Getting help for an addiction

Acknowledging that you have a problem is the first phase of getting help with an addiction. Dr Cheryl Rezek talks through the next stages of getting into recovery.


Once you have admitted you have a problem, it's time to do something about it. Acknowledging that your problem won’t get better and won’t go away on its own is a big first step, but then you must tackle the reasons behind what you’re doing as well. You might be out of control now, but recovery is within your control.

Be honest with yourself

Don’t be fooled by the idea that you only use on some days, on weekends or when you're in pain or stressed. If your using is affecting your level of functioning or interfering in your life in any way, then it’s a problem. The question is, how big do you need the problem to be before you do something about it?

Speak to professionals

Don’t try and do it on your own. Even with support, recovering from an addiction is difficult enough, so use all the help you can get. There are many professionals and organisations that can help, so make use of their services. You might feel guilt and shame, humiliation and disgust – accept that and keep going.

Learn to tolerate distress

Addiction is the outcome or symptom of underlying issues that have contributed to your using drugs, sex or shopping etc. Becoming aware of these issues is often a difficult but necessary process, however this is often a time when you may want to return to your old ways of managing distress. Keep in mind that those old ways are what got you into this situation so you need to learn to tolerate the distress and find other ways of dealing with it.

Stay away from other users

If you’re in recovery and still part of the subculture or group who engage in the addiction then you’re setting yourself up to fail. It’s like trying to turn left and right at the same time –it doesn’t work. Stay away from others who are still using if you are serious about recovery.

Get therapy

After recovery, it's a good idea to get yourself into therapy with a suitably qualified psychologist or psychotherapist. It will help you to understand how you got into this situation and what needs to happen to develop your resilience and skills in order to stay in recovery. If you started using in your adolescence or as a young adult, you may find that you haven’t developed the skills to deal with life issues as you’ve tended to use other means to cope with them. Therapy and support will help you to increase your resilience and coping skills.

What does the future hold?

It's important to remember that addictions are for life, so even once you’ve stopped the substance or activity, the driving forces or cravings may still pop up even years later. The day you forget you have a problem is the day you open the door to it sneaking back in.

Most importantly, don’t give up on yourself. You can do it.