The modern recovery moment traces its origins to Alcoholics Anonymous, in 1939. Over that long period, science has made many advances in understanding the nature of addiction and different ideas of how to treat it. Even as the motivation and need for sobriety has remained unchanged, there are new and innovative methods for accomplishing these goals. Here are some of the recent innovative ideas that are affecting how addiction and treatment is understood.
A push for integration between the worlds of medicine and recovery
Scientific research, particularly in how an addict’s mind and body operates, has led to a shift away from understanding addiction as a moral failure, or something requiring stronger will power, to an illness requiring medical treatment. In light of this, it is a disturbing reality that most people with the illness of addiction do not get needed medical care. According to a report from the Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, while 80 percent of people who have high blood pressure get medical attention, only about 10 percent of people with addiction are receiving evidence-based treatment.
Many medical doctors are unaware of the reality of addiction, and many people in the recovery movement have very little medical training. Thus, there is a need for addiction medicine to come more in line with medical practice. This means that doctors and other health care providers are becoming need to be made more aware of the issues of substance abuse, learning to test for and diagnose addiction the way they would for any other illness.
A realization that care should be long-term based, and not one-size-fits all
A week or month long stay in a rehab center can do some good helping you get over the initial problems of withdraw, a serious substance abuse problem cannot be “fixed” in such a short period of time. With just one short-term program, it can be easy to relapse as you settle back into a life otherwise unchanged. Recovery should rather be thought of as a long-term process, spread out over months or even years.
Treatment for addiction should be individualized and long-term, responding to your unique needs and caring for you as a whole person, focusing on the biological, emotional, and social challenges of withdraw and sobriety. Cognitive-Behavioral therapy can be a useful way of dealing with root causes, and this is sometimes combined with medications that can lessen withdraw and addiction symptoms. This may also involve the input of a social worker to address living conditions that precipitate addiction. In short, addition counselors are working to make use of a variety of perspectives to get a full picture of a person’s individualized needs, and adjust their program based on which available options will work.
A shift away from merely solving the “negative” issue of getting rid of the addiction, towards a “positive” push towards living a full, sober life
The positive psychology movement of Carl Rogers has led to a shift away from therapists only thinking about people needed treatment as people with problems that need solving. Rather, the important thing is to help all people reach a state of self-actualization, in which an individual is aware of what he or she wants out of life and how to strive for it. In this way of thinking it is not enough merely to understand sobriety as a way of life that avoids substance abuse. Rather, we should look at what can motivate the person to replace addiction with a healthier lifestyle.
The emphasis should be on empowering the individual to work towards something positive, not merely avoiding an addictive substance. While traditionally addiction has been understood primarily as a moral, medical, spiritual, social, or psychological issue, contemporary ways of dealing with the issue integrate all these areas, using a variety of “lenses” to determine how an addict can feel like a whole person again.
Men and women coming home after military service are facing a number of intense challenges in adapting back to life at home. Even as use of other drugs is decreasing, prescription drug abuse among veterans and military personnel is increasing dramatically, tripling in recent years according to a 2008 Health Study by the U.S. Department of Defense.
A 2014 report by the independent group Human Rights Watch goes into more detail, revealing that more then a million veterans enrolled in the VA (Veteran’s Administration) healthcare system are taking prescription opioids, with half using the drugs chronically. The HRW study further showed that the rate of veterans dying of pain killer overdoses is double that of the U.S. population as a whole. Although strong opioids may sometimes be necessary for someone with chronic pain to be able to function, the potential for abuse and addiction is very high, and many patients go beyond the recommended dosage, and end up causing a great deal of harm to their health.
The scope and cause of the problem
It goes without saying that soldiers put their bodies in a great deal of risk, perhaps more then any other profession. Thus, they frequently endure a great deal of pain that may last long after their service is complete. In war settings, doctors frequently prescribe high levels of narcotic painkillers as a way of dealing with the higher level of pain, but this has often created dependency, in which the body is unable to function without drugs it otherwise doesn’t really need.
