Battling Addiction: 5 Ways To Spur Yourself On

When you’re dealing with addiction, you accept that you’re in a lifelong battle. If you take your eye off the ball, you could end up going back a few steps; as such, you need to be spurring yourself on everyday, and reminding yourself that the voice in your head – the voice of your addiction – is smaller, and not as significant, as your voice. Keeping yourself focused can be difficult, but there are many ways to do so, and we’ve noted down 5 of them here.

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#1: Think about yourself

No matter what your addiction would have you feel or think, you are worth so much more than a life controlled by substances. You have things to achieve, memories to make, and you deserve to do this on your own terms. Recovery from addiction is ultimately about you, so remind yourself that you’re the focus here, and that your voice should prevail, not the one that is pulling you in a toxic direction.

#2: Keep your loved ones in mind

Addiction has a hurricane-like effect on your life, meaning that your family and friends invariably get pulled into the suffering. Think about all of the times that they have stood by you throughout your addiction, and how they never turned their backs on you, because of their love. Whilst recovery is complex, keeping your loved ones in mind can help you in the day-to-day of handling your addiction.

#3: Reward yourself for landmarks

As with anything that you’re trying to achieve, when you’ve reached certain points in your recovery, you need to celebrate! Getting those new veneers from a leading ultimo dentist, having dinner with your loved ones, and even walking around the park and appreciating your new outlook on life, are all great ways to reward yourself for how far you’ve come. And you deserve it!

#4: Make a bucket list

Looking to the future is always a great idea, and making a bucket list could help to keep you focused. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to visit Niagara Falls, or you want to drive around the country, or you’ve always wanted to skydive. Whatever it is that you want to do, keep your future in mind. This is a future that you may not have had if you were still in the throes of addiction.

#5: Remember how far you’ve come

Staying focused throughout your recovery will be a result of remembering how far you’ve come. A few years (or months) ago, you may have been living a life that you couldn’t even remember due to substance abuse, and now, you’re on the road to freedom. It’s a tough road, but the important thing to remember is that you’re on it. Think about all that you’ve achieved, and all that you could achieve still.

So, if you’re battling addiction, it’s important to remember that the journey will be a difficult one, and there is a lot to overcome. However, it is extremely worthwhile, and taking it day-by-day is important if you’re going to keep your addiction at bay. Spur yourself on, and keep these things in mind; your future will be brighter than you ever expected as a result.

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The Life-Altering Symptoms of Addiction

Addiction is classified as a disease that has several side effects and comes with a range of dangerous conditions or behaviors. If you are able to take steps to really recognise these behaviors or conditions, before it becomes worse, then it can be a great place to be to help them to deal with what they are going through and get the help that they need.

Disorders of substance abuse can have a range of effects, from things that impact people psychologically, to physically, and socially. It can really reduce quality of living; even the small day to day things can be damaging. The thing is, if you or someone you think may be abusing substances, there are many symptoms that can overlap one another. So really being on the lookout can make a difference as for some people, it isn’t clearly cut.

As an example, when someone experiences a psychological effect of wanting to spend their money from groceries to buying addictive substances, they not only have reduced money, but they have access to substances, and aren’t meeting their nutritional needs either. In a similar vein, relationship problems can occur, as well as more and more of an aversion to interacting socially with others, which can be isolating but can also make lead to or worsen psychological problems, like anxiety or depression.

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Denial and Secrecy

When someone is abusing substances, then often this will be done alone or secretly. So look out for someone that suddenly, or even not so suddenly, starts to withdraw and become more of a recluse. It is also something to look out for when someone will start to deny what is happening, even if you had witnessed it, perhaps; there will be a denial that there is even a problem. If there is talk of being able to quite anytime that they want to, then that is when alarms bells should start ringing (whether for you or for someone you care about).

Life-Altering Impact

There is no getting away from the fact that substance abuse brings with it some pretty life altering damages. Smoking a substance can lead to respiratory diseases and cancers, for example. Illicit drugs can lead to physical damage to your limbs and problems with your blood vessels, which could lead onto limb amputation and then disability, requiring a huge lifestyle overhaul and the use of things like disability phone apps. If you are someone that regularly drinks alcohol to excess, then it can lead to things like liver problems and generally poor health.

