COPING WITH ADDICTION
Stressful life events, anxiety and poor coping strategies may impact risk of addiction...
Far too many people have experienced the pain of an incoherent life. Particularly those who are addicted, and their loved ones, know all too well the profound pain of a chaotic life.
We all know, and there are numerous studies that have shown,
that moderate alcohol intake can produce significant health
benefits for most people.
Chances are if you are reading this, you are in pain – be it physical, psychological, emotional, and/or spiritual – and you are searching for help. I’m am here to tell you that you are important, your life matters and your time to start your journey of discovery and recovery is NOW.
Sustainable, emotional addiction recovery
Sharing your life with an addict
Coping with the nutritional effects of alcoholism
None 12 Step holistic
Addiction is a complex disease, often chronic in nature, which affects the functioning of the brain and body. It also causes serious damage to families, relationships, schools, workplaces and neighbourhoods. The most common symptoms of addiction are severe loss of control, repeated and continued exposure despite serious consequences, preoccupation with it, failed attempts to quit, tolerance and withdrawal. Addiction can be effectively prevented, treated and managed by healthcare professionals in combination with family or peer support. Because of its prevalence in our area, the most common addictions I come across are related to substance abuse. However, I can also help people with other behavioural addictions such:
Social media and internet
For substance addiction, it is generally necessary for the person to undergo a programme of detoxification. In most cases, recovering substance addicts will then need to abstain from this substance in order to maintain their recovery. However, while almost all recovery support groups require complete abstinence as a condition of membership or even meeting attendance in some case Moderation Management (MM) can be considered. MM is mostly associated with alcoholism but can be modified to suit other addictions such as social media, the internet or for those who have an eating disorder, where it is not possible to abstain from the thing to which they are addicted to. They must, therefore, learn how to manage their addictive behaviour.
Many people can safely drink alcohol and not engage in problematic behaviours or suffer from addiction. MM is a program designed to target problem drinking early on and might be suitable for individuals who see alcohol becoming an issue in their lives. MM seeks to change risky drinking habits and problematic behaviours surrounding alcohol abuse by promoting a healthy lifestyle and more responsible habits, and not necessarily through complete abstinence.
The concept behind MM is that alcohol abuse is a choice and a habit that can be changed with brief intervention strategies. MM principles allow to choose – alcohol in moderation or abstinence. That being said, MM is not right for everyone.
Moderation Management program is based on nine steps focused on taking responsibility for one’s actions, recognizing harmful drinking patterns, and addressing problem drinking. The second step asks members to remain sober for a full month whilst undergoing detox. If after that point members can drink responsibly, and in moderation, that is allowable. If not, they should continue to remain abstinent and may continue with the MM program or move to an abstinent-only type therapy.
While principles of MM allow to continue drinking, there are basic guidelines which include: set drinking limits, don’t drink every day, have other interests and hobbies that do not include drinking, obey laws surrounding drinking and driving, do not put yourself in risky or dangerous situations when drinking, and keep blood alcohol concentration (BAC) below moderate drinking levels. MM holds that alcohol may be a part of a person’s life without being the centre of it.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SUBSTANCE ABUSE AND ADDICTION?
There is a range in the severity of substance problems: from mild to moderate to severe. Drug or alcohol abuse is a mild substance problem, defined by having two or three symptoms of addiction. People who abuse drugs or alcohol can experience serious consequences such as accidents, overdoses, crime, school problems, violence and suicide. Many people experience alcohol or drug abuse problems, but are able to get the professional assistance to stop using or change their pattern of use without progressing to addiction.
Drug and alcohol addiction and alcoholism are progressive, fatal illnesses that are classified as “diseases” by the medical and therapeutic communities. They are incurable. However that is not to say that people are unable to recover from drug and alcohol addiction.
In order to do so, there are several things that someone that suffers from substance abuse, substance use disorder or drug and alcohol addiction can do to support themselves in their recovery and set themselves up for the best possible outcome, that being a lifetime of recovery that includes both freedom from drugs and alcohol but also happiness and a freedom from the selfish, self-centred, fearful emotional and mental anguish of addiction.
Therefore, what can someone that is trying to get clean and sober or just starting their journey of recovery do to make sure they create a long term, sustainable recovery for themselves? Here are some pointers:
Seek suitable professional help. This typically will mean detox or treatment and then the appropriate level of aftercare. Sometimes this could mean seeing a therapist or a coach. For some people, this simply means no professional help and just going to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or Narcotics Anonymous (NA). However, whatever the individual situation is, the first thing to do is to seek the appropriate help.
Put your recovery first. What does this mean? Well, it means if you need detox and treatment, you absolutely need to go to detox and treatment. Things like jobs, relationships, family vacations or fun outings with friends cannot be excuses to put off or postpone or evade going to treatment. For people out of treatment, that means looking at everything (every action, every thought, every behaviour, every decision) through recovery-coloured glasses and asking yourself “is this thought, decision or action going to support or hinder my recovery” and only doing things that will support and enhance your sobriety. Relationships, friendships, jobs, money, school all need to be deciphered in a realm of recovery. And this also means first and foremost, doing the things that create and support recovery, whether that is treatment and therapy, the program and fellowships of AA or NA or just from a practical day-to-day perspective.
