Archive for the ‘Addiction/Recovery’ Category

I am a firm believer that addiction is a disease, scientific, and medical evidence shows this to be true, and a lot of people gives this as an excuse to start using again.  We all heard this before, “I am powerless over my addiction” “I have to give my sobriety over to a higher power” etc.

Doesn’t this set you up for failure from the beginning? Hey I am powerless over my addiction, so therefore if I use it isn’t so bad, because my addiction controls me. What about trusting in a higher power to guide you through the craving, and the craving doesn’t go away? What now? I for one will get angry, and emotional therefore setting me up for a relapse, because I won’t be thinking rationally anymore, I will be acting on impulse.

While we are addicted to substance, our ability to choose is compromised. We are incapable to make the right choices, the level of thought processing in our brains doesn’t function correctly, and as I explained before the drug becomes the most important thing in our lives. It becomes all what we live for, all that we think about.

As my journey in recovery continues, I have come to realization that addiction isn’t a terminal lifelong disease. It is curable. It transcends from a disease of the mind, born out of choice, back to choice.  Why should I tell myself that I am addict, if I am clean, and not addicted anymore?  I am back in control of my thought processes, and I can make the right choices, knowing the implications, and consequences that would follow if I decide to use again. How can that be attributed to a disease? That sounds to me like a behavioural decision, does it not?

If craving is a symptom of the disease, and I choose not to act on the craving, doesn’t the craving go away? Yes it does? I made a choice right? No the diabetic can’t make a choice for their symptoms to go away, they have to be medicated to relieve the symptoms.  If the addict medicates himself because of a craving, that is called relapse, is it not?  There are medications that reduce cravings, and should be taken, but they aren’t available for all types of substances, and what about gambling, sex, and other behavioural addictions? They crave as much as substance dependent addicts. The need to make a choice to change, to overcome, and resist a craving.

Recovery for me so far has been a sequence of trial, and error. I know that I haven’t got all the answers. I know that recovery is different from one person to the next. The one thing I know is this: I am in control of my own actions, and choices.  Me, and only me can choose whether I want to act on an impulse, or a craving.

I have the freedom to choose. I am not powerless over the substance anymore, and I don’t have to relinquish my control over to a higher power. I will not brand myself as an addict anymore, someone with an incurable disease. Remember you are what think you are. If you think of yourself as an addict for the rest of your life, that’s exactly what you will be. If you believe that you aren’t in control of your own life, then you will never be.

Addiction changes the way we think, it creates neuro pathways, reinforced by repetition. Humans are creatures of habit. If we find that something works, or we enjoy it, we do it again, and again. Change for us is difficult, because by nature we are scared of the unknown. It’s a normal human reaction, which forms an integral part of us, which has insured our species survival.

The difference between normal habits, and addiction is that, addiction creates a much stronger, and much deeper neuro pathway, which in turn is very difficult to undo. The biggest step is the will to change.  Then you have to teach your mind, by repetition other ways to cope with stress, emotions etc. When you can control your thought processes, and think rationally, and logically, then you won’t relapse, will you? Does this mean you can have one drink? No. Does this mean you can still go out with your old friends that used with you? No.  Any mind altering substance, it doesn’t matter if it’s not your drug of choice, will interrupt your thought process, and will cause you to lose control.

The same with old friends. What was your connection in the past? The substance. Will that change. No. Your mind will associate them with the substance for the rest of your life. Do you really want to place yourself in a situation where your mind, starts to think about the substance (this can happen sub-consciously), only by association, and then its thoughts are being reinforced by suggestions, and repetition?  You will relapse. It doesn’t matter who you are. 

Doesn’t this proof then that addiction is a terminal disease then? Doesn’t this show that you are powerless over addiction?  No. When you end up in a situation like that, it’s your own fault. You knew that by going back to old friends, and places will reinforce your old habits again. Whose fault is it then that you used? The disease? God? No. Want to take a guess? YOU! Your choice.

