10 Things I Have Learned In 10 Years Of Sobriety

On Thursday 02 August 2018 it was my 10 years sobriety birthday and I honestly can’t believe I have made it so far. Here’s the truth – the thought of living without drugs or alcohol has always been too scary for me. The thought that I am “not allowed” to do something is not good for me. I have a defiant personality – nobody must tell me I can’t because I will go and do it.

Yes I know not exactly mature, but its the truth and I can say it. Instead I have always told myself if I want to use drugs or drink I am allowed to. Instead right now I choose not to. You see if its my choice its ok.

When I’ve had hard days and was tempted I told myself yes I can use and if I still feel this bad tomorrow I can do it, but for this moment I choose sobriety.

I have now chosen sobriety every single day for 10 days and it is incredible. On my 10th sober birthday I was overcome with emotion, I was teary all day. I didn’t expect that.

Hello, I’ve had 9 other big milestones, so what is so special about my first double digit birthday? Honestly I don’t know, but for some reason this one really got the tears going in a big way.

So I guess that this is a big recovery milestone, and in celebration I will share some of the things I have learned in last 10 years.

10 Things I've Learned In 10 Years Of Sobriety

Addiction Has Very Little To Do With Drugs or Alcohol

Yes I know, it sounds crazy right. We all picture addicts as lying in the gutter and not being able to say no to drugs. It’s the alcoholic that cannot stay away from the drink and he drinks until he pukes and passes out.

No, not really this is not true at all. There are so many things that people believe to be true when it comes to addiction.

Addiction is something else entirely, it is actually not centered whatever it is that you are addicted to whether it be street drugs, prescription medication, alcohol, sex, gambling, eating, not eating, exercise, work, internet…

It is about the person.

It is about why I used, what I was trying to escape from. It was about who became when I used drugs and drank. It was not about how much I used, when or how. It wasn’t about drugs, it was about me and the black hole I was trying to fill.

When the drugs and alcohol were gone I had to face myself and I was one messed up person.

Many people assume that the most part of addiction therapy is focused on keeping the addict away from their drug of choice, when in fact it is focused around working through past trauma, changing negative behavioral patterns and providing the addict with tools to cope with their emotions and with every day life.

Recovery Takes Time and Work

There is no such thing as recovered, I have said it over and I over. I am an addict. I am in recovery. I am not recovered. That would imply that I am cured and I am fixed. That will mean I can use again.

I know I can’t use.

It is so interesting to look back on how I have changed and matured over the years. When I was one year clean in my mind I was really working recovery and I was as close to “fixed” as an addict can get. Oh my word no, I was still so messed up then.

I look at even the first 2, 3 or even 4 years of recovery and I was like an emotionally immature child.

Recovery is not going to rehab, it is not going to meetings or doing step work. It is about living recovery, working recovery every day. Being a recovering addict is part of me and something that is part of everything I do. I am always conscious of it and know that I must evaluate every decision I make to see if I am slipping into old behavior. Yes even now 10 years down the line, in fact especially now, so I don’t slip into complacency.

Water lotus flower

Labels Suck

Addict, alcoholic, sex and love addict, codependent, bipolar disorder, nicotine addict, compulsive spender…. oh my word so many labels and so little time. I used to get so stuck on all the labels.

I am who I am and yes maybe those things are part of me, but they do not define me. I am also a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother and many more things.

When I was first diagnosed as bipolar it felt like my world was crashing and I had this huge label on my forehead telling everyone how damaged I was.

If you are in early recovery, let them slap labels on you and just relax. You are still the same person you were yesterday before you got the label. Learn about it, figure out how to manage it and find some coping skills, but don’t get too stuck on it.

There’s More Than One Way

Yes I got clean in rehab and I am part of the 12 step program but that is not the only way. There are people that get clean through their church, youth programs, SMART recovery and cognitive behavioral therapy and they are just fine.

When I got clean it was hammered into me that the 12 steps is THE way. It is a way and it is the way I did it but I now have a much more open mind and yes I attend meetings every now and then but I have a wide circle of recovery friends and lots of them do things differently. That’s ok.

I still do some 12 step meetings, but I mostly have formed my own support network of recovering addicts, other mothers and people with mental health issues. I’ve joined online support groups and I take part in online coaching which I find very beneficial.

Peace and harmony

An Addict Will Do It When Ready

When I sponsored addicts I would get so hung up on them staying clean – if an addict is ready he will find the way. He will find recovery and he will get clean. If he is not ready it will not happen. Yes things that I say or do can perhaps make a difference but it is out of my hands.

Now I don’t get too involved, I take a step back and I guide where needed. I am happier for it.

Happiness Is A Choice

Yes I know there are people with clinical depression that need counseling and possibly medication but I am no talking about those people. I am talking about me.

When I decided to be happy I became happy. When I decided to love myself I started to love myself. When I decided to love my life I started to love my life.

A lot of our mindset is a choice. Often we choose to be stuck. I unstuck myself and I am so grateful I did. I was stuck long into my recovery journey and it is only quite recently that I feel well and truly unstuck.

Finally I feel at one with myself and with my life. Everything feels right and I feel a peace. This is for the first time in my life.

Love Is Not A Feeling

Being a sex and love addict I was always searching for this feeling of love, for this high that comes with it. It does not exist, ok maybe he first time you fall in love with someone you get that giddy feeling but that fades away and reality sets in. After that love is a choice and it is work.

Love is a doing thing, it is not a feeling. Except when it comes to my kids… then it is an overwhelming feeling of love and loads of doing… doing washing, doing dishes, doing homework, wiping little noses…

But when it comes to my marriage there has been a lot of learning. I’ve had to grow up and learn how to truly love someone and be committed.

And love is not only about other people, it is also for myself. I need to look after myself and love myself, this too takes work.

Ashtray cigarattes

Nicotine Addiction Is HECTIC

I started smoking when I was 14 years old and I smoked for 22 years – for more than half my life. Two years ago I quit smoking and it was harder than quitting drugs and alcohol. It knocked me for a sixer, but I did it and I am proud.

I’ve started to wonder what the gateway drug really is. Some people call it marijuana but I wonder if it isn’t actually cigarettes and then alcohol? Both are more “socially acceptable” than street drugs and they are a huge problem.

I bet most people that try marijuana for the first time have smoked a cigarette first.

