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Drugs and Alcohol
When does alcohol and/or drug use become a problem?
Because many people use alcohol and/or drugs, it can be hard to know if
you have a problem. Many myths cloud ideas about substance abuse. The
stereotypical images of a drunk lying in the gutter or an emaciated
addict with a needle in his/her arm don’t represent the average person
with a drug/alcohol problem. There are many different paths to
problematic alcohol/drug use and no typical picture. Perhaps you can
relate to one or more of the following commonly seen patterns:
- You find yourself drinking or using drugs (which may be
prescribed, over-the-counter or illegal) to help you cope with life
and/or with difficult thoughts and feelings. You may or may not have
a history of difficult life events or trauma.
- You consider yourself very able to cope with life and feel as if
you are relatively free of problems, but you just happen to ‘like
drinking ‘ or ‘like drugs’ too much and have gotten into the habit
of rewarding yourself with them too frequently and/or in excessive
quantities. If you’re this kind of drinker or user, you may blend in
with the ‘average’ heavy drinker/drug user, making it easy to tell
yourself that your use is ‘normal’.
- You’re a person who has a lot of trouble relaxing, winding down
or getting to sleep, and have come to rely on alcohol or other
substances to help you ‘chill out’.
These signs may indicate that your use has gone beyond recreational:
- people are concerned about your drinking or drug use
- you find yourself neglecting your social, family-related or
- your drinking/drug use is creating or exacerbating
conflict/distress in your important relationships
- you find yourself acting in opposition to your own values as a
result of, or in order to continue, your drug/alcohol use, e.g.
letting people down, not being as caring as usual, being deceitful
or ‘economical with the truth’, associating with people you’d
normally avoid, etc.
- you want to cut down or quit but have not been able to do so
- you’re putting your health at risk
- you’ve been reprimanded at work or suffered legal consequences.
Treatment and recovery
Most people with drug and
alcohol problems need help to get well. It’s hard to do it alone because
there is so much to do, and a lot of it involves pain. Recovery entails
- relearning how to cope with the normal stresses of life
- finding healthier ways to reward yourself and to relax
- coping with the backlash that results from the ‘trail of
wreckage’ you’ve likely left behind as a result of your
- Your loved ones may be exhausted and traumatised because of your
drinking/using and struggling to cope with their own distress. They
may decide that now is exactly the right time to tell you how angry
they are. They may expect you to just ‘get over it and get on with
it’. You may even agree with them. But it’s not always that easy. In
fact, learning how to cope with shame and guilt is a major part of
recovery. Ironically, facing up to the damage done can easily pull
you back into drinking or using.
On top of addressing all of the above, treatment must also help you
to develop skills in resisting the urge to relapse, which is often
strong in early recovery and can continue for some time.
The Inner West Therapy Centre provides a space where you can be
honest about what’s happening for you and gives you the caring support
you need to stay in recovery. Our approach is hopeful, empathetic, and
Through therapy, you can come to the realisation that you are
entitled to, and capable of, a better life.