Understanding Substance Dependency

Abusing and overusing substances such as narcotic drugs and alcohol can cause us to become mentally, emotionally and physically dependent upon them. We feel as though we can’t live without them, and our dependence can very quickly and easily lead to a debilitating addiction.

It is not uncommon for us to start to think that we can’t cope with life without our substance of choice. We come to believe that we can’t function or maintain our daily lives without it. We need it first thing in the morning to get our day started, throughout the day to keep ourselves going, and/or at the end of the day to be able to relax and fall asleep. We come to depend upon it to be alert and focused. We believe it helps us to think more clearly and process our thoughts. We think that without it, we couldn’t possibly keep up with all the demands of work, school and other obligations. We feel we can’t uphold our responsibilities without them.

We can also feel emotionally dependent on our drug of choice. We feel it keeps our depression, anxiety, sadness and fear at bay and under control. Without using it regularly, we might feel more angry, reactive, restless or overwhelmed. When we don’t use, we can feel like we’re losing control of our emotions. We might feel we’re at the mercy of our changing emotions and fluctuating mood swings. We can feel like we’re in a great deal of emotional pain and all over the place emotionally.

Our dependency can also have a physical component. We might use our drug of choice to offset and self-medicate the physical pain and discomfort we’re experiencing from illness or other health issues. Sometimes our immune systems are weakened from stress, illness or addiction, and we become dependent on substances to make us feel like we’re helping ourselves cope and regaining some of our strength. We use drugs to give us a boost in energy and vitality to manage our physical challenges. We can feel like we physically can’t manage, get through the day, or relax without our drug of choice.

When we become dependent on a substance, we weaken our own inner resources for coping with stress and other mental, emotional and physical challenges. We chip away at our resolve to handle pressure and overwhelm. We decrease our emotional resilience and ability to bounce back from setbacks. We don’t develop healthy coping mechanisms such as mindfulness practices and meditation. We don’t take advantage of the helpful resources that could benefit us, such as therapy and support groups. Our dependence becomes our default coping strategy, and we abandon other forms of healthy stress management.

Call Riverside Recovery today to speak with an addiction recovery specialist. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: (800) 871-5440.