Addictions and Recovery
Addictions, including alcohol addictions and dependancy, have several defining characteristics.
There are usually psychological, biological and societal influences which contribute drug addiction.
Which ones influence the most is open to debate.
Addictions are sometimes not recognised as harmful. If a behaviour is rewarding it is often difficult to recognise as harmful or potentially harmful.
choosingchange offers psychological counselling for addictions. Working toward reducing harm by modifying behaviour can contribute to eventual abstinence. However, some people merely wish to lessen reliance on addictive behaviour.
Attitude, why it is so important…
People who manage to change their addictive behaviour are more than likely to have an attitude that is accepting of the fact that they are addicted but that that they can change their habits. “I am addicted… I want this to change.”
Keeping your goals in line with your ability and understanding immensely helps the capacity to change. Process is another word for journey… for living and that is what we discuss. What is your life path and what goals and expectations do you have, excite you.
Recovery from addiction (alcohol and other drugs) is best viewed as a process and in a continuum. Relapse often occurs during a curative process in addictions. View the relapsing nature of addiction as part of the process and much heartache is saved. Learning from relapse is often a very positive force in the process.
Who Is Vulnerable To Addiction?
Addiction vulnerability is indicated by several factors, including —
- What does your family history tell you about social behaviour?
- Was your family one that used alcohol or other drugs regularly?
- Personality characteristics
- (Are you a risk taker? Are you impulsive? Are you compliant?)
- Who do you look up to for making life choices?
- Do you go with the crowd or follow your own path?
- Was your childhood happy or unhappy?
- Are there any psychiatric disorders present in your family?
- Do you suffer from any psychiatric disorders?
- Are you gainfully and happily employed?
- What is the culture you live in?
- Alcohol, cigarettes, and other drugs
- What Indicates You Are Facing Drug Addiction?
- Drinking or taking drugs alone
- Issues at work or home or school because of your drug use
- Persistent feelings of depression or unwarranted fear
- When you go out you have to have drugs to enjoy yourself
- You are unable to determine how much or how often you use drugs before being out of control
- Your memory is unreliable/you have periods of complete loss
- Your use of alcohol or other drugs is increasing all the time
- Your attempts to stop or change your habits are failing so far
- Dealing with unhelpful drug & alcohol abuse
- How can you tell what constitutes unhelpful drug or alcohol use?
Whatever the drug (alcohol, marijuana, speed, cocaine) if it is hindering getting on with life it is considered unhelpful. There are many things you can do to change unhelpful drug-related behaviour.
Counselling sessions will include —
- examining underlying causes for overuse of drugs and/or alcohol;
- looking at family patterns (sometimes parents and grandparents have had a history of drug abuse that is inherited by children);
- societal influences (how easily there is an expectation that overuse of alcohol or drugs are presented as “normal” ways of behaving);
- letting you take control of your life and giving you the responsibility to make necessary changes…
- you will not be attending counselling or classes or groups for the rest of your life;
- looking at addiction or overuse of drugs as a habit rather than a sickness or a disease (as
- behaviour, something we do, rather than inherently a character trait or or an acquired trait that is permanent);
- encouraging a climate of self-reliance and offering ways to monitor behaviour;
- being mindful of stress and anxiety in the cycle of addiction and a
- recognising trigger points for unhelpful behaviour;
- recognising that abstaining can sometimes be out of reach for some people so offering ways to
- reduce consumption to a level that is acceptable, that is workable;
- recognising that small changes can lead to bigger things and that anything even a little better is good.
Depression and addiction
An aspect of drug and alcohol abuse that is often overlooked is the connection between that and depression. Often, depression and drug abuse or reliance go hand-in hand.
Addiction and depression are common co-morbid conditions. The Epidemiologic Catchment Area study conducted by the National Institute on Health reported that almost one-third of individuals with depression had a co-existing substance use disorder at some point in their lives (Regier et al, 1990).