Active Addiction Is Harder Than Recovery

Everyone tells me “Oh it must have been so hard to get clean!” and yes it was hard. However when I really started to work on my recovery I quickly realized that is was much easier than using. I only put a fraction of the effort into my recovery that I put into using and I flew.

Being in active addiction is so much work! It is hard and it is draining. All that scheming to get money to get drugs, all that scheming to get hold of the drugs, then covering up doing the drugs and lying to people. Then lying to people to cover up the lies that you told other people. Then not remembering what lies you told to each person. All the ducking and diving and worrying.

It was awful. Being in recovery is easier, it is lighter on the soul. Yes you have to start cleaning up the messes you made but you are not living in the mess and drama anymore.

I Detest Drama

Early recovery felt strange, it always felt like something was about to happen, like something should happen. Things were so calm and smooth. It felt uncomfortable and I was always on edge.

Over time this feeling became normal. It is the absence of drama.

My life used to be constant drama and now I detest drama. When things go pear shaped now I get this awful feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach.

I like the quiet and the calm of being at home. I like routine and family life. This is what life is about.

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5 Mental Health Benefits of Cycling

It goes without saying that cycling is a rewarding, fun and invigorating activity for men and women of all ages. It’s one of the best forms of exercise if you intend to lose weight, gain strength among other benefits. But, did you know that cycling benefits your mental health?

Humanity is constantly affected by depression, anxiety, stroke and other stress-related illnesses. This is a result of daily pressures of life. They range from financial needs, work issues, to relationships and family issues.

No wonder, the substance abuse rate is high. Additionally, mental hospitals and the streets have new mental illnesses brought in every day.

Lack of a balanced mental health may have adverse effects on humans. In the recent years, most people have understood the essence of daily exercise. You not only maintain a physically fit body but also mental health.

This article will help you identify the benefits of cycling for mental health.

5 Mental Health Benefits Of Cycling

Cycling relieves stress

Like most exercises, cycling relieves stress. Cycling and other aerobic exercises reduce the formation of cortisol and adrenaline. In the process, your body produces the endorphins which are your happy hormones.

Pedalling increases the production and circulation of oxygen and consequently the production of endorphins. When your body has a high rate of endorphins, stress has no place. It also makes you focus on beneficial things for a short while.

Sometimes all your body needs is that distraction from your mental negative thoughts and pictures. Furthermore, if you live in a city that has uncontrollable traffic jam during high peak, cycling will help you save the time while relieving you of the financial stress.

The 21st century has seen the rise of work that requires people to sit in front of a computer for hours. This may result in body fatigue, eyes strain and general mental stress. Since cycling engages all your body parts, it’s the best exercise to combat the body and mental strain.

Cycling alleviates an individual’s mood, release the body tension and overall stabilizes their mental structure. As you can see, you have every reason to buy the best bike for women or men and begin cycling.

Freedom cycling

It changes your mental well being

The brain will receive a normal and enhanced blood flow which generally improves your mood, memory and shields you from the effects of aging. In fact, if you are elderly, cycling makes you active and happy thereby reducing the aging cells.

A high self-esteem is vital for every human being. You see, riding will make you set goals and work towards achieving them. You boost your self-esteem in achieving a set goal. You have something to look forward to and you feel worthy.

This activity aides in the production of serotonin and dopamine chemicals which make you feel good and happy. With these chemicals, you will sleep better thus have enough rest for your physical body to handle a new day.

The human hormonal imbalances lead to stress. Taking the right nutrition and the best form of exercise will strengthen you physically and emotionally.

It improves your creative thinking and thus productivity

Everyone in different profession suffers from a mental block at one point in time. Going for a ride makes you bond with nature which then helps you release the mental block. Take time to ride where tall trees are or at the beach among other forms of nature.

As the wind hits your face and there is an exchange of fresh air while increasing your heart rate. In the process, your mind clears of most unnecessary information stored in. this makes you feel good and creative then new ideas begin to flow.

Refocusing your brain power to daily cycling means you have diverted your attention to a positive place. This will help boost your energy levels. Its said that those who ride to their places of work are more productive.

Most people can’t understand how cycling like any other exercise boosts your energy. Here is how this happens; when you use your physical energy, the increased heart rate helps to produce chemicals that boost your energy.

Cycling outing

It combats anxiety and depression

Every other individual experience stress and anxiety at one point or another. However consistent anxiety is detrimental to your health. You begin to develop panic attacks among other related illnesses. When you cycle your cortisol and adrenaline levels balances thus maintaining a good mental health.

Besides, outdoor exercise slowly helps you move from ‘your distractive mind’. Depressed people think and create damaging mental images. In the process, they may either become sick or others decide to abuse drugs.

The mentally ill people often abuse drugs to forget their woes and experience some elation. But, this joy makes you dependent on the drug. That’s why cycling or other forms of exercise is more effective. In fact, if you can find a riding team the better. Developing a social relationship will help you out of mental illnesses.

Instead of fully depending on psychotherapy and anti-depressants, go for engaging exercise like cycling. Commit to the activity everyday and watch the difference.

Makes you happy while boosting your confidence

You don’t need to exercise for hours to boost your moods. Even a 15 minutes cycle every day is great. Various studies have indicated that those with an active lifestyle are happier. You see there are many people who ride as a form of transport, for fitness while others do it for fun.

We achieve happiness by finding out what brings you joy and doing it. Aside from that, riding produces endorphins hormones which are joy boosters. Observing yourself become fit and hearing compliments is a definite confidence booster.

When you see yourself achieving certain set goals, you will believe in yourself more.

Conclusion

Cycling is not only one of the cheapest mode of transportation but also an easy and fun mode of exercise. You don’t need massive preparation in terms of finances especially if you already have the bike. All you need is your motivation and a suitable place to ride for as little as 20 minutes a day.

As you can see, the benefits of riding abound. So, go out and join the world of riders to maintain a healthy mind, spirit and body.


