It’s true that people often need to hit some sort of bottom, to suffer some substantial loss in order to seek treatment for addiction. But that’s not the case for everyone, by far. Others take a more pre-emptive approach when they realize that they’re flirting with trouble and decide they definitely don’t want to cross that threshold into a territory of indisputable despair. Meet two men and two women who took early action to end addictive or compulsive habits they believed could be leading them toward trouble.
“My mother is an alcoholic and she’s been in and out of recovery for more than 30 years. Ten years ago, I was single and living in Europe, going out to parties and clubs, drinking and doing drugs, mostly cocaine, a lot. When my mother’s condition deteriorated and she began having financial problems, I realized that I could go down the same path and jeopardize my career and financial security if I wasn’t careful. One day I decided to quit drinking and doing drugs and I started going to AA for support. I’ve been alcohol- and drug-free for nine years and I still go to AA meetings once a week —they’re very helpful for dealing with triggers like anger and stress.”—Charles*, 51, lawyer, Washington, D.C.
“As a teenager, I became seriously overweight, partly because I used food, especially sweets, to numb my stress and frustration. At one point, I went to a doctor who was very focused on nutrition and exercise and she helped me lose weight, but I gained it back when life got more stressful. I’m someone who’s genetically predisposed to addiction — there are members of my family with a history of substance abuse — so 10 years ago, I started attending a self-help group for food addicts and overeaters. That changed everything! I learned about the nature of food addiction and gained tools to deal with the stresses of life without using food. Now I abstain from sugar completely, which helps me think straight about food and gives me a better chance of eating normally and managing my weight.”—Mallory, 36, a social media manager, California
“When I was 14, I went from playing video games to exploiting them by creating bots. I became heavily into watching my online account grow in digital wealth and later ended up reselling the digital gold acquired from my bots and even selling some of my accounts for profit. It’s all I did. Watching my time wasted on this addiction led me to re-evaluate my life. Wondering, What will I become in life?, Is the money really worth the time investment? and How do others view me? led me into a deep depression that ultimately resulted in my dropping out of high school and doing nothing but playing games. At my parents’ urging, three years ago I went to school for Game Art and Design and turned my addiction into a career as a video game designer/programmer — my dream career ended up saving me! For me, the Internet has gone from a portal for escape to a portal to opportunities and learning experiences. It was all in the process of finding myself and re-framing my mindset.”—Kevin, 22, video game designer, Illinois
“About three years ago, I realized that when I drank wine at home, I often had trouble stopping. I’d plan to have just one glass, but that would often turn into two, sometimes three. It’s not like I was getting drunk; I just felt that I was drinking too much for me, partly because I would sometimes wake up feeling tired, foggy and headache-y. So I stopped keeping alcohol in the house and made a point to only have a beer when I go out. Doing this has helped me cut my alcohol consumption way down and I feel better.”—Stephanie, 42, a social worker and mother of two, Maryland
*All names have been changed.