What Happens If I Wait To Get Help For A Drug Or Alcohol Addiction?

Accepting that you have a substance use disorder can be a truly difficult ordeal. Often, there is so much going on that it can be difficult to come to any conclusion without some aspect of addictive thinking interfering.

It is common in the early stages of addiction to “play it off as no big deal” and to minimize your substance abuse by comparing yourself to others who may have more obvious or serious substance use concerns. However, most of all, it is just plain scary to think about having a substance use issue, sharing it with someone else, and taking action to make a change.

Taking these actions can make it feel much more real and induce a variety of emotions. If you’re not prepared, these emotions become quickly overwhelming. This often results in thoughts that attempt to explore the pros and cons of making this decision to change a major aspect of one’s life.

However, the longer an addiction goes untreated, the higher the risks become.

Reasons People Wait To Go To Rehab

While it is not advisable to delay treating most medical conditions, especially substance use disorders, many feel there are barriers keeping them from starting treatment. Many of these barriers are financial in nature, as finding affordable treatment programs is a major challenge for some, especially depending on their location.

Other times, there may be a wait list to enter a particular program. Sometimes there may be more complicated matters such as child care or employment schedules to figure out before entering treatment. The staff at a licensed treatment facility can help patients address these concerns. Learn more about the admission process here.

Regardless of the reason that has caused the wait, it is very important that action is taken to get the process started. Whether it is finding a free 12-step program like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or another peer support program, waiting for things to magically “get better” for any extended period is usually a dangerous proposition.

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Justifying, Rationalizing, And Making Excuses For Substance Abuse Can Be Dangerous

Oftentimes, those who are struggling with addiction will try to rationalize, justify, or excuse their substance abuse in order to avoid getting treatment. These terms are frequently used when talking about substance use disorders, as they are common, normal thoughts that result in the substance use continuing, regardless of any harm it has done. This type of thinking can cause others significant harm, as avoiding treatment can result in the loss of loved ones, financial instability, and employment or legal troubles.

It can be difficult to find motivation to seek treatment when actively engaging in these forms of thinking. If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, there is a good chance you’re familiar with some of these examples of justifying or rationalizing substance abuse:

  • “I can stop whenever I want, I just don’t want to.”
  • “All of my friends are doing it, why should I be the only one to stop?”
  • “I haven’t lost my job or anything I care about, so I’m doing fine.”
  • “it’s just alcohol, it’s not as bad a Heroin/Cocaine/etc.”
  • “I’m under a lot of stress at work/home/etc., so I deserve it to relax.”

These thoughts are examples of how denial can prevent someone from getting treatment, oftentimes until they hit a breaking point. This can be a frightening experience, and can drive those who are struggling with substance use to hit “rock bottom.” However, without a strong enough support system or enough motivation to seek help, it can feel like a monumental task to ask for help.


Motivation is an extremely important part of any task, especially when it comes to taking the steps necessary to get help for addiction. Motivation often falls into two categories: external and internal.

For many, family, loved ones, and employment are the most common external motivators. People want to do better for those they care for, to be a better provider, a better parent, a better something to someone.

For others, motivation may be more internal. They may feel intensely that they need to work on their own struggles to be the person they want themselves to be. One of the most important questions to ask yourself when struggling with an addiction is, what motivates me to get better and is it important to me?

A helpful tool to consider is something called a motivational ruler. The motivational ruler is like a normal ruler, but instead of inches or centimeters, it measures how confident you are on a given task. The ruler measures confidence on a 0-10 scale, with 10 being “very confident.” Using this tool can help to decide where your current level of motivation is and why. If the number is a 6, it is important to ask yourself why it’s not a 7. Furthermore, it’s also important to ask why it’s not a 5. These answers can help move the needle to deciding whether or not you’re ready to take the next step toward recovery.

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Waiting Doesn’t Help

One element of addiction to keep in mind is the pervasive nature of substance abuse. As substance use continues to grow in severity, frequency, and intensity, it becomes more and more difficult to overcome as time goes on. As addiction progresses, denial-based thinking continues and often results in being alienated by loved ones, which often hurts them just as much as the one struggling with addiction.

That is not to say that waiting for treatment renders you “untreatable,” however, the likelihood of success grows the earlier you decide to get help. Recovery can begin at any age, and at any time that you’re willing to truly take that next step, as difficult as it may be.

If you know someone who is struggling with a substance use disorder, encourage them to seek help. Reaching out is often he hardest part for those living with an addiction, and your encouragement may just be the motivation they need to get help. If you are that person struggling with addiction, just know that you deserve happiness in recovery too.

Information On Finding Treatment

There are treatment providers available 24/7 to answer your questions and address your concerns about entering treatment. Don’t wait to take the first step; have a free, confidential conversation with a treatment provider today.