Addicts have different levels of awareness depending on their drug of choice and the stage of their addiction. They may understand that their life is falling apart, or tunnel vision could be crippling the ability to see the bigger picture. No matter the case, many loved ones attest to a shared experience: addicts refuse help. No matter how bad it gets. And all this time, the addict’s life continues its freefall downward. They get fired, lose custody of a child, drop out of school—and down the rabbit hole they go. But this process doesn’t always last forever. Addicts need to work through a specific cognitive process before they can acknowledge their problem and accept help.
Addicts Refuse Help During Active Addiction
Addiction is a disease. It identifies fundamental differences in brain chemistry that trigger deviant physical and psychological dependency that the average person doesn’t experience. Because of these fundamental differences in brain chemistry, a person suffering through long term addiction typically arrives at a place where they no longer take their drug of choice to get drunk or high. They do it to feel normal and not get sick.
This phenomenon, known as tolerance, shifts a person’s normal judgment. Their priorities become jumbled with one constant: staying high to avoid getting sick is priority #1. This warped version of self-preservation is an instinctual process that many addicts are not fully aware of themselves. But it is a powerful force that drives all kinds of justification for continuing a habit. The first step toward an addict accepting help is for them to face their own denial.
Trap of Acceptance: Contemplation
But even when an addict DOES identify their own denial, that does not mean they’re home free to accept help. There are a few more steps to work through first.
The stages of change are broken down into more distinct steps, but the stage after denial is generally called contemplation. Contemplation acts as a limbo between active addiction and change. During this stage, cracks begin to form in the life the addict has built for themselves. They notice inconsistencies that work against their dependency. But though these cracks begin to form, it often takes a while for them to really matter enough to accept help.
During this stage, addicts often find themselves trying to reconcile the logical fallacies that led to their lives falling apart. “This is just who I am,” might be one thing they’d tell themselves. Or, “I’ll find a way to make it work. My boss will never find out if…” And they fill in the blanks to keep up with their habit despite past consequences. This stage of addiction can last indefinitely. But plenty of addicts, particularly ones surrounded by supportive loved ones, do eventually find the will to accept change.
Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired
Change generally happens when an addict’s life falls apart so egregiously that their logical mind begins to take back the reins from instinct. So while they still maintain tolerance, they become sick and tired of being sick and tired.
The path to accepting help looks different for everyone. While it’s difficult for loved ones to see addicts destroy their own lives (and by extension, the life of the family), the only person who can initiate change is the addict themselves.
If you or a loved one is seeking help, our addiction counselors are available 24/7 by phone: (833) 433-0448