Overcoming an addiction whether chemical or behavioral in nature can be one of the most challenging undertakings you may undertake. I have personally seen and experienced the long-term effects of serious addictions and how that affected my family, beginning with one of my grandfathers addictions to alcohol. His addiction caused a ripple effect of harmful consequences throughout the family for multiple generations of suffering. I was once addicted to tobacco for a time, and prescription pain pills later on myself. I know the struggle of addiction, as I found it very difficult to break free of using those substances. Thankfully I am now free of both addictions, and have stayed free for many years now.
Whether you have an addiction, or are seeking to help a loved one or friend who does how you go about it can make a very big difference. Addiction is a huge problem for many as the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), in 2014 estimated that 21.5 million Americans over the age of 12, have a significant problem with alcohol or drugs. In addition to chemical addictions there are many behavioral types of addictions as well, which can negatively impact our lives. Let’s look at some resources, and ways that have been time-tested to help in overcoming both chemical and behavioral addictions.
Behavioral addictions are not limited to, but can include:
- Getting High on something other than drugs or alcohol.
- Sexual addiction
- Shopping Excessively
- Exercising Excessively
- Internet Surfing
- Video Games
- Binge Eating or other Eating Disorders
- Plastic Surgery
- Risky Behavior
- Working Excessively
Any behavior that causes you to take unnecessary risks or endangers your health in any way, or even causes you to miss out on other positive and life enhancing activities with your family and friends can be an addiction. When it comes to an addiction the person with the behavioral or chemical addiction will often be unable to stop the behavior or substance abuse, even though they know it is impacting their lives in a detrimental or harmful way; unless they receive professional help.
While not usually as harmful as chemical addictions; behavioral addictions can be very harmful to your mental and physical health. Sexual addictions, Eating Disorders and Risky Behavior can be especially dangerous to your health and even cost you your life. I strongly suggest seeking Professional help with any of these addictions. I have many resources listed below for help. While many behavioral addictions would not be a problem if only engaged in occasionally or even moderately, with an addiction the behavior becomes excessive and replaces many other things the person would normally do. Also an addictive behavior is very difficult if not impossible to control.
“Addiction is a complex condition, a brain disease that is manifested by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence. People with addiction (severe substance use disorder) have an intense focus on using a certain substance(s), such as alcohol or drugs, to the point that it takes over their life. They keep using alcohol or a drug even when they know it will cause problems. Yet a number of effective treatments are available and people can recover from addiction and lead normal, productive lives.” (Source: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction)
Chemical Addictions are not limited to, but can include:
- Illegal Drug Addiction
- Prescription Drug Addiction
- Using Chemical inhalants
“According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, people begin taking drugs for a variety of reasons, including:
- to feel good — feeling of pleasure, “high”
- to feel better — e.g., relieve stress
- to do better — improve performance
- curiosity and peer pressure
People with addictive disorders may be aware of their problem, but be unable to stop it even if they want to. The addiction may cause health problems as well as problems at work and with family members and friends. The misuse of drugs and alcohol is the leading cause of preventable illnesses and premature death.
Symptoms of substance use disorder are grouped into four categories:
- Impaired control: a craving or strong urge to use the substance; desire or failed attempts to cut down or control substance use
- Social problems: substance use causes failure to complete major tasks at work, school or home; social, work or leisure activities are given up or cut back because of substance use
- Risky use: substance is used in risky settings; continued use despite known problems
- Drug effects: tolerance (need for larger amounts to get the same effect); withdrawal symptoms (different for each substance)
Many people experience both mental illness and addiction. The mental illness may be present before the addiction. Or the addiction may trigger or make a mental disorder worse.” Source: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/addiction/what-is-addiction)
I also want to specifically mention a very important study called the “Rat Park Study” which has really added to what we know about addiction and how to help overcome addictions. Here is an overview of the study.