Suicide and homelessness among veterans increase dramatically among those addicted, as people become desperate or hopeless while attempting to get enough drugs to function. Although the VA has made attempts to offer substance use disorder help, it suffers from a shortage of resources and staff that often make it difficult for veterans who need help to find it. According to Amy Vice Chief of Staff Peter Chiarelli, quoted in an article on thefix.com, the VA urgently needs 130 more qualified counselors to handle all veterans struggling with substance abuse issues.
Yet, in spite of all these challenges, there are people working to create innovative solutions that help deal with veterans’ unique challenges in helping them deal with prescription drug addition. Drug use among veterans is often tied to trauma or other mental health issues related to the strain or tension that came from their service. New technology from smartphones and wearable sensors can be used to detect real-time responses to stress, alerting the wearer of increased vulnerability to relapse.
Drug treatments are available, and veterans can connect over the Internet to help each other realize that help is out there. One such resource with a huge potential for veteran support is the NAMI Peer-to-Peer program, that can connect veterans with other people who have undergone similar experiences, sharing their struggles and helping them realize they are not alone. While mental health issues and addiction are frequently stigmatized, and hidden from view, putting these issues out in the open allows people to seek out treatment.
While some veterans’ struggles may seem so big that families and loved ones may feel tempted to withdraw, care and a stable living environment is an essential part of recovery, so resources are also being devoted to educating others around the suffering veteran, so they can better understand how to give care.
In addition, there are beginning to be new approaches among VA and military healthcare providers. Opiates should not be a first response to injury, but rather one among many other options that can treat pain. Informing veterans about alternate, safer methods of dealing with chronic pain, like acupuncture and physical therapy have caused the rate of opiate use to decrease.
Former member of the Pussycat Dolls, Kasey Campbell, has never publicly discussed her problems with alcohol and drugs but is now just beginning to open up about her experiences with addiction. She suffered from issues of alcoholism and heroin addiction but in the past has only told the story to loved ones and the people from her support group. Campbell wants to open up about her life of abuse and share her story with the world by speaking publicly in Centennial Square for Recovery Day. She has decided to speak more openly about her problems in order to help change the stigma around recovery and addiction. She believes it is necessary for people to share their stories of triumph rather than hide them or feel ashamed to reveal the truth.
Success as a Pussycat Doll
Campbell chose to take part in Recovery Day, a time of year for everyone to acknowledge the millions of people who have overcome addiction. This is the first experience of discussing these issues publicly for the 36 year old. Campbell grew up in Vancouver and moved to Los Angeles at age 17 for a dance scholarship. She eventually started dancing for the Pussycat Dolls group, a burlesque ensemble, as an extracurricular activity while in school. The group slowly became an underground phenomenon and eventually evolved into a pop group with radio hits such as Don’t Cha, Buttons and Stickwitu. Although initially it was a labor of love, her involvement with the group became a core part of her identity for the next nine years. Celebrities began to gain interest in the Pussycat Dolls and the group was able to perform with singers such as Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stephani, Britney Spears, Pink and Elton John. They eventually signed their own record deal and Campbell became a part of their success.
The Road to Addiction
Being in the entertainment industry, it was easy for Kasey Campbell’s recreational drug and alcohol use to start escalating. She frequently went to after parties where her substance abuse became problematic. Campbell was able to hide the extent of her abuse from most of her closest friends who had no idea she had a problem until after she left treatment. At some point Campbell was introduced to heroin and became hooked on the drug that completely changed her life. She was consumed by her heroin addiction which made it harder to hide from the people around her as she was constantly sick from withdrawal and woke up needing to use. Her wake-up call came when she had a run-in with the law and was forced to go to treatment. Although at first she didn’t take rehab seriously, as she began to hear other people’s stories and saw how important treatment was to them she began to change her mindset. She witnessed how everyone in her program experienced the same shame and fear of disappointing everyone.
