Asking for help can be difficult under any circumstances. With addiction in particular, asking for help is especially challenging.
Here you’ll find some common reasons why people with addictions may struggle to ask for help, as well as some strategies you may use to overcome those challenges and find the care you need to live a healthy life.
1. You Don’t Look Like You Have An Addiction
While society has gained more understanding about mental illness, substance use disorders still carry a heavy stigma.
Many people mistakenly believe that drug and alcohol addiction is a choice or a sign of weakness, and this stigma makes it difficult to admit that you experience it.
Furthermore, the stigma makes people believe that there’s a certain “look” to people who deal with substance abuse.
If you do not fit the mold, you may worry that people will not believe you when you explain that you need help.
2. You Appear To Be Managing Your Substance Use
When movies and TV shows depict addiction, they often depict the most severe forms of drug and alcohol abuse.
As a result, people often believe the myth that they must “hit rock bottom” before seeking addiction treatment programs.
However, drug addiction is a progressive disorder, becoming more severe over time, and a person may begin addiction recovery at any stage of this disorder.
If you appear to be managing your substance use, you may struggle to ask for help, again, out of fear that people won’t believe you, or because you yourself don’t believe it’s an issue.
3. You Worry About Tarnishing Your Image
If you appear to be managing your drug or alcohol use, you may also feel reluctant to let go of the image that you are holding everything together.
If you value hard work, excellence, and attention to detail, then you may have been praised for your ability to handle the pressures of life.
However, some high achievers begin using drugs and drinking alcohol as a way to manage the pressure of appearing “perfect.”
Admitting to having an addiction may require admitting that managing life stressors isn’t always easy.
4. You Would Rather Provide Help Than Ask For It
Behavioral health disorders, including drug abuse, impact a large number of people in “helping” positions.
Teachers, healthcare professionals, childcare providers, and parents all may experience mental health difficulties due to compassion fatigue and burnout.
If you have pursued one of these pathways, you likely experience a high amount of empathy and a talent for helping others, and you may feel more comfortable providing help than asking for it.
Even if you have followed a different path, related expectations and experiences can cause difficulty asking for help.
Some examples include:
- being an oldest sibling who was expected to grow up quickly
- receiving praise as a child for being “low maintenance”
- being a person who helps without being asked, and feeling confused when others don’t do the same in return
- being a soft-spoken person whose needs are often overlooked
- having an undiagnosed or invisible disability, and being shamed for needing help with “easy” things
5. Your Friends Also Experience Substance Abuse
One of the most common signs of substance abuse is replacing one social group for another, especially if the first group does not use substances.
If you are surrounded by people who also use drugs or alcohol, it can be difficult to ask for help because substance use may seem “normal,” and you may also risk losing your new friends.
6. Addiction Creates Isolation
Addiction is an isolating disorder, causing many people to lose contact with friends and family members.
While some people seek connection with other people who use drugs, others remain isolated.
Asking for help is especially difficult when you feel as though you have nobody to ask.
7. Asking For Help Requires Energy
Mental illness, including drug and alcohol addiction, takes an enormous energetic toll. Even simple tasks, such as getting out of bed or calling a friend, can feel monumental at times.
The thought of looking for professional help, as a result, may appear impossible.
8. You Believe You Don’t Deserve Help
Substance abuse also creates feelings of guilt.
Even if you understand that addiction is a mental health condition, you may feel guilty about your struggles, especially if you have said or done hurtful things while under the influence.
As a result, you may feel as if you don’t deserve help or are unworthy of it.
How To Begin The Road To Recovery
In spite of all of these barriers, asking for help is the most important thing you can do for yourself if you experience a substance use disorder.
You have several options when overcoming these difficulties, including the ones you’ll find below.
Seeking Help When Overwhelmed Or Exhausted
If you feel overwhelmed or exhausted, you might begin by taking small steps.
Instead of researching everything you need to do during recovery, focus on one task at a time. For example, that one task may be speaking to a loved one or a medical professional.
Seeking Help When You Feel Isolated Or Undeserving
Support groups provide an excellent place to begin if you feel isolated or undeserving of help.
Groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous can help you connect with people who understand the difficulties of substance abuse.
If you fear being judged by people who do not experience addiction, it often helps to speak with people who have dealt with similar circumstances.
Addiction treatment facilities, such as inpatient or outpatient programs, as well as sober living environments, provide the same benefit.
Likewise, you may join social media groups for people who experience substance use, which can help you start small while still connecting with understanding people.
Seeking Help As A Helper
If you would rather provide help than receive it, you might find it helpful to reframe your approach to seeking addiction medicine.
For example, you could remind yourself that you are in the best position to help others when you feel your best.
Ideally, you will also realize that your health matters for your own sake, and that you matter regardless of your ability to help others.
However, this realization often takes time, and the reframing step can help bridge the gap until you reach it.
Seeking Help In Spite Of Appearances
If you deal with perfectionism, want to maintain a specific image, or always appear to be managing life well, you may benefit from the strategies listed above.
Starting small, such as joining a social media group or focusing on one step at a time, can help you become comfortable with realizing that you need help.
Likewise, finding a treatment center or support group can help you connect with others who also experience perfectionism and addiction.
Such groups will also put you in contact with people from all walks of life, which can help you realize sooner that there is no one “look” to people dealing with addiction.
Get Help For Addiction
Addiction is complex, and asking for help is difficult. However, help is available when you’re ready to reach out.
If you or a loved one experience substance abuse, contact Addiction Resource today to learn more.
Published on October 18, 2023
Addiction Resource aims to provide only the most current, accurate information in regards to addiction and addiction treatment, which means we only reference the most credible sources available.
These include peer-reviewed journals, government entities and academic institutions, and leaders in addiction healthcare and advocacy. Learn more about how we safeguard our content by viewing our editorial policy.
- Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC) — Stigma Reduction
- National Institute On Drug Abuse (NIDA) — Addressing Barriers To Care
- National Library Of Medicine — Compassion Fatigue And Substance Use Among Nurses