So my point is this. Most of us chose to use drugs, we didn’t choose to become addicted, we chose to get stop using, and/or get help.  When we relapse, we choose to use again.  Cravings can be intense yes, but the choice will always be ours to act out on them. While were addicted, we have a disease. After that we have choice.

To argue that addiction is a lifelong disease, is like telling someone that they don’t have free will, and by taking away free will, we take away one of the main things that make us human. What is the main argument in addiction? It’s the choice vs. disease argument. Both sides have strong valid arguments. How I see addiction is that’s it’s a mixture of choice, and disease. The addict must be treated like any other patient. Like I said before, he may have chosen to use drugs, but he didn’t chose to get addicted.

Denying an addict professional medical treatment is inhumane. He made a wrong choice. Show me anyone that hasn’t. When someone gets injured while doing mountain biking, or snowboarding, they get treatment. When others sleep around, and get an STD they get treatment. Why not addicts? The choice argument has caused countless addicts trying to get help great suffering, because addiction was seen only as a behaviour disorder.

The disease argument in turn, while giving us the benefits of medical care, has made addicts believe that their disease is permanent. That in turn degrades us, and give us something else to blame when we relapse.

There has to be a balance. We need to take responsibility for our own lives, our choices, our minds.

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Suggestion has been a powerful tool used by media corporations, and advertising firms from the start.  Certain queues, and images to activate the sub-conscious mind have been used to market products, or services without the knowledge of the public.  Repetition, and positive reinforcement are two key issues here.    

The same centres of the brain activated in the brain of an addict is also activated in adverts.  It is very hard to control our impulses to something once our brain has made a positive connotation to something.  It is usually not the company with the best product out there that is successful, but the one with the biggest budget set towards their marketing, and advertising department.

It is therefore imperative that the recovering addict makes as many changes as possible to his way of life once he gets out of rehab.  That means new friends, new hobbies etc.  One word from a friend, even driving past a place where he used before can trigger an onset of a craving.

We need to become aware when we see, or hear a suggestion, because suggestion mainly works on the sub-conscious mind, and we are not immediately aware of it before it’s too late. When you train yourself to become aware, and think about the suggestion in your conscious mind, then and only then will you be able to control your thought process.

Now how do you train yourself?  This is how I started, and it may sound stupid but it worked for me, and made me allot more aware of my surroundings, and thought processes.  I started to look for brands in movies, and television shows.  Actively look for them. It’s well known that products are advertised in movies, and that only certain brands are shown. Only the brands of companies that gave an X amount towards the production of a movie.

Now how did this help me? Well by actively becoming aware of the marketing I could think about it and put a stop to the thought of the brand then, and there.  I trained my mind to think what I wanted to think about.  Now I have the ability to speak to someone, or see something, and immediately recognise, a trigger and deal with it. 

To act out of logic, and not out of, impulse, or emotion is a direct result. When I feel angry, I know the reason, when I get agitated, I know the reason.  The sense of control is empowering to say the least.  I still have a long way to go, to completely control my mind, and thought processes, but dealing with suggestion has been a major step for me.

Like anything in life this doesn’t come easy, but it’s well worth it.

Suggestion the Powerful, not anymore. I am in charge now. I have taken control back.  

We always underestimate the power of suggestion.  Just by saying a word, or a phrase at the right time, and reinforcing it with certain techniques, and gestures could change a person’s way they act, and react to circumstances later on.

I watched a show last night, where complete, non-religious Atheist had a full blown conversion experience, by suggestion.  God wasn’t mentioned once. Certain psychological techniques were used, to plant feelings of love, empathy, sympathy etc. She described what she felt was “Supernatural”, and remember this women is a stem cell scientist with no religious beliefs what so ever.  She was still confused a week later, and only when the presenter explained to her what happened was her mind put to ease.

Placebos is another form of suggestion.  A lot of patients has unknowingly benefited from taking placebos for certain medical conditions. After they were informed that they had in fact taken a placebo, the positive result remained.

