Narcotics Anonymous

The Six Stages of Substance Use

Note: “Negative consequences” is defined as anything that would be considered non-pleasurable. Hangovers, for instance, are a negative consequence of drinking too much. 

Abstinence: Not using at all. All people start off abstinent. People can also return to abstinence after a period of experimentation or using. People who unknowingly ingest substances are also considered “abstinent” if they did not willingly take said substance. 

Experimentation: Becoming curious to use to see what a substance does/feels like. At this stage, substance is usually not sought after but provided either by friends or family. Negative consequences usually do not occur at this stage. 

Recreational or social use: At this stage, one is seeking out a substance to experience a desired effect, however, use is irregular and has no established pattern. Negative consequences usually do not occur at this stage. (Most people would consider themselves “recreational users,” but if there is any type of pattern to your use, you usually do not fall under this category!)

Habitual use: At this stage, a definite pattern of use has evolved (daily, every other day, every weekend, etc.) and a stronger craving for the drug is developed. Negative consequences at this stage may not occur, but is more likely. 

Abuse: Habitual use becomes abuse when negative consequences occur and yet use still continues. For example, if you are drinking alcohol every weekend and experience hangovers each time, you may fall under this category. 

Addiction: Abuse becomes addiction when there is an apparent compulsion to use. At this point, tolerance has developed (needing to take more of the drug in order to experience the same desire effect), withdrawal symptoms are present, attempts to moderate use or stop completely are ineffective, negative consequences are occurring, the drug has become a priority, anxiety is present when the substance is not available, and the substance is often needed to function (whether emotionally, physically, or other). 

“But I’m a functioning addict?” 

Congratulations, you’re in denial. 

"I wish you still got high"

That is what my childhood best friend told me today as she smoked herself up…in front of me. She knows I’m sober and clean. She knows I’m trying really hard to right past mistakes and create a better life for myself.

I’m terrible at being assertive when it comes down to things like this. I know this and yet I still keep people in my life around who threaten my recovery. Why would I do that to myself you ask? I have no fucking idea.

I like chaos.
I like getting high.
I like getting drunk.
I like not feeling anything.

In fact.
I love it.

But I love myself more. I love my family more. I love my sober life more. I will choose recovery over and over.

And I’m choosing to cut her out.

If you struggle with something similar, realize this: your old friends will never change their ways. They say they are supportive but what that really means is they will put the beer bottle to your lips and the drugs in your hand. So choose recovery every fucking time. You have to break the cycle and they will do everything to draw you back in.

Once you get too far into addiction… you think you’re acting normal, but trust me, everyone else around you knows something’s up. 

You kind of know you’re acting ridiculous, but you dont care. You rationalize it as normal behavior, because that’s just your state of mind at the moment.

That was one of the reasons why I never wanted to get clean. I did so many cringe-worthy things as an addict. I never wanted to have to think about them again. 

I hated the fact that it’s normal and healthy to feel completely and utterly hopeless sometimes. You’re not going to feel happy with life every day. It’s true, though. The next morning, after you wake up from a good cry while listening to your favorite sad songs, you feel stronger. 

Using drugs all the time just slowly makes you feel weaker. 

That’s what I had to finally realize.

My Favorite NA Quotes I've Read So Far:

“Addiction is a disease that does not discriminate.”

“Addiction has NOTHING to do with where we come from or the substances we used.”

“Addiction is a physical, mental, and spiritual disease that affects every area of our lives.”

“The mental aspect of our disease is the obsession, or overpowering desire to use, even when we are destroying our lives.”

“We were proud of the sometimes illegal and bizarre behavior that typified our using.”

“We only remembered the good drug experiences…we ignored the times when life seemed to be a nightmare.”