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Your Addiction

INTRODUCTION

This section is designed with three objectives in mind:

  1. if you have an addiction and want help now, to provide resources to get you the help you need
  2. if you are not sure you have an addiction, to provide addiction tests and describe patterns of alcohol and drug use such as bingeing and maintenance use
  3. if you know you have an addiction but are not ready to reach out for help, to provide resources you can do on your own to help answer some questions you might have

 

1. IF YOU WANT HELP NOW

Call our Admissions Department toll-free at 1-866-487-9010. A staff person is available to take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Sunshine Coast Health Center does not require an addiction assessment before you can be admitted. In fact, a completed 4-page admission form is all the paperwork we need.  By collecting your medical, psychological, alcohol/drug use, treatment, family, employment, and legal history, staff at Sunshine Coast Health Center can typically confirm that you are an appropriate candidate for addiction treatment.

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2. IF YOU ARE NOT SURE YOU HAVE AN ADDICTION

2. A. Take an Addiction Test

There are many addiction tests that you can perform alone at no cost. These free addiction tests can, with reasonable accuracy, help you self-diagnose an addiction to drugs or alcohol ¹.

For further information and to test to see if you have an addiction see the Addiction Tests section.

(1) Note: Only a doctorate-level health professional such as a registered psychologist or psychiatrist can confirm that you have an addiction.

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2. B. Binge Drinking or Using

At Sunshine Coast Health Center, we often find that men who binge drink or drug often get confused about whether they have an addiction. How can you tell if your binge drinking or using is actually an addiction?

Before we answer this question, we first need to define bingeing.

The standard definition ¹ for binge drinking is a pattern of drinking alcohol that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 gram percent or above ². For the typical adult, this pattern corresponds to consuming 5 or more drinks (male), or 4 or more drinks (female), in about 2 hours.  Binge drinking, therefore, is not measured so much by the “stop-and-go” pattern of drinking then abstaining but, rather, the amount of alcohol consumed in one sitting. Periods of abstinence between binges may vary from days, weeks, or even months before the next drinking episode.

So if you are a binge drinker or drug user and you want to know if you have an addiction, staff at Sunshine Coast Health Center typically recommend the 3 C’s of Addiction test:

Control – once you start drinking you cannot control how much you drink. For example, you may start out saying you are only going to have one or two drinks and end up having seven. It is important to remember that sometimes you may keep your word and limit your intake, but not consistently.

Binge drinkers may think they have control because they don’t drink every day. However, this is not control if, when there is a return to drinking, old patterns of excessive drinking resume. In addition, a lack of control can also appear as durations of abstinence that are getting shorter between binges (what used to be months are now days).

Compulsion – compulsion is the tendency of addicted individuals to plan their waking hours around alcohol or drugs. Examples of compulsion can include hiding liquor at work and at home to ensure a steady supply is always close at hand. Compulsion can also be demonstrated when individuals opt out of certain activities or events that have the potential to hamper access to drugs or alcohol.

For binge drinkers, compulsion can appear as a compulsion not to drink. In other words, binge drinkers may begin to count the days since they last had a drink, constantly remind others around them that they have not been drinking, etc.

Consequence – of the 3 C’s, consequence is the main determinant of addiction. Individuals may have a lack of control and compulsion and still not have an addiction. However, if an individual continues to use drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences, then addiction is probable.

While control and compulsion differs somewhat between binge drinkers/users and individuals with more typical consumption patterns, there is little to distinguish bingers from addicts when it comes to consequences. For example, driving while impaired, medical consequences, loss of employment, and a negative impact on relationships can result from both bingeing and regular addictive patterns.

(1) Note: A standard definition for binge drug use is currently unavailable.

(2) Source: The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Newsletter. Winter 2004, No. 3.

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2. C. Functioning Alcoholics

Functioning alcoholics (also known as maintenance drinkers) are often difficult for most people to identify as having an addiction. Functioning alcoholics are called “functioning” because they are able to maintain their homes, careers, and families despite their alcoholism.

How do they manage to keep it together? In his book, The Disease Concept of Alcoholism, Elvin Morton Jellinek explained that functioning alcoholics ¹ have no loss of control over their drinking. They drink enough to get in the “zone” and drink just enough to stay there. However, functioning alcoholics are still psychologically and physically dependent on alcohol, and typically begin suffering withdrawal if they miss a day of alcohol or drug use.

The consequences of maintenance drinking may not be as obvious as someone who loses control and gets into a fight, misses work, or gets into car accidents. While this may appear to be a blessing for the maintenance drinker, it can also mean that the need for treatment may not be recognized until the individual has suffered extensive physical harm such as irreversible brain damage, advanced cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, or hemorrhaging varices of the esophagus.

Therefore, being “functional” is misleading because of the severe health consequences that are commonly found with this drinking pattern.

At Sunshine Coast Health Center maintenance drinkers are typically older men who are admitted after friends and family notice they are wetting or soiling themselves, getting lost, or losing their balance for no apparent reason.

(1) Note: Jellinek referred to this type of alcoholic as a “delta” alcoholic.

2. D. Conclusion to Part 2

After reviewing this section, you have had the opportunity to test yourself for an addiction. You have also had a brief introduction to binge and maintenance drinking. Hopefully, this has helped clarify in your mind whether you have an addiction. If your fears have been confirmed and you are ready to make a change, Sunshine Coast recommends that you get help now.

