It is easy to imagine that everyone knows how it feels to have an addiction. Unless a person has experienced it personally, however, it is impossible to understand exactly what addiction can do to a life. Perhaps you have heard people joke about being “addicted” to their morning coffee. Sure, mornings would be unpleasant without it, but a serious substance abuse disorder is on an entirely different level and is no joking matter.

Making the effort to understand addiction from the point of view of a person with a substance abuse problem can help you to be a better friend, spouse, co-worker, or relative, especially when a loved one asks for help and actively pursues addiction treatment. Here are some key points to understand about how living with addiction feels.

Feeling “Apart From” Non-Addicts

Having a substance abuse disorder often goes along with never feeling comfortable with who you are. Maybe you are disappointed at things you have not accomplished, or perhaps something makes you feel that you are different, “less than,” or set apart from so-called “normal” people. Sometimes this arises organically from within, and other times, this feeling of being different is the result of being told you are no good, worthless, or damaged in some way. The result is that ordinary facets of life that are happy and satisfying to most people do not feel that way to an addict.

Awakening Followed by Consequences

Addiction can be sudden or insidious, but the bottom line is that the addictive substance makes you feel great, at least at first. It makes you feel like you fit in, like you can talk to people, and you can handle whatever life throws at you.

Of course, those feelings are increasingly fleeting as the addiction becomes stronger. One of the primary characteristics of addiction is that it takes more and more of the addictive substance to get the desired effect, and eventually it takes more of the addictive substance even to feel normal or functional again. Consequences range from self-hatred to job loss to incarceration to much worse.

Being “Stuck” without the Good Feelings

Few things are as miserable as knowing you are addicted and wanting to recover, yet feeling stuck. The addiction may still give you fleeting moments when everything feels okay, but you know there is no going back to the way you were before. That does not mean you cannot have a good life – even a great one. However, it does mean admitting to the addiction and what it is doing to you and your loved ones, and understanding that you will need help to overcome the addiction and be healthy again.

Reaching Out for Help

If you’ve ever wondered, can you force someone into rehab, you actually can force a family member or loved one into treatment in some locations, with the help of local laws. However, you cannot force someone with an addiction to come to their own realization that help is needed. Addicts must do that for themselves, and until they do, treatment is unlikely to produce lasting positive results.

If you are an addict, it is not easy reaching out. It involves admitting to seriously problematic behavior and acknowledging the hurt and pain that your addiction has caused. The good news is, when you reach out, someone is there to reach back. Professional help is available for substance abuse disorders, and many different addiction treatment options exist.

Learning more about what addiction treatment options are available is important, because treatment has to be a good personal fit. If someone you love has an addiction, trying to understand what their world feels like is an important and compassionate thing to do. Though you cannot always make the decision for them that it is time to enter addiction treatment, you can speak to professionals in addiction treatment to learn more. If this is the situation for you or a loved one, we invite you to contact us any time to learn more about our admissions. 

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.