Why is it so hard to ask for help? This question is not limited to the field of treating addiction: many people have difficulty requesting assistance even for such minor things as driving directions. According to The New York Times, there is a broad tendency to act as if it’s a deficiency. Introversion, perceived weakness, and embarrassment at seeming needy or incompetent…any or all may play a part. If this is a recognized situation for normal, everyday problems, it should come as no surprise that asking for help with an addiction presents an exponentially greater challenge.

Fear

The word “addiction” is defined as: “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” (Source: dictionary.com.)

As described in alcoholrehab.com: “The fear of withdrawal, what is involved in rehabilitation treatment, in what is essentially a journey into the unknown, and the very real, immediate fear of how you will possibly cope going forward without your ‘crutch’ are all part of this immensely powerful fear factor.”

The desire to allay fear can lead then to that time-tested avoidance mechanism: denial.

Denial

In the case of drug and alcohol abuse, there is no incontrovertible medical test which can provide one with a positive or negative result as to whether one is suffering from addiction. In the early stages, “diagnosing” addiction can be considered to be subjective, opinion based. When combined with the stigma attached to being an addict or an alcoholic, it’s not surprising that many are reluctant to apply that label to themselves.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, alcoholism often goes unrecognized in a clinical or primary health care setting. The rate of screening for alcohol consumption in health care settings remains lower than 50 percent. Compounding the problem, patients withhold information because of shame or fear of stigmatization.

Hope

Fear and denial can be faced. If we can recognize and accept them as natural reactions, stop fighting them and accept the truth of them, we have taken the first step in overcoming them. There are myriad qualified professionals dedicated to helping one take the next step, and the one after that. But while help may be offered, no-one can take that first step for another: it is a courageous, solo leap.