It has been said that there is an Eskimo tribe that learned to hunt for wolves in a rather creative fashion. They would sharpen a knife and dip it in seal blood and freeze the blood. This process continued until the knife was encased in frozen blood. Then they would place the knife in the ground with the blade facing upwards as bait for wolves. The hungry wolf would be attracted by the scent and start licking, slowly at first but with continued vigor. By the time the wolf got to the blade they would be licking intensely enough to not realize that they are cutting their tongues and drinking their own blood, also known as a blood rush. Usually while feeding, the wolf would increase in strength and stamina but during this feeding the wolf begins to grow weak and so continues to eat thinking that is what is needed until they are no longer able to go on.
This metaphor has been used to describe the process of addiction. It can start out rather harmless but slowly drains the life out of you. It can be difficult to gauge whether our own alcohol or drug use has become problematic when we are in the midst of it. The CAGE is a simple screen which can help alert you as to whether you need to pay more attention to your use.
C – Cut down: Have you ever wanted to cut down/stop your use?
A – Annoyed: Have others expressed annoyance over your use?
G – Guilt: Have you ever felt guilt surrounding your use?
E – Eye-opener: Have you ever used in the morning as an “eye-opener” to help you start your day/ward off the effects of your use?
If you answered “yes” to two or more of these questions then you may have problematic substance use.
It can be difficult to accurately gauge your own substance use especially if it has gradually evolved over time and is covering up deeper pain. If you are questioning whether or not you have a problem, or if you are very aware that there is something wrong there are a number of treatments available to you.
Detoxification – Depending on the severity of use, it can sometimes be necessary to be medically monitored while detoxing. This can happen at a detox center or a hospital (and is a precursor to treatment rather than a treatment in and of itself).
Inpatient/outpatient treatment – contact your insurance and ask where you can obtain an assessment to see if you fit the criteria for either of these options.
Therapy – is effective in conjunction with treatment or on its own to help individuals work through issues that led to/maintained use. Therapy is also helpful in early/late recovery to help individuals maintain sobriety and continue to strive toward health and wellness.
Support Groups – These are often peer-led groups (meaning there is not a professional in the group) that meet on a regular basis.
Anonymous groups – AA (http://www.aa.org/) and NA (http://www.na.org/) are the most well-known but there are many anonymous groups including Cocaine Anonymous (https://ca.org/), Crystal Meth Anonymous (http://crystalmeth.org/), Emotions Anonymous (http://emotionsanonymous.org/), and Dual Recovery Anonymous (http://www.draonline.org/).
Faith-based groups – Celebrate Recovery Christian faith-based support group (http://www.celebraterecovery.com/).
Secular support - Secular Organizations for Sobriety for a non-faith-based approach (http://www.sossobriety.org/)
Seeking help for concerns about alcohol and drugs can be a scary thing, but it can be equally (or more) scary to not seek help. It is important to remember that you are not alone and that help is available. As the old adage goes, “the first step is always the hardest.”