes in chemistry and normal body functions and can result in significant bodily impairment and the development of many chronic diseases and other serious health problems even death. Chronic drinking significantly increases the risk of alcoholic fatty liver, inflammation of the pancreas, cancer, damage to the digestive system, immune system dysfunction, brain damage, infertility, malnourishment and vitamin deficiencies.
The neurological and emotional effects of chronic drug and alcohol abuse can also lead to various mental health conditions and behavioral disorders such as anxiety, depression, memory loss, paranoia, aggression, psychosis and much more. Over time, the physical and psychological health problems effects of addiction worsen throughout a person’s dependency, and while some of these issues can be fixed with early intervention, if left untreated they can cause irreversible damage.
- Physical consequences of addiction
When someone takes drugs or alcohol repeatedly, they develop a tolerance, and as a result, they have to take more and more of the substance of choice to feel its effects. For example, someone may take prescription medication to treat pain or a form of mood disorder such as anxiety or depression. Physical dependence, in this case, may occur when the person’s body becomes accustomed to the medication and without them or when the dose is lowered, they experience withdrawal symptoms. Addiction is a progressive disease, and as time passes, an addict will eventually build a higher tolerance and exhibit some of the following signs and symptoms:
- Craving and compulsive drinking or using drugs
- Losing control over the amount of drugs or alcohol taken and frequency of use
- Continued use despite the adverse consequences
They may also present with physical signs such as:
- Being over-active or subdued depending on the drug
- Physical tremors when not using
- Weight loss
- Looking pale and malnourished
- Unusual body odors
- Neglect of personal hygiene
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Confused easily
Emotional and behavioral signs may include
- Acting paranoid, argumentative, disruptive, defensive
- Losing interest in activities and isolating themselves from others
- Missing work or school
- Legal and financial problems
- Being secretive
- Relationship/marital problems
- Legal consequences of addiction
Alcohol and drug abuse leads to all sorts of negative issues and can lead an otherwise socially responsible individual to engage in dangerous, violent and illegal behaviors that carry significant legal consequences. Even for recreational purposes, taking drugs or drinking eventually alters the chemical makeup and the mechanics of the brain and body, consequently, a person loses control of their behavior and their ability to make informed decisions. Driving while inebriated is one of the most common crimes associated with addiction because the effects of alcohol or drug use slows brain function, distorts vision and inhibits response time. Additionally, most people who take drugs or drink heavily commit domestic violence crimes and consequently, they are constantly faced with legal consequences such as time in jail, probation, child abuse reports, potential removal of children from home, even register as a sex offender. A growing rise in prescription fraud has enabled drug addict to commit serious offenses such as altering prescriptions to get larger quantities of the medication or presenting fraudulently written prescriptions to obtain opioids. Also, a chronic drug addict who does not have the means to obtain drugs will steal medications from friends, family and even doctor’s offices and pharmacies. Criminal activities such as violating drug laws, burglary, grand larceny, theft, prostitution are all things that can get an addict into legal trouble.
- Financial consequences of addiction
Supporting a drug or alcohol habit can be a costly endeavor especially for people struggling with substance abuse and are not financially stable. Often those addicted to drugs or alcohol end up with a loss of income and when an individual is living from paycheck to paycheck and struggling to make ends meet, paying for drugs or alcohol will eventually drain their bank account, especially if they need to use more of their substance of choice in order to get the desired effect. Addiction also makes a person less productive, and consequently, they either stop attending class or calling in sick to work more and even when they do make an appearance their performance is affected because chances are they are “high.”
Children with addicted parents suffer the hardest blows because they often receive inadequate education and sometimes may go without food or shelter due to their parent’s drug or alcohol habits. In addition to putting a strain on families, addiction results in serious health problems, which then calls for additional healthcare expenses that come with increased health care fees not to mention insurance premiums. Other financial ramifications of addiction may include:
- Accruing debt
- Stealing and selling things to support a drug or alcohol habit
- Legal fees and fines as a result of substance abuse
- Falling behind on paying bills such as rent, utilities, mortgage because money is spent on drugs or alcohol
- Losing a job or being denied employment as a result of drug/alcohol-related criminal record
- Social consequences of addiction
Individuals with a drug or alcohol dependence often experience stigmatizing and discriminatory attitudes every day, especially from people who do not understand that addiction is a disease. For reasons, those in addiction end up having feelings of guilt, shame, rejection, anger, a sense of worthlessness or hopelessness and instead of seeking for professional help, the unjustified dismissals they receive causes them to fall deeper into alcohol, drug use and other forms of stigmatizing behaviors. Over time, an addict will start isolating themselves, and often they will try to hide their dependence from family and friends out of fear of what they may think or say about their addiction. Additionally, a drug or alcohol addict is no longer in control of their lives and will seek to control something or someone else. They will behave irrationally and often resort to lying, manipulation, use violence or other aggressive or threatening behaviors either to hide their dependence or to acquire their substance of choice.
So, Why Get Sober and Clean?