“Details Of The Rat Park Study”
“The goal of Alexander’s Experiment was to prove that drugs do not cause addiction, but that a person’s living condition does. He wanted to refute other studies that connected opiate addiction in laboratory rats to addictive properties within the drug itself. Alexander constructed Rat Park with wheels and balls for play, plenty of food and mating space, and 16-20 rats of both sexes mingling with one another. He tested a variety of theories using different experiments with Rat Park to show that the rat’s environment played the largest part in whether a rat became addicted to opiates or not.”
“In the experiment, the social rats had the choice to drink fluids from one of two dispensers. One had plain tap water, and the other had a morphine solution. The scientists ran a variety of experiments to test the rats’ willingness to consume the morphine solution compared to rats in solitary confinement. They found that:”
- “The caged rats ingested much larger doses of the morphine solution – about 19 times more than Rat Park rats in one of the experiments.
- The Rat Park rats consistently resisted the morphine water, preferring plain water.
- Even rats in cages that were fed nothing but morphine water for 57 days chose plain water when moved to Rat Park, voluntarily going through withdrawal.
- No matter what they tried, Alexander and his team produced nothing that resembled addiction in rats that were housed in Rat Park.”
“Based on the study, the team concluded that drugs themselves do not cause addictions. Rather, a person’s environment feeds an addiction. Feelings of isolation, loneliness, hopelessness, and lack of control based on unsatisfactory living conditions make a person dependent on substances. Under normal living conditions, people can resist drug and alcohol addiction.” (Source: https://www.summitbehavioralhealth.com/blog/overview-rat-park-addiction-study/)
In summary any substance abuse or behavior that you cannot control, that is having a negative impact on your life, and the lives of those who love and care about you needs to be addressed with a combination of professional and medical help to give you the best possible outcome in overcoming the addiction. There are Nutritional needs that need special care in stopping a chemical addiction as well, which I will be addressing in my next post.
There are many books and YouTube videos that can be helpful as well. I suggest the book “I Want to Change My Life” by DR. Steven M. Melemis, Ph.D., M.D. shown in resources below as a great one to start with.
Getting help to make the changes necessary in your life to make it easier to overcome an addiction is well worth the effort! To better understand yourself and others will help you see why you or your family member has an addiction. Learning to accept and love you as you are, will greatly help in this healing endeavor.
I will be writing more about this topic, and the nutritional needs of overcoming addictions, along with thoughts on overcoming depression, fear of failure and self-sabotage in upcoming posts.
I hope that whatever behavior or substance abuse is negatively impacting your life or someone you love, will soon become a victory you have overcome, rather than a source of suffering in your life. Help is available, you do matter, and there are many more people than you realize who truly care about you as well!
Namaste, until the next time we meet here.
Sources of Information and Help:
This book, “I Want To Change My Life” by DR. Steven M. Melemis, Ph.D, M.D. contains a one-month step-by-step program to get you started. If you follow the simple steps laid out in this book, you will change your life and be happier.
With this book you can Learn:
- A new approach to cognitive therapy
- Stress management and mindful relaxation skills
- The negative thinking that can lead to anxiety, depression and addiction
- How and why cognitive therapy works
- How to write cognitive therapy thought records
- The causes of anxiety, depression and addiction, and how to recognize the symptoms
- Treatment and relapse prevention strategies
- The five rules of recovery from addiction
- The missing step in most self-help plans
- The science behind mind-body relaxation
- How your thinking determines your mood
- Overcome anxiety and panic attacks
- Post acute withdrawal and how to survive it
https://www.aa.org/ (Alcoholics Anonymous)
“Alcoholics Anonymous is an international fellowship of men and women who have had a drinking problem. It is nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere. There are no age or education requirements. Membership is open to anyone who wants to do something about his or her drinking problem.”
SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.
Call Summit Behavioral Health for a Confidential Assessment Today: 1-844-643-3869
- National Institute on Drug Abuse: Drugs, Brains, and Behavior – The Science of Addiction
- National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence
- National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous