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When Will You Know You Are Ready for Treatment?

While some people who’ve become addicted to alcohol and drugs have to hit rock bottom before they’re ready to accept treatment, most realize or can be convinced of the need to get professional help long before such a calamitous event.

As for the timing, knowing when you are ready for addiction treatment, it’s different for everyone. There is no “right time” or “best time” to go into treatment. But you may still be wondering, “How will I know it may be time for me?”

It may help to know some of the common signs you’re ready to take the crucial next step of finding help for your addiction.

You’ve Had Enough — And So Has Everyone Else

The list of addictive behaviors is long and varied, including problem drinking and alcohol abuse that descends into alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, addiction to prescription or illicit drugs, workaholism, compulsive shopping, gambling, gaming or sexual behavior, eating disorder, or co-occurring disorder (a combination of substance abuse and a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety), there will come a day when the realization hits that you’ve had enough. Likely, so has everyone else. This includes loved ones, family members, friends, co-workers, neighbors and acquaintances. Your life is a mess, and it’s getting worse. Experiencing sleepless nights, numerous physical and mental complaints, noticing a steep decline in performance at work, relationships in jeopardy, stacks of unpaid bills, and hating to look at yourself in the mirror aren’t uncommon. While the real you is still there, it’s hard to see because of your addiction. At this point, you have two choices: accept you have a problem and get treatment or remain on the path of self-destruction.

You Realize Your Life Is Joyless

When life is something you dread, where you can’t stand everyday existence, or barely make it through the day, it may be now that you realize there’s no joy. No one should live this way. The usual ways of coping with stress, dealing with troubles, and masking the pain just make the problems worse. What worked before isn’t sufficient, since now you find you need alcohol, drugs, or other addictive behavior in increasing quantity or frequency. In addition, you’re likely either totally out of control, or nearly there. When the recognition that life is joyless crystalizes, it’s time to accept treatment. 

What Others Say May be Right

Maybe there’ve been brochures or pamphlets about addiction treatment left in plain sight at home or in the office. Someone close to you may have been trying for some time to convince you that you need help. Tensions and a decidedly chilly atmosphere at home may be due to your addictive behavior. Perhaps loved ones even staged a professional intervention to get you into treatment. Instead of rejecting their heartfelt pleas for you to get help, think for a moment that what they are saying may be right. Take the next step and do something to overcome your addiction by going into treatment. 

Maybe It’s Time to Assess Your Situation

Many people schedule an annual physical, or regular dental checkups, so the concept of doing a health self-assessment, including any addictive behavior, might be a good idea. What accounted for money expenditures, if they didn’t go to pay for monthly bills? Perhaps it’s become harder to pay those bills because the money’s been used to pay for alcohol, bar tabs, illicit or prescription drugs obtained illegally and used for non-medical purposes. 

While trying to hide the hole in the bank account statements or grabbing credit card bills before a spouse sees them, eventually these stalling tactics can’t hide the truth about family finances. Assess the situation from a fiscal standpoint. Two choices emerge once again: Keep draining household finances to continue funding addictive behavior, or stop funneling that cash and decide to get professional treatment. 

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Acknowledge and Get Beyond Self-Denial 

Statements familiar to most addicts include many recitations of denial to loved ones, family, friends, co-workers and themselves. Everything’s under control. I don’t have a problem. You’re making a big deal out of nothing. I can handle my drinking (pills, gambling, and so on). 

It’s amazing how long and often a person denies what is so obvious to everyone else about their addiction. Indeed, self-denial is one of the first stages addicted individuals go through. It takes some time to admit to themselves and acknowledge to others that there is a problem. Getting beyond self-denial means beginning to consider that the only way to get better is to enter treatment. 

Self-Detox Failed, So Maybe Give Treatment a Chance 

Trying to wean off drugs, alcohol or other addictive behavior alone likely failed. It may have worked for a short time, days or even weeks, yet inevitably resulted in relapse. Many addicted individuals follow this pattern repeatedly before finally accepting treatment. While it’s true that there’s no guarantee of lifelong sobriety following treatment completion, the opportunity for a clean and sober life begins with treatment. Besides, things aren’t going so well now, are they? Face the facts: Without treatment, chronic and long-term addiction has predictable and dire results.

Recognize that since nothing else worked to ensure sobriety, or lasted only briefly, maybe now is the time to think about getting addiction treatment. Beginning the consideration process to give treatment a try could be your breakthrough moment.

What About Multiple Relapses? Are You Doomed to Failure?

Dispel the idea that you’re a failure for having multiple relapses. Slipping back into addictive habits isn’t a failure, nor does it mean there’s something wrong with you. Similarly, relapse is not lack of willpower, moral fiber or character strength, and relapse does have value, in retrospect. Relapse, which is common, means you may not have developed sufficient coping skills to withstand what may be overwhelming cravings and urges. Treatment length may have been too short, and once you were around the people, places and things associated with your addiction, you weren’t able to resist getting involved again. Furthermore, those who’ve gone through addiction treatment may need to go back several times before they’re confident they have the tools and strategies necessary to fully embrace sobriety. 

It is never too late to get treatment. Even those who are in late-stage alcoholism, treatment can help improve quality of life. After relapse, detoxification is necessary before active treatment can resume. Then, you’ll participate in individual and group counseling, and take part in various therapies, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy (MET), family therapy, 12-step group participation, and other types of  treatment modalities. Medication may be prescribed to help overcome cravings. Analyzing what worked before in treatment and coming up with modifications for those strategies can help avoid future relapse

If you relapsed before, but still want to get clean and sober, seize the opportunity and get back into treatment.  

Commit to Taking Recovery One Day at a Time

If anyone focused solely on treatment negatives, such as not knowing if they’d have the strength to complete it, or how long and difficult it might be, they’d likely be highly reluctant to embrace treatment at all. Instead, they’d resist, telling themselves it’s too uncertain, too painful, too long or too difficult. Yet, while treatment does require effort and determination, it isn’t a bleak and unending process. 

There have been significant advancements in addiction treatment during the last two decades. Addiction is treatable and offers positive outcomes for many addicts. Current treatment medications can significantly reduce or eliminate withdrawal symptoms. Anti-craving medications that are non-addictive can help sustain individuals during the early recovery period while they get learn effective coping strategies. Self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous provide support and encouragement and offer fellowship long after conclusion of formal treatment. 

What’s important to remember is to take recovery one day at a time. Telling yourself that no matter how bad things get, you can make it through the next 24 hours. By adopting this approach, life will look better. It will be better. When you embrace getting professional help for your addiction and commit to the healing process of one day at a time, you will know you are ready for treatment. 

When Will You Know You Are Ready for Treatment?


Suzanne Kane

Suzanne Kane is a Los Angeles-based writer, blogger and editor. Passionate about helping others live a vibrant and purposeful life, she writes daily for her website, www.suzannekane.net. She is a regular contributor to Psych Central. You can reach her at suzanne@suzannekane.net.

APA Reference
Kane, S. (2020). When Will You Know You Are Ready for Treatment?. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 2, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/when-will-you-know-you-are-ready-for-treatment/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 12 Apr 2020 (Originally: 27 Mar 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 12 Apr 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.