Recovery and a New Career
After recovering from her addiction, Campbell applied herself to achieving a childhood dream of becoming a lawyer. She enrolled in political science at Camosun College and completed her degree at the University of British Columbia. She applied to law school and wrote about her recovery as part of her application. She hopes to eventually represent people who need an advocate because of her experiences. She was given the opportunity to enter treatment instead of facing prosecution and it changed her life for the better. She wants to work toward reducing the stigma about addiction and get people to seek help for their substance abuse. Campbell believes that when people tell their success stories it will help to change any negative stereotypes about people with addictions.
Jim Irsay has openly admitted to dealing with an alcohol and drug addiction in the past but the NFL team owner is now finally experiencing the consequences of his actions. The NFL recently announced that the owner of the Colts will be suspended for the team’s first games and will be fined $500,000 following his misdemeanor account of driving while under the influence of drugs.
Under the guidelines of the suspension, Jim Irsay may not be present at the club’s facility, attend any practices or games, represent the club at league or league committee meetings and may not conduct media interviews or engage in social media regarding any team or league matters. The fine of half a million dollars given to Irsay is the most allowed under the league’s constitution and by-laws.
DUI and Drug Dependency
Irsay was arrested earlier this year in March by Carmel Indiana police after they noticed him driving at a speed of 10 mph in a 35 mph zone, stopping in the middle of the road and failing to signal a turn. The NFL owner failed several roadside sobriety tests after being pulled over and police found multiple prescription drugs in his vehicle. Irsay first admitted to having an addiction to prescription painkillers in 2002 when he attended rehab for his problem with drug dependency. He became addicted to painkillers due to his issues of chronic pain which continue to remain a problem.
After his arrest blood tests revealed oxycodone and hydrocodone in his system. Since the incident of his arrest and charge of DUI Irsay has returned to rehab in recent months at several spots around the country. He has acknowledged he is still on some medication for his hip and back pain but he is being closely monitored by doctors who will eventually wean him off of these drugs. Irsay also agreed to random drug testing with the results being shared with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. He has also suffered from alcoholism in the past but has not had a drink in more than a decade.
Irsay Accepts His Punishment
It took several months for the NFL to finally decide what form of discipline to impose on Irsay following his charge of DUI. The NFL commissioner issued a statement saying that management personnel and coaches must be held to a higher standard than players. The commissioner also handed down the discipline to the Indianapolis Colts’ owner of the 6 game suspension and $500,000 fine. While Irsay is under suspension the daily operations team will be handled by COO Pete Ward, general manager Ryan Grigson and Irsay’s daughter Carlie Irsay-Gordon. Irsay accepted the discipline and issued a statement acknowledging his mistake and his responsibility for the consequences.
He also expressed a desire to change his life and address his issues of addiction and hoped that the incident would help to diminish the stigma surrounding drug addiction in the U.S. He wants to achieve a better state of good health by finally resolving his issues of drug dependency.
In spite of the sizeable fine and suspension, many NFL players are criticizing the punishment as being merely a slap on the wrist compared to the type of discipline that the athletes have received in the past. Players were dissatisfied about the fact that the league waited several months to announce his suspension when most NFL athletes are given quick and deliberate punishment for similar mistakes.
Many players are claiming that the commissioner Goodell uses a double standard when punishing players and team owners. After his six game suspension ends Irsay will return to his duties as team owner for the rest of the season.
Alcohol addiction has long been known to have genetic factors which can influence an individual’s vulnerability to developing the disease. However, new research is focusing on genes related to hangovers and seeking to find how a genetic predisposition to experiencing hangovers can shed light on understanding alcoholism.
The effects of a hangover, according to the study, are partially due to environmental factors but about 40 to 45 percent actually comes from a person’s genetic makeup. Hangovers can be different for everyone with some people experiencing little to no effect and others dealing with very severe symptoms after drinking. The research focused on the link between genetics and hangovers and how this can be connected with alcoholism.
Environment and Genetics in Hangovers
The study was completed through the University of Missouri-Columbia with results from 4,000 twins showing that genetic influence accounted for a significant port of hangover effects. Through the help of the Australian Twin Registry, they were able to determine which effects were the results of environment and which ones were due to genetic factors.