Addiction is very similar to diabetes, cancer, heart disease and if a person is sick why would he or she not seek treatment to get better? For too long stigma has had a hand in preventing individuals with drug and alcohol dependence from seeking the help they need in fact, there is a saying that goes, “it’s better to sleep with a sober man-eater than an inebriated Christian!” Addiction is a brain disease and once it develops its impact can be far-reaching because not only does it interfere with an individual’s ability to make voluntary decisions, but it also leads to compulsive drug or alcohol craving, seeking and use even result to serious health consequences that are long-lasting and permanent.
Getting sober, no matter what you are addicted to starts with understanding that you have a problem and then getting the help that you need in order to overcome. Ask yourself, how many times have you missed out on important moments in your life just because you were “high” or nursing a serious hangover or withdrawal from drugs or alcohol? Cleaning up your act won’t be an easy task, it will take time but the benefits getting sober will bring to your life will be worth it. Below are a few reasons to motivate you:
- Health reasons
The one thing that drugs and alcohol do is loosen inhibitions and impair judgment, which makes engaging in unsafe sex like taking candy from a baby (easy), resulting to unwanted pregnancies even worse, contracting various sexually transmitted diseases (STI’s) or HIV. Some drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy are known to overexcite the brain enough to cause seizures, heart attack or strokes. Heavy drinking will eventually cause liver disease, pancreatitis, brain damage and much more. Quitting drug and alcohol consumption also decreases the risk of developing serious mental health such as anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia. Remember those days you would wake up feeling foggy, unmotivated, and unfocused? Getting clean will give you the gift of enhanced mental clarity, improved memory, and better cognitive abilities to help you set and accomplish your goals and dreams.
- Save money
How much money do you think you have spent either scoring drugs or on alcohol? Addiction is a selfish and greedy disease that doesn’t care how or where you get the money provided you keep feeding it and mind you, it never gets satisfied. Regardless of your addiction, if you have been using alcohol or drugs to cope, numb the pain or deal with other issues, you are more likely to find better ways of dealing with your issues by sobering up rather than feeding an insidious monster that will never be grateful. You do something meaningful with the cash that you save from getting clean such as save up for a home, take a vacation, go back to college, and much more.
- Increased self-esteem
It’s no secret that alcohol and drug dependence can be uniquely dehumanizing. Addiction makes you feel like you have no control over your own life, it makes you feel insignificant, especially in the eyes of others, it makes you crave attention and affection from other people, it makes you feel like you are not ethically or morally a good person. Chronic addiction to drugs or alcohol can make someone feel that they are not worthy of love and appreciation, it makes you feel incompetent, and as a result, you are easily dominated and taken advantage of. When your self-esteem is lowered due to addiction, you feel quite insignificant, however, all this can change when you get clean and sober because you begin seeing yourself through different eyes. You will begin taking better care of yourself; you will eat better, exercises, sleep better, get stronger and consequently, improve your overall outlook of yourself.
- Better relationships and more time
When was the last time you visited or spent time with family and friends? What did you do within the last few hours, were you drinking, doing drugs, sleeping it off, or just thinking about using? The amount of time an addict spends in the throws of addiction cannot be gotten back, however, once a person gets clean and sober, they begin to appreciate the value of time. Time they’ve lost missing out on being with family, time they’ve lost at work from all the “sick days” they’ve taken, time that should have been spent in class but was instead spent drinking or doing drugs.
- More energy
Years of drugs use, or alcohol abuse has assaulted your body and mind with a constant influx of toxic substances that have placed your entire body’s system into overdrive. In addition to poor eating habits you also experience extensive bouts of debilitating fatigue because, yes, you do not sleep and even if you do, you wake up feeling like someone took their time to beat you with a baseball bat! You probably haven’t exercised in a while, so you have a lot of pent up aggression that you don’t know what to do with other than take more drug or alcohol to numb it out. Everyday activities such as walking the dog, cleaning up after yourself, playing with the kids, even taking a shower feel like punishment. Addiction depletes all your energy reservoirs, however, once you are substance-free and you’ve rid your body of all that toxicity, you will have more energy and because you will be taking care of yourself, no longer will you experience chronic fatigue or dips in blood sugar levels.
- More control
Addicts often experience emotional and mental duress because they don’t always know how to correctly dissipate or cope when stress levels become too high, therefore, they turn to depressants such as drugs, alcohol, or prescription pills in an attempt to manage their issues or escape their difficulties. Using controlled substances may offer the “best” short-term solution, but it’s only a band-aid that only masks the problem, and consequently, it makes it impossible for addicts to learn better ways of managing stress or even forming meaningful relationships. While stress is part of life that everyone has to contend with, getting sober will help you develop important life skills and strategies of managing stressful situations. Additionally, when sober you can learn various techniques that can help you remain effective, even in stressful situations such as meditation, breathing and visualization, yoga, and much more.
- You develop true friendship
During your addiction phase, you probably picked up a few questionable “friends” along the way that were ready to jump aboard the “fun train” but quickly jump off when things turned disastrous, right? You will realize that once you get sober, some of the people you hung around will be nowhere to be seen, but that shouldn’t worry you anyway because you will quickly appreciate what bad influences they were and they never added any value into your life. Life in sobriety will give you the insight of knowing who your genuine friends are and it is then that you will get to develop real friendship like no other relationship you ever had. You will also gain respect and appreciation from your loved ones as time goes by because they will admire your commitment to staying sober and helping others in similar predicament to achieve full sobriety. Are you ready to get clean?