About The Author

Sophie Elise is a passionate cyclist, author, and blogger. She is very passionate about writing on different types of women’s bikes, accessories, health, fitness and more. She regularly writes on sportsly.net


 

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How To Decide When To End A Relationship

A relationship takes a lot of hard work to maintain, even if you love one another. Every relationship is going to hit hard times at some point but if you’re serious about it, you should take steps to work through those problems and come out stronger on the other side. But in some cases, you can’t work through the issues in the relationship and it’s time to bring things to an end. Deciding whether there are things you can do to fix the relationship or whether you should end it can be difficult and if you don’t make the right call, you might end up regretting it for years to come. If you’re struggling to decide if you should end a relationship or not, here are some things to consider.

Pixabay

Have You Spoken To A Professional?

This is usually a last resort option before you decide to end things for good. Sometimes, you and your partner just don’t know how to work around a problem but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be solved. If you go to couples counselling, they will be able to help you get to the root of the problems in the relationship and show you techniques and behaviour to help you improve things. If you get to that stage and things still aren’t working, then it might be time to throw in the towel and end the relationship.

Do You Trust Each Other?

Trust is one of the most important parts of a relationship. Your partner should be a person that you can trust without question and if that isn’t the case, you’re in big trouble. If you find that you’re constantly questioning your partner about where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing, that’s a bad sign. If you’re both feeling that way, communication will break down between you and that is going to kill the relationship completely. When you find yourself starting to mistrust one another, you need to start being honest with your partner and hope that they do the same. In some cases, you’ll find that your worries are unfounded and things will start to repair themselves but if you can’t rebuild that trust, it’s probably time to put an end to the relationship and go your separate ways.

Do You Have The Same Values?

Our personal values make us who we are. Your beliefs about the world should be important to you and your partner should be someone that understands and respects those values. That doesn’t mean you have to agree on everything and you can still have a fulfilling relationship with somebody even if you have different ideals about certain things. However, the important thing to remember is that there should always be a level of respect between the two of you. When somebody doesn’t respect your values, that’s when alarm bells should start ringing. If disagreements about things are starting to come between the two of you, you need to sit down and talk about it. If you can come to some kind of compromise and move forward, things will be ok. But if your difference of opinion is constantly causing arguments and you can’t find a way around it, the relationship isn’t likely to work out.

Are You Excited About The Future?

When you’ve been with somebody for a while and the relationship becomes serious, you’ll start thinking about the future. The idea of getting married to that person and starting a family with them should be exciting to you. But if you find that you’re thinking about it and it’s not exciting you, you need to ask yourself why. In some cases, the reason that you aren’t looking forward to your future with that person is because there are other issues with the relationship. If you can take steps to sort out those issues, you might find that your attitude changes and you start to look forward to your future together again. But if you learn to work through the other problems in the relationship and you’re still not able to picture a happy future together, that’s a sign that you just aren’t right for one another and you should not move forward with the relationship.

Do You Still Have Fun?

Pixabay

In the early stages of a relationship, it’s all the good stuff without any of the bad. But when things get a bit more serious and you start living together etc. you’ll have to deal with some of the more boring day to day aspects of a relationship. That’s normal and you’re not going to be spending as much time going out on dates and having fun together like you did when you first met. However, it’s important that you’re still enjoying one another’s company. If you aren’t, you’re just 2 people living together, you’re not in a healthy relationship. All of that fun stuff comes easily at the start of a relationship but when you’ve been together for a while, you need to work at it a bit. Make an effort to find time for each other and try to do more interesting things in the evenings, rather than just sitting and watching the TV together. If you’re still struggling and even when you do find the time, you just don’t enjoy each other’s company anymore, the relationship may not be right.

Do You Still Know Them?

This sounds like an odd question but after you’ve been with somebody for a long while and you might have started to grow apart, you can lose sight of who that person is. If you think that they’ve changed a lot recently and you feel like you don’t know them anymore, that’s a warning sign. It’s normal for people to change and you shouldn’t end the relationship right away, you should make an effort to get to know them again. But if you find that you don’t get along like you did when you first met, no matter how hard you try, then the relationship probably cannot be saved.

Ending a relationship is always a huge decision so make sure that you consider these things before you do anything.

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Substance Use Disorder: Is it a Mental Illness?

Addiction is a common disease that impacts millions of people across the United States, but the lens through which we see addiction can change significantly. Many of us are familiar with the stereotype of an underachiever suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction. It’s easy to see addiction when its effects have created visible marks throughout a person’s life, such as financial difficulties or a criminal record. However, addiction also has a hidden side.

Substance Abuse Disorder - Is It A Mental Illness?

Many high-achieving individuals use drugs and alcohol in ways that cause harm, but the effects of this abuse isn’t visible to the outside observer. There isn’t a typical drug or alcohol addict. This disease impacts people from all walks of life equally. However, people who are able to effectively hide their addiction are less likely to receive treatment than those who wear their addiction on their sleeve.

For high-achieving individuals, addiction is a deeply personal issue. Many professionals facing substance abuse issues may view their addiction as a sign of personal weakness or as a moral defect in their personalities. However, it’s important to remember that addiction is simply a misapplication of the brain’s natural reward circuitry. At its core, addiction is an issue where the brain has trained its reward circuitry to respond to harmful, artificial stimuli (such as drugs and alcohol) instead of natural, beneficial ones.

The reward circuitry in the human brain is driven by a complex chemical cascade. At the core of most reward pathways in the brain is dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. It’s also used by the brain as part of its reward system. When the human body does something that is considered beneficial (in terms of evolutionary survival and reproduction), the brain releases a burst of dopamine.

Lonely woman on pier

Human reward circuitry is designed to respond to activities and environments that improve the odds of passing on genes to the next generation. When we eat a delicious meal, our brains are flooded with dopamine. This is the way that our body tells us what we’re doing is a ‘good thing’ in terms of survival of the human species. When we engage in sexual activity, our brains are also flooded with dopamine, since reproduction is one of our core purposes in life (in evolutionary terms).

Unfortunately, this reward circuitry often backfires in the modern world. In the past, humans were primarily a hunter-gatherer society. To get that hit of dopamine from food, our early ancestors may have had to march dozens of miles across the savannah before they could capture game to eat. Their desire to hunt was driven by a combination of hunger and an unconscious desire to trigger the reward circuitry in their brain. The same applied to gatherers: Each sweet berry that a forager managed to find might trigger a small release of dopamine. Likewise, each time an early human copulated, their brain rewarded them with a hit of dopamine, helping to make sure that we, as humans, would still be around today.