Environmental factors that are known to play a role in the effects of a hangover include how much a person drinks, how fast they drink and how much they have had to eat before drinking. These factors can influence how severe the hangover will be the following day. The research team interviewed twins to learn about the frequency and severity of their hangovers comparing the results between the two.
Much of the time, the twins in the study went through similar experiences after a night of drinking making it clear that genetics play an important role in their reaction to alcohol. The research team is hoping that these genetic factors related to hangovers can be another clue to how the genetics of alcoholism work.
Alcoholism and Genetic Factors
Alcoholism is still a significant problem in the U.S. with over 17 million adults suffering from alcohol addiction and 90,000 people dying each year from alcohol-related causes. Understanding the genetic role in developing alcoholism could potentially prevent the spread of this disease and reduce the instances of addiction. The study provided evidence for the genetic influence involved in hangovers but more research needs to be done to observe the genes directly rather than relying only on a self-reported survey.
It is clear through the findings, however, that some people can be more susceptible to severe hangovers even when drinking the same amount or at the same pace as someone else. What is not yet known is how these genetic factors can be linked to an individual’s vulnerability to developing an addiction to alcohol.
The researchers were able to find results showing that those with the increased risk for hangovers also drank to the point of being intoxicated more frequently than the people who didn’t have hangover genes. This indicates that the genes which determine how severe and frequent a person’s hangover is can also determine how often they are likely to engage in alcohol abuse.
The next step for this kind of research will be to identify the specific genes that contribute to hangover susceptibility and also determine if they are the same genes associated with alcoholism. When scientists are able to better identify these risk factors, it may make it possible to prevent addiction in individuals that are more vulnerable to alcohol abuse. Better understanding of genetic influences in alcoholism can also change the way this type of addiction is treated. If people are able to identify themselves has having a genetic predisposition for alcoholism they will be able to get help and receive treatment sooner.
People suffering from alcohol or drug addiction may not realize how important their diet can be especially in the early stages of recovery. While there is a lot of emotional work involved in rehab, physical health can be equally important and diet is one of the many ways to improve overall well-being. Most alcoholics or drug addicts are used to having very poor diets as a result of their addiction and many end up with serious nutritional deficiencies. Focusing on eating healthy foods can be a positive move toward better health and lead to more stable moods as well. While in recovery an addict can learn the basics of good nutrition and continue to apply it to their eating habits after they return home from rehab.
Nutritional Problems with Addiction
For someone with a drinking problem, alcohol often replaces food and alcoholics get much of their calories from booze instead of healthy sustenance. It is common for alcoholics to lack important nutrients and suffer from deficiencies that can cause health problems. Alcoholics tend to be deficient in folate, vitamin B12, vitamin A and calcium which are all needed for a strong immune system and crucial body functions. People with drug addictions can also deal with deficiencies because certain illegal drugs are known to drastically reduce appetite such as cocaine, methamphetamines and opiates. Those who are addicted to these types of drugs can become emaciated and frail from their lack of food intake. Once in recovery, people suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction will have to begin eating regular meals again and giving their bodies the important nutrients that they need.
The Problem of Comfort Eating
One of the dangers that many addicts experience while in recovery is the tendency to replace their addiction with another or engage in other unhealthy ways of running from their problems. The lack of escape from alcohol or drugs could lead them to seek comfort food as a way to avoid issues they are dealing with. They might frequently binge on junk food or become addicted to unhealthy foods as a kind of replacement for their substance abuse. It is important to avoid this kind of behavior because although they might be engaging in a less harmful addiction they are still finding a way to escape feelings by emotionally eating. Addicts can start gaining weight and feel tired or depressed because of a poor diet while in recovery. Creating a healthier diet can help prevent the negative physical and mental effects of eating poorly from interfering with the process of recovery.
