“The Journey Of A Thousand Miles Begins With The First Step.” Lao Tzu
Addict, from the Latin addicare: to favor; from ad- + dicere: to say or to call forth. In the days of the Roman Empire, the Gladiators would fight to the death. Whoever won would call forth a slave; hence, an addict is a slave.
Isn’t that the highest of aspirations, to be a slave?
Jane, a 44 year old Seattle bookkeeper, had to hit the skids before she realized she had a serious problem. “All I can tell you is that I had no idea I had a drinking problem until my husband threw me out. And I mean bag and baggage, destination unknown. He said he was sick of my drunken charades. The final straw was when I humiliated him at his annual corporate Christmas party, and I threw up in the punch bowl. That was absolutely the nail in the coffin.
Does it really have to come to throwing up in the punch bowl before an addict admits to a serious problem? Isn’t it interesting that as addicts, we can very rarely accept, least of all recognize, the condition for what it is. Is addiction a disease? Or is it a sickness? However you want to define it, addictions are damaging, destructive and offer nothing but despair.
CONSIDER THAT AN ADDICTION MEETS TWO CRITERIA
You have difficulty controlling how much you use or how long you use. For example, one drink means two or three. Or, in your comprehension, there’s nothing wrong with “a few beers” because you aren’t drinking hard liquor. Or maybe the wine contains no sulfites. That’s okay! A little can go a long way, right? And damn the consequences. Or a couple of lines. Trashed the next morning — or afternoon if you’ve crashed out like a freight train? You’ll find a way to weasel out of your responsibilities. The negative consequences mean nothing to you. Relationships? A minor irritation. People need to accept you on your terms, right? You conduct yourself with impunity. Your cract-tions roar louder than a lion.
This defines all addictions, not only alcohol and drugs but gambling, eating disorders and sexual addiction. “I had a serious problem with methamphetamine,” says a young woman in her 20’s. “I started at 14 and finally, it finished me. I was on life support for five days following an overdose. If that didn’t teach me, nothing would.”
MAINTAIN A JOURNAL
A journal is one of the best ways to manage your emotions as you have a record of your feelings and conduct. Do you have trouble saying no? Are you an all-you-can-eat salad bar? Is there a particular person who provokes your anxiety? Is your job extremely stressful? Family problems? A Journal is a miraculous way to track your feelings and how you are managing your behaviors.
How can you avoid provocative situations? Life is a continuous challenge and emotional self management is primary. Awareness is the key to honesty and honesty is the catalyst for change. Awareness of your emotions can help you transform the trajectory of your entire life. Do you demand your way with anger? Control people with your histrionics? Take a good look in the mirror, acknowledge yourself as a piece of work and get to the bottom of yourself.
A recovery counselor is just what you need. Avoid your drinking buddies and discard all the alcohol. No excuses. If you were trying to abstain from compulsive overeating, is it prudent to invite the saboteur in the form of doughnuts and junk? Toss it. Recovery is incremental, step by baby step.
ONCE AN ADDICT, ALWAYS AN ADDICT?
Not so fast. Addiction treatment has made outstanding progress in recent years. Last year, Columbia University published a groundbreaking report by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse and concluded the majority of addicts who require addiction treatment do not receive evidence-based care. The Columbia report also found that most addiction treatment providers are not medical professionals and do not possess the knowledge, skills or credentials an addict requires in order to provide the full range of evidence-based services, including medication and therapy.
According to A. Thomas McLellan, co-founder of the Treatment Research Institute in Philadelphia, there are exceptions, but of the many thousands of treatment programs, most employ exactly the same type of treatment used in 1950, not modern scientific approaches. What many fail to understand is the concept of a functioning addict, which does not make the addict any less of an addict. It simply means the addict somehow manages to function. Many addicts still maintain employment in the nascent stages of their addiction and relatively civil relationships; however, their lives become a complete disaster as the addiction progresses. They’re usually too loaded to realize it.
In order to make fundamental changes, start with incremental steps. First, define the reasons for your motivation and your desire to quit. Willingness and desire to transform will play a tremendous factor in your success. The compelling question is, how much do you want to recover and what are you willing to do to make progressive changes? Only you can answer these questions.
