Getting Help for Substance Abuse Can Be Scary

Maybe it’s a problem. Maybe not. Maybe I can pull it together.

This time it’s pretty bad, though. I really messed things up.

I feel sick thinking about it. 

I feel like crap. I am crap.

I tried to stop before. But I can’t let this go. 

Nah, then I’d have to be one of them. I don’t want to be one of ”them.”

And, the thought of going somewhere and being, what? In treatment? No thanks.

Ever have this conversation with yourself? Wrapping your head around the idea of getting help for a substance use disorder is like having a conversation with an expert conman, someone who plays your weaknesses like a violin.

There’s more, too, like the attached feelings of terror, shame, embarrassment and the horror of the actual possibility that you could have a problem with substances. 

Then, there are the silly reasons not to go. Silly but deceptively hard to brush away. 

When Ed S. considered treatment, he thought better. He decided he couldn’t go to treatment because it would mean giving up the beer with his hotdog when he went to a baseball game. “Seemed perfectly reasonable at the time, even though I don’t think I had been to a baseball game in ten years,” he said later.

Janet R. convinced herself treatment couldn’t happen because she couldn’t sleep anywhere but her own bed.

So, how does anyone walk in the door to inpatient substance use treatment?

Promises Brazos Valley asked some folks in recovery to share their fears about treatment and how things look in hindsight. Reading what they have to say doesn’t mean you are committing to anything. Just open the door a sliver and listen to their stories.

”Instantly among Friends”

“To be honest, the decision to seek help was a terrifying one,” said Kenneth K. “However, the second I stepped through the door at Promises Brazos Valley, I began feeling more comfortable. I felt welcomed as if I was instantly among friends that fully understood what I was going through.”

How do you picture inpatient substance use treatment? Are there armed guards at the door ready to pounce and call you out for every terrible thing you’ve done under the influence? 

The truth is much different. Many recovery addiction professionals have a substance use disorder themselves. They know the pain engulfing you. They understand the self-hate and shame. Expect a sympathetic group as opposed to an angry mob.

“Just getting through the door and admitting I have a problem was the hardest for me,” said Matt B.

Let’s look at what happens when you do walk in the door. When you walk into a well-run recovery treatment facility, you will encounter kindness and support. Instead of hearing how you screwed up, you hear how things will get better. 

The article, “What to Expect From Drug and Alcohol Rehab Programs,” published at, gives a detailed description of what to expect with inpatient treatment.

Instead of hearing what a mess you’re in, you will hear how the first steps are the hardest. 

Actually walking through the door was the hardest step. Instead of feeling judged for waiting to get help, you will feel understood and congratulated for taking the steps now.

“The staff was caring, sympathetic and nonjudgmental,” continued Kenneth K. “This includes all of the staff from the administrators, counselors, nurses and technicians to the food services, custodial and maintenance crew.” 

Facing the Fear and Getting Help for Substance Abuse

Substance use disorders don’t discriminate who they affect. According to data provided in a 2015 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA), attorneys and healthcare workers are among the list of professions consuming the most alcohol when divided by industry. Miners and construction workers top the list, with college-educated professionals just a few rungs down. If you think this is only a problem for the homeless, you’re wrong.

“My fear was I would be a pathetic loser, like the rest of everybody in Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.),” said Brandon D.

Brandon’s fear isn’t unusual. Many people considering a step into recovery have preconceived ideas about what recovery looks like. 

If you’re curious what a 12-step program is like, check out the A.A. website. But, also remember other treatment programs are available if A.A. isn’t for you.

“Isn’t treatment just a group of losers sitting around talking about how they can’t drink?” asked Steve before he quit drinking.

So, what does recovery look like? For Brandon D., recovery means he spends more time cycling in the Blue Ridge Mountains and participating in ultrarunning events. He also spends at least a month each year traveling and exploring areas like the Pacific Northwest, Belize, Costa Rica and more. 

For Steve K., recovery means being a good dad, something he never thought he’d experience. “Before recovery, I hated myself because of the mistakes I’d made with my kids while I drank,” he said. “Today, I show up for my kids,” he continued. “I’m nowhere near a perfect dad, but I keep showing up, sober, and I’m proud of that.”

Recovery will look different for different people. If you were someone athletic before addiction, chances are good you will add some athletics back into your life. 

Your Brain in Recovery

Back to the conmen telling you stories when you consider addiction treatment; they are sneaky and full of lies. It turns out there’s a biological explanation for their persuasiveness.

A substance use disorder changes your brain functioning, and this takes time to recover. But, given a chance, the brain will heal. 

According to the Recovery Research Institute, addictive drugs release two to 10 times the amount of dopamine vs. the amount released from a natural “high.” Dopamine is a chemical messenger responsible for signaling pleasure to the brain. When you eat a great dessert or have sex, your brain releases dopamine.

Substances like alcohol, nicotine, marijuana and opioids flood the brain with dopamine. The brain adapts to this flood with continued substance use and stops giving the same natural high from activities like sex and desserts. Instead, the brain demands more of this flooding and creates intense cravings.

A brain under the influence of substances becomes crafty. Expect a brain craving drugs to tell you anything to keep those drugs coming.

When you eliminate the unnatural high from different substances, however, the brain slowly heals. The conman gradually stops barking in your ear.

For more information on how a brain reacts to recovery, read “The Neuroscience of Addiction Recovery,” published on the Recovery Research Institute website.

Gratitude Follows the Fear After Getting Help for Substance Abuse

“I felt like I was finally in a safe place to begin my recovery,” said Kenneth K. “I’m so grateful I overcame my initial reluctance to take that first step with these folks to a better life through recovery and sobriety,” he added. 

You hear a lot of folks complain about life when they are actively in addiction. You don’t hear a lot of folks, though, complain about life in recovery. While stereotypes about recovery and treatment may lead outsiders to see a bunch of losers or whiners, nothing could be further from the truth. 

In recovery, there’s laughter, community, joy and honesty. Imagine being around friends who know you at your absolute worst and still accept you as you are, warts and all. 

“The thing about recovery, for me, that totally took me by surprise,” said Hannah S., “was the honesty and acceptance. I never imagined I could tell someone all about the terrible things I did when I was drinking,” she added. 

Hannah continued explaining how she expected to hear heavy judgments when she shared about her past. “I didn’t hear anyone tell me I was a bad person,” she said. “I actually had people tell me I was brave, and they encouraged me to be gentle with myself as I faced some of these demons.”

Whatever your ideas about inpatient recovery treatment, give yourself 24 hours to explore the possibility that life could be better. 

Reach out to a treatment center like Promises Brazos Valley today and ask all of your questions. There are no stupid questions. We set up our call centers to guide you to the best help for you. 

“If you are to the point that you feel you need help, I honestly recommend that you give them the chance to help you,” added Kenneth K. Remember, nothing changes if nothing changes.

Call 19794260086.

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