When one quits or cut down on their substance use they are left with a void. The reason for this is that they were using the substance to serve a need or desire (whether or not the substance use is an effective way to serve these needs is another discussion altogether). It’s up to you to figure out why you are using substances, or why you’re using them so excessively. As everyone is different I can’t make a blanket statement about the cause that applies to everyone equally, but I can give you some leads. Here are some reasons people use drugs and alcohol:

  • For excitement.
  • To relieve boredom.
  • For simple physical pleasure.
  • To relieve stress.
  • To relieve anxiety.
  • To escape reality.
  • As a way to fit in with a social group.
  • As a substitute for real happiness.

As I said,, it’s up to you to build some personal understanding of why you abuse substances, once you start that process, you’ll be able to start exploring your options.  For example, if you realize “I’m using drugs for excitement”, then you could start looking for other activities that excite you more than drugs do.  If you realize that you’re treating your anxiety with drugs and alcohol, then you can start exploring better options for dealing with anxiety.  Get the point?  The reason we keep on abusing substances, even when it becomes a miserable routine that is tearing our lives apart, is that we simply haven’t worked hard enough towards finding and implementing alternative behaviors – lacking better options, we continue to abuse substances.

As a coach dealing with substance use problems I work hard to open my clients eyes to better options.  If you’re dealing with your own substance use problem, you should work hard to replace your substance use habits with behaviors that better serve your needs.  As a friend or parent helping a loved one, you should talk with them about exploring new and better things they could be doing with their time rather than wasting it being high.  Be creative, and take them along on new experiences which are more rewarding than substance use, and keep trying more than once.  They want instantly quit drugs because they had an exciting time doing something else, but as it becomes clearer to them that there is a better life out there that is within their grasp, then they’ll move farther away from the depressing dead-end lifestyle of substance abuse.  This isn’t a quick fix, it’s a long-term strategy that will lead to a long-term resolution of substance abuse problems though.

It’s no coincidence that when we look at success stories, people who have truly ended their substance use problems, they always include some sort of progress in life – such as starting a family, a new career, a better living situation, a new relationship, or new activities.  It’s not that these people attained these things because they quit abusing substances, it’s most likely that they made their attempt at quitting successful by chasing these new goals and dreams.

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