Listen to your healthcare professional. Typically, your therapist knows what’s better for you than you do. There is a reason every time you’ve gone for treatment those people repeat the same mantras over and over again. Meetings, sponsorship, home group. It’s because it is these things that have proven to work the best for the most amount of people for the longest amount period of time. Additionally, if your therapist thinks you need more treatment or additional continuing care, do what as they say. If they think you need to go to a recovery house or a sober living environment, then do that. No one likes having to do these things but the purpose is to support and enhance your recovery. These professionals know better, so listen to what they have to say and follow their directions.
Get involved in a recovery fellowship. For people with substance abuse issues, this means Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) or some similar 12 Step fellowship. And “getting involved” does not just mean going to meetings. It means going to meetings, going to meetings regularly, getting a home group and a sponsor, making sure that sponsor is someone that will immediately start taking you through the 12 Steps, getting involved on some level in service work, and creating relationships with people. However, if you prefer non-12-step program alternatives you should discuss it with your therapist.
Become a productive member of society. What does this mean? It means get a job and go to work. Or if you can’t find a job, get up and keep looking for one. Or volunteer. It means pay your bills. It means play the role that is your role to play to the best of your ability. Do you have legal issues? Get those legal issues taken care of as best you can. Do you owe people money? Do your best to pay those people back. Do you have a family? Then go be a father or a mother or a husband or a wife or a sister or a brother to that family. Show up for work, on time, and give that job everything you have to give. It means you don’t work harder for €100 an hour than you do for €10 an hour; it means you give the same effort because someone is helping pay for your recovery and you take pride in what it is you do.
Take time to examine your surroundings and make changes if and when necessary. There is a saying that gets thrown around in recovery circles a lot: “Change people, places and things”. The thought is that in order for someone to recover from drug addiction or alcoholism, they need to change people, places and things. Change your friends, change where you go and what you do, never be around drugs or alcohol. This is a bunch of nonsense. Every situation is different and everyone is different, but the bottom line is that a drunk can get clean and sober in a wine bar. Yes, sometimes things like people, places and things need to change but that is not always the case. Do not suddenly drop all your friends because they drink. How selfish of you. Do not tell your parents they’re not allowed to drink around you. In recovery, we should not expect others to change their behaviours on our account. What needs to be done is to take an honest assessment of your situation and surroundings. Just moving away from Monaco to London won’t get you clean and sober. It is never the outside circumstances that need to be changed but rather the inside perspective of the addict. So, self-observation and discussion with others in recovery is important. Does your current living situation support or discourage your recovery? If it supports it, then stay there. If not, then maybe a change is in order. Do your current friends support or discourage your recovery? Does your current job support or discourage your recovery? Does your relationship support or discourage your recovery? Every aspect needs to be honestly examined, discussed with people in recovery that you trust (or your therapist) and then changes made when changes need to be made.
Find healthy hobbies or creative outlets. You spent a lot of time drinking and getting high. You now have a lot of time to fill. Involvement in a support group will get you connected with other people in recovery and you’ll find much happiness and joy from those relationships, but getting clean and sober allows you to have a chance to explore what you are and what you like to do. Things like sports, yoga, exercise, creative outlets like art, writing and music, adventurous trips to different parts of the world, going back to school to pursue interests and education and going to concerts and live shows are just some of the typical things that people get a chance to do once they’ve entered recovery that they weren’t able to do and enjoy during their active addiction.
Cultivate a healthy mind, body and spirit lifestyle. This encompasses many different elements. It should include exercise, eating healthier, taking care of medical or physical issues, seeking outside therapeutic help for other mental or traumatic issues, reading and gaining insight, seeking or rededicating yourself to personal religious leanings, seeking new spiritual insights, prayer or meditation. All of these support a wholistic approach to mind, body and spirit healing and growth and in turn support a sustainable recovery.
Be transparent. One of the biggest barriers to getting clean and sober is the internal self-centeredness of drug addicts and alcoholics. Addicts and alcoholics are forever concerned with what others think of them, do they measure up, do other people like them and are they loved and accepted by others. Additionally, emotions and feelings such as fear, self-doubt, sadness, depression, anger and sometimes even happiness are never shared for fear of how others will see them or think about them. This type of thing must be abandoned in recovery. Complete honesty and transparency with others is key to sustainable recovery because it is key in personal and spiritual growth. Share all your fears, your insecurities and your self-doubt. Share them with your therapist and with others in recovery, because those people have the same issues or have had them in the past. It is through this type of absolute transparency with others that addicts and alcoholics can learn to be okay with who they are, learn who they are and embrace themselves for both their strengths and weaknesses. Hiding these feelings and thoughts from others in recovery is a sure sign of inevitable unhappiness and therefore ultimately an almost unavoidable relapse.
“Rule 62”. In Alcoholics Anonymous, there is a story about a member in the 1940’s who attempted to promote AA by creating three separate corporations. This was outlined in 61 rules to create the corporations and get them operating. Although this behaviour and plan went against the Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, the man was informed by Bill Wilson every AA group is autonomous and thus the man’s group had the right to go on with the plan as they saw fit. When they did and it ultimately has disastrous results, the man wrote to the New York office of AA that indeed “you were right and I was wrong.” Enclosed with that letter was a golf scorecard, on it was written “Rule 62: Don’t take yourself too damned seriously.” This rule applies to those entering recovery as well. Life can be difficult, bad things can happen. Addiction and alcoholism is a sad, painful, lonely road to walk. When you enter recovery, understand you have been given the chance to live two lives in one lifetime. Learn to enjoy life, have fun, find passion, take risks and create experiences. But above all, don’t take yourself too damned seriously.