If these things can be dealt with fairly early on, then it can really reduce the negative impact that they have. So intervention as soon as possible is needed, otherwise, life-altering consequences can occur.

Financial Difficulties

At the end of the day, these substances cost money. And when they are used on a daily basis, the cost is going to be large. And with the side-effects that can come as a result, it can often lead to not working or getting fired. So financial difficulties really is something that can happen as a result, and that can also be pretty damaging and life-altering. Seek help as soon as you can, for you or a loved one, to nip it in the bud.

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8 Things You Should Know About Gender and Addiction

There are many misconceptions about addiction and these often include how people perceive how a person’s gender may impact addiction and recovery. While  anyone can become addiction to drugs, alcohol or process addictions there are a few gender related trends to take note of.

8 Things You Should Know About Gender and Addiction

Men Are More Likely To Become Addicts Than Women

According to studies carried out males tend to start using drugs and alcohol at a much younger age than females. Males also tend to drink alcohol and use more drugs more frequently and in much higher quantities than females. Males are more likely to engage in binge drinking.

This does not necessarily mean that men are more susceptible to become addicts. Studies show that teenage males have more opportunity and are more exposed through their peer groups than females. It is often the case that teenage girls are first introduced to drugs by their male peers.

Women are in fact more likely to transition from substance abuse to dependence and addiction and they do so at a faster pace than men.

Death By Overdose

Men are more likely to die from an overdose than women. More than double men have died from overdosing on heroin and opioids than women and almost two thirds of the deaths by prescription opioids have been men.

Dual Diagnosis and Gender

While dual diagnosis is equally prevalent between men and women the types of mental health disorders differ. Men are much more likely to antisocial personality disorders and women tend to have affective disorders such as depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder.

Drugs

Detoxing, Recovery and Relapse

Men are more likely to have more intense alcohol withdrawal than women. Women are more likely to experience physical side effects of addiction (such as liver damage) and overdose.

Men are less likely to relapse and have a better chance at long term sobriety than women. Women report more intense cravings and are more likely to relapse than men.

Types Of Drugs

Men are more likely to abuse a variety of illegal drugs such as anabolic steroids, methamphetamines, heroin, LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, opioids and molly. Women are more likely to abuse prescription medications than men.

Process Addictions

In general women are more likely to have an eating disorder than men. Women are more likely to suffer from anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa while men with eating disorders are more likely to be overeaters.

Women are more likely to be dissatisfied with their weight and engage in dieting for weight control and purging.

When it comes to sex addiction men are physical and men are emotional. Men tend to obsess over sex and objectify women. Men tend to get involved in sexual behaviors that are not emotional.

Women look to sex for power or control, or to get the attention or praise that they want.

Women are also more likely to have a love addiction, which can easily be mistaken for a sex addiction. With a love addiction the addict looks for all her self-worth from her partner.

Men are about three times more likely to be addicted to gambling. Another difference with gambling addiction is that women tend to favour the slot machines and bingo while men are more likely to get hooked on table casino games or the stock markets.

Prescription overdose

Reason For Stopping Drugs

The biggest motivating factor for both men and women stopping drugs is for their children. 49% of women gave their children as the reason for stopping drugs, almost double that of the 26% of men that gave their children as their motivation.

Reason For Using Drugs

The trigger for men could originate for some men from traditional gender roles. Men may feel that they need to be adventurous and in control. Drugs and alcohol may seem like a good tool to help achieve these things. Men can be encouraged to keep their feeling hidden and taking drugs and drinking alcohol can appear to be a way of coping for some men.

Women often turn to drugs and alcohol in response to a traumatic event from childhood. In one study 30 to 59% of women in an addiction treatment program had a dual diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder.

Although men are more often in situations that are physically dangerous women are at a higher risk (both as a child and as an adult) to be victims of personal violence. In addition to this women are more likely to be sexually victimized while using alcohol than men.

