For some weeks now, I have been writing on addictions. Last week, I tried to explain technically how addictions occur in the brain, and how we become addicted over time. Please find it here.
Today, I want to briefly write about how we can deal with addictions.
If you recall in my first post, I did say that addiction was something that existed because of a purpose. My emphasis was how addiction fulfills a need. I will deal with today’s topic against that backdrop.
When I find someone, or hear that an individual is addicted to a substance, work, or any activity, my concern is usually thoughts about what could actually be missing in their lives which they are trying to use the behaviour to get. Since addiction, as I know it, isn’t just about the use of substances alone, but more so about some pains the addict may be using the substance to numb, I am quick to ask what the actual pain could possibly be? I get concerned as to why the pain exists? This should be our first focus.
Before one can get addicted to something, it’s important we know that the behaviour is somehow filling up a void. Since it was helpful at numbing the underlying pain, it becomes too useful to the addict as a result. The emptiness the addicts may be experiencing is usually what the substance tries to help them fill. Unfortunately, it can’t, because we cannot use external factors to help what’s void inside. We have to know the power that’s within us to help our situation. This is usually my focus as a counsellor.
But to understand how this inner power within us can work best, we must first address why the pain exist in the first place, and what purpose the substance, or activity helps the addict with. That way, we are sure of working it out from the inside than using just drugs to work on the brain.
While I agree on the uses of medicine to counter chronic addictions, especially at the initial stage so as to counter the activities of the drug of abuse in the brain first, I am quick to emphasize on how important it is that we treat addictions beyond just medicine. Addictions should involve a lot of talk therapies, combined with medicine, and helping addicts with paradigm shifts in their personal beliefs about themselves.
If we try to deal with addictions without considering the underlying pain the source of addiction had helped the addict with, we may just not be doing a holistic healing. We must look beyond the substance, or the addictive behavior to the reason the pain exists in the first place.
If you have someone who’s an addict, talk to them. Get to find out if they can recall when and at what point the behaviour had begun, especially the first day they had experienced the behaviour, and what had happened that day, or what it was they were hoping to forget that moment. It is also important we understand from their perspective the new experiences they get from indulging in the bahaviour.
When we are able to look at addictions this way, we give room for empathy. This helps us understand how anyone could become addicted to something at some point in their lives. This way, we quit the judgmental attitudes we may have had against them and focus on helping them heal.
For me, this is really what it’s about: understanding from the perspective of the addict reasons he had found pleasure in the behaviour. Then we can see what harmless alternatives can be created to replace the addictive behaviour with similar pleasure it provides.
However, before the replacement of the habit, we would have to help the addicts understand how nothing can help them escape the issues they may be trying to run away from unless they face it eventually. Our role would be to help them build the courage to face these issues by helping them realize the absolute power they have within them. This way, we are able to reprogram their minds to change the idea that they are helpless.
When this is done, their quest to run to the contents of a bottle or in the temporary euphoria the behaviour provides wanes. They are taught to rather look within themselves and draw out strength to fight on. This way, they can survive on their own without us with time.
Any approach we use at solving addictions without helping them realize their inner strength, and how much stronger they are than the underlying pain, can as well make them put trust in another external force again, or become too dependent on others for help.
Ultimately, we are better when we believe in our inner power and put trust in them than in things coming from the outside of us. Herein lies my message.
Our role as helpers is to encourage them with our own survivor stories, and love, without condemnation, while allowing them borrow from our strength until they are much more confident in the immense ability they have within themselves to overcome the addictions. This is where relationship with former addicts can be of great help in addiction recovery.
To your successfully evolving life.