Why Accepting Help for Addiction can Be So Difficult.
Why Accepting Help for Addiction can Be So Difficult
The subject of drugs isn’t often addressed in social or family gatherings, but the truth is that they affect far more New Zealanders than many imagine. According to the NZ Drug Foundation, around 44% of adult New Zealanders will try a illicit drug at some point in their lives, and 93% will sample alcohol. Statistics show that when recreational use turns into addiction, there can be an enormous personal and public cost. The estimated annual social cost of illicit drug-related harm in New Zealand amounts to a whopping $1.8 million, though interestingly, the drugs that cause the most harm in this country, are alcohol and tobacco.
Why is it So Hard to Ask for Help?
If you are addicted to cigarettes, alcohol or substances, the first step involves asking for help; unfortunately, this can be the hardest for various reasons.
Firstly, turning to your doctor, therapist, or family members means acknowledging the problem. Many people use drugs, cigarettes and alcohol as a crutch for emotional problems, stress, and loneliness. The thought of having to face these problems sober, can be a huge burden.
Secondly, people may find it difficult to admit their problem to family, friends, and people at work.
Finally, quitting drugs and alcohol requires time that many people feel they lack… time to receive treatment from a qualified team of professionals, who may include a nutritionist, psychologist, art therapist, etc.
Elderly People and Addiction
Addiction is certainly not a problem exclusive to the young. As people get older, they experience health and social problems that may be related to ageing. In the case of addiction, alcohol and prescription medications may be a way for seniors to escape from their fear of loneliness, fear of personal injury or falling while living alone, grieving for the loss of loved ones and friends, etc.
Evidence has shown that treating depression and anxiety, which have a strong link to addiction, can reduce the likelihood of the elderly developing dementia. Treatment is as effective in the old as in the young, yet older people can encounter stigma and are often ashamed to admit they have an addiction problem.
Greater awareness of available treatment options, and acceptance from family and friends, can help them seek the diagnosis and treatment they need to lead a better life. Seniors can feel more secure through devices that alert medical services when they are feeling poorly or when they have had a fall, but social connections also go a long way towards helping them feel like they are not alone.
Why it is Important to Accept Ambiguity
In a fascinating article on the value of art therapy, therapist, Brian J. Horay notes that although some consider the 12-step method to be the treatment of choice for substance abuse, other approaches, including art therapy, have been devised to help those in recovery explore the ambivalence they feel towards quitting.
Horay speaks of a patient, David, who was asked to create art to depict how he felt about quitting addiction. His initial drawing and explanation, notes Horay, was “a rather melodramatic narrative… that involved a desire to turn towards an idealised existence free of alcohol and drug use...However, the visual language of the artwork — the images’ broken, slashed, and frenetic linework conveying an overall feeling of anxiety and uneasiness — contradicts this somewhat romanticised description.”
He states that art is an ideal therapy during rehabilitation, because it opens the discussion towards a patient’s ambivalent feelings about quitting. It is important to address this; to acknowledge that although addiction makes one feel powerless and imprisoned, there are things one is saying goodbye to when one decides to stop using, and these reasons vary from person to person.
What’s To Miss?
Some may miss the sense of companionship from other users; others may miss the sense of escape… it is also vital to understand that quitting is difficult because it prompts us to address some of the reasons we may have started using in the first place: a sense we are not worthy of self-compassion; a need to escape from loneliness; fear about our future.
Addiction therapy seeks to help those in recovery understand their reasons for quitting, their reasons for using, and any ambiguous feelings they may have about letting go. Art therapy, group therapy, and horticultural therapy are just a few settings in which people can feel comfortable enough to talk about how they feel and open their mind to possibilities for change.