Whenever drug abuse, chemical dependency, addiction or alcoholism are discussed, inevitably there will be talk of consequences. There are physical consequences, mental and emotional consequences, health-related consequences, financial consequences and social consequences. If you’ve ever watched “Intervention” on television (or one of the many shows that now follows that original premise) and uncomfortably watched on television as a trained interventionist and family confronted a person in need of help for substance abuse, you would’ve heard the term “consequences” used over and over again.
Unfortunately, very little if ever do consequences work in successfully trying to scare someone into stopping their drug and/or alcohol abuse. A drug addict knows all the consequences that are happening to them: they know they’re spending all their money, they know they’re upsetting their family, they know they’re alienating their friends, they know they’re negatively affecting their health, they know they’re not performing well at work, and they also know that eventually the consequences will get worse. It is very rare that consequences actually improve during long term crack or heroin use. Downing a fifth of liquor a day rarely leads to improvement in life circumstances. However, due to understanding that addiction as a progressive illness, understanding the consequences or the prices being paid for prolonged drug and alcohol use and abuse do by the sufferer do not deter them from the dangerous behavior. They keep using, regardless of the consequences. And sometimes they use BECAUSE of the circumstances. It is the vicious shame and guilt and anger and resentment and victimization cycle of drug addiction. My life sucks so I use and I use because my life sucks. I hate my parents so I use, and I use because I hate my parents. I can’t keep a job because of my using, and I use because I’m depressed because I can’t keep a job.
However, we are not in the business of scaring or frightening anyone into recovery based on their consequences. We are in the business of trying to help treat those that have finally realized they need help and want to stop having all these negative consequences. We are the tip of the iceberg in relation to getting someone help and ultimately getting that person into long term recovery. Detox and drug treatment is just the beginning. It is the start of recovery. Addiction treatment helps to build a basic foundation that a person can then use to support their recovery, if during and after treatment they take actions towards a sustainable recovery solution.
So what consequences are we talking about, if not the consequences that occur during active addiction or that occur because of active addiction? We are instead referring to the consequences that drug addicts and alcoholics face due to their addiction once they enter recovery. The prices they pay because of their addiction once they get clean and sober.
The consequences of drug abuse and alcoholism reach far beyond the gaze of an active addict. Someone that is in their addiction typically cannot fathom the far reaching implications of their actions, how the consequences of their behaviors will shape the rest of their life. Many do not even consider getting clean and sober. Many drug addicts are without hope that they CAN get clean and sober. And many addicts and alcoholics have little ability to see past the next drink or drug. “The future” is this imaginary place that may never come, since they know they live their lives always one shot or hit away from death. And it’s understandable. Asking an addict to think about how his current behavior will affect his life in the future is comical. They cannot even see how their current behavior is affecting themselves currently or other people in their life NOW. But there are consequences and addicts and alcoholics that ask for help, enter treatment and then continue in recovery often face reality when they are figuratively hit in the face by a speeding tractor trailer of consequences.
While in active addiction these are many typical consequences: arrests, DUI’s & DWI’s, hospital stays, unpaid credit card debts, unpaid bills, divorce, separation, poor job performance and loss of jobs, regular changing of jobs, physical ailments and issues, unkempt health, other legal issues, quitting school or college. There are many many many more circumstances that could be added to this list. So this then brings up how these behaviors, incidents and issues have long lasting consequences for a drug addict or alcoholic once they enter into recovery. Many people find it hard to get a job. Felonies and other legal issues often are barriers to work. At a lesser level, poor job history or spotty job performance also will be an issue in finding work. What about DUI’s or DWI’s? Losing a license can make many different circumstances difficult. Unpaid bills and debt lead to terrible credit. Bad credit makes it difficult to get a car or rent an apartment or a house. So do legal issues. Bad credit card debt and unpaid bills with have multiple consequences in the future. And what about getting clean and sober and wanting to resume the education that was left by the wayside during active addiction? Poor past grades while using may hurt a person getting back into school. Many schools may not accept a person due to a criminal history. What about the physical and health consequences that occur during using? A person may have acquired Hepatitis-C and needs treatment or damaged their liver. It’s probable a drug addict isn’t keeping up with regular dental checkups. Tooth and mouth pain are a regular thing in recovery. Fixing all these issues takes time and money. A lot of money. For the younger people, their social life is often affected. They have been alone for so long, social skills have eroded and it can be hard to reach out and make new friends. And dating? It’s going to be hard to impress someone with no apartment, no car and a credit card that gets declined. And what about the person getting clean and sober that had destroyed a marriage and lost their parental rights or custody. Sure, a judge and the courts may look favorably on someone doing the right thing, but they cannot ignore the past incidents if there are drug arrests or violent crimes. The sins of the past are not washed away immediately simply because a person has good intentions or initially does the right thing. These things must be made right and that can take time and effort.
Getting clean and sober from years of drug and alcohol use and abuse is a process. It does not work by snapping one’s fingers and throwing fairy dust in the air. It takes time to fix the broken pieces of a life. Sustainable recovery through directed action is not something that happens overnight. So it’s important to understand that consequences are not just in the now but they occur long after someone gets free of drugs and alcohol. The wreckage of the past must be rebuild for everyone in recovery, and often these types of consequences ensure that a long rebuilding process must take place. Consequences cannot scare an addict into recovery but it is important for sufferers and their family and friends to be aware that these consequences are there and they stretch far beyond active addiction into recovery.
If you or someone you know is suffering consequences of drug and alcohol abuse and needs detox or treatment, we can help. Please call Maryland Addiction Recovery Center at (410) 773-0500 or email [email protected] to explore the best options available. We will help you begin the process of finding help. For more information on the services we provide, please visit our web site at www.marylandaddictionrecovery.com