Empty street with benches in autumn

While our brain’s reward circuitry helped humanity survive and flourish in a harsh environment, our modern world has caused problems for many of these systems. Instead of dopamine serving as a reward for behavior that benefitted ourselves (both on an individual and species-level), we can get that same hit of dopamine through many activities that are harmful or detrimental to our health.

Many of us know the dangers of consuming too much fat, sugar or salt. Overconsumption of this trifecta can cause Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and the many health problems associated with obesity. However, our brains are primed to love foods with these ingredients. For early humans, fruits like berries contained natural sugars, which served as a valuable energy source. This sweet tooth led early humans to forage for hours for these small tastes of sweetness nestled among bushes and trees.
Things have changed. Now, we can now go to the grocery store and buy a two-liter bottle of concentrated sugar water for only a few dollars. A single glass of a soft drink may contain the sugar equivalent of several pounds of berries or natural fruit. The same applies for fat and salt.

While fat and salt are essential for human health, our modern lifestyles allows us to consume these substances in amounts that can leave our arteries riddled with plaque and our heart valves crusted with cholesterol.

Drugs and alcohol hijack this reward circuitry in even more insidious ways. While fat, sugar and salt are now available to us in quantities that are harmful to health, they trigger our reward circuitry in the same way as our early ancestors. Drugs and alcohol, on the other hand, hijack this reward circuitry, causing a massive release of dopamine for little or no effort.

Young girls out at night

Just like a computer hacker gaining illegal access to a network, drugs and alcohol cross the blood-brain barrier to trigger specific clusters of neurons in the brain. The reason that drugs and alcohol feel good is because they activate our reward circuitry for an extended period of time. Instead of this reward circuitry being activated for brief moments throughout the day, drugs and alcohol allow us to open the dopamine floodgates in our brains, triggering euphoria in ways that aren’t naturally possible.

Not all drugs are the same. Some milder drugs, such as nicotine, may only trigger a small release of dopamine in the brain. Very addictive drugs, like methamphetamine and heroin, can trigger a release of dopamine that is greater than anything an individual has experienced in his or her life.

One of the reasons that drugs are so addictive is because our reward systems aren’t designed to be continually activated. When we hijack the reward pathways of our brains with addictive substances, we’re literally rewiring the way we pursue pleasure. Instead of getting enjoyment from a nice meal and a romantic evening with a loved one, addiction unconsciously teaches us that we can get an even better substance from a chemical.

Drug or alcohol addiction isn’t a moral failing, nor does it represent a weakness in character. Addiction is a learned behavior that has embedded itself so deep in our psyche that it can drive every decision we make. When the reward circuitry of the brain has been completely hijacked, an individual suffering from addiction will do whatever he or she can to achieve another cascade of dopamine. Addiction completely rewires an individual’s motivations from healthy ones to malicious ones.

 

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Does Counseling Help with Addiction?

Addiction is not an easy thing to beat. Actually, it can be the most difficult thing you ever have to do. Addiction does not play by the rules like you have to do. Your addiction will lie to you and make you believe that what you are doing is good for you even as it is ruining your life. It does not even matter what it is you are addicted to because no matter what it is, it will be incredibly hard to beat, but it is possible. You can do it. Many people who also thought they could never do it have done it before. You can do it too! Those who have never been addicted to anything think it is easy. Some people may say, “why don’t you just stop?” or “I would never do that” but they have no idea what it is really like unless they have been there.

Does Counseling Help With Addiction

Addiction or Abuse?

Drug addiction and abuse are two of the most common mental health problems in Americans. In fact, there are over 20 million adults in the United States who suffer with one of these addictions. Everyone has heard of drug addiction and abuse, but are they the same thing? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the difference is the number of diagnostic criteria the person has. For example, you are addicted if you have at least three of the seven signs of drug addiction. However, the DSM uses the term dependence rather than addiction. These criteria include:

  • Consuming more of the substance
  • Continuing to use the substance even if it causes issues with school, business, personal life
  • Giving up other interests such as social life, job, and daily activities
  • Spending too much time looking for or trying to get the substance
  • Tolerance (needing more and more to get the same effect)
  • Trying to quit using without being able to
  • Withdrawal (varies depending on the drug)
    • Feeling aggravated
    • Anxiety and stress
    • Depression
    • Hallucinations
    • Nausea and vomiting

Substance Abuse

What exactly is substance abuse then? If the person has at least one, but less than three, of the above criteria, that would be considered substance abuse. With abuse, it is more of an occasional type of drug or alcohol use. For instance, those who abuse alcohol may only drink once or twice a month, but when it happens, they do not know when to stop. With addiction, the problem is continuous and the person is always looking for their next drink (or drug).

Hands on wooden heart

What Addiction Really Means

There have been many experts who believe that addicts have addictive behaviors, so when they try to quit, they will most often just trade one addiction for another. For instance, an alcoholic may quit drinking alcohol but start taking another drug or a smoker may trade nicotine for food. In truth, those with addictive personalities typically will have more than one addiction. For example, some who are addicted to gambling are also addicted to alcohol and those addicted to cigarettes will often drink alcohol as well. This issue is not only applicable to illegal or dangerous substances either. People have become addicted to anything from shopping to video games or even food. Anything that a person does repeatedly and becomes a compulsion can become an addiction. In the same way, addictive behaviors are repeating an activity because it makes the addict feel good. It certainly does not have to be a bad thing, like drugs. In fact, some addictions are good. How do you know the difference? A bad addiction takes away from your life and a good addiction adds to your life.