The result of how powerful suggestion is speak for themselves. Now what if we can train ourselves, by certain cues, or reminders to evoke a positive response every time we start to crave, or when we get over emotional?

I have come to realize that the human mind is a vast undiscovered place, a place where anything is possible. The human psyche is open to all forms of suggestion. The positive, and the negative.  There is still a lot more we need to understand, and learn about the human mind, and consciousness. I believe that, once we understand the mind, we will understand ourselves, and once we understand ourselves, all the questions regarding what makes us human will be answered.

At the moment we are controlled by our mind, not the other way around.        

One of the things I have learned is to always see the good, and the beautiful in everything, and everyone.

We have to train minds to do this.  It’s a very difficult thing to do.  The normal human response would be to see the faults in others.  Not because we are bad human beings, but because we project our own insecurities on others.  This is a defence mechanism. It’s a way for us to feel better about ourselves, in that given moment.

When we start to focus on the positives of others, we automatically begin to focus on the positives in ourselves.  When we see the positives in ourselves, we start to love ourselves, when we start to love ourselves, other will love us to. When others love us, they will start to focus on our positives, therefore changing their mind set, and outlook about themselves.

So you see by just changing our own thinking pattern, from negative to positive, we can have a huge impact. Not only on ourselves but on all those around us.  To see everything in a positive light reduces stress, depression, and fatigue.

A positive mind set attracts positive people. In recovery we need to let go of the things, and people in the past that we used to drink, and drug with.  You will be surprised to see how fast you will get new, clean positive friends when your mind set, and actions only reflects positivity.

What do you have to lose?  

The mind is a fascinating place.  It can be our escape too far off places, seeing extraordinary things, where we can be who we want be, go where we want to go.  It can also be a prison cell, where we are chained up, unable to move, unable to think.

Only by breaking the chains, of belief systems, and emotions can we truly free ourselves.  We need to train our mind, to think, to be more open to new ideas.  We need to search for our own answers to questions. Think for yourself.  Empower yourself.  I can’t believe the change in myself since I started really thinking, and questioning the beliefs I had. I am starting to know myself better every day.  When you know yourself, you will love yourself. When you love yourself, everyone else will love you.

The first step in freeing your mind is controlling your emotions.  When we get angry, our brain releases a stress hormone.  It is the same hormone that is released when our lives are in danger, or threatened.  Our body tenses up, our mind blocks out any other thing that is said to us. It only focuses on the here and now, memory is supressed, and anything said to us, in that moment is rejected.  We become narrow-minded.

When this happens you need to focus on the emotion. Rationalize it, focus on calming down.  You need to make a conscious decision (a mental note) to stop feeling angry, only in this way you will start to train your brain.  After a while your brain will automatically do this.  It will stop releasing the stress hormone, when you get in an argument, therefore you will have a lot more control, over thinking, acting in any given situation. You will be able to reject, or except the idea, if you want to. Not just by making an impulsive emotional decision, but a decision based on a calm, rational, logical thought process.

Being in control of your mind sets you free.  Imagine getting a craving, and you can control your thought process. You can rationalize your emotional attachment to the substance. Way up the pros, and cons, reject the thought, or idea.  Your mind will be trained to think, logically.  The craving will disappear quickly.  All of this will happen automatically, and very quickly.  There won’t be such a thing as entertaining the idea of getting the drug.  The battle of addiction will be won.

All outside influences that create can create a negative response, could be handled, and dealt with, by being in control of our minds.

We can only be free, by giving up the freedom for our own minds to act as it wants to. We can only be free once we are in control of our minds, and not the other way around.

The question on is addiction a disease, or a choice has been won by the disease argument with proven scientific, and medical facts.  “Addiction starts out as a choice, and ends up as a disease”

I think there is more to addiction than just the medical facts.  Our knowledge of the brain is still very limited, although recent discoveries have shown us that substances have a huge impact on the reward/pleasure system in the brain.  “Addiction fits the disease model perfectly. Organ – Midbrain, Defect – Pleasure/Reward system, and the Symptoms – Craving, impaired thinking, etc.” Therefore we can safely say that addiction is a disease.  There are allot of medications available to treat the symptoms, but there are no cures, no quick fixes.

