Beating addiction - I knew I needed help when...
Addiction can affect anyone, whatever their race, gender or socio-economic status.
It’s estimated that there are around 1.6 million people who are dependent on alcohol here in the UK, meaning that around 1 in 20 adults struggle with alcoholism. Not to mention the further 300,000 people estimated to have a drug addiction and the staggering 3.5 million people estimated to have a problem with gambling.
In many cases, it can take hitting rock bottom to make people truly accept they have an addiction that is out of control. Only then will they begin to accept that they need help, and start the journey towards recovery.
We offered people living with addiction the opportunity to share the moment they realised that their addiction was out of control. We asked them to answer the question: "I knew I had a problem when…?”
We then commissioned artist, Ross, to illustrate the responses we received, to show graphically the turning points at which those struggling with addiction realised they needed expert help.
In some cases, the responses were painfully honest. Some of the respondents had committed crimes to sustain their addictions or had put themselves in very dangerous situations just to to be able to obtain the fix they needed.
Others had found themselves ostracised by their family, or had lost their partner, children and home because their addiction came first. Unless you have experienced addiction, it is hard to imagine what you will sacrifice – health, money, family, dignity, even life - in order to maintain the addiction. That’s why many people suffering from addiction value treatment by therapists who are in recovery themselves. They’ve experienced addiction first hand*. They understand the risks people struggling from addiction will take.
*Once you have developed an addiction, you will always be actively ‘in recovery’ rather than cured. Every day you have to take the decision to remain sober, clean or free from your addiction.
Dr Neil Brener is a consultant psychiatrist at Priory Hospital North London, specialising in addiction. In his experience: “Most people seek help when they reach what they call their ‘rock bottom’. This is when things start to go wrong, when there are serious consequences for their behaviour. Up until then, they believe they can control their addiction, rather than their addiction controlling them. But then it reaches a tipping point when they start to realise that they have lost control of their life. That’s when they head towards their rock bottom, and that’s when they need to get help.”
Hitting rock bottom is something William knows first hand. He told us: “Prior to my admission to Priory, I had been in several rehabs and clinics and had a great many detoxes. I had lost everything dear to me through my alcoholism. I didn’t think that I could stop drinking; that was my honest belief and I was beaten. I expected to complete treatment successfully and then for whatever reason return to drink. I had tried so hard in the past and the outcome was always the same. I didn’t know that being beaten was actually the perfect condition for recovery.
“One of the most important things for me was finding out that most of the addiction therapists were in recovery; not only were they experienced, qualified therapists but they also had the experiential knowledge. They knew what it felt like to wake up shaking in the morning, full of fear, remorseful from the last binge and the consequences.”
Dr Brener has one piece of advice for those struggling with addiction: “The most important thing is to recognise that you shouldn’t hide addiction under the carpet and hope it will go away, because it doesn’t.”