Some Tips That May Help

Once you realize you have an addiction, it is time to talk to a professional and find out if your addiction is good or bad. Then, if necessary, you can find out how to fix the problem. A therapist or counselor can help you decide what you need to work on. You can also use some of these tips to help you figure out the issue:

  • Accept That There Is No Cure: That’s right, there is no magic pill that can cure your addiction. There is no magic addiction fairy who can wave a magic wand and stop those cravings and urges you may be feeling. Addiction is a disease you will have to deal with your entire life. You cannot just say, “I used to be an addict” because you still are and will always be an addict. You are a recovering addict because you still have that little voice inside you telling you that it is okay to drink that beer or use that drug. Addiction is like a dormant cancer cell inside your body that will stay dormant until you feed it.
  • Get it Out of the House: No matter what it is you are addicted to, get it out of your house. Of course, if it is food that you are addicted to, you cannot get rid of all the food. However, you can get rid of those foods that are most tempting for you such as chocolate, pizza, ravioli, and donuts.
  • Have a Support System: It could be your family, friends, co-workers, or even the members of your AA or NA meetings. You need to have someone to call if you are feeling stressed or if you feel like you want to drink/smoke/gamble/etc. Without a support system, it is harder to stay on track. You can do it, but you will be much more successful if you have someone to back you up when you need it.
  • Talk to Your Doctor: Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor what you are doing and ask for some help. Antidepressants such as bupropion (Wellbutrin) and fluoxetine (Prozac) are two that help curb the cravings and take the edge off the anxiety.
  • Write Down the Pros and Cons: Take a few minutes to write down the pros and cons of beating your addiction. For example, you may put your family and your health in the pros column and job loss and relationship troubles in the cons column.

Whatever you decide to do, be sure to let your psychologist know about it because he or she will surely have some tips for you. Your doctor can help you as well, but, the best thing to do is speak to a mental health professional right away. They will help you begin to understand your addiction. The more you understand, the easier it will be to fight and win.

Pensive woman

Could You Be Addicted?

Although you need a professional to answer that question, there are a few things you can ask yourself if you think you may have a problem:

  • Are you missing days or showing up late at work due to using the substance?
  • Are you using the substance while doing things you used to do sober such as hanging out with friends or watching television?
  • Do you find yourself thinking about the substance during the day?
  • Do you go out of your way to find or use the substance?
  • Has using the substance caused any problems with friends or family?
  • Has using the substance caused you to make mistakes at work or school?
  • Have you had any legal problems due to your substance use?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you definitely should talk to a counselor or your physician. No matter what, you need to get treatment before it becomes a bigger problem than you can handle. Sites like BetterHelp can help you find the right person and you do not even have to leave the house. Don’t wait until it causes you serious trouble. You can talk to someone today and start to feel better.


Marie MiguelAbout The Author

Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.


 

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13 Safe Ways To Deal With Paranoia

Can a person be their own enemy? Even though we should feel safe in our own company, for a paranoid person, they may never feel at ease with themselves. We all experience insecurities a paranoid person experiences constant feeling that never goes away. Though there are different kinds of paranoia, most people perceive the world as a dangerous place to be. There is no known cause of paranoia and individuals experience it differently.

Anxiety and paranoia may be related, but they are not the same condition. Paranoia is an extreme case of anxiety. A paranoid person sees danger surrounding them and may have delusions that are not easy to break. With paranoia, you are likely to perceive conspiracy around your relations with others and attack others for the feelings. You may become offended easily and find it hard to cope with criticism. How can you deal with this condition? 

13 Safe Ways To Deal With Paranoia

Find a jury

Your friends can help you determine the degree of your delusions. Talking about your feelings to them can help you know if you are clinically paranoid. Since most people develop such symptoms depending on various situations, your friends can tell you if you need help or it is a normal condition that is temporary. Don’t conclude before getting a second opinion from those who know you.

Evaluate yourself

Other people may not know the cause of your paranoia, but only you can find out through examining yourself. Studies reveal that this condition can be brought about by past painful life experiences that you may not have gotten over. Write down your feelings as you assess the intensity of what you feel.  

Practice dialetic thinking

Being in public can make you judge things inaccurately if you are paranoid. With the help of a friend, they can help you practice dialetic thinking by asking them their views on something before reacting negatively towards others. This will help you think again about your perception so that you don’t jump into conclusions.

Woman watching railway

Develop a sense of self

Instead of attacking others based on your thoughts, start developing a sense of self to help you control your reactions. Don’t always assume that people are planning to harm you or are talking about you. Most of the times, all these thoughts are false but just a delusion in the head.

See the good in situations

In most cases, a paranoid person may not realize that they are mentally ill. They tend to believe that their thoughts are a reality without finding facts in situations. Instead of focusing on your negative thoughts, try to see the good in situations before confronting others. 

Get support

You may be experiencing delusions due to substance abuse. Heaver drinkers sometimes get hallucinations. Statistics state that about 80% of cocaine users face paranoia. TN drug and alcohol treatment will help you fight drug addictions and get rid of symptoms of hallucinations.

People also assume that prescription drugs are safe to use. Taking high dosages of these pills can also make you paranoid. Stimulants such as caffeine are not healthy when taken in large quantities since they affect your sleeping patterns and can cause paranoia. Change your lifestyle and get assistance from a professional who can help you with such addictions.

Friends support

Find an exit tactic

In a situation where you are in public and feel you can’t control your feelings, find a strategy to leave. You can excuse yourself or ask a friend to take you home. This will prevent the symptoms from getting out of hand and causing a scene in the midst of strangers.

Plan on how to handle triggers

It may not be possible to skip classes or work because of paranoia. You can, however, identify the common triggers so that you can know how to deal with them as you go on with your life. For instance, to feel at peace, if a particular area makes you feel in danger, start by avoiding it.

Distract your mind from paranoid thoughts

Not dwelling on things that make you feel paranoid can help you feel better. Hang out with friends and avoid being alone so that you can stop perceiving threats around you. Go out for walks or entertain yourself with music or a movie. 

Avoid self-judgment

Sometimes, you may be too hard on yourself due to uncontrollable emotions. Instead of judging yourself, examine your thoughts to find out why you react the way you do in different situations. Self-judgment can cause depression and low self-esteem.

Watch out for symptoms of paranoid personality disorder

Check if your symptoms range from suspicion, bearing grudges, withdrawal from others, rage as well as hostility. Understanding your symptoms can help you determine the severity of your condition. This is because mental states differ and some people confuse anxiety with paranoia.

Take prescribed medication

A doctor can prescribe long-term medicines that can help you reduce the symptoms of paranoia. Ensure that you take the medication as prescribed as you go for medical check-ups regularly.  A doctor can recommend a change in dosage according to your symptoms.

Talking with friend coffee

Attend therapy

With the help of a therapist, you can determine if you are experiencing mild or severe paranoia. Therapy can help you comprehend your feelings as a journey to recovery. The wide range of treatment gives you the liberty to switch therapists if you feel you are not getting help from one. Your therapy session should make you feel comfortable so that you can open up to them. Being paranoid can make you develop trust issues, but a therapist is a confidential professional that you will not share your problems with others.

