Admitting You Have a Problem is the First Step | Overcoming Addiction

Admitting You Have a Problem is the First Step

If you’ve battled with substance abuse, chances are you’ve heard the saying, “admitting you have a problem is the first step in recovery.” There’s only one clear fact with addiction: the disease is not straightforward, and recovery doesn’t happen overnight. The journey to sobriety often requires intentional steps and clear goals that allow space for setbacks. Understanding how substance abuse impacts your situation is a great starting point to identifying solutions and programs that are right for you.  

If denial is the face of addiction, it’s easy to see how it can prevent many from receiving proper care. Breaking through self-deception is incredibly difficult but often one of the most powerful first steps. It allows the person facing substance abuse to ask one critical question: do I have a problem with drugs and alcohol?

If you’re struggling and unsure of where to start, AspenRidge Recovery can help you assess your specific situation. We are available 24/7 at 855-281-5588 and happy to help you take the first step in your road to recovery.

Admitting You Have A Problem Is The First Step

Different Types of Addiction Recovery

There are numerous approaches to alcohol and drug recovery. There’s the widely known twelve-step plan that is usually associated with Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA) meetings. One of AA or NA pillars requires that a person admit that they are powerless over alcohol and drugs. Again, admitting you have a problem is the first step run congruous to moving toward sobriety. 

There are other types of addiction recovery, such as five stages and six chapters. Although different in their methodologies, each of these recovery pathways embodies the central theme: understanding the impacts of addiction in your own life provides clarity in defining triggers and implementing strategies that aim to help you recover from the urges to continue using. 

Engaging in drug rehabilitation services is designed to cause a powerful shift. However, these shifts might not occur without an admission. The acceptance and subsequent commitment to healing are critical factors proven to help with long-term recovery. In fact, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, or ACT, is one type of therapy that highlights these essential first steps. ACT is based on “psychological intervention that uses acceptance and mindfulness strategies, together with commitment and behavior change strategies, to increase psychological flexibility.” For addiction treatment, being flexible is paramount.

Why is Admitting a Problem, So Important?

So, admitting you have a problem is the first step, but why? Many addiction specialists suggest that this step indicates the person struggling is aware or becoming aware of their problematic behaviors and how those behaviors contribute to a larger health concern.

Admitting there is a problem creates a healthy mindset to begin working on many difficult components of addiction, which were previously avoided or otherwise ignored. Admitting there is a need for a change is certainly not easy. For this reason, talk therapy and other treatment modalities aim to support a person as they discover the truths of their substance abuse habits. 

First Step In Addiction Recovery

Denial Can Be a Powerful Deterrent

It’s challenging getting through to someone who’s using heavily, especially when they’re stuck in denial. In fact, denial can be a powerful deterrent for receiving proper care. No matter what the person’s behavior has been like, it’s important to remember that your loved one is not a bad person because of drugs.

According to the Offices of Disease Prevention and Health Wellness, in 2005, an estimated 22 million Americans struggled with a drug or alcohol problem. Almost 95 percent of people with substance use problems are considered unaware of their problem. Of those who recognize their problem, 273,000 have made an unsuccessful effort to obtain treatment.

These estimates highlight the importance of increasing prevention efforts and improving access to treatment for substance abuse and co-occurring disorders.

If your loved one doesn’t realize they need to change their habits, it’s best not to force them into a situation they are constantly resisting. States have laws in place that outline when a person can be admitted to rehab without consent. In general, most states acknowledge that unless the person with addiction is causing harm to themselves or others, or cannot properly care for themselves, then treatment is left up to the individual. 

Signs of Addiction

Admitting you have a problem is the first step. However, recognizing the problem is not always clear. Not everyone is aware of how their drug or alcohol addiction is impacting family, friends, and co-workers, much less the symptoms of drug abuse. They may not even recognize changes in their own behavior. Alcohol and drugs can easily take hold and mask underlying issues that may be present like mental illness, trauma, and more. Unfortunately, many addictive behaviors occur without the individual ever becoming aware of them. In time, these behaviors become much more apparent. 

The Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) has clearly defined problematic use of substances to help clear up the confusion regarding problematic or non-problematic substance use behaviors. There are also common signs that may help indicate that their perceived casual drinking is now out of control.

Asking the following questions may help in identifying substance abuse issues:

  • Does my drug use interfere with healthy habits like working out or eating well?
  • Do I drink or use more than people I know?
  • Does drug use cause me to miss important obligations that surround work, family, or personal commitments?
  • Do I drink more than intended? 
  • Are drugs used to help relieve stress and anxiety? 
  • Are my tolerance levels higher? Do I have to use more to achieve the same effect? 
  • Have I ever blacked out from excessive drug use? 
  • Do I hide my substance use from my loved ones?

What are the Requirements for Problem Drinking or Drug Use?

The DSM-5 has defined problem substance use by incorporating the number of consequences an individual may experience despite persistent use of the drug. Researchers and developers of the DSM-5 created clear criteria to help with diagnosing and developing awareness of problematic behaviors associated with addiction. The criteria according to the DSM-5 states:

  • A substance is taken in larger amounts or over a longer than intended
  • Persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control substance use
  • A significant amount of time involved in obtaining, using, or recovering from its effects
  • Craving, or a strong desire or urge to use a substance
  • Recurrent use despite significant problems or failure to engage in obligations at work, school, or home
  • Continued use despite having persistent or recurrent social or interpersonal problems caused or exacerbated by the effects of alcohol
  • Important social, occupational, or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of substance use
  • Recurrent use in situations in which it is physically hazardous
  • Substance use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by alcohol
  • Tolerance
  • Withdrawal

The criteria for SUD has changed slightly over time. However, the general consensus is that the more consequences an individual can identify with, the more likely that person may be suffering from a substance use disorder (SUD).

Levels of Severity of Substance Use Problems

Alcohol and drug issues vary from person to person. Factors to consider often depend on the length of use, type of drug used, and amount consumed. There are different levels of substance abuse severity. 

It’s easy to justify drug or alcohol use as something you want to do. However, a person can quickly become consumed by ongoing habitual use and, with time, will begin to use due to uncontrollable urges. At this point, substance dependency has set in and the severity of substance abuse has increased. 

Living life constantly under the influence of drugs often leads to depression, anxiety and cognitive impairment. Drugs and alcohol actually affect brain chemistry after continual use. So even if you think current drinking and drug use is fine, eventually your body may be damaged by their long-term effects and you may be unable to resist ongoing use.

Addiction Designations

Modifiers are determined by the number of criteria from the DSM-5. For example, if a person identifies with three criteria statements, then that individual may suffer from mild substance abuse. Severity levels are designated as follows:

  • Mild – Experiences or identifies with 2-3 symptoms on official criteria list.
  • Moderate – Experiences or identifies with 4-5 symptoms on official criteria list.
  • Severe – Experiences or identifies with 6+ symptoms on official criteria list.

The list of severity modifiers is often used in tandem with the criteria list described above in detail.

Taking The First Step In Addiction Recovery

Does AspenRidge Help All Severity Levels?

AspenRidge Recovery has created a renowned Colorado alcohol and drug program center helping in all stages of recovery. While we offer a step-down approach from higher levels of care to lower levels, we also recognize that everyone experiences drug dependency differently. Some clients, therefore, can enter at lower levels if they’ve self-identified patterned misuse, but are not yet at risk for severe dependency.

If admitting you have a problem is the first step, how are program options then selected? This is a valid question that many clients attempt to identify on their own. The good news is, our addiction specialists are here to guide you through those initial steps.

AspenRidge is able to help determine the severity level using thorough assessments and evaluation processes.

What Does AspenRidge Offer?

AspenRidge Recovery is a premier substance abuse and mental health treatment center. They have highly trained staff that can utilize drug education safely and effectively throughout the rehabilitation process. AspenRidge offers treatment programs for various types of substances, plus provides ongoing individual and group therapy. Our Colorado substance rehab programs are tailored to meet individual needs.

Please contact AspenRidge at 855-678-3144. Staff will help to verify insurance options and to clarify treatment procedures available at AspenRidge Recovery Centers.


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