Although major breakthroughs have been made in treatment of addiction, we are still a very long way of, curing this disease.  Are we missing something? Isn’t there a better way to prevent people from getting addicted in the first place?  The current educational drug awareness programs fail miserably.  All that they point out how drugs are bad for you.  How it effects our health etc. In a society surrounded by drugs, and alcohol, children, and teens are bombarded with images of celebrity’s going to court for using drugs, or alcohol.  Advertisements on the latest prescription drugs on the market, and don’t forget the alcohol advertisements showing everybody having a good, carefree time.

Why would the youth, listen to educational videos, and speakers when at home, and on the internet, the exact opposite is shown.  When drinking, and drugging makes it easier to fit into a crowd, and give you acceptance, why not do it?  The youth is under so much pressure, from all there social networks, and school, and friends.  I’m not even speaking at the pressure at home, with parents, or siblings.

Their Idols are shown partying, and having fun.  They seem to have little consequences for their actions, and it seems that their lives aren’t influenced badly at all. Which we know isn’t true, but that is how it’s portrayed in the media. 

Children, and teens don’t have the ability to make quality, informed decisions. We all know this. When our kids get addicted, we all ask why.  Later on, they may go to prison, overdose etc. People label them as drug addicts, and the scum of society. How quickly we forget how we were at that age. Susceptible to allot of things, all the wrong choices we made.

I don’t know the solution to this problem.  I don’t even know where to begin.  Is there even a solution?  All I am trying to say is, we should stop judging addicts, and realize that addiction is a disease, created by a bad choice, stemming out of the Society we live in.         

What is the most difficult aspect of recovery?

Is it the craving? Is it the pressure of those around you to stay clean and sober? The difficulty to adapt to the world? Picking up the pieces of the life the substance left behind? Or the fear of relapsing again?

These are by no means all the questions we as recovering addict need to face, there are many more, but all questions have answers.  They all bring on anxiety.  They all need to be addressed in order for us to stay in recovery.  The answers depend on the individual.  No one is the same, no one has the same circumstances.  We all have different ways cope with different aspects of life. Different viewpoints, and perceptions.

For me personally, recovery is made easier by setting small goals every day, staying to a routine, and expressing my feelings. Either on talking about it, or writing it down.  I set out a certain time of my day, focusing, and thinking just about recovery.  The rest of the day, I divide up in segments to deal other aspects of my life.  Study, work, exercise etc. 

I have learnt that spending too much time, thinking about a certain aspect has negative consequences.  Overthinking brings our minds in confusion. Which brings on stress, and craving.  It causes us to miss other goals that we set out to do, which in turn will put us on the road back to relapse.

I have come to realize that we need to take little steps towards, in everything we do, and in the end all will fall in place.  The most important thing is to stay positive.  Think positive, surround yourself with positive people.  I have come to realize that anything is possible.  The only thing that stands between you, and your dreams is You. ‘’Whether YOU think YOU can, or YOU can’t YOU’RE right!’’

The Fear of relapsing, and the Fear of disappointing others, will lead you to relapse. You won’t relapse if you stay positive, stick to your plan, and if relapse it’s not the end of the world.  Get help as quick as you can, and change the things that caused you to relapse.  Don’t feel like a failure. You are not the exception. Most addicts have relapsed before, they stuck to recovery.  The most important thing is you need, to be open and honest about it.  People will appreciate your honesty more than, hiding it from them.  They will help you not to fall into the spiral of death again.

Recovery is different for all of us, it can be difficult, and scary. But it can be so rewarding as well.  Every day we stay sober is an accomplishment. It shows us that we are human. It shows us that we can do anything that we set our mind to.  It’s brings out the best in us.  It builds our character. It shows everybody around us, that we are stronger, and better than they thought we are.

Let’s stay in recovery, let’s stay free!