By the time you’ve decided that you need help with your alcohol or substance abuse problem, you’ve already made the first phase of recovery by admitting that you have a problem and seeking outside help.
This process – asking for help and seeking treatment or rehabilitation – is known as starting treatment. It is the first of four phases of recovery, or rehab, as described by the National Institute on Substance Abuse:
- Start treatment
- Early abstinence
- Maintaining abstinence
- Advanced recovery
Denial and ambivalence
If you’re like most people seeking help with drug problems, at the very early stages you probably still have a sense of ambivalence about giving up the drug of your choice and you can still deny the full extent of your problem.
This is common for people in the early days. When participating in a professional rehabilitation or treatment program, the first goal of the addiction treatment counselor or specialist is to determine if you are having problems with rejection or having ambivalent feelings.
Denial simply means refusing to believe the reality of your circumstances. Many people who are new to recovery usually have some level of resentment about their addiction. Rejection can take many forms, from thinking that you are still in control of your substance use to realizing that you are truly an addict.
The following false beliefs are typical forms of denial:
Forms of denial
- To believe that you are different from these “real” alcoholics and addicts.
- Think that instead of eliminating it entirely, you can solve your problem by “reducing” it. You may think that you can get your substance abuse back “under control”.
- Refusing to believe that a secondary drug is also a problem. For example, an alcoholic thought that it is okay to keep smoking, or a cocaine addict who refuses to believe that their drinking is a problem.
- Believing that Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous are not helpful because you are “not like these people” because their problems are so serious.
- Insist on continuing to spend time with “friends” who will enable you by agreeing that drugs are not a problem or by using them.
Confront and challenge
Any of the above forms of rejection can affect your recovery. The goal of professional treatment programs is to break through that denial and help you see the truth about your situation. Your advisor or case officer can challenge and confront you to motivate you to change your mind.
Your counselor may remind you of any negative consequences of your substance abuse in your life or ask you to temporarily stop drinking or using drugs if you think you may not be truly addicted. In either case, the goal is to get you to see the truth.
If you are in the early stages of seeking help with a substance abuse problem, you are likely to have ambivalent feelings about permanently giving up the drug of your choice. If you’re like most alcoholics or addicts, you simply cannot imagine life without ever drinking or using drugs again.
You may have decided to seek help first because you have had some negative effects on your drug or alcohol use. You realized that you need help, but quitting completely for the rest of your life wasn’t what you were going to do.
There are several reasons why many newcomers may feel ambivalent about recovery:
Reasons for ambivalence
- You associate your alcohol or drug use with a positive emotional change.
- You can turn to the drug of your choice as a coping strategy and you don’t know of a better coping mechanism yet.
- You may feel too weak or helpless to break the addiction cycle.
- Pressure from other people – such as B. a spouse, boss, or judge – entered rehab and you’re just trying to keep her happy.
If you made up your mind to seek help because you faced some negative consequences, it may have been enough motivation to make you admit that you have a problem. However, the motivation may not be enough to solve the problem.
If you’ve always turned to the drug of your choice during stressful times, when you want to relax, or when you are upset or angry, you likely have ambivalent feelings about giving it up unless you learn new coping skills.
Encouragement and support
At this early stage of treatment, your counselor will attempt to identify your ambivalent feelings and the underlying reasons. You will likely be asked to list your life goals and show how much easier it will be to achieve those goals if you live cleanly and soberly.
Even in the early stages of recovery and throughout your treatment process, the goal is to motivate you to make positive changes in your life. Your treatment program should encourage and support you to make these changes.
Return to the four stages of recovery