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10 Myths About Drug Addiction That Aren’t True

People love to talk about drug addiction and the harmful effects it has on the lives of those who indulge in it. Most of what people say is common and can be traced to a word of mouth process that dominates how people feel about one of the world’s most serious problems. In this article, we will try to eliminate some myths that revolve around the subject. Be warned – preconceptions can be challenging.

  1. Drug Addicts Can End Their Addiction at Any Time

It is not a choice that drug addicts are making. If you feel they can end their addiction at any time, well, they cannot. Drug addicts need a lot of time, love and patience in order to come out of their addiction. It may take many months, so you need to be calm and understanding to them.

  1. Everyone Who Uses Drugs is an Addict

People take drugs for a number of reasons. They take it when they feel like, or because they need to counter a psychological problem. Addiction, however, is not something that happens to them in their control. People can be addicted at any time – and they may not even realise it.

  1. Drug Addiction is a Moral Issue for The Addict

Addicts don’t choose to be addicted. In fact, most of them would be very happy to get rid of their problems. It would be incorrect to label them as faulty in character. If they really had a choice, the picture would have been different.

  1. Leaving the Addiction Is A Single Step Process

One of the other things people do is to appear for just one step of the treatment process. The rehab programmes are long and need dedication, so a one-step solution is no solution at all.

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  1. Treatment Is A Farce and It Does Not Work

Every year, thousands of people are rehabilitated from their addictions. There is no reason to not believe in treatment – it is the only solution. It works better than the emotional methods adopted by most people!

  1. People Need to Be at Their Lowest to Seek Treatment

The quicker the addiction is treated, the better it is for those in need of it. People make the serious mistake of waiting till the last moment to apply for treatment. This could possibly worsen the situation of the addict.

  1. Everyone Can Be Treated in The Same Manner

Everyone who is administered to a rehabilitation programmed must have a dedicated plan that is unique to their needs only. For example, an adolescent rehab program will be different from that of any other similar or different program. Using the same treatment for two different people won’t work.Everyone Succeeds at The First Attempt to Rehabilitation

Not everyone comes out clean after rehabilitation. It may so happen that the first attempt to rehabilitate the addict fails. In such cases, the only way forward is by making a second attempt. Giving up should never be considered. Maybe the second attempt will turn out to be better than a first!

  1. People Will Never Touch Drugs After Treatment

Drug addiction is chronic, and people who have once been addicted may be affected again. It is not a matter of choice, so do not be harsh on the affected individual if you catch them with the substance a second time.

  1. Addicts Can Be Easily Identified by Their Behaviour

People believe that addicts can be easily identified by the way they behave. Actually, this is not quite true. You may not realise a person is an addict until you stumble across material evidence. Trained professionals could only tell the difference.

We often believe what we are told, and that too, without verifying the truth behind each statement we accept. For a person addicted to narcotics, it requires a lot of love, care and time for them to return to normal life. Impatience, arrogance and not understanding their problems may not be the best way to deal with them. Use a rehabilitation service, speak to doctors and try hard for them to get back to where they belong – in the cycle of daily life, free from the clasp of addiction.

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After Addiction: Getting Back to Feeling Like ‘You’ Again

When addiction has its grasp on you, you truly do lose a part of yourself. The addiction becomes the most important thing in your life- it comes ahead of family, friends and everything you value and hold dear to you. When addiction has had its hold on you for a while, you begin to lose a sense of who and what you once were. Many people find they become a shell of their former selves, as the only thing they care about in that time is where their next fix is coming from.

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When addiction has its grasp on you, you truly do lose a part of yourself. The addiction becomes the most important thing in your life- it comes ahead of family, friends and everything you value and hold dear to you. When addiction has had its hold on you for a while, you begin to lose a sense of who and what you once were. Many people find they become a shell of their former selves, as the only thing they care about in that time is where their next fix is coming from.

Restore your looks

Addiction can be hard on a person’s looks. If you’ve been addicted to a substance for some time then your appearance will have probably suffered. One way you can get back to feeling like yourself is to restore your looks. Look into things like all on 4 dental implants to have missing teeth replaced. Go to a salon and have a facial, have them recommend some products that will bring a healthy glow back to your skin. Have your hair cut and coloured and buy some new clothes that you feel good in. Wanting to feel good isn’t being shallow. When you’re happy with the way you look you have confidence, and you’ll feel happier on the inside.

