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Not everyone is in a bad place when they start using. Some people use drugs, gamble or engage in other behaviors recreationally.  As the “happy chemicals” in your brain got used up, and other coping skills became overwhelmed, the addictive behaviors were used to help you feel better.   It is easy to quickly get withdrawn into an addiction-focused world.  At that point, development of coping skills and healthy social supports stops.

Much like an infection in a wound that is not treated, whatever is causing the pain in your life continues to fester.  This creates a vicious downward spiral.  You are overwhelmed and in pain, so you use to stop the pain.  Whatever is causing the pain continues to worsen.  When you sober up, the problem, and the pain is worse, so you use again.  Some of these issues may have existed before your use even started, or at least before the addiction took over; however, the addiction inevitably made them worse.

Now it is time to look at the consequences of your addiction, because it is the impact of these consequences that you face each time you sober up—-which usually leads to crawling back into the bottle (or addiction).    The other reason is because many people hold themselves hostage for things they cannot (or could not) control.  Identifying the consequences of your behaviors and figuring out what you can and cannot control, you will have a clearer picture of the problem and can make a better recovery plan.  That is, you can figure out what crappy things happened because of your actions (consequences of your addiction), and which ones were simply out of your control.  Returning to the analogy of a physical illness.  If you get sick, there are some symptoms that will likely happen regardless of what you do.  If you have a cold, you will likely get a runny nose and a cough.  You cannot control that.  It is simply how the bug behaves.  However, if you continue to workout at the gym and do not take your medicine, you could not only get other people sick, but also develop pneumonia (both potentially preventable and controllable outcomes).

For most addicts, something happens that pushes them from recreational use to abuse and addiction.  Sometimes, as in the case of a loss or a trauma or onset of mental health problems, this is an uncontrollable event.  Other times, as in a divorce, it may have been preventable.  These things happen.  They are awful, and there is usually some fallout.  Unlike getting a common cold, you may not know how to identify warning signs that something may be wrong—that your coping skills are failing.   It may seem like your world suddenly came crashing down.  You were left feeling hopeless and helpless, and just wanted to be happy and have some relief.

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