Addictions and Their Challenges
No Longer Under the Radar
Mike has two ways of self-medicating: alcohol and meth. Initially, he kept these two compulsions “below other people’s radar” so that they would not destroy either his very active and successful work or his family, or both.
Over time, Mike’s behaviors inescapably worsened, to the point when he became gradually unable to manage his life. His relationship with his wife and children began to be affected, he got into serious debt, and his work life began to crumble. In other words, his life began to spin out of control.
Mike realized that he was at the brink of losing a lot in life, including the two things which he valued most: work and family. His family had enough and demanded that he seek help, which he did.
Now motivated mostly internally, Mike began the challenging process of bringing his life back into balance. He has relapsed on alcohol a few times; however, he recognizes that he must continue to break the addiction chains because “it is worth it.” As an adage says, “Once you fall off the horse, get back in the saddle.”
Does Mike’s story sound familiar to you?
Do you struggle getting clean from substance(s)?
Do you need help with your problematic substance use or you will lose (or have already lost) your family and loved ones?
Do you feel selfish and have hurt a lot of people because of your substance use?
Have you hit rock bottom?
How Do People Become ‘Addicted’?
Think about the first time you experimented with alcohol and/or drugs (illicit or not): Did you intend to get addicted to them? I bet you did not. Addictions develop progressively – often without conscious awareness that the addiction is happening.
Typically there are reasons why you have turned to alcohol and/or other drugs to deal with life’s challenges:
- You have never had a chance to learn effective strategies to deal with challenges that adult life presents
- Even if you once had effective strategies to deal with life’s challenges, the constant involvement in a drug-using lifestyle may have replaced them
- Drug use and other problems may have reduced your ability to use effective healthier strategies.
Why Is It so Hard to Quit Alcohol and Drugs?
An addiction – in this case substance addiction (or substance abuse) – is not a character flaw or something that we consciously “choose” to develop. Sobriety is not a matter of how “strong” you are.
Consider the following (relax – I will not bore you with lots of scientific facts):
Alcohol and other drugs (for example, downers like alcohol, uppers like Meth, etc.) are psychoactive substances. Whoa! What the heck does that mean?
The term psychoactive means “affecting the mind.” In other words, these substances alter your brain chemistry literally – at the cellular level. That is – alcohol and other drugs alter the delicate balance that body and brain need to function properly in daily life.
For instance, regular substance use has the potential to “hijack” your brain’s reward system located in the brain’s limbic system. Its primary focus is also survival, though it is also the seat of anger, frustration, happiness, fear, love, and other emotions.
Therefore, addiction is a disease of the brain and must be treated as such. To further illustrate, check out the following YouTube video: The Addicted Brain
What Is Addiction Counseling (Therapy) Like?
Meetings through the 12-Step Program may help you remain sober; however, for a lot of people 12-step meeting attendance and participation are not sufficient. In fact, 12-step meetings are not considered to be counseling (treatment) and were never meant to be so. The most effective treatments typically approach treating an individual from a holistic perspective: physically, mentally, and socially – even spiritually.
Addiction counseling is different for everybody – there is no one “cookie cutter toward the promised land” of substance sobriety. Depending upon your situation and circumstances, we may work together to identify circumstances, thoughts, feelings – even body sensations – that you experience before (for example, cravings) and after your substance use. This helps you identify triggers and understand risky behaviors and choices that may potentially lead to use.
Addiction counseling may also include skills training to help you begin to unlearn old destructive habits and develop new and healthier ways to replace these old habits. We may prioritize substance use triggers according to how problematic they are for you – from highest to lowest.
Skills training may also include mindfulness-based relapse prevention skills: An innovative yet effective treatment approach to substance use prevention. Mindfulness-based skills can help you respond more effectively when exposed to triggers instead of reacting (or acting out) to them in habitual ways that have led to substance use.
Skills training is like purchasing a toolbox and filling it with tools to get the job done – in this case the job is to help you achieve and maintain sobriety. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EDMR) can also be useful in treating addictions.
There Is a Better Way!
You can learn alternative methods for creating what may be called “natural highs.” You can learn and incorporate ways to satisfy your natural desire to feel good in functional, life-enhancing ways instead of dysfunctional in self-destructive ways.
You can learn to soothe yourself and get to a place of well-being and balance without the need to use mind-altering chemicals. Achieving this also builds your self-esteem. You can regain control of your life through addiction counseling.