Make new friends

When you break your addiction, it also means breaking away from friends, relationships and acquaintances who were associated with that kind of life. Unfortunately if you want to stay clean in the long run, you need to keep away from anyone who is involved with your past habits. Be social, and meet new people who are suited to the new sober you. Enjoy activities and try new things which will make you feel fulfilled and keep you on the straight and narrow. New hobbies can give your life purpose and make it easier to resist the temptation of returning back to your old ways. There are lots of apps which schedule groups and meetups for people with different interests, go along and meet some new friendly faces. Go out there and live life to the fullest, making up for the time you missed out on when you were caught up in addiction.

Learn to forgive yourself

As an ex addict, chances are you’re harbouring a lot of guilt and blame yourself. One of the healthiest things you can do is to let this go. Instead of looking back, move forward- acknowledge the mistakes you made but use these to learn and become a better person. There are lots of complex reasons that people can become addicted to things, it’s something that affects all genders, races, wealth classes and more- you’re certainly not the first or last person it will get a hold of. When you can truly forgive yourself and let go, you’re able to put the past behind you and move on to something better.

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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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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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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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The Long Road to Opiate Addiction Recovery

Opiate addiction is a dangerous disease that results in tremendous damage to individuals, families, and communities across the nation and around the world. This disease has become so devastating that it has reached epidemic proportions. However, there are treatment options available that can allow sufferers to retake control of their lives and end their opiate abuse. The road to opiate addiction recovery is a long one but one that could save your life.

Opiate addiction recovery pin

The First Steps

The first thing that must be done to recover from opiate addiction is to stop using opiates. This one thing that is easier said than done. Stopping opiate use after becoming addicted is incredibly difficult and may even be dangerous due to intense withdrawal symptoms associated with it. Symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Insomnia and depression
  • Powerful drug cravings

These symptoms are extremely unpleasant and may even be dangerous without medical supervision. It is for this reason, it you should seek help. The best place to get help recovering from an addiction to opiates is a treatment center.

How Treatment Centers Help Recovering Addicts

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every person and addiction is different, requiring professional evaluation and personalized treatment in order to overcome a substance use disorder. Certified opiate addiction treatment centers have the personnel and resources necessary to perform this function. They have a number of different treatment options to help addicts, but what is most important is that the addict receives treatment.




Proven Treatments for Opiate Addiction

While there are many different treatment options for recovering opiate addicts, it is essential that they are proven to be effective. At this time, only behavioral therapies, counseling, and medications have proven effective in ending opiate abuse over the long term. Common behavioral therapies and counseling techniques used are:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Aversion therapy
  • Contingency management
  • 12-step facilitation therapy
  • Individual and group counseling
  • Family counseling

All of these techniques are commonly used and have been proven effective, particularly when combined with certain medications.

Recovery from opiate addiction

The Role of Medications

Medications are incredibly helpful tools in recovering from opiate addiction. However, it is important to understand that medications alone are not treatment. They are only effective when used in combination with behavioral therapies or counseling. Common medications used include:

  • Methadone
  • Buprenorphine
  • Suboxone
  • Naloxone
  • Naltrexone

When used with behavioral therapies and counseling, these medications can help recovering addicts get and stay opiate free.

Aftercare and Continuing Recovery

It is important to remember that no matter what treatments are used, no opiate addict can ever be truly cured. Opiate addiction is a chronic disease and must be managed for the remainder of the sufferer’s life. This does not mean that these recovering addicts cannot get off opiates and remain drug free.  It does mean that opiate addiction recovery is an ongoing process and takes time and effort. There is always the possibility of relapse which makes building a recovery support network and a relationship with a treatment center vital.

Having access to further treatment to help you remain drug free are essential parts of ensuring a drug free existence. Though it is a long and difficult road, it is possible to overcome an addiction to opiates and live a normal life.

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