A lot of folks struggle with these issues. You’re a person first…. You’re not broken. We’re all in recovery from something.
The truth is that stopping is difficult. While using drugs or alcohol might begin as a choice, addiction is not—it is a condition that takes a lot of time to overcome, heal, and recover from. It takes some people many times to quit for good, but they do it. And you can do it too.
Why can’t I stop?
Things like our minds and bodies, friends, trauma, and our environments may all play a role in why it’s hard to stop using.
How we cope with trauma
Sometimes we don’t realize that our use is self-medicating because of trauma or things that we’ve been through.
Using may be a habit that’s been developed over time to help numb the pain or feelings we’re experiencing when we don’t want to feel them. If we’ve lived through trauma, abuse, or neglect, drugs or alcohol may be the thing that helps us cope with these experiences. And we may not be ready to address the hurt. Over time, it may become the only thing that stops the pain–making it a difficult habit to break. But it’s possible to break it and you don’t have to do it alone. Addressing the pain and learning new ways to cope can help you move forward and heal.
Biology also impacts addiction because we self-medicate through addictions. We use a substance because it feels good and does something for our brains. Your drug of choice is often connected to what you want to feel—happy, relaxed, numb, energized, etc.
Over time the more we use, the more our brains and bodies need the substance to regulate these different feelings. But just as we can train our brains to be dependent on drugs or alcohol, we can also train them to get by without substances. We can do this by establishing healthy habits, going to therapy or a 12-step program, or using medications that are less likely to cause other problems in our lives.
Where and how we grew up and where we live now can have a big influence on how we feel about our lives and ourselves. What we are exposed to can shape our stress levels, how we deal with triggers, add to trauma and bad experiences, and make us feel unsafe. Often—especially as children—we don’t have control over our environment, so we develop ways to cope. And using drugs or alcohol is one way that some people try to cope with the realities of living in a harmful environment.
Peer pressure from friends and others
Peer pressure is when our peers—or people who are around our age or who have similar experiences to our own—influence our thoughts, actions, and behaviors. Peer pressure can be good or bad. Good peer pressure is supportive and positive. It can help you discover and develop new skills, interests, and hobbies. Good pressure can also help you create a positive support system of people who encourage and help you when you’re trying to stop using drugs or alcohol.  While bad peer pressure is negative. It can make you feel pressured to do things that you wouldn’t want to normally do or that are uncomfortable for you.
We all want to fit in with friends and feel like we belong. And sometimes our friends aren’t doing things to intentionally hurt us. They just want us to experience what they experience even if it’s something that may not be so good in the long run. If your friends or significant other also use drugs or alcohol, you may find it hard to still fit in with them if you are trying to stop.
Some people are also more likely to develop a substance use disorder because of their genetics—or the DNA that was passed down to us from our parents. Think about your family–do you see patterns of addictions, behaviors or habits are common in those closest to you? Often, substance use disorders run in families.
Researchers have also found that there are several genes that make someone more likely to develop a problem with drugs or alcohol.  But this doesn’t mean that these genes will make someone have an addiction. There are many other factors such as environment, trauma, relationships, etc. that also play a role.
What can I do to stop?
“You can break the generational cycles.” I remember someone said that to me once. And I was like oh? I can do that? That can be me? That was powerful to me. That motivated me to want to do better all the time.
You have the power to stop using, break generational curses and find balance in your life. Remember that recovery looks different for everyone. Here are some things that you can do that may help on your journey:
- Think about the pros and cons. Everything has a consequence—good or bad. Using drugs or alcohol may make you feel good now, but it may have short/ long term effects on your relationships and your health. Taking time to look at the consequences and decide what you are going to do may be helpful.
- Be attentive to triggers and stress. Ask yourself, What are my habits? Observe the feelings, situations, and the people who are around you know you want to use. Learning your triggers will help you reflect on when and why you use.
- Replace the habit. There are different ways to cope that can replace drug or alcohol use. For example mediation, physical movement, art, etc. are all healthier coping mechanisms that you may want to try. Finding other ways to feel good may be hard at first and harder for some of us than others, but that’s ok—it’s worth it.
- Talk to someone. You are not alone, and you do not have to stop using alone. Tell someone you trust like a friend or family member about what you’re going through. There’s also help outside of your immediate family like a therapist, counselor, peer support specialist, or online groups.
- Place yourself in a healthier environment. Finding ways to get out of the environment where unhealthy habits have set in, can help you heal. You may need more intensive support like rehab. Or you may try going to a support group like AA, NA or others which can be as effective as therapy— it’s ritual-based and it works.
Stopping drug or alcohol use is not an easy thing to do—but you can do it! This tool can help you work through your own experiences, read others’ experiences with addiction, and help you think about next steps. And if you are ready to talk to someone, this article walks you through the steps of deciding who to tell and figuring out what to say.
- Mosel, Stacy, L.M.S.W. (2022, October 21). Is Drug Addiction Genetic? American Addiction Centers. https://americanaddictioncenters.org/rehab-guide/addiction-genetic
- American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. (2018 March). Peer Pressure. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Answer Center. https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Peer-Pressure-104.aspx