Final thoughts

Even though it is normal to feel insecure, constant fear of the unknown is a sign of paranoia. Identifying the mental condition in its early stages can help you prevent it from worsening. Our mechanisms above will help you find your peace again as you address the issues making you feel paranoid. Do not face the problem on your own but raise it with others as you maintain a healthy lifestyle.

 

 

 

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How Secondary Gain Fuels Alcoholism

While you may not know it by this name, secondary gain exists in alcoholism, whether we like it or not. Secondary gain plays a huge role in addiction, and, can be a significant contributor to denial and likelihood of relapse once sober.

Simply put, secondary gain equates to: what specifically alcohol is achieving for you, personally, as a “side-benefit”. If they go unchecked, these side-benefits can later morph into the main reasons we’re using alcohol at all.

But, there are ways to understand these underlying factors in our addictions, and undo the damage done. Let’s take a look.

While denial exists to protect our access to the coping mechanism called alcohol; secondary gain is more like – “what benefits am I getting from alcohol, that I may not have thought of?”….and what issues do those point me to?

How Secondary Gain Fuels Alcoholism

Consider the key questions:

  • How has alcohol served me?
  • How has alcohol not served me?

What has alcohol helped me do? What feelings does it help me achieve, that I’m unable to achieve  in other ways? What situations does it help me cope with, and what feelings am I running from, in those scenarios?

I could be drinking because…

  • When I have a drink, I feel “more worthy” or “good enough” again.
  • When I have a drink, I feel more important or respected
  • Or, when I have a drink, I feel more lovable, accepted…. or like “what I say matters”.

At one point in our lives, having a drink was ONE way to cope, but for the alcoholic in us, it quickly became the ONLY means to cope, because of these secondary benefits it gave us.

So we’ve learned over time, a survival strategy belief, for instance:

  • “the way to feel good enough again, is to drink”
  • “the way to feel worthy again, even in the face of outside stressors, is to have a drink”
  • “the way to feel like I matter again, is alcohol”
  • “the way to feel competent again, is to drink”

It’s clear therefore, that we’re using alcohol as a means to quell the underlying self-esteem beliefs, like “I’m not good enough”, “I’m not worthy”, “I’m not important”, or “I’m not acceptable”.

Do you recognise these underlying themes in yourself? In your behaviours when stressed?

Now, if we address these underlying core beliefs, therapeutically, (instead of with alcohol) is it clear  to you that there would be much less need to even turn to a coping mechanism at all?

These are the core elements of self – the highly individual, person-centered elements, that we must understand about ourselves, beyond the group support mechanisms such as A/A, N/A, mutual aid support, etc. Often these are discovered and explored in private rehab settings, such as the folks over at alcohol rehab Scotland.

These elements of secondary gain are the underlying drivers behind the addiction – that sit underneath the addiction. It is the fear of these underlying issues surfacing, untempered, that then drives the patterns of denial, and keeps us in the cycle of addiction, without ever truly understanding *why* we feel the way they do.

Bar Counter

So…How to break the cycle of alcoholism using this understanding?

  • Using the questions above, take the time to consider what secondary advantages alcohol could be giving (or have given you previously) in your life
  • To help this along, try to identify common patterns in your trigger situations, “I always turn to alcohol in _____ situation;” “I always feel like a drink when ____ happens”. What might you be trying to avoid, or gain, in these situations?
  • What feelings does alcohol bring to the fore in these situations, that weren’t there before? What does alcohol help you feel in these situations?
  • When you *do* have a drink, what does it make you/get you/get for you?
  • Now consider the mirror opposite – e.g. when you’re tempted to drink, and you don’t drink, what feelings surface at that point, that weren’t there before?
  • Now using your answers from the above, fill in the blanks: “What makes me ________ is drinking alcohol”; and “The way to feel _________ is to drink alcohol”
  • Usually, the blanks in the above are your core issues and core beliefs which need attention, to change the pattern of the addiction in your life.
  • Finally….stop blaming yourself for the small relapses – but instead – use them to help you truly know yourself, and your addiction, better. Examine what led to the binge or relapse, what you were trying to cope with at the time – and understand that these moments point you to the underlying issues – and as such – are a huge help in overcoming alcoholism in the longer term.

Often times the issues revealed from this exercise are deep core issues, self-esteem blocks, or specific traumas from the past, that need professional mental health assistance.

Just as in our step work, they require us to face our issues directly, accept responsibility for them, and accept that we have a human tendency to choose a negative behaviour over a positive one, whilst in the darker clutches of addiction.

But moving through these issues, getting the third-party help and fellowship we need, and making consistent progress, no matter how little, will ultimately result in us simply no longer needing the coping mechanism we once did….because the underlying truth has been faced.

Now, let’s be realistic, there’s much more to maintaining abstinence and long term recovery than just these issues….but, when we add this self discovery to the bigger picture of mutual aid support, sponsorship, and other mental health care tailored to individual needs – then recovery can feel much more realistic, and one degree more achievable. And that can make all the difference.

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7 Ways Dogs ‘the Mood Boosters’ Can Help You Fight Depression

Dogs have a life-changing impact on you and your family. Dogs not only have an ‘immune-boosting’ impact on your newly-born babies but also they have an impressive ‘mood-boosting’ power to cheer you up in the toughest situation. Whether it’s your mental health or physical health, your dog unconsciously endeavors to keep that in check and get you back on track. Your pooch can help you with your anxiety, stress and depression. Studies have shown that therapy dogs have helped children with autism and people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Did you know that there are two types of mental health issues we are mostly likely prone to due to our family history? We are either prone to anxiety or depression. My family has depression-prone history which makes it easier for me to get upset and depressed on little stuff. I always seek natural ways to cure medical issues rather than depending entirely on medicines for life. My friend, Martin, suggested me to bring home a dog, Leo. Leo had a huge impact on my life and helped me stay engaged with the cute furball during free time at home.

7 Ways Dogs Can Help Your Fight Depression

How Dogs Help us?

Among all the pets, dogs are most attuned to human emotions and behaviors. They have the ability to understand our commands, interpret the tone of our voice, gestures and body language. The man’s best friend looks into the eyes of his owner to understand the emotional state of the person. A person in similar room may not notice the change in your emotions and expressions, but a dog will always be the first one to notice. He is no less than a mind-reader who can understand what you must be thinking and feeling after the dog has acted in a certain way.

