Can I Get Off of Drugs or Alcohol by Myself – Or Is It Really That Dangerous?

988, Addiction, Substance Abuse

If you’ve made the decision to quit using drugs or alcohol, congratulations!

For many people, especially those struggling with dependence or addiction, this decision is life-changing. 

But what if you’re not interested in rehab or other types of treatment? Can you get off of drugs or alcohol on your own? Well, quitting without help is possible, but can be extremely difficult and sometimes even dangerous.

Reasons People Don’t Ask For Help With Quitting Drugs or Alcohol

It’s understandable if you want to quit using drugs or alcohol without help. There are a lot of reasons some people choose to quit using drugs or alcohol on their own. You might:

  • Feel like you don’t need any help
  • Think you can’t afford treatment
  • Think that getting help means taking time off work or losing income
  • Be hesitant because of the stigma associated with substance abuse

Why Quitting Drugs or Alcohol on Your Own Is So Much Harder

Withdrawal Symptoms Can Be Difficult or Even Fatal

According to American Addiction Centers, you might be able to quit drugs or alcohol on your own, but, depending on your situation, doing so could “pose significant threats to your health and wellbeing.” If you have a dependence on a substance, you’ll experience withdrawal, sometimes within a few hours. Withdrawal from certain drugs can lead to dangerous symptoms “including seizures, organ damage, and sometimes death.”

Last year, PBS Journalist Dana Knowles shared her story about her struggle with addiction. For years, she was looking for some way to cope with life and seemed to find what she was looking for when she began taking opiates after an injury.

About opiates, Dana says:

“From the first time I took them, my first thought was ‘THIS is what I’ve been waiting for my entire life.’ It was perfect. I found perfection in a feeling. Opiates gave me euphoria and energy. They helped me keep up with my life. I could do it all; be the perfect mom, the perfect wife, the perfect cook with a perfect house. But it was awful because after a few months they stopped working and I had to take more and more just to feel normal.”

Then, an even worse cycle began. When she’d run out of opiates, Dana would have “terrible withdrawal symptoms” like chills, sweating, nausea, flu symptoms, body aches, insomnia, paranoia, stomach pain, diarrhea, and leg cramping. She started using alcohol to combat the withdrawal. So began a long cycle of using and quitting opiates and alcohol. 

Your Doctor or Counselor Can Connect You With Medications, Therapies and Other Resources

There are medications that can treat withdrawal symptoms, which can be a big help at the beginning of your recovery journey. These medications help with detoxification, but detox isn’t enough. Detox without subsequent treatment generally leads to a relapse.

After dealing with withdrawal, mental health counseling can help you to uncover the root of your addiction and treat it. Substance abuse is usually the result of trying to deal with difficult feelings, often about something that we’ve experienced.

For Dana, she had to really commit to recovery to understand the whys behind her issues. She acknowledged that she was using substances to cope with childhood trauma. She spent some time in a rehabilitation community, where she learned how to cope with trauma and process the things that trigger her. 

Recovery Is Easier With Social Support

Recovery is easier with a friend, and it’s even easier with a friend who understands. That’s why a lot of people trying to recover find peer support so helpful. A peer is someone who’s also experienced substance abuse and has successfully recovered. Peer support has been shown to help individuals stick to recovery. Not only that, but people in recovery who utilize peer support have a higher chance of maintaining sobriety. 

How To Get Help When You’ve Decided To Quit Using Alcohol or Drugs

Recovery Programs

Recovery programs can be extremely helpful during your recovery journey. This can mean living in a residential rehab facility or taking advantage of outpatient mental health counseling and supports, like the kinds offered at your local community services board.

Support Groups

While it’s generally more effective and much safer to be monitored by professionals during recovery, some people choose to lean on support groups during this time. You can also supplement a recovery program with these groups.

Some support groups for substance abuse recovery include:

Looking for a support group? Here are some more support groups in the Coastal Virginia area.

Committing To Quitting Drugs or Alcohol Can Mean Getting Your Life Back

Whitney Nicholson, who spent years of her life using drugs as a coping mechanism for emotional pain and trauma from an abusive relationship, says that, when she was using, she lost who she was. But quitting helped her get her life back. She now helps others to do the same as a Peer Recovery Support Specialist at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center. 

About the work she does as a peer support specialist, Whitney says:

“I’m able to live authentically and speak my truth and help other people advocate for themselves and speak their truth … And I really can’t think of anything more beautiful than letting people know they’re seen and heard because I spent years feeling like I was invisible.”

Dana Knowles attempted drug treatment programs three times in less than two years before she was able to recover. It wasn’t until she accepted that she needed to work on her mental health and coping skills that she was able to transform her life.

About her recovery journey, Dana says:

“I … no longer use the words ‘self-improvement;’ instead I use the word ‘evolution.’ ‘Improvement’ implies that this is all a linear process and it’s not. It took me three times in rehab to finally ‘get’ how to do sobriety. What I figured out is that it has nothing to do with staying sober. It has to do with getting my mind right so that I no longer need the drugs and alcohol to cope with life.”

Help for Quitting Alcohol or Drugs in Southeastern, Coastal Virginia

In Region Five, also known as Southeastern, Coastal Virginia, we’re your primary resource for all your behavioral health needs, including addiction and recovery support. If you’re ready to fight drug or alcohol dependence and take back your life, we can help.

You’ll find affordable, compassionate recovery services at your nearest community services board (CSB). If you’re in the Region Five area of Virginia, you can find your local CSB here. If you’re in another part of Virginia, look for your closest CSB here.

You don’t have to do this alone. We are here for you, every step of the way.

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