Educate yourself about addiction, which can and does have genetic roots.
Multigenerational alcoholics are very common. If you are part of this component, learning more about it can enlighten you about how these insidious addictions function.
If you are replacing one addiction for another, this is not recovery but merely replacing one addiction for another. Addicts will do anything to experience pleasure and avoid pain and of course, more and more pleasure.
If you suffer from depression, bipolar disorder or other co-existing mental health conditions, there is no reason to be ashamed or to avoid getting proper care. Many people self medicate for ADD with methamphetamine based drugs, such as Ritalin, which is a legalized form of meth. A thorough psychiatric evaluation can help you on the road to recovery and answer your most pressing mental health questions.
CULTIVATE YOUR ESP: EMOTIONAL SELF PROTECTION
Repeat this Mantra: Boundaries Create Freedom.
As addicts, one of the biggest challenges is not only how to say no but when to say no. We have a hard time delineating what is an appropriate request from an inappropriate demand. Where do you begin and the other person end? Here is where boundaries are disrupted and the entire aspect of you, as a whole and sane person, evaporates.
It is imperative to learn how to cultivate your ESP: Emotional Self Protection. Start by making a list. A list is very helpful as it creates accountability and clarity. Anything that will help you manage your recovery is essential. Classes in stress management, yoga, meditation and any form of holistic self care is paramount. Support is everywhere.
Keep a Journal to chronicle your feelings and emotions. Find a support system such as an anonymous program or a hospital based group and surround
yourself with people in recovery.
A FEW FRIENDLY REMINDERS
1. Remember that isolation is your worst enemy. Isolation can catapult you into a myriad of boredom, resentment, psychological disorientation and the complete crazies that may provoke a crisis and relapse. A support network, such as 12 step meetings, a counselor and of course, sober friends are essential. The point is, your sobriety is primary. Online recovery forums are another form of constant support. Support is always available.
2. Keep busy. Engage in exercise or some sort of hobby, or anything that occupies your time in productive manner. Cooking classes? A stitch and bitch class? Jogging? You’ll think of something. Use your imagination.
3. Create a MAP: Master Action Plan. Define your relapse prevention plan. Identify the ITs: Identifying Triggers that provoke your anxiety. Is it depression? A particular person? Remember as well that exercise helps tremendously in the battle against clinical depression. Exercise, diet, acupuncture and deep breathing exercises, among numerous other methods, can help contribute to your recovery.
4. Change the way you think. When you change the way you think about things, the way you think about things will change. Aaron T. Beck, MD, developed cognitive therapy in the early 1960s. Beck designed and performed experiments to test psychoanalytic concepts of depression. Working with depressed patients, he found that they experienced spontaneous negative thoughts. He termed these cognitions “automatic thoughts,” and defined their content in three categories: negative ideas about themselves, the world, and the future. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy has been validated in clinical trials to work in the long run.
5. Seek some kind of spiritual outlet. You’ll see how it helps deescalate an impending crisis.
Is there anything specific that you can identity that aids in the management of your sobriety? Make a list of ten things that ascertain your security. Daily 12 step meetings? Coffee with sober friends? Daily exercise? Meditation? Employment? Prayers? It’s your call and your sobriety. Maintain and manage it. You can do it.
Practice Worth Control. You are worth your sobriety. You deserve your sobriety. You deserve to function as a sober and productive member of society. Forgive yourself. Every day is a new day and every minute is a new minute.
Relapse is no reason that you cannot pick yourself up and start again. In other words, if you do relapse, do not perseverate or collapse over it. THIS IS NOT THE END OF THE WORLD AND CERTAINLY NOT THE END OF YOUR
RECOVERY. Recovery is a process and relapse is a possibility. Consider a
relapse a learning experience and not a reason to drown in the epicenter of
Remember your Inner Winner and Practice Worth Control. Good luck!
Kristina Diener is a clinical psychologist in private practice in the Los Angeles basin, specializing in addictions, trauma and eating disorders in recovery since 1975. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org