You may wonder if young people are impacted by the rising substance abuse rates, including teenagers and 20 somethings. Many believe that being younger protects you against addiction, or more years are a prerequisite.
A common refrain from the age group is “marijuana isn’t addictive.” However, we know that young adults bear the biggest burden of overdoses, loss of function, and disability due to addiction. Additionally, a surprising 30% of marijuana users may have an addiction disorder with the drug. Recent research also suggests that the younger someone is when they first use substances, the more likely they are to develop an addictive illness.
So why do this cohort and their loved ones shy away from the question of addiction? Below we’ll look at the typical excuses. We will challenge these hangups to see why getting over them and discovering addiction is beneficial.
Let’s not delay a much-needed first step into recovery just because we think we’re too young. Getting sober young is a good thing.
- I Didn’t Drink/Use Very Long — It’s only a Phase.
- Addiction Diagnosis at Such a Young Age is a Sentence for a Life Time of Misery
- Having a Child Diagnosed with Addiction Must Be A Reflection of Poor Parenting
- A Young Person with an Addiction Will Be Barred from College, Jobs, or Awards
- Addiction Is a Personal Weakness, and Peers Will Think Less of You
- Addiction Will Prevent You from Participating in Fun Activities, like Weddings, Parties, and College
- Addiction Means You’re a Bad Catholic, Baptist, Jew, Muslin, etc.
I Didn’t Drink/Use Very Long — It’s only a Phase.
Even if we only drank or abuses substances a few years, we probably already have evidence that we behaved very differently from our peers. For instance, the guy whom we thought really had a problem rebuked us by saying, “Slow down, you’re using too much, too fast.”
Or times when our friends went home for the night, but we stayed later, finding strangers who drank the way we did into the early hours.
If we’re honest with ourselves, our patterns likely stood out very much from everyone else, or we thought about alcohol and drugs in ways others did not, such as the belief that they should be the sole reason to attend a get-together.
The duration of substance abuse isn’t as important as how our use affected our lives.
Addiction Diagnosis at Such a Young Age is a Sentence for a Life Time of Misery
In the modern era, no, addiction isn’t a ticket to a miserable life! There are numerous resources that, one hundred years ago, addicts would have only dreamed of. Twelve-step programs are one of the best developments for treating addictions. A former addict can build a new, enjoyable life.
The disease of addiction no longer has to define an addict’s future. Treatments can arrest the disorder, and the sufferer can become as vibrant and happy as any non-addict.
Having a Child Diagnosed with Addiction Must Be A Reflection of Poor Parenting
The root causes of addiction still aren’t well known. It appears to be both genetic and environmental. However, at many recovery meetings, attendees jokingly confess that they wish their upbringing were more troubled, so they’d have something to blame for their addiction because their family gave them a great start, and they ended up addicted regardless.
In other words, parenting isn’t the determining factor in a child who develops an addiction. It isn’t the parents’ fault, even if the young addict swears otherwise.
A Young Person with an Addiction Will Be Barred from College, Jobs, or Awards
It isn’t always the case that past substance abuse automatically and permanently prevents someone from attending college or attaining competitive employment.
Conversely, ongoing, untreated addiction will often force someone to drop out of college or a promising career.
Addiction Is a Personal Weakness, and Peers Will Think Less of You
It is beneficial to think of an addict as a sick person. That doesn’t mean they should be shielded from consequences or enabled to continue engaging in substance use. But this perspective explains the more insane and tragic behavior that addiction causes.
A sane person doesn’t immediately go to the bar after getting out of jail for a DUI. They don’t risk losing a job in favor of breaking a dry spell that feels like torture. They don’t walk out on friends and family for a bottle. A corrupted brain better explains these behaviors rather than a personal willpower issue.
As someone in recovery, you also aren’t required to disclose your addiction to everyone you meet. You can keep it close to the chest around employers or acquaintances who don’t need to know. Revealing it usually doesn’t serve much purpose since it potentially draws stigma from people who don’t understand.
Addiction Will Prevent You from Participating in Fun Activities, like Weddings, Parties, and College
Being in addiction recovery doesn’t mean you have to hole yourself up in your room, avoiding any sight of alcohol or drugs. Once you are firmly in recovery, you don’t need to “white knuckle” your way through sobriety.
You can participate in all the activities any non-alcoholic can, without drinking. Attend weddings, bachelor parties, and college hangouts without the fear of drinking. See where you can contribute at these events, rather than focusing on whatever the other attendees are drinking.
Put a lime in your glass of soda water at a wedding if you want to avoid the questions.
Twelve-step programs have good pre-party checks to keep you safe too, including:
- Bring your transportation to the event (don’t rely on anyone else in case you need to leave early)
- Eat before you go, even if the event serves food (we all know times when food is late or never shows up at all)
- Call your sponsor or someone in your network before you go
- See how you can be of service at the event rather than how you can “get through it” (this takes practice).
Sure, the first few times you go to a drinking event in recovery can make you nervous, but after you attend some successfully, it feels more natural to be around other non-alcoholic drinkers.
Addiction Means You’re a Bad Catholic, Baptist, Jew, Muslin, etc.
No, addiction doesn’t mean you’ve failed at your religion. It just means you may need to seek out resources where faith doesn’t work for you.
The other recovery resources may give you more enthusiasm for whatever religion you were a member of before, though this isn’t a requirement.
We see that the common excuses need not prevent us from questioning our behavior. Relying on them often leads to more harm in the long run because they delay the much-needed motivation to join recovery. The first step is admitting to yourself that there’s a problem, no matter your age.