Do drugs or alcohol really help people deal with stress?
NO……but in my practice as an addiction counselor, I’ve had them argue with me that it does! Substances might seem to help at the time by easing anxiety, helping you feel more relaxed or less inhibited. Sometimes they may seem to quieten negative thoughts or manage intense emotions. That’s just the calm before the storm for all that comes afterward! Anxiety and mood swings (including anger) is often significantly increased in the aftermath of abusing substances heavily or even consistently. Sweeping problems under the rug can have a serious impact on relationships with friends, family, partner and your children. As for the impact on your own mental health, there are proven associations between alcohol and depression, as well as mood disorders and anxiety. Irritability is often made worse by abusing substances. Substance abuse makes people do impulsive things, things that they later regret. The consequences of heavy drug or alcohol use on a person’s life are significant. A counselor can easily see the negative impact of substance abuse when completing an initial treatment assessment with the client. Their relationships, families, employment, personsal safety (e.g. driving, accidents, DUI’s, etc.), ability to manage their own emotions and live a happy life are all impacted. Frequently, counselors find that the client themselves comes from a home where one or both of their parents abused substances. In fact, clients my not initially book an appointment for help with a substance abuse issue. People usually ask for help regarding depression, anxiety, relationship difficulties and it takes a while for them to disclose the seriousness of their substance use. They may even be in denial about their use – or the extent of their use. Counseling services are generally a waste of time if the person continues to drink heavily while receiving them. It’s always necessary to determine if people are ready to admit to and take responsibility for their own issues with substances. The first session is generally spent assessing where the person is and what they are hoping to achieve. It’s important to figure out how ready a person is to make changes, as well as assess the personal strengths they have that can be built upon to help them stop abusing. Also, it’s valuable to identify any barriers or vulnerabilities that may hold them back. Counseling is about building self-understanding – so people are aware of their history, triggers, reactions, vulnerabilities. They also begin to know their strengths which they can call on to help them build a new way of life. Counseling involves developing strategies that clients can put in place to assist obtaining their goals as well as developing relapse prevention strategies to maintain sobriety. A key element of treatment is helping people build a new identity as a person “who does not drink.” This is vital because without it, people tend to return to previous habits – often as soon as they are put under emotional pressure.