How to Eat Healthier
A healthy diet means feeling better, having more sustained energy and even thinking more clearly. Getting the right amount of nutrition can help stabilize a person’s mood which is very important for addicts who are dealing with many volatile emotions. A healthy diet means eating lots of fruits and vegetables to ensure that you are getting all the right vitamins and minerals that you need. Lean protein and complex carbohydrates are also important for maintaining energy and repairing the body. Drinking lots of water is an essential part of healthy eating and can prevent any of the negative effects of dehydration on physical well-being. For better health an addict should avoid the crashing effects of caffeine and refined sugar which are both harmful to the mind and body. When an addict begins to eat healthier they will be more focused and better able to handle the experience of recovery. Instead of comfort eating or becoming addicted to junk food, a person in rehab needs to understand the importance of healthy food and its role in their ability to recover.
Opinions tend to differ on the addictive nature of drugs like marijuana, which is used medically now more than ever. Many people may believe that marijuana is a healing drug with no addictive properties but a recent study suggests that this may not be the case.
According to research conducted by the Massachusetts General Hospital, marijuana proved to cause significant withdrawal symptoms which can represent one of the major signs of addiction. These findings present complications for the argument that marijuana should be used medically to treat a wide range of problems. For those using marijuana for medical or recreational reasons they might end up struggling to quit because they have developed a dependency.
Results of the Study
The new study researched the outcomes of 127 teens ages 14 to 19 that were treated at an outpatient substance abuse clinic. The majority of the teens in the study abused marijuana with 84 percent of those abusing the drug that met criteria for marijuana dependence. Out of the group of teens, 76 of them dealt with increased tolerance for marijuana and had made unsuccessful attempts to reduce or stop using the drug.
About two fifths of the teens that abused marijuana experienced symptoms of withdrawal after stopping use of the drug. Any type of withdrawal is known to be a clear sign of drug dependence. The teens dealing with withdrawal were more likely to experience negative consequences such as trouble at school or at work as well as financial and relationship problems.
They were also more likely to meet the guidelines for marijuana dependence and for mood disorders. The teens in the study that were able to recognize that they had a problem with abuse tended to make more progress toward reaching abstinence than those who did not acknowledge their addiction.
Negative Effects of Marijuana
The research found that many of the participants reported symptoms normally associated with withdrawal such as anxiety, irritability, depression and difficulty sleeping. They had to face these symptoms any time they quit using marijuana and many exhibited more extreme symptoms such as the characteristics of mood disorders. Those involved in the study hope that their research helps to increase the amount of evidence showing that marijuana is a psychoactive drug just like any other drug.
The findings of the study could impact how people perceive marijuana and the effects that it has on the minds and bodies of adolescents. It could also prove instrumental in the larger health policy debate around marijuana. The trend in attitudes in the U.S. is to minimize the risk of marijuana use and refuse to recognize its addictiveness. The results of the study could change people’s minds about how beneficial marijuana can be as a medical solution. The debate over legalization requires this type of information so that people will be more informed about the public health impact if marijuana use becomes legal.
The study was published recently in the ‘Journal of Addiction Medicine’ and was conducted in order to better understand the risks and harms associated with marijuana use including its potential addictiveness. The findings of the study can be useful in helping people to recognize the risks involved in using marijuana and also reduce the likelihood that someone would start using drugs. If marijuana is legalized, the public needs to be more aware of the dangers of becoming addicted as the drug grows in availability. The study also points to the need to educate adolescents about the consequences of marijuana use on their health and their lives. The consequences should be weighed against any positive outcomes associated with decriminalizing marijuana.
There are lots of reasons to feel afraid. Some fear is legitimate, protecting us from danger. However, a lot of the time, fear is counterproductive, keeping us from taking steps towards positive change or improved relationships, and maintaining a harmful but comfortable status quo. Recovery is a huge change, and some hard actions you take to alter behavior, and so it can bring a lot of powerful fearful emotions along with it. Rather then letting fear hold you back, here are some ways you can learn how to respond to fear, listen to it, and ignore it enough to do what is right for you.
1) Identify the thing that makes you afraid
Naming fears is the first step to dealing with them. Often fear comes amorphously, a simple feeling of dread that feels unexplainable. Rather then give in; pause to ask yourself, “What do I really have to be afraid of? What worst-case scenario am I picturing that’s making me want to hold back?” Sometimes simply by stating your fear of change outright, you can realize that in reality, you have nothing to be afraid of. If the fear remains even after being named, you can analyze the fear and figure out how to best approach the situation with a more a level head.
