When most of us think about drug and alcohol addicts, we think about the negative consequences related to consistent, chronic abuse of such substances. We consider the detrimental side effects, the harmful damage done to relationships, the financial losses and the destruction of families. Rarely, however, do we consider what our addictions did for us.

Thinking about how our addictions helped us in some way doesn’t negate the bad side effects that long term drug and alcohol addictions caused. In fact, considering why we used drugs and alcohol to begin with often helps begin to solve our problems. Every behavior, regardless of whether it is negative or positive, has a reward factor. Otherwise, we wouldn’t partake in it.

Recovery.org explains the phenomenon very well by affirming that, “Sure drugs and alcohol endanger your health and have the power to wreck your relationships. They also offer something to your life, potentially filling a void. Otherwise there would be no reason to be an addict in the first place. If you want to boost your chance of recovery, you have to accept that your addiction offered you something, then work to find ways to fill the void in its wake.”

Here are three common benefits that come from being drug and alcohol addicts. As you can see, they aren’t truly benefits at all, but rather, portray the illusion of being beneficial. Concurrently, here are three alternative solutions you can use to fill the void after drugs and alcohol are no longer a part of your life.

1.Drugs and alcohol make social situations more tolerable. Many people with drug and alcohol addictions have social anxiety disorders and insecurities. From the time they were young children, many complained of feeling “off”, “different”, and “unable to communicate.” Somehow, a drink or drug takes away the edge and allows one to be more comfortable around others. Take that away and we go back into our shell. So how do we cope?

First, you must really think about what it is you’re afraid of. Are you afraid of being made a fool of? Not knowing what to say? Did you get bulled as a child and are afraid that will happen again in a social setting? Maybe you just don’t like large groups. Whatever it is, figure it out and confront it. Then, take some simple steps to begin enjoying social situations again. According to Helpguide.org, “Focus your attention on other people, remember that anxiety isn’t as visible as you think, really listen to what is being said, focus on the present moment, and release the pressure to be perfect.”

Also, begin hanging out with people you feel very comfortable with, in small groups. Then go to larger groups. Drive on your own so you can control when you leave and go. It’s good to feel in control of the situation in early recovery. Finally, keep going to social events. Eventually they will no longer bother you. Exposure therapy allows someone who suffers from an affliction to repeat behaviors over and over again until they become less painful. Soon, you will be able to handle social situations without drugs and alcohol-and maybe you will even have a good time.

2.Drugs and alcohol mask emotional trauma and pain. Some of us have very deep seated, traumatic experiences that we haven’t dealt with in childhood. We often think of these experiences in terms of sexual abuse or a neglectful family. However, sometimes these types of painful situations stem from other things. Perhaps we had a father who always put down our mother, or never seemed to be proud of us growing up. Maybe we had an alcoholic parent in the family. Whatever trauma someone is dealing with, alcohol and drugs serve as a good, although harmful, way to cover up pain.

The problem is that eventually, the band-aid that is drugs and alcohol stops working. In fact, our using causes more pain, which causes us to use more drugs and alcohol, which causes more pain. The cycle is endless until we decide to get clean and sober. Then, we are stuck with a lot of pain to deal with, but don’t give up. We must then address the root cause of our pain with a qualified sponsor, therapist, psychologist, or religious leader. Once we have dealt with the root cause of our pain, we can begin the healing process

3.Drugs and alcohol make miserable situations more tolerable. After a new mom had a baby she exclaimed, “I was miserable. I was bored, depressed and I felt like I lost a part of myself. I felt guilty everyday for not being able to bond with my baby. Taking Vicodin everyday made the whole situation less miserable. I actually felt like I was becoming a better mother.”

Maybe you have a job that bores you or stresses you out. Maybe you are unhappy in your marriage but are afraid to leave for financial reasons. Perhaps you dropped out of college and feel like a failure and are stuck looking for a dead end job. Whatever the situation is, drugs and alcohol can provide a temporary reprieve from the often- depressing circumstances surrounding our lives.

As difficult as this sounds, the best way to solve this problem is to face the actual feelings you are having towards the situation you are in. The unhappy mother needs to get counseling to understand if she’s suffering from post partum depression. She can talk with other mothers who secretly feel the same way. She can find ways to enjoy her baby and have her own life too. Maybe you need to switch careers, create a life plan, or go on a vacation to take a break from a highly stressful job. Whatever the cure is that doesn’t involve drugs and alcohol, you need to find it.

Finally, reach out to your higher power. Whatever your higher power may be, it’s vital in recovery to start talking to Him/Her/It. Start journaling and begin resolving these issues. Start thinking about the reasons why you decided to use drugs and alcohol and what they did for you. Then ask your higher power for tools to bring about change to your life.

Do you feel like drugs and alcohol are the only solution to your problems? If you are suffering from a chronic addiction problem, contact Linda Rose at Footprints Behavioral Health. Call her at (949) 558-4723 and set up a consultation. Start your journey towards recovery today.