Ways in Which Mood-Busters Help Us:

Most of the pet-owners know what joy and happiness a pet brings in their life, but they are not really aware of the mental and physical health benefits they are reaping due to the pet. Various studies have been conducted on dogs and their owner’s mental and physical health which have shown that dogs are literally ‘man’s best friend’. American Heart Association conducted studies to prove the fact that dog ownership, in specific, lowers the risk of heart problems and ensures longevity.

Labrador sniffing hand

Below are the seven reasons why you should bring home these ‘mood-boosting’ Fidos to fight depression:

  1. Improved Mood:

Increase in physical activity with a companion pet doubles the production of serotonin, one of the ‘happiness hormones’. It is a neurotransmitter that assists in the transmission of nerve impulses within the brain. Research has shown that reduced level of serotonin causes depression. Therefore, a pet dog is a necessary addition to your family to enjoy happiness and overall well-being.

  1. Unconditional Love and Acceptance:

We all can be selfish one way or the other, but dogs are different. They teach us to be selfless, be open and share more laughter with the world. People suffering from depression need someone patient enough to listen to them and still continue to love them unconditionally. Your Fido will never leave your side and they will make your life simpler and easier to live. Why? Dogs don’t really complicate anything in spite of your drastic mood swings. Teri Wright, PhD from WebMD, says that the stability of human-animal bond benefits the people suffering from anxiety or depression.

  1. Reduce Blood Pressure:

Petting a dog itself is one of the most relaxing act one can do while sitting on a couch. The contact with pet during hugs, licks, and kisses increases the release of happy hormones in the blood stream. The level of endorphins increases and the stress hormones ‘cortisol’ drops down to a great extent. Study conducted at Harvard Medical School has proved that petting a dog reduces heart rate and, therefore, blood pressure.

Dogs make daily physical activity an essential part of our routine no matter how gloomy we may be feeling. We have to follow active routines to keep the pooch happy and well-behaved. Studies have shown an increased physical activity reduces blood pressure. In consequence, improved heart and mental health are enjoyed by dog owners.

  1. Disciplined Routine:

Dogs only follow routines. They can easily get upset or anxious if the schedule is not followed. It is due to anxiety that many behavioral problems such as destructive chewing, excessive barking, etc develop in pooches. You will have to serve food on time to keep the Fido relaxed. Have you tried following raw diet trends for the pooch? Serve natural and raw if you prefer natural treatments for yourself.

Following routines for the pooch will help you set a daily schedule for yourself. Did you know that timetables have great ability to drive us through the day? The patterns will keep you engaged and disciplined.

Cute puppy

  1. Build Responsibility:

Dogs are a huge responsibility as they have a mind equal to that of a toddler. They provide meaning to our life. You will be encouraged to wake up early in the morning for the sake of your pet. Providing comfort and happiness to the pooch will give you a sense of achievement and satisfaction. It will keep you away from destructive feelings due to depression. Your dog will become the true meaning of your life again.

The continual engagement with the dog will not let your thoughts stray away on the negative side. Moreover, caring for the dog will help you take care of yourself.

  1. Good Company:

Leo’s company is what I adore about him the most! Dogs are your faithful companions who will never leave your side. No matter how much angry you have been the moment before, he will forget it immediately if you fulfill his basic needs and wishes.

Depression forces you to avoid people as you desire a silent companionship. Dogs can quietly listen to you for hours without being critical, judgmental or opinionated.

  1. Improved Social Skills:

Bringing dogs home is equal to opening yourself up to many people around. Dogs wouldn’t enjoy staying at home all day long. Ultimately, you will be advised to take them out for a walk or to dog parks daily to exhaust their extra energies. Moreover, you may have to visit the vet, dog behaviorist, pet sitter and so on for your dog’s sake. It will bring you thousands of opportunities to meet new people and socialize more often.

You will not have to fight depression alone rather you may find like-minded people who are fighting the challenge of depression as well. Wouldn’t it be amazing to do it together?


James ShoreAbout The Author

James is a part-time dog-trainer and dog behavior consultant with years of experience in dog training and the man behind LabradorTrainingHQ.com. He is interested in finding out fun ways to handle dog behaviors, specifically, Labradors to help dog-owners enjoy their companions at all times.


 

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8 Tips For Staying Clean In Early Recovery

Many people think that getting clean is the hardest part and while that may be true in certain cases, especially when it comes to drugs such as heroin which can have an intensely hard detox process, however very often the hard part is in early recovery. The drugs have completely left your system and you are no longer physically craving the drug but facing life on life’s terms and learning how to cope with every day situations is tough. In addition to facing every day situations you will also need to face the music when it comes to all the consequences of your addiction. This is the reason why many addicts get clean and then relapse again after just a few short months.

Once you have come off your drug of choice the hard work really begins. Here are some tips for staying clean in early recovery:

8 Tips For Staying Clean In Early Recovery

Go To Meetings

If you got clean through a 12 Step program make sure to go to meetings regularly – as often as you possibly can. In the 12 Step Program they talk about attending 90 meetings in 90 days and this is a great idea. It may seem like a lot of work and it may be a strain but it will really help you to stay clean.

There are also SMART recovery meetings that you can attend. You may have gotten clean through a church program – speak to someone there are find out if there are regular support meetings you can attend.

It doesn’t matter how you got clean – what matters now is that you stay clean and doing it alone is hard and chances of relapse are high. Find some sort of support group or meeting and make sure to go regularly.

Being in a group and healing mind, body and spirit together is important for your recovery according to Sunspire Health Texas that offers addiction treatment in Texas.

Get A Sponsor

Find someone in recovery that has good clean time that can help you and support you in your recovery journey. Being able to talk to someone that has a strong recovery and understands where you are at in your recovery will be a lifesaver.

Talking regularly to your sponsor will help to keep you on the right path. Your sponsor will be able to give you some excellent insight into your process and will also be able to give you some great advice on how to cope with the various situations you will find yourself in when you are clean.

Things which non-addicts take in their stride every day without a second thought may seem like a mountain to climb for you. A good example of this is getting a job – how to cope with job interviews, how to explain the long periods of employment and how to explain the many jobs you may have been fired from. You may even have a criminal record and many companies ask you whether you have a criminal record.

