What Will It Take Before You Ask for Help?

If we find we are beginning to lose control over something we do, such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes, gambling, or using drugs, what would it take to make us seriously think about trying to change what we do?  We can think about this question by considering a sliding scale of life-changing situations, or personal crisis, and then consider how powerful any of them might be for us, personally, at any time in our lives.

Make it personal.  What would it take to shake you up, and make you think about trying to change what you do?  How bad would my situation have to be, before I’ll make that decision to try and change, and try to do things differently?  It will be different for each individual person, and at different times in our lives.

You Do Not Have to Reach Rock Bottom

Our situation does not have to reach rock bottom before we will change our behaviour, as some people suggest.  This is one of the Myths of Addiction.  Ask yourself this: are you using that myth as an excuse to not change what you do?  Do you say to yourself, ‘I really will give up my addiction, honest – but not today’, or ‘When I run out of money or I get sick, that’s when I’ll give up’.

A decision to change what we do can be made at any point in our lives – but for people with an addiction or potential addiction, the earlier that decision is made, the better it is for us, and the people around us.  Defeating an addiction, or potential addiction, is always easier if it’s tackled early.  Also, there will be less time for us to damage ourselves, and those people close to us, if we can regain control of our lives before we damage them beyond repair.

However, it’s certainly true that to make such a difficult decision, something does have to happen to jolt us into a ‘wake-up call’.   There is nearly always a trigger event that makes us stop and seriously examine what we are doing with our lives, and the negative effects our ‘habit’ is having on our families and those around us.

Some Example Wake Up Situations

Below are some sliding scales of possible trigger events that might make us stop and think about changing something we do – something that we know we should not be doing.

Drinking Too Much Alcohol

  • An increase in price?
  • Reduced access to alcohol, such as limited opening hours?
  • A friend expresses concern about our drinking?
  • Realising we can’t cut down or stop?
  • ‘Needing’ a drink in the morning to feel ‘normal’?
  • Losing our job?
  • Realising our drinking is hurting our family?
  • Finding ourselves being violent to our family?
  • Behaving in ways we’re ashamed of, because we were drunk?
  • Losing our wife/husband and kids?
  • Knocking over a child while driving drunk?
  • Being sent to rehab by the justice system – which can still be effective, even though it’s not voluntary.


  • Increase in price?
  • Reduced access to cigarettes
  • Reduced places where we can smoke?
  • Social disapproval?
  • Being told about the damage it’s causing to our body?
  • Understanding all the different harmful health consequences we risk by smoking?
  • Understanding and believing that these consequences can really happen to us?
  • Our kids, or other people, express disgust, or comment that we smell?
  • Understanding there are health risks to our family if we continue to smoke?
  • Learning how our smoking increases the risk that our children will also smoke?
  • Our child gets asthma?
  • Learning that our smoking is making our child’s asthma worse?
  • The cost of smoking is depriving our kids of opportunities such as healthy food, birthday presents, school outings, sport, or leisure activities.
  • Someone we know who smokes gets lung cancer, or emphysema, or has to have a leg amputated?

Problem Gambling

  • Lying to our family?
  • Realising our family knows we’re lying to them?
  • Having our family begging us to change?
  • Getting into debt?
  • Losing the respect of our kids?
  • Realising how badly it’s damaging our family?
  • Feeling shame because we know we cannot stop?
  • Stealing to fund our addiction?
  • Losing our home?
  • Losing our husband/wife and kids?
  • Being caught for a crime?
  • Being sent to rehab by the justice system – which can still be effective, even though it’s not voluntary.

Illicit Drug Use

  • ‘Recreational’ using, and taking the gamble that we won’t become addicted?
  • Realising we’ve lost control?
  • The high cost of funding our addiction?
  • Losing our job?
  • Losing our home?
  • Living on the streets?
  • Feeling shame and self-loathing, because we are at the mercy of our addiction, and we can’t seem to do anything about it?
  • Committing crimes to fund our addiction?
  • Prostitution to fund our addiction?
  • Contracting AIDS/HIV, Hepatitis B or C, or other serious disease, from needle-sharing or prostitution
  • Drug overdose – hospital, and a rehab opportunity offered to us?
  • We pass on a life threatening disease to our wife/husband or family?
  • Our child dies, or nearly dies, from using/accidentally using our drugs?
  • The death of a friend?
  • Dealing in drugs and getting caught
  • Being sent to rehab by the justice system – which can still be effective, even though it’s not voluntary.
  • Drug overdose – death: sadly, too late

Think about it.  Really think about it.  What will it take to make you seriously think about reaching out for help, so you can fight your addiction?  How low would you have to go before you take that first difficult step of reaching out to someone for help?

Think of all the good things you could still have in your life if only you weren’t being controlled by the need to constantly feed your addiction.  Imagine turning your life around, and what it might feel like to be free.

That wake up call will be different for everyone. Different people can reach their personal point of crisis and decision at any point along a sliding range of negative events associated with an addiction – that point where some event, or crisis, or accident, pushes them to decide to try to change

Wherever that trigger point is for you, that is a good time to reach out to get help to support that decision. It will help you to succeed in your choice. 

That is the time to pick up the phone and phone a Help Line, or the Quit Line, or visit a doctor, or a hospital, or talk to someone you respect who can help you find someone who will help you.  You can see that it is much better to make that call, or take that action, before you hit the bottom of the downward slide.

These examples above are only some of the negative events that might push someone to decide to try to turn their life around.  These could be called the ‘push’ reasons for change.  Each person also has an equally long list of positive, or ‘pull’ reasons to change – all the advantages we can see will be gained if we decide to choose to act in different ways in the future.

These negative ‘pushers’, and benefit ‘pullers’ are both important in any decision to change anything about our lives, although here, we are talking specifically about addiction.

Whatever our situation, the decision to change is only the beginning.  We can come to make that decision in rehab, or with our local doctor, or a local AA group or NA group, or within our own heart, but the earlier along our path of addiction we do make that decision, the easier it will be, and the less damage we will do to ourselves, and our family.

What will it take to make you reach out for help?

See the free International Help Lines at Who Do I Call? at the top of this page

If you have any Questions or Comments

Contact Me in the reply box below

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What Will It Take Before You Ask for Help? — 4 Comments

  1. Pingback: How To Decide To Change Our Behavior

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  4. Pingback: Addiction Denial & Rejection 2: The Family's Point of View

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