The National Co-morbidity Study found that men with alcohol dependence had rates of depression three times higher than the general population; alcohol dependent women had four times the rates of depression (Kessler et al, 1997). Studies of clinical populations also show high rates of these combined disorders (Salloum, Daley & Thase, 2000; Daley & Moss, 2002).
Many clients have recurrent major depression, dysthymia (a chronic form of depression) or both major depression and dysthymia, also called “double depression.”
It is crucial that this aspect of treating or counselling for addiction and depression is handled sensitively and effectively.
Addiction Recovery Strategies
You cannot do this alone…. seek assistance
I’ve labeled this section as such because strategies may the only course of effective action for someone who abuses or is dependant on drugs.
Generally speaking, substance abuse is described:
- continuing to use even when causing obvious work or personal issues at the time
- cognitive and behavoural activities are obviously adversely affected
- drinking or drug usage when it puts the user or others at risk
- usage over time, (daily, weekly, monthly) resulting in life issue problems
Substance dependence is generally described:
- unsuccessful attempts to cut back or reduce or give up use
- continuing to use alcohol and drugs when when serious consequences apply
- upping the use of alcohol or drugs… needing more and more to get the same effect, your tolerance is either psychologically or physically dependant
- your income or time is dominated by acquiring drugs
you are allowing your relationships (home and work) to suffer badly because of drugs or alcohol
- Alcohol and drug abuse or dependence can be facilitated by circumstances: stress, family behavours or genetics which usually provide a fertile ground for the necessity for the user to feel good or better about things going on in their lives.
Drugs are fantastic pacifiers and people who need to satisfy and calm anxieties will be quickly drawn to these ways of self-medicating. Society provides an enormous variety of ways for humans to enable self-soothing. Drugs and alcohol are quick and efficient but ultimately ineffective. Overuse of drugs and alcohol turn humans into slaves, relying less and less on helping themselves to alleviate anxieties in a productive and rewarding manner.
Where alcohol and marijuana (cannabis) can provide a warm and relaxing mood between friends in social situations, overuse of these and use of harder drugs can cause massive problems in the lives of users and the families and friends of users. These drugs include:
A common characteristic description of over use of drugs is the highs and lows of the user’s life. Also common is the effect these drugs have on the brain. Drugs make t he user feel good. The problems occur when a dependence or addiction occurs. Giving up is hard to do.
Giving up drugs and alcohol may require a several prong attack. Addictions are often associated with underlying problems the person may be facing.
Dealing with depression and low self-esteem or anxiety issues are often accompanied by successful programes to give up drugs.
Things to start doing to help maximise your efforts:
- primarily I urge you to look after yourself first and foremost… you are the most important person and when you are operating well you will be most helpful and most entertaining and most likeable to others
- find a good therapist AND program to guide, help and support you
- form closer bonds with your family and friends
- foster a healthy lifestyle — eat well
- exercise regularly (daily, incorporate exercise in you regular activities …walking to walk, using stairs instead of lifts, walk on the escalator)
- meditate for at least ten minutes a day and
- once a week meditate for one hour
- drink lots of water, adequate to your needs
- start a program (or read books) about positive thinking
- establish a LONG list of people and place who can help support you in your efforts
- distance yourself from dealers or friends who do drugs
- identify why you need or want or like drugs (ask you therapist to help you here)
Developing a strong self-esteem and assertiveness are critical aspects of this process:
- observe your behaviour with others
- keep eye contact with people you talk with
- make and keep regular appointments with friends and colleagues
- be authentic and real in your dealings with others
- put your hand up and ask for help
- read about establishing and maintaining boundaries
- appreciate that life is sometimes not about you… other people carry their own burden and may not
- be reacting to you by reacting to their inner issues and needs… don’t take things personally
- relax, relax, relax… and then learn to relax more .
Be prepared for relapse — look for:
- grandiose feelings
What I have described above are all strategies you can start to put in place to help you overcome drug and alcohol dependence.