These things can be incredibly tricky to navigate through.

Support group

Go For Counseling

Yes it may seem like an overkill but a counselor and a sponsor are not the same thing. For starters a counselor is a trained professional that has helped many other people overcome obstacles in life.

Chances are high that you have some underlying issues that you need to work through, especially if you have not gone for addiction treatment. If you want the best possible chances of staying clean and rocking your recovery then having regular counseling sessions is highly recommended.

As per Desert Palms that offers addiction treatment in California – addiction is treatment is tough but you will learn about the process of addiction and the reasons why you keep using. You will learn healthy coping techniques and stand a much better chance of long term recovery.

Stay Out Of Romantic Relationships

One of the fastest ways to relapse is to get into a romantic relationship too soon. In early recovery addicts are not able to cope with emotional highs and lows very well at all.

In addition to that addicts are often looking for something outside themselves to make themselves feel better. Take away the drugs, alcohol and other crutches an addict usually makes use of and a relationship may be one of the first things an addict tries to make themselves feel better.

It is important to learn healthy coping mechanisms and to keep things as stable as possible for at least the first year of recovery.

There are often jokes in movies about first getting a plant and if after 6 months that survives get a pet. After a year if our plant and pet are still alive and if you are still clean then you are ready for a relationship. It may be done in a joking way but stick to this.

Recognize Your Triggers

Through meetings, chatting to your sponsor and sessions with your counselor you will start to recognize your triggers. When you can recognize your triggers you can start to deal with them in a different way and not revert to your usual and destructive ways of coping.

Being in recovery is about learning healthy coping mechanisms and then implementing those instead of using.

Plan For Festivities

Your first birthday, Christmas, Valentines, New Years Eve, Easter and many other special occasions will be times that will most likely be uncomfortable and trying for you. Make sure to have a plan in place for each of these occasions.

This is also where being part of a recovery community such as the 12 step program really comes in handy. There will be sober events and meetings held at these times to support you and help you get through them sober.

If it is your own birthday make sure to chat to your sponsor and counselor to ensure that this is a safe time.

People, Places and Things

Hanging out in your local pub to get a lemonade is not the best idea – trust me on this I tried it and it always ended up badly for me. Likewise hanging out with your using friends will always lead to trouble.

Being in recovery means a new way of life and letting go of the people, places and things associated with your using and your old way of life. Yes this is tough to do but it is essential if you want to make it with your recovery.

Reading and Drinking Coffee

Take Up New Hobbies

Your life up until you got clean was filled with destructive habits and things that did not benefit you. Chances are that you did not participate much in any healthy hobbies. Now is the time to take up something new. It is all very well cutting out the bad things in your life but you need to fill those gaps with something new.

Taking up hiking, reading or crafting will give you a healthy way to spend your time.

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Addiction and Treating The Underlying Causes Of Destructive Behaviour

It is a misconception that addiction is all about the drug. Many people believe that once an addict is clean from a drug the hard part is done and dusted and the process of staying off the drugs is easy. This could not be further from the truth. In most cases for an addict the easiest part is getting clean from his drug of choice and the hard part is staying clean and learning how to live without his drug of choice.

Yes it is true that some addicts struggle with getting physically clean from their drug of choice and depending on the drug the addict may need a medically assisted detox. This can make the process of getting clean tough, however the real hard work begins when the addict is considered sober and then has to face life and reality without drugs.

Addiction and Treating The Underlying Cause Of Destructive Behaviour

Trauma and Addiction

According to studies two thirds of drug addicts that seek treatment report being sexually, physically and/ or emotionally abused during childhood.

When a child is growing up his circumstances and experiences will certainly impact his physical and psychological development. Very often these issues are not resolved during childhood and unless dealt with as part of the addiction recovery process these issues will continue to add to the addict’s self destructive behavior.

There is also a link between PTSD and addiction. About 50 – 60% of people that suffer from PTSD have addiction problems, the reverse is true too where. Anyone that has gone through a very traumatic event, like rape, often suffers from PTSD and/ or other psychological problems.

This much is clear – the relationship between substance abuse and trauma is closely intertwined. Click here to find out more about trauma and addiction treatment.

Childhood abuse alcoholism

Trauma During Addiction

Now while it is clear that trauma and addiction are closely linked showing that trauma may contributing to addictive behaviors there is another side to it. While an addict is in active addiction there are countless more traumatic moments. Some severe and some not so severe but still traumatic.

Addicts are well known for wrecking their own lives and the lives of those that they love. Someone that is normally a calm and loving person yet addicted to drugs, may become aggressive and abusive towards his family.

It is simply not possible for an addictive to have a healthy relationship with anyone. Love relationships will be destructive and toxic and most likely with a partner that is also an addict.

Losing a job, losing a home, getting a divorce and being arrested are all terribly traumatic things to happen to anyone and chances are that if you are an addict you have done every single one of these, often more than once.

Very often an addict has a dual diagnosis which means that he suffers from a mental disorder as well as the addiction. This is hardly surprising since going through so much trauma will inevitably lead to things like anxiety, depression, PTSD and more. Drugs and alcohol can also change the chemistry of the brain to even further complicate matters.

Individual Counselling session

 The Importance Of Dealing With Underlying Issues

Focusing on the causes of destructive behaviors is essential during the process of recovery from addiction. Treating the cause of the destructive behaviors and not just the symptoms will help addicts to achieve and maintain long term recovery.

In order to prevent relapse it is essential for addicts to receive trauma counselling to deal with unresolved issues.

Family therapy is also vitally important to recovery from addiction. Family relations will no doubt have suffered damage during the course of addiction. Very often the addict is not the only person in the family that has suffered from trauma and these family patterns will have destructive effects if they are not addressed during therapy.

Very often family members of the addict are addicts themselves, or codependents that are enabling the addicts behaviour.

The addict needs to not only deal with the underlying issues surrounding his addiction, but also be taught new ways of coping with emotional pain, stress and anxiety that has resulted from trauma but also from every day events, so that he can cope with life in a healthy way when leaving treatment for addiction.

When the addict recognizes and understand the triggers and reasons behind them that drive him to use he can start applying the healthy coping skills learned in treatment to help prevent relapsing. Click here to read more about relapse prevention.

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