2) Use gratitude and a positive mindset to focus on good in life
Look around at your life, and realize that you’ve made it through hard times before. There is a lot that is going well in the world, and by brining your focus on that, you can take it off the parts that feel intimidating. Realize too that there will continue to be good things in your life no matter what will allow you to have less anxiety about the future, allowing you to accept whatever outcome happens.
3) Do the thing that you are afraid of, one baby step at a time
Such a huge goal as “get sober” is too much for any person to do at once. Naturally, with such a huge task ahead of them, it would be easy to feel fear at the possibility of failure. The way to address such a huge fear is by taking small steps, making smaller goals, and realizing you have the capacity to meet them. In this way, you will not allow fear to stop you from doing something, but in small ways that will boost your confidence. Like the man moving a mountain with a spoon, who simply keeps at doing a small action, again and again, until it all adds up to something huge.
4) Share your fears with others who are supportive, especially with a group of people also in recovery
There is an African proverb that goes “sharing joy multiples it, and sharing trouble divides it.” Although it may sometimes feel like it, you are not the only person who has ever faced whatever you are going through. A good support group or trusted friend may be facing issues very similar to what your own fear. They can encourage you, empathize with you, and tell their story of getting over their fear, in a way that could be encouraging to you.
5) Visualize yourself as you would most like to be
A lot of times, fear is rooted in the imagination. Your mind creates scenes of things going badly, and your body responds by trying to retreat or panic, so the bad thing imagined doesn’t happen. Counteract this tendency by creating your own visualizations, but ones that are full of gratefulness and hope. Imagine yourself, living confidently and victorious over your addictions, able to lead a happy life where you are in control of doing what’s truly enjoyable and good for you. This exercise will give you confidence as you go through life, and helping you face your worst fears.
Self-awareness is a vitally important skill. However, focusing on your self can become destructive if it is done too much. When someone is so preoccupied with his or her self to the point of loosing touch with the outside world or reflecting on the thoughts or feelings of others, it creates self-obsession.
Self-obsession can make your negative emotions so powerful that you feel out of control, caught up in them like a puppet. Being so focused on your self can make it more difficult to be open to the input of a supportive friend or community, because true friendship demands that you both are listened to, and listen to the other person.
Meditation, or purposeful exercises to control the mind in aware of the moment, can be an extremely useful tool in helping you develop a good balance between self-awareness and self-obsession. Here are a few meditation exercises to try.
1) Concentration meditation
Concentration mediation brings focus to your brain, and trains it to be responsive to your direction. When thoughts from the inside, or stressors from the outside come in, concentration can help you switch those harmful voices out, and bring your focus back to what is true in the present moment.
Focus your mind on a single object, like an image, your breath, a sound, or a single word. Use this thing as an anchor, keeping the mind on it for a set period of time, allowing nothing else to enter into your consciousness. If the mind wanders away, simply use the object as a way to bring you back to a state of calmness and slowness.
2) Mindfulness Meditation
Cultivating mindfulness is a very important tool to helping you become aware of what is going on in the here and now, and being fully present in the world.
Begin as you would in concentration, by using breath or a single sensation to direct your mind within itself. But then, slowly, open your eyes and start fanning out, reflecting on the sensations, sights, sounds, and smells in the world around you. Take a step on into the world, paying attention both to the act of walking, and to everything going on all around you. Without judgment, simply receive everything that comes in.
3) Dynamic moving meditation
This form of meditation emphasizes spontaneity, and mind-body connection, so that you learn to express your feelings honestly, and then gain control over them.
a) Start by standing up, relaxed and with loose joints, in comfort. Move around, sporadically and randomly, breathing as hard as you can for ten minutes.
b) Rest, and pay attention to the emotions and thoughts coming up. Slowly, spend a few minutes with sound and body movements that express what is inside you.
c) With eyes closed and arms raised, jump up and down and say “Who!” every time your feet hit the floor. Expend as much energy as possible, but continue to pay attention to what it feels like, both inside and out.
d) Freeze! Stand still like a statue, with eyes closed. Do not adjust your body for 15 minutes, but pay attention to feelings.
e) Dance! Spend some time dancing wildly and freely, to end on positive feelings.