If you still doubt you have an addiction or are not ready to get help, please proceed to the next section below.

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3. IF YOU ARE NOT READY TO GET HELP FOR AN ADDICTION

If you are reading this section, we are assuming that, at the very least, you have some questions about drug or alcohol addiction. In this section, you are not going to be encouraged to do anything. Just explore. Of course, you can quit reading any time. If you wish to continue your journey we will point you in the right direction.

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3. A. Question One: How Come I Can’t Drink or Use Drugs Like a “Normal” Person?

Perhaps it’s because you have an addiction. But what is an addiction? This is a question that health professionals and scientists have contemplated for a very long time. Interestingly enough, no single explanation has been found to explain what causes addiction. However, there are plenty of theories out there. The best we’ve been able to come up with so far is that addiction is a Biopsychosocial phenomenon. Sorry, but that probably didn’t help answer your question. However, if you want to learn more about the different theories of addiction please visit the Biopsychosocial section.

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3. B. Question Two: Why Won’t People Just Get off of My Back?

You may have noticed that the people closest to you are pressuring you the most to stop drinking or taking drugs. This is normal. So the question needs to be more specific: why won’t people that care about me just get off of my back?

To answer this question, let’s first look at the different types of people that may care about you. This group could include:

  1. your family of origin (your parents, brothers and sisters)
  2. your partner (wife, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, etc.)
  3. your kids (sons, daughters, adopted, biological, step kids, etc.)
  4. your friends (friends you grew up with, college friends, friends from work, friends you made in the military, friends from sport teams, etc.)
  5. your employer or business partner

 

For most of us, this is our “tribe.” A tribe is a group of people with whom we share something in common, something that is important enough to bring us together to achieve a common goal. When you are in the military, the common goal of the tribe is to destroy the enemy and protect each member of the tribe from injury or death. In school, the common goal of the tribe is to experience life with people that have common interests and to protect ourselves from other tribes. At work, our tribe may be loosely affiliated around keeping the company successful enough to ensure we can continue to collect a pay cheque. Once we complete our goals (graduate, get discharged, leave for a job with more opportunity, etc.) these “temporary” tribes typically break up and we are left with some memories and maybe a few enduring friendships.

For most of us, however, the tribe that endures is our family of origin, our partner, and our children. It is this tribe that will be most concerned when we have struggles in life.

So the answer to why people won’t just get off of your back is simple: it’s because they care about you. Therefore, perhaps your problem is not so much why people won’t leave you alone because we all, fundamentally, want to feel loved and appreciated. Perhaps the problem has more to do with how they are going about it. 

If you are like most people with an addiction, your family has probably tried one of the following strategies to get you to quit drugs or alcohol:

  1. threatening
  2. pleading
  3. nagging
  4. bargaining

 

To understand why they resort to these strategies, we need to explore how our society deals with people they think are lacking in motivation. To read on refer to the Personal Growth Section.

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4. CONCLUSION

Basically, what you do about your drinking or drug use is up to you. Family and others who care about you may take action designed to have you deal with your “problem” sooner rather than later. It has to be acknowledged, however, that the hardest time to think clearly is at times like this when your back’s against the wall. Actually, the best time to take action is when you clean and sober. However, when you are clean and sober it may seem like there’s no problem, right?

Therefore, as William Shakespeare once said, “to thine own self be true.” If you have read this page perhaps it’s a sign that you are already on a journey of self-discovery. You may not be ready to share your path with someone else but at least you’re heading in the right direction.

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RESOURCES

I. PRINTED RESOURCES

Educating Yourself about Alcohol and Drugs: A People’s Primer (1998) is a self-help publication designed to provide objective information on each step toward recovery, and making rational, healthy choices necessary to build a life from substances. Marc Alan Schuckit.

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II. ONLINE RESOURCES

Getting Addiction Help

Getting Help for Substance Use Problems has some steps that you can take if you have a problem with substance use. BC Partners for Mental Health and Addiction Information.

Moderation and Addiction Help

How to Reduce Your Drinking gives tips on how to cut back on alcohol.  WARNING: these recommendations do not apply to Individuals who cannot consistently follow these recommendations or have already been diagnosed with alcohol addiction. If this is you, seek professional help.

Relapse and Addiction Help

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Self-Assessment and Addiction Help

A Drug Problem: How Can I Tell? (March 2007) Is for you if you wondering whether you have a problem with drugs. Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC).

How Do I know If I Have a Problem? (2005) can help you assess whether or not you have a drinking problem. About.com

Problem Substance Use Workbook: Information and Resources for Effective Self-Management of Problem Substance Use (January 2004) is a workbook for people who want to address their own substance use and make positive change. The workbook is designed to meet the individual at their current level of motivation. BC Partners for Mental Health and Addiction Information.

Stages of Addiction

Various Stages of Alcoholism Including Identifiable Symptoms (Summer 2003) discusses the predictable, progressive nature of alcoholism in three stages: early stage, middle stage, and late stage. Dr. James West, Betty Ford Center.

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I wanted to thank you for the hospitality afforded me during my stay on campus. It was a treat to get to see and hang out with everyone. You folks are doing good and powerful work there. You're changing people's lives and creating hope where despair and desperation had ruled. I will never forget you for giving me my life back and facilitating the relationship with my God that saved my life. I love you all– each and every one of you for giving so much of yourselves to save me and the many other fortunate clients who have been blessed by spending time with you all.

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