I don’t believe substance use disorders would be so devastating if everyone who needed help received it. Unfortunately, in our society getting help can be difficult for a number of reasons. Sometimes it’s hard for people who don’t have a substance use disorder to understand why people who are struggling just don’t go get help, but it’s harder than it seems. Let’s take a look at the reasons why people with substance use disorders don’t get help.

They’re unsure if their substance use disorder warrants help

It’s incredibly difficult to know whether or not you need help. Many people believe the stereotypes surrounding addiction and addicts and therefore believe you don’t need help unless you’ve lost everything, are homeless, or the substances you use are physically killing you. It’s hard to know when enough is enough. What I’ve learned is that addiction is a spectrum and falling anywhere on that spectrum means you can benefit from addiction treatment.

They don’t know how to live without alcohol and drugs

This might be one of the main reasons people don’t get help. Living without drugs and alcohol can seem big, messy, and scary. It can feel overwhelming to think that you’ll never use again. Even if you don’t drink or use every day, never using again can seem like a lifetime prison sentence, especially in a society that is embedded with alcohol at every turn. Add in not having healthy coping mechanisms, and it seems not only scary but impossible. Who wants to embark on an impossible journey? Learning how to live again minus the substances you’ve used for years can be daunting.

They are afraid to fail

This is the second part of not knowing how to live without alcohol and drugs. Many people are afraid they’ll fail, fail at being sober, at living a happy life without substances, and at being able to do life in a new way. They’re afraid they might let their loved ones down by not living how they want them to. Of course being sober is hard if it wasn’t everyone would do it.

Recovery takes work and dedication, and sometimes there are bumps in the road, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try.

They don’t know what to expect

Fear of the unknown. I experienced this when I embarked on my journey of recovery. I was terrified because I didn’t know what was going to happen. I didn’t know who I was without alcohol. I didn’t know if I could exist or if I would ever have fun again without substances. Fear of the unknown can be crippling. People with substance use disorders often become stuck in toxic cycles of using and breaking that cycle can be scary. Self-destruction and comfort can win over the great unknown.

They don’t believe they deserve help

The self-esteem and self-worth of people who have substance use disorders can be lower than you realize and lower than they outwardly exhibit. Chances are if they are caught up in drinking and using, they are not thinking very highly of themselves. In my case, I wasn’t aware that I deserved help. I thought I deserved the messed up life and situation I was in. Substance users often need to be reminded that they are worth it and can get better.

They are in denial of their disease

Denial is a part of the disease of addiction. Many substance users go through this stage. They contemplate if their using is problematic, or maybe people have told them it is and they may refuse to believe this is the case. They may be scared to believe their using is out of control. Admitting they have an issue can seem like the end of the world. Some substance users have been feeling the negative consequences of their disease for years, but do not believe substances have anything to do with them. It’s impossible to get help if you can’t admit there is an issue.

They can’t afford it

Getting addiction treatment in many cases is not free. The doctors and addiction professionals who help millions get well from their substance use disorders dedicate their time and knowledge, and often time these are their full-time careers. Unfortunately, many people who are struggling don’t try to get help because they think they cannot afford it. Knowing what your insurance covers can be the first way to figure out what kind of treatment you’re eligible for. Another option is Medicaid or Medicare. Additionally, many treatment centers have rehab scholarships and grants, sliding scale programs, or payment plans. In some cases, finances are another reason for those suffering to put off addiction treatment.

There are countless reasons people who are struggling with a substance use disorder don’t feel like they can get help. That’s why we should all be open to talking about addiction and recovery. We should encourage anyone on the addiction spectrum that is seeking a change to get help. All people should know that help is available and possible for each and every person, regardless of how severe they think their disease is.

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Why people with substance use disorders don’t get help
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