4) Loving Kindness Meditation
With more focus internally then externally, this mediation teaches you the very important skill of treating both yourself and others with compassion. Using visualization of love being sent down, affirmation on your positive qualities, and simply repeating the truth “I send you love” until you really feel and believe it, visualize the following people, and send kindness to them.
b) a respected teacher or elder
c) someone you already dearly love, like a friend
d) someone you know but have no special feelings towards
e) someone you actively dislike or are in conflict with.
5) Quick meditation for the middle of a busy life
This meditation is a useful, quick way of taking a break before a stressful event, taking only a few minutes to bring your focus away from your stress and to the present.
a) Sit up comfortably, with a straight back.
b) Slowly inhale and exhale, breathing long and deep, 3 times.
c) Listen to and feel the air enter your nostrils.
Imagine a clear light appearing on your forehead, shining from your head, out onto the entire world. This light is outshining every confusing or cluttering thought, so that all that comes from your mind is this light.
It goes without saying that treatment for recovery can sometimes be very hard and stressful work. You are having to go all-in working against every fiber of your being, fighting to let go of what used to be one of your main coping mechanisms for handling life. Unfortunately, there is no magic formula that can instantly make your addiction go away instantly. However, within yourself, you have the capacity to manage your stress, so that in the end you can both survive and thrive. Here’s a short list on some of the things you can do in treatment to make things less overwhelming and just a little bit easier.
1) Breathe deeply
We need to do it in order to stay alive, but most the most of the time we just do it mindlessly and automatically. By brining our focus to this simple task, you quiet the noise within your min and relax your body. Anywhere, anytime, you can take a few seconds to get a sense of clarity in even the most overwhelming of crises. There are a variety of different ways to breathe intentionally; one of the simplest is called 4-7-8. With eyes closed and the body in a comfortable posture, inhale counting to 4, hold your breath and count to 7, and exhale counting to 8. Notice how you feel, and then repeat.
2) Learn to listen to the inside of yourself
Whenever you feel angry, sad, ashamed, or stressed, resist the urge to try to bury those “negative” emotions. Unconsciousness brought on by drugs and alcohol can be a very efficient way of forgetting negative emotions, so letting go of a perceived need for these substances means learning how to really deal with these feelings, and get down to their root causes. Learn to be unafraid to ask questions of the feelings you feel afraid of, and think about ways you can deal with them more directly. Some people find it really helpful to write in a daily journal, learning how to express their feelings directly in a safe place.
3) Give your brain a “vacation”
But no one can handle delving headfirst into personal pain all the time, with no breaks. Give yourself a limited period of time to deal with and express the frustrating and hard things recovery brings up, but then don’t be afraid to live a little! You may no longer have drugs as an option, so experiment and figure out other ways you can enjoy life. Being surrounded by nature, doing art, listening to music, and exercise are all possibilities that can help you manage your feelings and learn to enjoy being alive.
4) Surround yourself with supportive loved-ones and friends
The radical change in lifestyle that a loss of an addiction entails is not meant to be undertaken alone. If you can find other people able to be supportive and listening and encouraging, they can reduce your burden, give you a new perspective to approach your issues in new ways, and otherwise be a breath of hope-giving fresh air. This will happen most directly within your support group, but any friends can also become a trusted confidant to listen to you and support you. One important part of recovery is working to restore and re-establish trust and respect among people who might have been hurt by your addictive behavior. Although these relationships might take time to heal, as they do, they can celebrate your new found freedom with you.
5) Use gratefulness and humor to focus on the good things
No matter how powerful the darkness may seem, there is always some light. Try to learn to focus on what that light is, choosing to dwell on what is positive, even in the midst of stress and hardship. Simply naming things you feel grateful for can be a really important exercise to bring your focus on the positive. Another important tool is humor. By trying to find the humor in a situation, you also take the focus off its hardship, and show the good in the world.